Little Man cried because he felt exhausted negotiating this new relationship.
Sunshine cried because she missed her friends and family and America is so different.
I cried because after a really difficult day, I tried to bless the kids by making “chocolate popcorn” and failed miserably.
Who knew chocolate popcorn is actually popcorn with chocolate embedded in the kernel and not chocolate drizzled on the top? Who knew that such a fun thing like coming to America could bring with it such homesickness? Who knew that having an extra person in the house would mean losing out on a lot of decision-making power?
It reminds me of Sunshine’s go-to statements: “I like, but why no…?” I like American kino, but why no chocolate popcorn at the theatre? I like this restaurant, but why no crème pies like in my country? I like American TV, but why no Russian subtitles?
Each activity is enjoyable, but a little bit…off…from what we thought it would be. Our expectations don’t match the reality.
And that’s the funny thing with expectations. They can really put a damper on something that might be otherwise enjoyable. And suddenly, we are standing in the middle of the kitchen, crying over chocolate popcorn.
Today, I am reminded to temper my expectations, to slow down. She’s only been here a week. The shine has worn off and now we are living life. But we are living life in the Christmas season, where everything is heightened. There is pressure and excitement and generational expectation that can be truly overwhelming. There is grief and loss that is brought into sharp relief by the exuberance of the season.
I don’t think that the answer is as easy as “scale back.” Less trappings does not really equal less grief. And for this girl in an unfamiliar land, less or more is irrelevant, because none of it is known.
But there is a comfort in familiar rhythm, in following traditions laid down for generations.
And there is a relief in releasing those traditions in order to make new ones, to embrace the comfort of someone else’s rhythm.
So we will release and learn, show and listen.
And sometimes the emotion overtakes us when expectations aren’t matched by reality. That’s okay, too. Because often, it is in that honesty that new understandings can be created.
Today, Little Man rubbed on raw nerves for most of the day. Today, America didn’t work quite right. Today, the snark was like a piling on of millstones.
And we all finally broke. But often it is through the breaking that the sweetness is released.
Little Man pulled me aside and, on his own, he said, “I think I really messed up today. I think I made you both sad. I don’t think Sunshine likes me.”
And when Sunshine came to me in homesick tears, she said she thought Little Man hated her and wanted her to leave. But he was ready to talk.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I like you,” he said. “I just don’t know what to do with you.”
Expectations. Disappointment at a lack of connection, displayed in the most annoying nine-year-old way.
Sometimes, just confessing where expectations don’t meet your reality breaks down walls.
“Okay,” she said.
And he hugged her. A great big nine-year-old annoying bear hug. And she laughed. “Okay! Okay!!”
And we made cookies, and they decided to watch a movie together. And they ended the night cuddled together on the couch, falling asleep in the flickering darkness.
Tomorrow we might cry again. We might be sad. Grief comes in waves. But I’m grateful that this wave has finally crashed upon the rocks of love, and connection, and togetherness.