Children Are Not Someone Else’s

I am sure the best kind of life for my children is the one they choose themselves

Continent Roman Avdeyev

“It’s early morning and the children are still asleep. Unwilling to wake them up, you get ready and leave on tip toe to come back to the warmth of the home you built for them in the evening. There are many of them but each knows for sure he or she is loved. They are lucky to have loving parents. There must be no orphans in the world and it can be arranged,” says Roman Avdeyev, our columnist, Russian businessman and banker.

On the sensorial level I associate home with a fireplace and the smell of smoke. We have a fireplace in our house but don’t use it often.

Long ago my parents and I used to live in a communal flat in the town of Odintsovo near Moscow. Back then I neither reflected upon it nor thought it strange. It all seemed perfectly all right. Mom, Dad, Granny and I shared one room which was a rather tight fit, of course. Still, the atmosphere was very nice. Our family were simple and friendly. Relatives and friends came to visit us. So my recollections of childhood are happy. Nevertheless, as I grew up, I realized that every family must have its own home. Now I do not consider living in a communal flat to be a good idea. My attitude to kommunalkas is similar to director Mikhail Kozakov’s in his nostalgic film “Pokrovskiye Vorota” (“The Pokrovsky Gate”). It was a great time I have fond and funny memories of, but now it’s history.

I recall our New Year celebrations. We put up and deco-rated a New Year Tree. Ornaments were few so we made some ourselves, such as tangerines on threads and cotton snowmen. We had only one top spire ornament, a hard-to-find thing then. I was not allowed to touch it for fear of smashing it. One of the grown-ups put it on the tree top. I still recall all that every New Year’s Eve.

Another episode often comes to mind. Uncle gave me a toy New Year Tree complete with a spire and a set of unbreakable mini glass ornaments. It became part of my personal New Year Fairy-Tale as I always decorated it myself. The first time I did it at least ten times.

Nowadays we decorate a live fir-tree growing in our yard. It’s a tall tree now so we can’t reach its top to put a spire on it. Then we all get together around a large table and have a very special celebration. Last time we played games, had contests and a fireworks show outdoors.

I’ve always wanted to have a large family and am happy to see 30 of us at our family reunions now.

It stands to reason, our decision to become foster -parents had a background. I tried to help orphanages but soon realised it was useless. Replacing old wooden window frames by modern plastic ones and renovating buildings is all very well but to the orphans it makes no difference whatsoever. On top of everything, these children are quite unsuited for this world. Leaving the orphanage at the age of 16, they know nothing about paying household bills or shopping, let alone relationship building. Suffice it to say, some of them think tea to be naturally sweet, never seeing sugar added into a large shared kettle. It’s next to impossib—le to imagine how a system with children being isolated as its main irreparable fault could be fixed.

Having become aware of this, I decided to help child-ren personally. Not really afraid but rather being in the fog about child adoption, my wife and I took time to discuss the idea without making hasty decisions. Not everybody is able to adopt an orphan. Even more vital is your being morally prepared to fully accept the child. Once, a 2‑year-old infant was adopted and in a few months returned to the orphanage because he cried at night. Ugly story! One should not expect being a foster parent to be easy and must never betray those already inspired with hope! There is no “free trial period” where adopting children is concerned. That’s why our Arifmetika Dobra School (The Good’s Arithmetic) offers future adoptive parents a training course after which all candidates are tested and certified as qualified adopters and guardians. Once a child is adopted, the foster parents are assisted by psychologists.

We finally decided to adopt children hard to find a foster family for. Usually it’s siblings who should not be separ-ated. At Infant Home near Dinamo Metro Station we found twins, a girl and a boy, not yet a year old. When we brought them home, it all made perfect sense at once. Katya and Tim are 17 already and since then our family has grown significantly.

I am sure the best kind of life for my children is the one they choose themselves. The ability to discern good and evil is a major goal of upbringing for a child to become a really substantial person. It’s vitally important to have frank and trusting relationships and always be there for your children to turn to for advice, should the need arise. In my view, the best method of upbringing is a shared activity and the only right way of communication is sincerity and honesty.

Every parent’s job is upbringing, nurturing and educating their children. Our young ones attend a bilingual kindergarten while the older ones are state school pupils. I vote for state schools as my children grow up in Russia and must be fully aware of this country’s realia. On holidays they go to study in Germany or England but always return home. Our current school system originating in the Soviet Union is very good. Designed for the industrial era, it is certainly not inertia free offering a lot of theory and not enough practice necessary in the postindustrial world.

One of the Arifmetika Dobra’s programmes is called “Chance.” Its purpose is enabling orphans to go to university. The most recent data say only 159 out of 20,000 orphanage alumni, less than 1 %, became university students. 31 of them had taken our “Chance.” It’s a well-known fact that only 10 % of orphanage residents growing up without being adopted make it to their 40th birthday.

We should timely react and help our children get adjusted to the changing world. A totally new, virtual, reality has become part and parcel of modern life. There’s nothing bad about it. This virtuality is tangible and advantageous. Now orphans can get a better idea of real life while families can stay in touch via general chat rooms sharing their joys and sorrows, exchanging opinions and supporting each other in hardships. Snapshots, pranks, memes and videos enrich our lives today helping to strengthen the most important things — togetherness and good relations.

We set up new traditions and keep up the old ones too. Among our most cherished family rites is group backpacking either abroad or in our dear Lipetsk Region. We spend a lot of time outdoors, playing football on our pitch or canoeing in summer and skiing in winter, to name just a few of our activities.

Every New Year’s I make a wish to see our world without orphans and all children seeing the New Year in together with their families. I can’t recall exactly when, still a boy, I stopped believing in Grandfather Frost (Santa’s Russian counterpart). Having become a father, I became a believer again but in a different sense. We have only two national family holidays in Russia, March 8 (Women’s Day) and New Year’s. Now I feel the miracle of the latter not in terms of Grandfather Frost appearing on my doorstep. I have better things to look forward to. Now I anticipate a New Year’s opportunity to get together again and celebrate our being a family. I do wish celebrating the New Year miracle of a family reunion should last forever! In my family. In all families.