Tomorrow my son, Shelby, will turn 13. When we brought him home from a small orphanage in Yekaterinburg, Russia 12 years ago, we never could have dreamed of the young man he would and has become – especially since he cried almost the entire way on the airplane from Moscow to Zurich to Atlanta to Kansas City. We weren’t sure if this was a bad omen or not. But we were just grateful to be bringing this amazing baby home to America.
Then he was a 9 month old with sparkling blue-grey eyes and curly blonde hair. He was loved by the caregivers in his orphanage and was tagged as “extraordinarily healthy” by the Embassy Doctor in Moscow. His passport picture looks like a wise and seasoned person of more years than his 9 months could possibly have experienced. He was a compassionate toddler who rubbed the TV when he saw someone crying and begged us to stop their pain. He was an active little guy who climbed anything like a monkey and asked more “Why?” questions than anyone could possibly answer.
Now he is a mature and compassionate advocate for ending gun violence and watches C-SPAN for enjoyment. He is a super soccer player and an electronics genius. He is a great student and a loyal friend. I have seen him stand up to bullies on his bus route and call racists on their inappropriate jokes. He is funny, creative, and often silly beyond words. He can still ask more questions than anyone could possibly answer but now they are sometimes even harder to answer – but not always.
Being 13 is a big thing. It means being a teenager and making more decisions for himself. It means his hormones will continue to change and there will be ups and downs in our relationship as he ages – but I am so proud of who he is and who he is going to be. It means his interests are changing and his relationships with others are more complex. Having a teenager in the house will be tough at times – but being a Mother is such a blessing. He is a good kid and that won’t change just because the magic number 13 passes tomorrow.
So tonight I give thanks for his birth mother who chose to give him a better live by giving him up. I give thanks for the caregivers who cared for him in the orphanage. I give thanks to the agency reps, interpreters and drivers who helped us through the adoption process. I give thanks for the members of my family who supported the adoption. I give thanks to his coaches, teachers, and pastors who helped make him the young man he is today. I give thanks to the many people who have been part of this journey.
And I thank God for him and for the opportunity to be his mother. What a blessing.