My heart is feeling a multitude of things as the weekend approaches. My cute, sweet, little boy leaves the tween years behind and steps firmly into the land of the teenage years.
Toward the end of 2007, I felt I was ready to adopt another child. It felt like someone was missing from our family, and I began the search. This time I was hoping for a younger child, but not too young (I know my limits). It was while looking through an adoption organization’s website that I discovered this cherubic face. Something clicked, and I decided to send an inquiry. Within a couple of months, I had jumped through all the hurdles and been approved by all the committees for us to become a family.
You don’t get to actually meet your child until placement is approved and you’ve committed to the adoption. Our first meeting was at his foster family’s home. I brought him a stuffed animal. His caseworker had already given him a photo album I had prepared for him.
The album contained photos of his new family as well as things I wanted to do with him. When we met he was an incredible bundle of anxious energy. He would come over, say something to me—most of which I couldn’t understand because of his speech impediment—and run away.
He reminded me of a hummingbird at a feeder. Swoop in, drink a little, buzz away, and repeat. He wanted to show me absolutely everything in the home. I smiled as I took his tiny hand into mine as he led me around the house.
He also showed me his favorite photos in the album. He was absolutely excited about seeing the Eiffel Tower one day, which we accomplished last year.
His first overnight stay at my home was an eventful one. At about 2 AM I heard an unmistakable noise in his bathroom followed by a light knock on my door and a pitifully croaked “Dad?”
Not the introduction you hope for. At the same time, it was a good thing because it showed him that I could take care of him when he was sick.
That summer he would amaze me as he taught himself how to swim. He watched everyone else and just swam. I couldn’t believe it! On our second day in Utila a few years later, he joined me on the dive boat. The captain somewhat reluctantly agreed to allow him to snorkel while I was diving.
When I returned to the boat, the captain asked where we were from. When I told him, he couldn’t believe it. “He swim like an island boy!” Sometimes he’s almost too comfortable in the water.
Over the last 6-1/2 years I’ve watched this small, timid boy blossom into a young, fairly secure and confident young man. He still bounces around like a kangaroo, and while I don’t get nightly cuddles like I used to—something I’m still not happy about—I do get lots of hugs and kisses throughout the day.
So far it isn’t embarrassing to be seen with his dad. Occasionally, while he’s getting ready to go off on another bounce, I even get a brief holding of my hand.
Two years ago we celebrated his 11th birthday on the same island where he’ll now turn 13. He had two parties then but this year wants a quieter celebration. It’s hard for me to honor that since I like to make a big deal about birthdays—and this one is a big one!—but honor it I shall.
I love the teenage years. I know many parents who don’t, but I’ve always enjoyed this time with the kids I’ve had in my home. That is until I realize that in five very short years, my young man will legally be an adult. Then my heart gets a bit heavy.
While I’m excited to see what his life is like when he’s ready and old enough for his own adventures, at the same time I wouldn’t mind somehow keeping him as my not-so-little bouncing ball of sunshine. In the meantime, I’ll just continue to enjoy watching his big boy frame hopping and skipping down the sidewalk, having interesting conversations with him, laughing at his odd online conversations, and seeing the world through his non-cynical eyes.
Sometimes the hardest part of parenting is just watching them grow up and hoping the impression you’ve left on their heart is big enough to sustain them when they need it most.
Please join me in wishing Tigger a very happy 13th birthday!