One of Penny's big criticisms has been that I'm not "feeling it" enough. Penny has read a lot of adoption blogs where people report falling head over heels in love with their children. Penny has been telling me that even if I'm taking good care of my children, if I'm not loving every minute of it, I'm coming up short.
Here's a story:
During Christmas of 2001, I was in South Africa. A friend and I decided to go rappelling (abseiling) down Table Mountain. It is the highest commercial rappel in the world, starting at 1000 meters up, then dropping 112 meters down a cliff overlooking Cape Town. I had never been rappelling before, so this was an ambitious way to start. I was pretty terrified. I vividly remember inching backwards over the edge of the cliff, hanging onto the rope for dear life.
At the top, the woman in charge of the rappel cheered me on. I have been thinking about this woman a lot, because she was the best cheerleader ever. Every inch my shaking foot moved, she whooped and hollered. Right foot one inch - "You are soooo good at this!!!" Left foot one inch - "I can't belieeeeve it!!!" Right foot one inch - "I'm going to lose my job! They're going to give you my job!!!" And so approximately five thousand hours later, I made it to the bottom of the cliff.
So I ask Penny, was this woman "feeling it"? Did she honestly think I was the best rappeller ever (unlike, say, my friend who descended the entire 112 meters in about 90 seconds)? Clearly, she did not. But she got me down the cliff, she did damn fine work, and I was very grateful for her. I would never in a million years argue that because she wasn't feeling it, she didn't do a good job. Nor would I have preferred that she shout more honest assessments of my progress.
So for the last couple of weeks, I've focused on becoming a better cheerleader. I've been using the words "best in the whole world" a lot. I have been over-the-top gushing over my boys. And it works really well. D "helps me" fix the porch screen by scattering nails all over the ground? "You are the best helper in the world!!!" I exclaim. His eyes get big. "The best in Greece? The best in Addis Ababa?" And then he tries harder to live up to the title, managing to actually bring me the tools I need, as I need them. My cheerleading makes him happy and proud of himself. A pretends to not like it, but the cheerleading makes him happy and proud of himself, too.
I'm making my children happy and proud of themselves. I feel that. Penny can't argue and she gets quieter.