When we picked Luca up from an orphanage outside of Tver, Russia in the winter of 2008, he had never been restrained. Never. There had been no need. His unsteady legs failed him our first few visits, and he preferred to sit and stare blankly, rather than engage. He was conditioned to a specific experience, and he acted accordingly.
I remember that first taxi ride back to Moscow from Tver sans car seat. Child restraints in moving vehicles were not on the top of the priority list there. We were making the final leg of our journey, and I felt like I had hopped in with a New York City cab driver on drugs. Our quiet, reserved little boy was finding his momentum, and the idea of sitting in my lap for two hours while caged inside a metal torpedo did not compute. It was all I could do to keep him from opening the back door of the car and tumbling out at 70 miles per hour. After an additional two hour traffic delay on the outskirts of that grand Russian city, I was pretty sure I had lost my mind.
Then the 12 hour flight back to the United States happened. The 12 hour flight. The only two things that got us through that experience were a saintly Delta flight attendant and Benadryl.
From the moment Luca found his feet, he has been on the move. I will never forget when I took him to a Wal-Mart for the first time. He got down from the cart as we approached the check out stand and took off like a shot toward the front doors. At full sprint, I had to slide tackle him beside one of the cashier stations. One horrified man looked at me and said, “That little boy is going to need a leash.” My cheeks burned. That’s how this goes, I thought. Instant judgment followed by a healthy dose of shame. At a Wal-Mart.
I don’t exactly have to use my ninja-like soccer skills to keep him from running straight into traffic anymore. He has grown up . . . some. However, there has never been a time that he has found sitting still interesting. I would watch other parents with their children at ball games and church services, only to see a sweet little cherub perched peacefully on his mother’s lap. No signs of struggle. No marks of resistance. Just general, blessed compliance. It would almost make me cry.
God, how did I get the wiggly one?
Even in double digits, he finds ways to confound me. I will be standing up one minute, and the next minute he has leaped on my back dragging me to the ground. He likes to belly slide down the aisles of Home Depot. Just the other day, I was in a serious conversation with a friend about something terrible that had happened this summer, and Luca came up behind me and starting aggressively giving me the Heimlich Maneuver. I knew he needed discipline, but he engages in guerrilla warfare, waiting until I am too engaged or pre-occupied to strike. This kid is a military genius.
So, to all you parents of the wiggly ones. I get you. I understand your fatigue. I know what it feels like to be on high alert in social situations, to avoid the stern gaze of the parental Pharisees, to take loads of good natured advice about essential oils and wraps and discipline techniques and dietary choices. I know what it means when your child gets the “class clown” award at school every year. I am a teacher, you know. And as I type these words tonight, I pray for that kind hearted soul who will see past his busyness straight into his heart. That mentor that will help shape him one day when he doesn’t want to listen to me anymore. I pray for wise counsel and the patience of Job. God blessed me with a wiggly one, and I mean that. My heart smiles every time I think about him. I may be tired, but I’m never bored.