Creating connections with Adoption Choices families

Posts tagged ‘children’

Love and Family Stories

We tell a lot of stories in our family. Most of them are true, some are not. My girls fight to recognize when their dad is telling a true story, and when he’s just making up a fantastical fiction for them to enjoy. The girls still seem confused as to whether or not their dad rode a dinosaur to school when he was young. They seem better at guessing my truths and bluffs. I am not sure why, but it could be because I am the one who tells the stories with the hard truths and absolute facts (as I know them to be).

I often feel like I’m a witness in our own family court, and my girls are the determined lawyers wrangling the truth out of my testimony, in every last detail.  I find it hard to separate the facts that I know, the feelings I have, the hunches, and assumptions which I have made over the years.

The girls especially love the stories where their dad or I (usually me) did something dangerous, or flat our stupid as kids. They love to hear how we got in trouble, ended up in the ER, or got sent to our rooms for what seemed like eons.  One of their favorite stories is about the time I went off a jump on my bike and wiped out so hard that I ended up in the ER covered head to toe in bruises and scrapes.  First, the story was loved due to the danger, blood, and guts (and that I didn’t have a helmet on!). Next, they loved hearing how embarrassed I was going to camp the next day, looking like a zombie fresh from the grave. Lately, they have fixated on the part when the nurses grilled me about what “really happened,” as they didn’t believe that my injuries were caused solely by my daredevil 9-year-old self.

I’ve told the girls this silly story (complete with viewing of the scars I still bear from that day) many times. It started for me as a cautionary tale about the need to wear helmets and to ride bikes safely, but it has morphed into many other tales according to the girls’ curiosity, and interest about the topic, players, setting, or plot of that fateful day.  This story is an easy one for me to tell as it only involved me being a dumb kid, trying to show off to a bunch of my neighborhood friends.  Thankfully, no permanent harm was done, no lives were lost, and the course of my life was not forever altered.  The same cannot be said of all our family stories.

Our family stories, like the stories of any family I imagine, contain the joys, hopes and great loves of our family members. Our stories also contain the sorrows, fears, anger, and immense loss, which are the inherited lessons from our families of origin.  We each have a birth story, we each have family who love us, and cherish us. The paths that brought the four of us together, to form our family, have taken many turns, some not of our own control, and have had joys and sorrows, love and loss along the way. These stories of love and loss, joy and sorrow, I tell like the bicycle story, focusing on the girls’ curiosity and interest. I want the girls to recognize themselves in our stories, and to see their role in our family reflected through the routes we’ve taken and the adventures we had.   Hopefully, one day my girls will tell their own stories (hopefully with a helmet on) about their lives, and be able to understand the deep, meaningful connection that our family stories have to their sense of self, and belonging, in their own family.

The Questions are Coming……..DUCK and PRAY that You Say the Right Thing

“Mom, if you are JJ’s birth mom then how come you are his regular mom too?” Bruiser asked this evening between dips of his Chips Ahoy into
a small glass of milk.   It is questions like this that every once in a while randomly come out of our 5 year old twins’ mouths.  Are you ever fully prepared to respond to these types of questions?  As adoptive parents, we hope to be ready with an arsenal of appropriate, sensitive and
truthful answers.   My husband and I seem to be doing ok with the questions and appropriate answers…at least I think we are.  We address the questions in a reassuring manner, in a way that will make our children feel unconditional love, in a way that they will not question their place in the family, in a way that will assure them that their birth mom, lovingly made the choice to place them to afford them the best life possible.

But, I never know how my responses are perceived by my twins.  Today’s question was answered with a spiritual/ religious response of “G-d has a plan for everyone………..the plan was to have me be the mom of JJ, Bruiser and Princess.”  The answer was accepted and conversation quickly turned to potty talk that seems to dominate our kid’s vocabulary these days.

It seems as though the complexity of the questions are increasing but that is to be expected.  It is frightening as a parent to fear the unknown……….what is the next question? Will I answer it with ease? What if my child doesn’t accept my answer?  What if I don’t have a good answer?    My common sense tells me that these fears are universal to every parent……..the questions may be difficult, they may be different but all parents have the fear.  I will continue to give it my best shot and appreciate that my children are coming to me to get their information.
Our family is close, we communicate well and love each other………the questions will come, the discussions will endure, the dialogue will continue
but that comes hand in hand with a child growing up.

Lessons from the Radio

K and I spend a lot of time in the car together.  There’s to and from school, to and from CCD, to and from Hip Hop, etc.   A lot of time in the car.  Sometimes I hear stories from her day; sometimes I tell stories from mine.   Sometimes we’re both silent, but always the radio plays in the background.

When K is in my car, she controls the stations.  We listen to Radio Disney and Kiss among others.  Listening to K’s music not only helps me in wielding my veto power over an iPod download, it’s provided an interest for us to share.  We’re not Justin Bieber fans.  We think Taylor Swift needs more variety in her melodies.  And we agree that Rihanna has an incredible voice but we don’t typically appreciate her lyric choices.

But when K leaves the car, the radio is all mine.  Some days I catch the awesome Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air.  Or maybe someone is telling a story on PRX’s The Moth Radio Hour.  Perhaps I’ll be lucky enough to hear an essay from This I Believe.

When all else fails, I head to one of five country radio stations I have pre-programmed.  Yes, that’s right.  I listen to country radio.  Three stations on XM and two on FM.  Sure, some country is kind of twangy and some is kind of hokey.   But I love country because it tells a story.  Miranda Lambert’s “House that Built Me” was the ballad I listened to over and over again when we sold my Mom and Dad’s house.

“I know they say you can’t go home again.

I just had to come back one more time.

Ma’am I know you don’t know me from Adam

But these handprints on the front steps are mine.”

And yes, it made me cry but that was kind of the point.  It fit the occasion and suited the mood as country songs so often do.

In just a few days, K will be thirteen, an occasion that has me bewildered, happy, sentimental and too many other emotions to list.  Her birthday always makes me especially grateful to be her Mom and grateful for the path that led us to each other.  I was thinking of that path when the song “This” by Darius Rucker, now a country singer and no longer of Hootie and the Blowfish, came on the air.

“… Maybe it didn’t turn out like I planned

Maybe that’s why I’m such, such a lucky man

All the fights and the tears and the heartache

I thought I’d never get through

And the moment I almost gave up

All led me here to you.”

His words remind me of how much I wanted to be pregnant 14 years ago, of how I couldn’t understand how life could be so unfair.  Why couldn’t I have what came so easily to everyone else?  “And the moment I almost gave up all led me here to you.” I wanted to be a mother and what I became was K’s mother and that has made all the difference.  Maybe that’s why I’m such, such a lucky woman.

Thinking Outside the Box

“It’s so much fun having K in class.  She’s so creative!”  This quote from K’s after school Architecture teacher made me smile, of course.  K is fun and she is creative and I love it when people appreciate that about her.  It also made me smile to think of how different her strengths are than mine.  I imagine the feedback my mother received from teachers was more along the lines of “It’s a pleasure having Gail in class.  She does exactly what she’s told and doesn’t cause any trouble.”  I’m sure they never told her how creative I was.

I don’t know exactly where in K’s birth family her creativity comes from but I know it’s a natural talent not one she absorbed from either my husband or I – two of the most linear thinkers on the planet.  We used to say that K not only didn’t “think inside the box,” she didn’t even see the box.  If she was to have a box, it certainly wouldn’t be square shaped, hers would be more like a dodecahedron.

We tried playing Candy Land when K was young.  I couldn’t wait to share my love of board games with her.  What’s not to love about a board game?  Clearly defined rules of play, turn taking, all those pieces stored in a beautiful rectangular box?  K lasted about 2 minutes flipping over the color coded cards and moving her piece accordingly.  We’d then be off on a grand adventure with K starring as Queen Frostine stuck in the Molasses Swamp.  She’d want me to one of the villains and I’d want her to move her piece forward two purple spaces.  But really, why would she want to play Candy Land when she could be Candy Land?

A few years later, she was intrigued by our chess set and asked me to teach her to play.  We got as far as lining up all the pieces in their appropriate spaces before the King and the Queen decided to host a picnic.  The pieces were moved into concentric circles (!) and they all had a wonderful time.  I was left staring at the board thinking “Circles?? None of the pieces move in circles!”

Then there were the conversations we had as K grew older.  Conversations around topics such as – did I think she’d get her acceptance letter to Hogwarts by mail or by owl.  “K,” I said, “You do realize that Harry Potter is fiction? It’s a story.  J.K. Rowling made it up.”  She gave me the look that Buzz gave Woody when he tried to explain to Buzz that he was a toy not a real space ranger.  It was that “You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity” look.  Yet her tone was kind when she replied “Of course you don’t think it’s real Mom, you’re a Muggle.”  Although I had always expected the “You’re not my real mom” retort some day, I hadn’t anticipated being called a Muggle.

When her 11th birthday came and went with no letter, we just went on our merry way to the next conversation.  This one centered on dragons.  K was upset that some boys in her class liked video games which featured dragon slaying.  “They are the best mythical creatures Mom.  How can people be so mean to them?” We discussed the meaning of the word mythical.  We talked about how dinosaurs were real yet extinct but that dragons were never real.  Well, I discussed those things while K shook her head.  “How do you know Mom?  How do you know dragons aren’t real and dinosaurs are?  You’ve never seen a real dinosaur.  How do you know they were real?”  I talked about fossils and proof.  She proposed that perhaps dragons’ bones were too fragile to turn into fossils.  I considered it and conceded that perhaps she had a point.  I didn’t know, did I?  Perhaps there are dragons living someplace we haven’t explored yet.  How did I know there weren’t?

So K has softened the edges of my box over the years.  I’m still quite comfortable in there but it’s more of an oval than a rectangle now.  And I think she’s come to appreciate the value my order can bring at times.  My skills come in handy when special stuffed animals are misplaced and shoes are lost.  And when K heads off to uncharted territory to discover the truth about dragons, I’ll be there to pack the right snacks.

Love and Family Ties

I’ve been thinking a lot about becoming a grandmother this week, which is odd, since my kids are under five and I’m not quite forty.  What’s sparked these thoughts? Well, I just found out that my youngest daughter’s birth mom is six months pregnant with her second child, whom she will parent. I still think of my youngest’s birth mom as a kid, perhaps because her birth mom is my age (which makes me old enough to be my youngest’s grandmother, thank you very much!), or perhaps because when I was her age, I still felt like a kid. Truthfully, I’m not quite sure how to think about this new addition to our lives yet.

How will this new baby fit into our family dynamics?  The baby will be my youngest’s half-birth sibling; will he/she also be my oldest’s half-birth sister or brother?  Hypothetically speaking; if my sister has a sister, that sister is also my sister, right? Wrong? Does it matter? My oldest has a teenaged half-birth brother, who we refer to as her brother.  But when my youngest is speaking of him, she calls him by his first name, rather than referring to him as her brother.

Where is this imaginary familial tie line? It is so blurred in our family that I feel the need to define it a bit. For example, I have two half sisters myself, whom I call my sisters; it confuses people since my sisters are quite a bit younger than I am.  I often qualify the reference to my sisters for people who do not know my family of origin by saying, “they are from my dad and stepmom’s marriage”.  Moreover, my children call my close friend “Tia”, Spanish for Aunt. We form all of these “family” ties without any real explanation to the kids. And they seem to get it. I guess it seems simple to the kids. From my daughters viewpoint they seem to define those who are in their family as people who love them, come to their birthday parties, send them Christmas presents, and are excited to hear about their first days of school. However, as an adult, I often get stuck defining who is in my family. Are they a beneficiary of my will?  Are they my emergency contact? Can they pick my kids up from school? Are they related by adoption, birth, or by marriage? Would I loan them money if they were short one month? Are they sitting at my Thanksgiving table? Do we support each other’s dreams?

My husband and I tried to tackle the subject of family a few years ago when we were first diving into the deep end of opening our adoptions. We met with a therapist and he challenged us to define what it means to be a part of our family, and to look at the people in our lives and, see how they fit. By the miracle that is Gmail, I just retrieved a copy of what we wrote. It took us five rounds of discussion to boil down our definition of what it means to be a part of our family. (This is the generic/simplified version, there are many sub-bullets that further defined things for us, but I won’t bore you with those)

  • We love you and our children love you
  • We care for each other and rely on each other for support and encouragement
  • We support your hopes and dreams and care about your future
  • We celebrate holidays and special occasions together
  • We’ll help and support you when you are in need
  • We trust each other enough to say when we think you are making a mistake or have a disagreement and still be family
  • We share a common history and participate in each other’s lives
  • We share similar beliefs and values

As a result of looking back on this work that we did a few years ago, I am reminded what it means to be a part of my family. I can see where this new lil one will fit into our dynamic and into our definition of family. He or she will be a lil sister or brother, a lil birth sister or birth brother, a lil half-birth sister or half-birth brother to my girls, and most importantly, a new family member for all of us to love. (ok, and to buy cute outfits for-I mentioned that I’ve been thinking like a grandma right?!)

Following a Child’s Dream: One Brick at a Time

Five years ago, David and I were drafting a “Dear Birth Mother” letter thanking potential birth moms for considering our family.  We expressed our commitment to provide the child a loving home and the opportunities necessary to let him follow his dreams whether those dreams include shooting hoops, painting portraits or building castles.  So when our youngest son (I’ll call him Bruiser) became obsessed with Lego, we were excited to encourage him.

His 2010 holiday gift list included a Lego storage bin, Lego travel box,  Bionicles,  Heros, Star War Legos, City Legos, Lego cars, Lego robots…….do you see a trend?  Each night of Chanukah, Bruiser received a Lego set and insisted on putting it together.  These building sessions typically lasted two hours or more yet our son could help no longer than an hour before his eyes would begin to droop.  However, his stubborn conviction to get the Lego vehicle, robot or city done has never waned.  Between yawns, he would give me encouragement (or orders—you decide how you want to think about it) to carry on and finish the Lego set. 

The eight days of Chanukah have come and gone…… all the hard work of putting together $30, $40 and $50 Lego sets is done for now.  The awesome creations lie in disarray.  The Star Wars men are missing legs, the fire truck stands without its ladder, the castle is without turrets, the dragon lacks wings, robots are now headless, and race cars have no wheels. 

Regardless, every morning our son, with a grin from ear to ear, grabs his Lego bin, fills it with every Lego brick, wheel, and accessory that he has and carries it down a long flight of stairs.  He spends three or more hours each day putting together and taking apart vehicles, monsters, and buildings.  At night, he gathers up all the pieces from the den, puts them in the Lego bucket and drags them upstairs.  The cycle continues day after day.

Dear Birth Mother….our youngest son is being given every opportunity to follow his interests.  He is a talented architect, engineer, and builder but most importantly, he is a wonderful son.


Adrienne is a recently unemployed (correction-not so recent) mom of a pre-teen son (JJ) who has aspirations of owning a sports company, a set of boy/girl toddler twins—one (Bruiser) with a compulsion to build and hoard, and the other (Princess) a diva in training, a Havanese (cute, fluffy dog) velcro-ed  to my ankle and a wonderful husband, David, who keeps the family happy and wife sane!

Love and the Minivan

As a modern woman, I thought minivans were for old people, for those 40 plus moms who wear holsters with juice boxes and granola bars, and who live and breathe to chauffer their little ones to and from soccer, piano, and ballet lessons. Minivans were not for me. I drove a sensible, fuel-efficient, and safe car, that the kids fit in, but that didn’t have a single “My kids the student of the month” sticker on it, like every minivan I’d ever seen. Sure, I struggled to get the ever-loving car seats in and out of the car without gouging my shins, bumping my noggin, or swearing so loud that the neighbors took notice, but at least I was not one of those minivan moms. Then one day things changed and I began to see the light.

Our family’s obsession with getting a minivan started a few years ago when we rented one while on a trip to visit my oldest daughter’s birth family.  For me it was a miracle; everything fit in the minivan, two kids strapped in car seats, two moms, one dad, one teenaged brother, a stroller, the largest suitcase Lands End sells, and a bushel of lovies, pacis, books and toys to keep the two kids strapped in car seats, happy. For my oldest daughter, the big brother sitting in the third row, was the best part of the minivan.  My oldest daughter’s birth brother was seated behind her and he was playing with her hair. It was such a simple and loving act that my oldest daughter’s brother performed each time we piled back into the minivan.  He sat and just twirled her hair, like it was their usual routine. Although they had just met, it was not the awkward touch of a stranger, it was the magic that happens between siblings, and the most cherished memory my oldest daughter has from that visit.

Our obsession grew each time we borrowed my mother-in-law’s seven-passenger car to road trip it to visit my youngest daughter’s birth family.  The roominess, the DVD player, the cup holders; I began to love all the practical bits and pieces that came with large-car driving. My kids began to love the association between three rows of seating, and seeing their birth families. We would drive and scoop up my youngest’s birth mom and head to the aquarium, the zoo, out to lunch, back for naps and hang out time.  There is room in the minivan for giggles and smiles, look-how-big-you’ve gotten and hugs. I began to think the minivan was truly a family car, an open-adoptive family car.

My husband loved that the girls and I were obsessed with the minivan, but he wasn’t so convinced we needed to trade in our economy car for a luxury van. The doors slide, I told him. There’s room for everyone, my girls said. He still wasn’t convinced, but we got one anyways, because he loves our family. We’re now one of those families with a family car, and I’m one of those minivan moms, which I never wanted to be, but truly love being. I’m an adoptive mom with two wonderful girls, one terrific husband, and one big and loving family that all fit in my new minivan.

Ear infection for the imperial king

My husband and I call our son Maximus. It struck us one day when he was about 10 months old, slumped in his highchair with a look of disdain on his face as my husband was feeding him paté. Yes, paté. Maximus is quite the carnivore, so much so that we can drive excitement for pretty much any food by calling it “egg-meat” or “cheese-meat” or “pear-meat”.  Anyway, since then we have found his imperial view of the world wildly entertaining as well as terribly humbling for us, two well-educated professionals reduced to being the personal valet of a sometimes temperamental  toddler. Maximus is 2 now and his basic needs have turned into extremely strong preferences. We are learning the trick of positioning everything as an opportunity for him to exert his preferences and 2 yr old authority:

“Monkey jammies or dino jammies?” (ie no jammies not an option)

“Mommy will carry you or Maximus walks” (ie laying on the ground in the middle of the grocery store not an option”)

Last week we indulged our imperial prince with several extra luxuries because he brought home a painful ear infection from the petri dish (I mean pre-school).  It was the first time since we brought him home at 8 months that he’s been so sick.  The poor kid’s engine, which normally operates at about 80 mph, was down to about 10.  He was so sorrowful – a burning hot lump of coughing, wheezing love in tear-stained monkey jammies.  We brought out the big guns – Sesame Street, juice, sleeping with Mommy and Daddy – perks reserved for the most pitiful Maximus.  It started off with quite a bang at about 1AM last Sunday morning. I heard him screaming at the top of his lungs, went running in there, and found him standing in his crib with blood all over his hands and face. He had an awful bloody nose that had gotten everywhere – like a small rodent had met its demise in his crib. I cleaned him up and brought him to sleep with my husband and me.  I put him on me and propped myself up to help with his congestion and coughing that seemed to burst onto the scene all at once with the nosebleed.  It was like I had a burning hot, wheezing Darth Vader on my chest. That was the end of my sleeping until last Thursday night, when Maximus finally made it through the night in his own crib. During the week his fever went up and down multiple times, leaving him lethargic and sorrowful.  I’d prop him up in front of Sesame Street with a cup of apple juice and he’d stay there sleeping and watching until I moved him.

I must confess that as sad as he was, I loved the extra cuddling time.  When he’s well he’s definitely up for a hug, but I have to be quick or turn it into a game to get him to stick around.  He was incredibly snuggly all week when he was sick, and even the nighttime interruptions were worth it to me to get to be so cozy with him.

Every day I wish time would stand still because I know the day will come when I won’t be his rockstar mommy anymore.  The ear infection seemed to slow down the time a little, by slowing down and multiplying all the hugs and snuggles that tornado by me when he is well.  And of course his bug spent 4 days fortifying itself before it made its way into my husband and me, so now we’re down to 10mph while he’s back to 80.   Maximus’ personal valets may not be performing to his exacting standards right now, but when we’re back in action we’ll make sure his paté is just the right temperature, spread with just the right thickness on his whole wheat party crackers.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: