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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

The Reluctant Success

teen_anxietySome of my kids have trained for years to be failures.  It was expected of them.  It was drilled into them.  They were good-for-nothing orphans, most likely on the path to destruct, willing to kill either themselves or someone else by the time they reached the age of majority.

Or didn’t.

Least likely to succeed, you could say.

Now that they have time, and opportunity, and resources, teen-reader2-by-phaewilksuccess, if not a given, is at least expected.  Yet occasionally, I come to the rude awakening that my expectations, and their expectations, are two very different things.  Fortunately, not all of the time, but those “sometimes” loom large on the landscape of our lives.

Take my second son, Pasha, for example.  With budding artistic talent, a couple of different friends have asked him to work on small projects.  I’ve insisted behind-the-scenes that it not start out as a business deal.  One lady, for instance, wanted him to sketch her historic home.

“See if you like what he comes up with, and you can decide to pay him or not based on that,” I suggested.

pastels1She agreed, and he drew a rather breathtaking drawing of her home, which he then needed to color in with pastels.

“How’s it going?” I asked a few times.

“I can’t figure out the color,” he replied.

We knew that the home was a light sage, almost a grey with a vague tinge of green.  He made several color swatches, none of which looked right.  One day when we were in the area, we drove by the home, since he had been working from some poorly-made photos.  Taking our own picture, it was now much easier for him to see the colors, as well as the structure itself, which had been somewhat hidden by a tree on one side.

Thus armed, he was supposed to be working on the sketch in his spare time.  Instead, I found him hiding, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcrouching, making furtive movements every time I walked past his door.

“Any progress?” I asked.

“Not really,” he admitted, “it’s very hard to do the color.”

I came closer.

“Let me see what you have so far.”

He had nothing.  That’s when I spotted the computer on the floor, partially hidden, with a video game in full swing.

“I see… maybe this is why you’re unable to come up with any colors…” I shook my head, while collecting the computer from my son who was not supposed to have any electronics at all.

computer-addiction-8“Where did this computer come from?” I asked my first son, Petya.

“It’s his school computer, he uses it for school,” he explained.

“Then it shouldn’t be in his room.”

It seemed like no matter what I did, certain of the kids could not grasp that they needed to make up for lost time, coming from a Russian orphanage to America at later ages.  They had to study, and hone skills and talents.  They had to get a move on.  Yesterday, if possible.

Back to Pasha.

“Do you realize that this art could lead to paid jobs?” I pressed him.  “If you do this picture successfully, she listing-panel_art_pastelsmay want to pay you.”

His ears picked up.  We had discussed this preveiously, but given that he had the attention span of a cockroach, he had, no doubt, forgotten.  All the kid wanted to do was play.  He was arrested in his development, either through Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (most likely ARND), or he had suffered so much from the beatings, neglect, and abuse of his past that he simply had checked-out long ago.

mercado_victorianhouse2Time to check back in.  And it was up to me to push, prod, and poke him toward a successful destination.

“I want you to finish the picture today.  Not another week of playing around.  You need to concentrate, focus, and wrap it up today.”

And he did.  It was not his best work, given the pressure, so I grabbed it back when I learned that he planned to give it to the lady right away.

“Pasha, did you sign your work?”


“Okay, let me see it first.  I want to take a picture of it before you give it away.  Then you need to sign it,” I advised as we sat in the car together.

“Alright, look at the sky, let’s give it some depth and movement,” I suggested.  “Where’s the other chimneycharcoal4—aren’t there several chimneys?  How about the tree by the side of the house?  When she says she wants her house drawn, she doesn’t mean just the house….  Why not keep it for a few more days, then present it to her very nicely when it’s fully finished?”


Pasha was a reluctant success.  I’m sure he simply wanted to finish up in order to be free for another amusement.  Here he could be earning hundreds of dollars doing commissioned art projects, but instead, he wanted to play.

Do you have children that you need to prod?


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4 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Leah says:

    The unlearning of old habits. Yes we need to prod 90% of the time. It begins with rising in the a.m.! As they mature maybe the motivation of money will get them going. We can hope.

    • avatar admin says:

      It’s true, Leah, many habits have years of practice behind them. I have to acknowledge that 3 out of 4 of our kids have lived longer under previous systems and ways of life than their present. I’m sure that they will catch up eventually and want to move forward… it’s just dealing with the meantime!

  2. avatar Mindy says:

    I often think my oldest daughter would really benefit from a full-time life coach (other than mom). I think the 11 plus years of no expectations has paid a price. After 5 years of being here, she has finally stopped comparing herself to those that are the worst in the class and has noticed that those at the top of her class are not just lucky, but actually have some influence on how well they do. Progress.

    • avatar admin says:

      Progress for sure, Mindy! That’s wonderful. I’ve seen that the 4-5 years home is often a turningpoint large or small for older adoptees. It’s as though the negative looping tape can finally go to pause. And a life coach: what a great idea! Thanks for that.

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