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What will the teacher say? Dreaded Teacher Parent Conferences

You never know what they are going to say.

Your kid is brilliant, disruptive, kind, bully, sensitive, funny, awkward etc.  We don’t know until we sit in that pint-sized chair across from the ruler-clad teacher.  Our minds dreading what bombshell may be dropped in our laps. We have received the occasional note home indicating that one of the twins made a less than stellar choice in school.  But for the most part, nothing earth shattering.

Last year, we sat in those tiny chairs across a miniature table from Bruiser’s teacher expecting to hear about his remarkable academic improvement.  Plus, we hoped to to receive reassurance that his behavior had improved, after all, we only received one note and one call home.  From Princess’ teacher, we expected to hear how gifted she was.  And, that she is a pure pleasure in class.

SURPRISE!  That isn’t how it went down.

Within moments of walking into Bruiser’s Kindergarten classroom in 2013, we are told that the school guidance counselor will be joining us.  Having the guidance counselor in the conference is NEVER a good sign.  Totally expecting a great report, my head started to spin as I sat and tried to predict what nightmarish offense that Bruiser committed.

It all started well.  Bruiser is smart, academically above his peers  but he has a temper (no kidding…like we don’t know that), the guidance counselor would like to work with him and teach him how to manage “Bruiser’s plan” when it differs from “group plan”.  Guess that it isn’t a huge deal so my head stopped spinning but not for long.

Off to the next conference with our daughter, Princess’ teacher.  Relieved that our more challenging conference is over, we brace ourselves to revel in the report on our predictably, well-behaved child.  But within a split-second, my gifted child is made out to be a boy crazed 6 year old–sneaking off in the corners of the room with boys.    The teacher was so concerned that she recommended that we speak with her pediatrician about it.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME! I could just picture it, telling my pediatrician that Princess is a flirt and her teacher is recommending therapy.  I would be laughed out of his office.

Well, after last year’s conferences, we went in this year expecting the worst.


Couldn’t be more proud of the twins.  Thrilled with their teachers who have taken the time to help the kids work through their individual issues, although I am not 100% sure there were ever significant issues to start with.  Bruiser still needs to adjust his “internal barometer of justice”  (loved his teacher’s label—it is a perfect description of Bruiser’s perception of the world) and Princess is less of a flirt but now is a heart breaker.  But with this said, all is good.

Is my family different?

No two families are the same. Race, single parent homes, families grown through adoption and religion are just some of the things that make our families different yet none the less special. In this posting, I am sharing about how religion makes our family different, special yet with a bunch of issues that we need to tackle. We live in a town with a very small Jewish population. The twins are the only Jewish kids in their grade while JJ has 2 Jewish kids in his grade. I would guess, although not sure, that the feelings that this may bring to a family transcend to race, as well.

Both my husband and I grew up in towns that had a significant Jewish populations, but my kids do not have the same. We go out of our way to expose them to our religion….we send them to Hebrew School, the twins attended a Jewish pre-school and next summer, all three, will attend Jewish summer camp. We are very fortunate that these exposures, in addition to our family life and traditions, are enjoyed and cherished by all three kids. But I always wonder, how do they feel to be the “token” Jews in their schools? Of course, throughout the years, we have run into the tantrums surrounding not having a Xmas tree, or not celebrating Christmas, and the tip-toeing around the question “how come Santa doesn’t come to our house?”

This past year, all three kids missed the third day of school to celebrate Rosh Hashana but all three chose to attend school the 2nd day of the holiday. It is a tough decision; do I leave the choice up to them? Do I just explain that in respect of their religion, they should not attend school? Our final decision was to leave it up to them….provide no input beyond laying out the choice. Had it not been the first week of school, we may have chosen a different tactic. Chanukah will be here soon enough—but this year it coincides with Thanksgiving rather than Christmas. Here I foresee a magnified issue as every one of their friends will be celebrating in December and our holiday will have “in their minds” been a blur with the secular Thanksgiving holiday.
With many of our relatives marrying outside of the Jewish religion, we have the added question “how come my cousins are Jewish and they get to celebrate Christmas and Easter?” Often, especially in the 6 year olds minds, no answer is good enough unless it involves a second set of presents and an egg hunt with a ton of candy as a prize.

Intellectually, I know the best way to address this issue of “growing up Jewish in a non-Jewish town and living in a time where marrying within one’s religion is less likely than years before.” Intellectually addressing the issue and emotionally addressing the issue are two completely different beasts.

Fear of the Unknown..Appreciation of the Ordinary

As I look out the window, I see the remnants of a snow storm that blanketed the area just a few weeks ago and a topping of the few inches of fresh snow that fell last night.  Somehow we have been referred to as “the sweet spot” of many of the Nor’easters this year.  However, this storm was different we were spared “the sweet spot” label.

This morning, all appeared to be fine, roads were cleared, my husband and JJ cleared off the driveway and the cars, Bruiser played on our Kindle and Princess was in a trance in front of the TV………school was delayed but beyond the two extra hours…the morning ran fairly close to normal.  At 9:30 JJ headed to the bus stop.  While the twins were getting their snow gear on, I received a somewhat frantic call from my cousin who lives up the street.  She sounded flustered and wanted to know what number school bus our middle school kids were on.

There had been an accident between a school bus and a van.  The kids on the bus and the bus driver were fine…….the driver of the van was fine and there were some injuries to the two children in the van but they are expected to fully recover.

But just the next 15 minutes, were filled with such fear……..was JJ on that bus?  Couldn’t reach the school.  Couldn’t reach the transportation department.  The kids must have been so scared.  What was the driver of the van doing as said she was being cited.  Are the roads so bad that I should keep the twins home?

After about 15 minutes of fear, rationally I realized that had it been JJ’s bus, I would have received a call.  I soon was assured that the bus wasn’t JJ’s.  But, it really makes you realize how much you need to appreciate each and every day.

Regardless of the Origin of our Roots: Our Tree Reaches for the Same Sun

In a few weeks, I am going to attend a presentation on genealogy.  I have always wondered where my ancestors came from, what did they do for a living, and the overarching interest in finding out what tie there is between who I am now and my past.  I have been blessed to have had the benefit of grandparents who lived until their 80’s and 90’s and my husband’s dad is in his 90’s.  We have had conversations and learned of some of our family history but it isn’t enough.  I want to learn more.

However, this raises many feelings about what happens when my son and daughter start having similar interests.  We have some basic history on their birth parents…..on birth mom’s side, we know that there is a sister who, too, was adopted and now lives in California, a brother down in Texas, and a sister in Florida.  Our twins also have three nephews…one lives with his great-grandmother in Kentucky, one was placed with an adoptive family and the other lives with his mother (Bruiser & Princess’ sister).  We know that their birth mom lived in Las Vegas as of a year ago.  Their birth dad is a merchant marine based out of Florida and he has a son, who, also, calls Florida home.  Most of our twins’ birth family is geographically spread out and moves quite a bit.

I realize that the whole genealogy thing is hard for everyone……..constantly going down paths that lead to dead ends….but then one little piece of the puzzle connects to another, and another to yet another and so on.  I wonder when my twins will have the curiosity to seek out their genealogy.  Will it be in 10 years………will it be later?  What will their genealogy tree look like?

Far more complicated than ours……….but no less important and vital to their understanding of who they are.

Bruiser –you are my son.  Princess – you are my daughter.

Although you were not born from my belly,

Although your family tree will have a few more branches on it,

Although the roots may be a distance apart,

Our leaves reach up to the same sky, seek the same sunshine, and breathe the same air.

Twins–Independence from each other isn’t so easy

I am so happy I have my own room now…..but am I really?

Just a few weeks ago, we finished the transition of moving Bruiser into his own room (aka the office).  He was so excited to have his own room…….new bed, cool karate mural on his wall, many shelves and drawers to put all his “STUFF.”  Bruiser loved the whole idea of being given a room that he could call his own rather than sharing with his twin sister.

The big day comes……………the awesome captains bed is scheduled to arrive in a few days but Bruiser insists on staying in his new room with an air mattress.  He goes on an organizing binge: all his stuffed animals are arranged perfectly on his bed, the action figures are all poised to protect from attack, the books are in perfect order from smallest to biggest.  The clothes will wait until the captains bed arrives.

Well, with all the wonderful anticipation…………the transition was far from seamless.

Night #1:  Bruiser is out bed every 5 minutes.  First it is I need a drink, then I have to go to the bathroom, then I am going to help JJ clean his room, then I am going to see if Princess is ok in her room alone, then he comes in (11:30pm by this time) to tell us that although Princess is sleeping, he thinks that she is scared without him in her room.  So 3 hrs in new room and 8 hrs in old room.

Night #2: Big meeting between the twins………outcome is that Princess must sleep in new room with Bruiser for one night.  Well another late night of chit chat and giggling.

Night #3: Twins beg us to let Princess sleep in new room.  But at this point, we refuse to be persuaded or manipulated by two 6 yr. olds.  Bruiser in one room and Princess in the other.  Although the twins continued whining and moaning for 2 hrs.  protesting our insistence that each sleep in their respective rooms, we remained strong and stuck to our plan.  By 10:30pm, both were asleep.

Night #4: Bruiser’s new captains bed arrived and he carefully folded every piece of clothing and placed it in its’ precise place.  The organization process took at least 2 hours but it was finally done.  Bruiser went to sleep exhausted from figuring out where everything belonged.

Since then, Bruiser has not looked back.  He loves his new room.  Now….we just need to figure out what to do without our office.  But that will be a problem for another day.

Treasures Hidden in the Chaos: You never know what you will find

Well, our twins, Bruiser and Princess are turning 6 yrs old in a month, and it is time for us to have them in separate bedrooms.  It is easier said than done, considering there are no additional bedrooms in our home.  There was only one solution!  Move Bruiser into his 12 year old brother’s room………..

1)      Great way to deal with space issue

2)      Great way to separate boy/girl twins

3)      Great way to cause brotherly friction

4)      Great way to increase the opportunity for squabbles

5)      Great way to ruin JJ’s study environment

Guess that isn’t the best solution, or even a realistic one.

The other alternative would require relocation of our office partially to the kitchen and partially to the basement……..this is the way, begrudgingly, we decided to go.    What a pain to go through papers, files, and “stuff” that we accumulated over the past 12 years!  We found things including: computer diskettes (don’t even know how to see what is on these), cords that we have no idea what they go to, rolodex files (2 of them) with business cards from before the year 2000, bills dating back to 2004, highlighters and pens that haven’t probably worked in 10 years, multiple pads of paper and notebooks with less than 10 sheets of paper on them……….and the list goes on.

But then, my husband found our Adoption files.  Everything stopped.  Amongst the 10 bags filled with shredded paper, the stacks of books that we didn’t remember that we had, the vicariously balanced electronics, the bills from beyond, everything beyond the Adoption files were irrelevant… husband sat and looked at each file, piece by piece.

  • The memories of the first time we met with our social worker.  The conversations came flooding back……….domestic or international adoption?  If international, what country?  If domestic, how?  Agency, Facilitator, Lawyer?  We had so little knowledge then.
  • The memories of the constant contact with our social workers once we were matched.  I had saved every email between us and the social workers.  Reading through the emails, we remember the emotional rollercoaster that we rode.
  • The receipts of my trip to visit my twins’ birth mom.
  • The medical records, lawyer and agency contracts.
  • A scribbled note on a piece of paper with the birth mom’s description of the “6 ft, blue eyed, ROTC” birth dad.  This was quite interesting because we ultimately met the birth dad.  (we are thankful to have met the birth dad who did have amazing blue eyes but the rest of her description was a bit off.)
  • A ripped piece of scrap paper that I wrote the weight and height of each baby when they were born.  I remember getting the call…….I was standing outside my house packing our car to make our flight.  I grabbed a piece of paper from the floor of my car.
  • Plus, so much more.

Surrounded by clutter and chaos, my husband was transported into a world of peaceful memories……..some of the best memories of our life.   It was like re-living the adoption experience over again, except this time we know how it will turn out.

These very special files will bypass the shredder………..but will need to find a new place in our home.  Where do they belong? I don’t know yet, but it will be somewhere worthy of these very important memories.

Adoption is Like Learning to Ride a Bike

Our oldest son, JJ, was a bit cautious when he first learned to ride a two-wheeler.  He started to learn the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade and had it down pat the middle of the next summer.  He was hesitant at first, took a few spills and called it quits after a month of off and on trials.  JJ wasn’t too anxious to try again the following summer but with some persuasion, he attempted it again.  And before long, he got the hang of riding and never looked back again.

Fast forward to Bruiser, nearing the end of pre-school (he was 5 ½ yrs old), begged for his training wheels to come off.  With slight hesitation, we complied.  He got on the bike and was shaky for all of one minute—within a month he is doing stunts that should clearly not be done by a 5 year old.  I swear he is going to give me a heart attack!  My mom won’t even allow him on his bike when she is over….she doesn’t have the nerves for it.

Fast forward to Princess, she is not as gutsy as her twin.  Princess was quite content on her Barbie bike with her pink training wheels (it is so girly—it is nauseating).  She showed no interest in trying a two wheeler.  She started to use her Razor most of the time and would take out her bike with training wheels every now and then.  We finally took her training wheels off…..but she wasn’t interested.  However, a few days ago, she got up on her bike and told us she wanted to learn to ride a two-wheeler.  We ran with her twice around the street……..she was a bit unbalanced and after a solid 10 minutes she put the bike away.  Two days later I was running out for a “date” with my husband to celebrate my (let’s just say 29th) birthday, my mom was babysitting, when Princess grabs her bike and says “Nana, watch—-I can ride a two-wheeler!”  Before I had time to stop her, Princess took off on the bike; it was like she had been riding without training wheels for months.

Three kids……three different bike experiences.  Similarly, no two adoptions are alike.

Every adoption is a learning experience.

Mental state to take the leap of faith to jump in is different for everyone.

Patience is necessary.

Not every parent stays balanced through the challenge.

In the beginning, we have lots of “training wheels” helping us keep on a straight path.

We have limited time to hold on, teach our children how to keep balance in their lives (or on their bikes) but you eventually have to let go.

Over the past 5 ½ years, we appreciated our “training wheels,” and we continue to practice letting go as our children grow older.  JJ—we love how you take time until you feel totally confident that you will succeed.  Bruiser—we love your chutzpah and sense of adventure and just get it done attitude.  Princess—we love your style of waiting until you are good and ready to even try.

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