Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Elaina update! My rocket child

It's taken me longer than I planned, but here's the final update on my kids.

Elaina: almost 11 years old, performing as Galinda in "Wicked"

Elaina will be eleven years old at the end of September. She's our oldest and I have always described her as a rocket, shooting out into the world. Everything she does is at a hundred and ten percent and at a hundred and ten miles per hour.

As a baby, she cried between four to seven hours a day for six months straight. Now I know that she just wanted to get going with life. Once she could crawl and then walk, the crying stopped.

It's something about my first born... every time she performs in public; singing in an end of the year recital at school, helping with the worship team at church, dancing at the local, weekly ballet class... that makes me want to plop myself down in the middle of the venue and cry buckets of tears.

I cannot believe I have children. I cannot believe that God would trust me with them. I can't believe they are not only surviving, but thriving under my care. Seeing Elaina burst forward into life always shocks me. I'm her mother. This compassionate, stubborn, fun, somewhat anal person is my child.

We moved to Ukraine as missionaries when Elaina was just 2 and 1/2 years old (Zoya was 9 months). I struggled to acclimate to life as she picked up Russian like it was Sunday's paper on a leisurely Monday morning. She transformed into a little Ukrainian girl: speaking the language, eating the food, laughing at the jokes, as easily as a well loved transformer doll. I, on the other hand, resembled the Tin Man in the "Wizard of Oz" in search of the magical oil can to help me move.

When she was around four years old, I signed Elaina up for a ballet class down the street from our house in Kiev. Twice a week she got dressed in a serious black leotard. I worked at slicking her hair back into a tight bun in an effort to make her look like all the other Ukrainian ballerinas.

The teacher was mean. She barked out orders: no smiling!, stand up straight!, don't look to the right or left! and I stood outside the door in the cold, old Soviet building worrying that I was messing up Elaina's little self esteem for life.

On the morning of her ballet show (it really just was an open class), Sergei and Zoya walked down to the nearest store and bought her one bright pink flower. We settled into seats in the classroom and waited for the music to start.

And then it did: the music lurched forward and a line of unsmiling, concentrated Ukrainian four and five year olds dashed out into the center of the room. The moment I saw Elaina: my daughter, who at that point was my hero, dancing in a foreign country, no longer foreign to her, I started to cry so hard my whole face was wet. I tried to calm myself down. But as I watched her, looking intently out of the corner of her eye, and trying to follow her counterparts to a T, I was overwhelmed that this was my daughter, dancing into life, unafraid, secure.

And that's just how it is with Elaina. I watch her move confidently into life with grace and strength. Oh sure, she's a bit obsessive; she has been called bossy from time to time and she stresses over straight As in school. But even in her personality flaws I am learning from her. She is forgiving of herself and others. She loves God. She's talented. She's kind.

Last week, Elaina starred in a production of "Wicked", put on by a Chicago Park District summer camp. She was Galinda, the good witch.

I found myself once again, sitting in an old building with butterflies in my stomach, waiting to watch my daughter do something amazing and scary. The moment I heard her voice in the song "Popular," I breathed in deep in my gut and let the breath sit there inside me for a moment. Her voice filled the room and I blew out slowly.

God has blessed me with Elaina. He has blessed me with all four of my daughters. It's hard work and I complain too much about motherhood. I fail; I yell, I get angry, I get bored. But times like that, when I watch one of my children intrinsically connected to me, step more into her own skin, it's sweet. I can't quite describe it. It's like pieces of hard candy coming down to me from heaven.


  1. What a special young lady! We are going to see Wicked at the Detroit Opera House. From what I understand, those songs are no joke! She is very blessed!

  2. Thanks! Yes, she's a keeper :)


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