Creating connections with Adoption Choices families

Archive for the ‘teenagers’ Category

Being Right

I like to be right.  I like it a lot.  When K was younger (and I knew things), that wasn’t a problem.  She had questions and I had answers.  It worked for us.

Now… not so much.  I still have answers but she’s not all that interested in hearing them.  Worse than that, K now has answers, maybe all the answers.   She also has feedback for me, lots of feedback.

K is taking a class on dogs so she has a lot of suggestions on how I can improve my dog ownership skills.  None of the suggestions involve her taking a more active role in the feeding, caring, or walking of said dog but rather how I can use her knowledge of canine behavior in my active role in dog feeding, caring, and walking.

K is also taking a class on natural resources and the environment.  She’s quite a theoretical expert on saving resources.  As I write this, she is probably thinking great thoughts about such things while having left a trail of lights on in all the rooms she’s visited today.

But it was the cell phone cord that really tested me.  On Monday, at around 5:45 am, she inhaled deeply and said “Mom, can I ask you something?”  For the uninitiated, the deep inhale meant that she was trying her hardest to be patient with me.  The “can I ask you something” was her attempt at politeness.  Without waiting for a reply, she pointed at my cell phone charger which was  plugged in with no phone connected to it.  “Can you please take your cell phone plug out of the wall when it’s done charging?  It wastes electricity if you don’t.”  Seriously?    I’m wasting electricity?  Because 5:45 am on a Monday is not my best time and because I’m the mother and I’m always right, we got into an argument over who leaves their phone charger in more often.  She went off to school and I was left staring at the plug thinking once again “that was not my best mothering moment.”

Tuesday, I walked by the kitchen plug and there was K’s charger still in the wall even though both K and her phone had left for school much earlier.  “See, I was right,” I said to myself, “She leaves her charger plugged in much more than I do.” Yesterday, there was her charger in the wall.  I thought about taking a picture for proof I was right but I remembered this incredible and short Ted Talk, 3 things I learned while my plane crashed, by Ric Elias.  Ric was on the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in 2009. Snippets from his 5 minute talk rattle around my brain and come to the forefront sometimes when I need them.    One of the lessons he shares is “I regretted the time I wasted, in things that did not matter, with people that did.”  I put my phone down and unplugged K’s charger.

“I no longer try to be right; I choose to be happy” is another quote from Ric’s talk.  This morning I noticed the charger just before K left for school.  I pointed it out to her and suggested that we both try and be better about unplugging it.  “Oh my gosh Mom, I’m so sorry.”  “No problem, let’s both just try to remember.  Have a great day.”  “You too Mom.”

“I no longer try to be right; I choose to be happy.”  I will make an effort to remember that every day.  It will be my New Year’s resolution.  Just sayin’, most of the time? I am right.

Looking for Sea Glass

It’s the perfect beach day.   Not too hot.  Not too cool.  Just the right amount of breeze.  Chair strategically placed.  Toes in the water.  Book open.  Total relaxation.

“Mom, want to go for a walk with me?”  I close the book and move the chair back up under the umbrella.  Of course I want to go for a walk.  If a teenager asks you to go for a walk, you go.

Off we go in search of sea glass.  You have to really concentrate to find sea glass on our beach so there’s not a lot of talking.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m happy to be walking with my girl.  I’m even happier that she’s happy to be walking with me.

Some days, all we find are rocks.  You think you’ve spied a piece of sea glass but it turns out to be a light white rock or a smooth shell.  On this particular day, we do well.  10 pieces in all – clear ones, green ones and a dark brown one.  We head back to the umbrella, chatting a little bit on our way.

It occurs to me that parenting a teenager is like looking for sea glass.  There are days that are all rock.  Rolling eyes, silence, sarcasm.  But there are the sea glass days.  The smile, the laugh, the genuine interest in what you have to say.

M and I are lucky or at least lucky so far.  We find a lot of sea glass in our girl.  K and M point out cars to each other.  They share a similar taste in movies.  K and I have started going to exercise classes together.  I know!  We go to Zumba together and I don’t embarrass her.  After our first class, she actually said “you did pretty good, Mom.”  And I want extra credit because I responded with an enthusiastic thank you rather than correcting her grammar.

Of course it’s not all magic.  I was recently making homemade cookies for K to take to a sleepover.   I didn’t really have time, but the girls like them so I made the time.  K walked in and asked me what was wrong.  “Nothing.  I’m just thinking”, I replied.  My darling daughter’s reaction? “No offense, Mom, but when you look like that you’re either thinking or you’re irritated about something.  And usually?  It’s the second one.”  Yeah, that was a rock.  The first clue was the “no offense” lead in.  Always a warning to duck.sea glass

So we take it one step at a time.  I relish the times we spend working on puzzles together.  Or when she says, “Hey Mom, want to go to a movie?” And did I mention the Zumba class?

Yeah, I’ll pick up that sea glass wherever and whenever I can find it.

What’s Your Super Power?

We’ve been on a super hero kick lately.  We’ve watched The Avengers, all three Iron Mans, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk.  They are the intersection in the Venn diagram of our movie tastes – enough action for K and M without being too scary or gross or stupid for me.  We also watched “The End of the World” together but I absolutely took one for the team there.

The great thing about a super hero is movie is not just watching it but dissecting it afterwards. For the record, K’s favorite character is Thor because he’s a god and M’s favorite is Hulk.  My favorite is Iron Man.  K maintains that Iron Man doesn’t count because his power is the suit but I vigorously disagree.  Besides, who doesn’t love Robert Downey, Jr.?

These discussions remind me of the endless conversations K and I had about super powers when she was little. Whenever she and I were in the car together, she’d pipe up from the back seat, “Mom, if you could have any super power, what would it be?”  I’d come up with something – super fast speed or x-ray vision and then K would talk for the duration of the ride about what her power would be and how she would use it.  She didn’t require any more input so I’d listen to the radio and she would talk and talk.  Then on our return trip, she’d ask the question again, I’d give an answer and off she’d go.  I guess K wanted to be really ready in case she ever got the opportunity to choose one.

We don’t talk about super powers in the car any more.  There are too many texts for K to answer for that but I’ve been thinking about them lately.  As the mother of a teenager, which super power would I choose?  In no particular order, I’d think the following would come in handy.

Teleportation – K goes to a high school that’s 45 minutes from our house.  She’s made friends with kids that live an hour or so away from us.  They are great kids and I’m really glad K has them in her life, but the two round trips today will take more than 4 hours out of my day.  Teleportation would definitely increase my efficiency and improve my gas mileage.

Listening – Note this power is not super human hearing; it is the ability to super listen.  Being able to listen to what a teenager is really saying would be super indeed.  For example, “Wanna watch TV?” might mean “I don’t really have anything to say to you but I’m okay being near you and isn’t that enough?”

Wisdom – This would grant me the power to know when to say something and when to keep my mouth shut.  To know when I’m setting realistic expectations and when I’m being too hard.  To know where to set the bar so that K accomplishes all that she can without making her feel good is never good enough.

Compassion – I’d like the power to remember how hard being a teenager can be.  It was hard in the dark ages when I was 15 and it’s exponentially harder today.  To remember that an awesome kid who for some reason can’t remember to put a dirty towel in the hamper is still an awesome kid.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Safe

“It’s my job to keep you safe.”  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that to K over the years.  This job of mine made things like bike helmets and car seats and seat belts non-negotiable.  It required us to install safety gates on stairs and rubber bumpers on sharp corners.

K is 15 now.  She’s outgrown the car seats, safety gates and rubber bumpers, but she always wears a bike helmet and her seat belt.  She looks both ways when crossing the street.  She doesn’t run with scissors or talk to strangers.  So, she’s safe, right?  Cause you see, that’s my job, to keep her safe.

We talk about current events and the lessons we can learn from them.  I try to be honest without being frightening.  I believe in open conversation.  I believe knowledge can help us be better prepared for danger.

But now…

A 15 year old girl was sexually assaulted after getting off her school bus in our town.  Getting off her school bus.  At 3 in the afternoon.

The Boston Marathon runs through our town. Like so many in the area, we knew people running the race and at the finish line.  I’ve run a marathon.  I’ve had family waiting for me at the finish.  On Monday,  a monster or monsters set off bombs near the finish line, killing and maiming people.  For running or watching a marathon.  In the middle of Boston.

It’s enough to make me want to put my family in lock down.  Put safety gates around our house.  But… I can’t do that so I look for comfort where I can find it.

One of the comforting messages I heard was to acknowledge to children that yes, there are bad people in the world but to remind them there are many more good people than bad.  Maybe as parents our real job is to keep our kids as safe as we can.  And our job for the world, is to do everything we can to make sure our kids are one of the good guys.

So today, K and I volunteered for the first time at The Food Project, an organization whose mission includes creating a “thoughtful and productive community of youth and adults from diverse backgrounds who work together to build a sustainable food system.”  Our group of volunteers planted 14,000 parsnips seeds.  As one of the volunteers said, “In light of this week’s events, I’m thankful to be able to come together as a community and make a difference.”  Exactly.

Good guys.  They’re everywhere.  We just have to remember to look for them.

K and I cross the finish line, Mystic Places Marathon 2003

K and I cross the finish line, Mystic Places Marathon 2003

What We Can’t Fix

K and I had a recent conversation about homework that ended with me saying something like “You’re an awesome kid and I know that.  But you need to remember actions have consequences and you’re at an age where some of those consequences will be things I just can’t fix.”

K gave me a hug and walked away.  Out of nowhere, I remembered an incident with her bike when she was about four years old.  I was following behind her as she rode around our block.  It’s a safe neighborhood, all side streets, but on one stretch the drivers go pretty fast.  We were on that stretch headed toward the stop sign.  I knew she would stop but like always, I called ahead “stop at the stop sign!”  I watched in horror as she never slowed down and went right through it.  I started running and caught up to her on the other side.

 “Get off the bike”

“Mom, I tried to stop”

“Get off the bike”

“I tried to stop but I was going too fast”

“If you’re going too fast to stop, you are going too fast.  Get. Off. That. Bike.  Now.  Do you understand what could have happened to you?  Do you understand if someone hit you with their car, you could be so hurt, I couldn’t fix it?  Do you understand?”

She got off the bike and the tears started to fill her eyes.  “Mom, do you still love me?” Tears ran down my face as I held her.  I took a deep breath and said, “Of course I love you.  If you don’t remember anything else I’ve ever told you, remember this.  There is NOTHING that you could do, there is no mistake you could make that would EVER make me stop loving you. “

I wonder if kids realize that as parents our sole purpose isn’t to critique their lives by wielding a huge red Sharpie marker.  We don’t want our interactions with them to be those of the Grand Editor, circling this error and crossing out this one.  We are trying to give them the knowledge to make the right choice – to buckle that seat belt, skip that party, turn down that drink, avoid that boy, call for a ride instead of getting in that car – because the consequence of the wrong choice can’t be undone.

I guess the best we can do is to use the fine point marker or even a pen when possible.  And a reminder that there is no choice, regardless of consequence, that could ever make us stop loving them.  I told that once to the girl with the light-up sneakers riding a little pink bike with training wheels.  I better tell her again.  That, at least, is something I can fix.

The Ladybug Sandbox

It all started with the red ladybug sandbox.

K was 2 and I decided she needed a sandbox.  The ladybug was the perfect size – not too big, not too small – and K loved it.  She loved it before we even put sand in it.  She filled it with the little plant id tags from my garden, stepped in and started filling her bucket with plant tags.  I loved it because for the first time since K could move, I could sit.

We started going to playgrounds.  There was the sunny playground with the great train.  There was the wooden playground with the dog statue.  There was the Veres Street playground at Mom and Dad’s house.  We loved them all.  K enjoyed the climbing structures more than the swings but she always made time for the sandbox.  We packed a snack, sometimes lunch and stayed for hours.  The leaving was never fun but honestly leaving anywhere at that point in K’s life was a challenge.  And really, who wants to willingly leave a playground?

We decided to expand the offerings at home.  I did the research and declared that we needed to go with one of the more expensive choices because they marketed themselves as “splinter-free.”  What can I say?  I was a relatively new mom at the time.  I believed it was in my power to keep K’s life splinter-free not realizing that the required mulch underneath the play space would provide more than its share of splinters.  We started with a sandbox and climbing area and would ultimately add a swing set.  I can’t begin to count the hours we spent visiting playgrounds or using the masterpiece in the backyard.

But somehow, when I wasn’t paying attention, the swings in the backyard weren’t really for swinging anymore.  K and her friend G would sit on them and chat for hours but they didn’t swing.  They had gotten too big to go down the slide or climb in the fort.  But they loved to sit on the swings and talk out of earshot of the adults.  Visits to public playgrounds had stopped a while before.  We were too busy with other things.

The backyard playground began to show its age.  The ladybug sandbox was more pink than red and the lid hadn’t been opened in ages.  The mulch had been ground into the dirt and lost its battle with the weeds.  The girls realized there was just as much privacy in K’s bedroom and the swings stayed empty.

A neighbor’s granddaughter was having twins.  The baby’s arrival would make five children.  Could they use a swing set?  The neighbor came and looked at ours and thought this family would enjoy it.  Kids could climb on it and swing on it again.  We were thrilled they wanted to take it.  Yet,  I’m glad I was away the day they came to take it down.  You see, it was just yesterday that my girl was three and we sat on the steps and watched the men put it up.

K and I drove by the wooden playground the other day.  Or I should say the place where the wooden playground was.  The powers that be decided it was too old or too unsafe so it was taken down.  It was replaced with a much smaller, rubber/plastic kind of structure.  “I can’t believe they changed it, Mom.  That was a great playground.  Do you remember how we used to go there?”

Yes, K.  Yes.  I remember.

California Dreamin’

We’ve booked the flights and make the hotel reservations.  We’re off to California in February.  No, it’s not another trip to Napa for M and me, although that does sound delightful.  This time, the three of us will be heading to San Diego.

We’ll be staying in the same hotel from our last visit, the trip when K was born.  We’ll be doing a lot of the things we did the last time – Sea World, San Diego Zoo, the beach – and yes, we realize now those things are way more appropriate for a 14 year old than a newborn.    What can I say?  We were 3000 miles away from family and friends.  We did the best we could, and we all survived.  I consider that a success.

K isn’t sure if she wants to see the hospital, but as with most everything on this trip, it’s her call.  Honestly, I’m not sure I want to see it either.  Yes, I clearly remember walking out of that hospital with the world’s greatest gift.  Yet I can never forget the girl, not much older than my K is now, who walked out with nothing.  But, if K wants to go, we go.  This is her trip, not mine.

We almost went last year but then the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in Orlando and that took precedence over San Diego.  That decision sums up the place adoption holds in our lives now.  K determines its frequency and importance and we respond accordingly.  We’re a long way from the days when I obsessed over how to respond to people who told me K looked like me.  Should I respond immediately that K was adopted?  Should I wait til I get to know them better?  Is a simple “thank you” appropriate?

Adoption is the way K joined our family.  Although we are forever thankful for that, it does not define us.  We will visit her birthplace and we will remember those terrified thirty-somethings who had waited forever and then become parents overnight.  We will remember waking up in the hotel each morning relieved we had kept K alive for one more day.  We will remember the flight back home with a two-week old.  And we will remember how we become the awesome family that we are.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: