Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Well, That's an Improvement

One of the things that is really important to me is that my niece gets to be a kid. Because she's an only child, she tends to be more comfortable hanging with adults. When she first visited us a little over a year ago, she wouldn't even play on the playground with the other kids; she just sat on the bench with me.

The great thing about having a bunch of little kids is how incredibly affectionate they are. Princess and LilBro climb all over Niece, hugging and kissing her in a way that would be weird or seem forced if I did it. But it is completely natural coming from them. And she just eats it up.

Today, we had a homeschool field trip to the zoo. We did a scavenger hunt in five different animal sections, looking for different examples of adaptations. Afterwards, I had a quick errand to run, and then treated the kids to lunch at a local fast food restaurant. It is a perfect spring day, and the fast food place has an outdoor play area. After lunch, we headed outside. I fully expected Niece to sit at a table with me, but she slipped off her shoes and climbed right in with the other kids. Giggling, squeals of delight, and lots of in and out, up and down followed.

I sat in the sunshine, soaking up the quiet, and offering a little prayer of thanks. She is happy. Eleven is a difficult age under the best of circumstances. Eleven is straddling childhood and the teen years. And Niece is also dealing with great changes in her life... the move 1,000 miles from home, missing her mom, switching from traditional to home school, getting used to life in a much bigger family, sharing with "siblings," and all of the structure and discipline that DH and I expect in our home. There are moments when it is a challenge for all of us. There are moments when we all want to throw up our hands.

And then there are these moments: sitting in the sunshine, listening to the squeals and giggles, thinking back over the confidence and interest that she showed during a morning's worth of science, when it all makes sense. It's not easy for any of us... Niece, our family, my sister... but this is the right place for her at this point in her life.

And, for now, that's enough.

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