She had her sulky face on. This is how it started. Petulant frown – check. Furrowed brow – check. Disgusted sneer – check.
Don’t ask me how she manages to sneer AND frown at the same time. It’s a natural talent. Thanks so much hereditary traits (yes, Glen, I’m looking at you).
“But it’s too crowded already…”
“We’re MUCH too busy…”
“But that is MY room…” (nevermind that she has been living in her NEW room for almost a year)
Then the kicker:
“Riley says that little brothers are a pain.”
And what do I know compared with Riley? Nine-year-old wisdom is unassailable… to other nine-year-olds, anyway. At the end of each conversation, she would grudgingly concede that maybe, just maybe mind you, it might be okay to have a little brother. She was willing to tolerate the situation, but wasn’t exactly thrilled about it.
Different words, different excuses, but each one a tentacle of the same monster. The I-Don’t-Like-Change-a-Saurus has been stalking our family for many years.
How We Feel About Change
She doesn’t like it. She doesn’t want it. And she sure as heck is not going to enjoy it.
Five-plus years after our move, her face still morphs into a mulish expression when we discuss the topic. It doesn’t matter that she LOVES her new room. Regardless of the fact that her BFF lives only 3 houses down. Completely overlooking the huge backyard and playroom. “I liked my old house. I don’t know why we had to move.”
She cried for weeks when we bought a new van (I did too, but mine were tears of joy and relief).
She orders exactly the same thing each time at the restaurants we frequent. Kraft Dinner at White Spot, really?! I can barely stand to allow it. But she likes what she likes, and frankly, it’s not worth the fight.
I knew this adoption would be hard for her to accept. Even a good change, but especially a challenging one is a hard pill for her to swallow. I knew, because she comes by it honestly. She is cut from the same cloth as her Dad, though he orders the burger platter with a ceasar salad. And, I’m not going to lie, I’m part of the club too (orange beef stir-fry, in case you were wondering).
She inherited a double dose of stuck-in-a-rut-itis. It’s hard to explain the angst and discomfort of change to you who fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, taking life as it comes with a smile of your face. You may wonder, “Why would he fish those raggedy old boxers out of the trash?” or “How come she chooses to stay home and sort laundry instead of joining an impromptu dinner party?”
Because there is nothing as comfortable as what we know. And what we expect. And what we’ve done a thousand times before.
That shiny new thing may be better: more fun, more interesting, more tasty, less drafty, even more life-affirming, but it is NEW, and there is nothing scarier than that.
What Made All the Difference
So, how did we turn it around? What was the twist that unlocked her sense of adventure? How did we get to the place where she is now: proudly displaying pictures of her new brother to everyone she meets, pestering us to find out when we can finally meet him and scrounging through the toy box to find the perfect stuffed monkey?
I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. If change is frightening, control is soothing. She needed to be in charge of something, so this change would be HER choice, HER endeavor, and suddenly, HER adventure.
When Glen left on business a few weeks ago, he told us that we should paint the pink room. At the time it was a step of faith, trusting that this adoption would continue to move forward. Inching our way toward bringing him home.
I decided to turn the project over to the girls. A friend took B for the day and we set out on our mission. They were calling the shots.
First step: suss out the situation. I introduced them to a little obsession I like to call “Pintrest”. Before long, I had two opinionated interior designers debating the merits of blue vs. green. We discussed the concept of neutrals, but they discarded that ridiculous idea immediately (apparently it is not a concept that either 9 or 11-year-old girls embrace readily). They nodded their heads sagely as we discussed the need to decorate in increments – let him come home to a simple, uncluttered space and we will add to it over time.
We read through every e-mail from Foster Mom. He is a busy boy; he loves to climb and is into everything. He loves nature walks and playing outside in the dirt. And so, the concept of a jungle room was born.
When our little neighbour, the third member of their 3 Musketeers, came over with a dossier of ideas she had printed up, the ball really got rolling. Seeing how excited her friend was worked wonders for C’s enthusiasm.
Before I knew it, I found myself in an empty room with a full can of paint and three eager, though inexperienced, helpers. I’m not usually one to hand a loaded paint roller over to a 9-year-old (not even one with 10 and 11-year-old cheerleaders to advise her). But this was IMPORTANT. It was their first act as big sisters.
I wrote this in my journal that night:
Dear Little Brother
Your sisters painted the pink room green today. They looked at every single paint chip in Home Depot and picked this colour especially for you. They sorted through all the stuffies we own to find “jungle animals” for you to play with. And they set aside a few special ones that they knew you just HAD to have. Because all the babies in our family have had them.
They painted your room themselves, with help from our neighbour-friend P (who spends so much time with us she’s part of the family too). There were a few spills. There are more than a few touch-ups needed. And it doesn’t look exactly perfect.
Except it is. Because they did it for you. They were so careful. And they worked hard all day long. Your big sisters love you already and they can’t wait to show you your new room!
So here’s me, pretty sure that this blotchy green paint job is the best one I’ve ever seen.