Creating connections with Adoption Choices families

Posts tagged ‘Mothers’

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?

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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.

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.

Elvis has left the building

I’ll admit I treasure my rockstar mommy status, though I do feel guilty about it. This is because my #1 fan treats his father like a bad opening act that he just wants to throw tomatoes at until the real rockstar comes on the stage.  Everyone tells us it’s typical for a 2 ½ year old, but they usually say “Oh sure, they go back and forth on their favorite parent so don’t worry about it”.  It’s then that I really pity my husband, because we’ve seen no going back and forth.  I always say that if Maximus treated me like he treats my husband, I would have to be heavily medicated to get through the day.  Here’s a typical day:

Morning wakeup – Maximus yells “Mommy! Mommy!” for a swift retrieval and if I can’t get him, my husband is greeted with “Go away!”.  Maximus flops back into the crib and refuses to get out.

Breakfast – “Mommy yogurt”.  I say “Look Daddy made yogurt!”. Unimpressed, Maximus says “No! Mommy yogurt!”

Me off to work – Complete and utter despondence; Elvis has left the building.  If my husband leaves first, he gets a jubilant “Bye Daddy!” accompanied by a big wave (or perhaps shooing motion?)

Getting out of carseat at end of day – “Mommy carry”.  I say “Mommy has to carry her computer so Daddy will carry you”.  Tears.

Bedtime – “Let’s go downstairs and read books”.  Suspicious clarifying question:  “Mommy read books?”  I say neutrally “Yes, Mommy and Daddy”.  Sherlock answers “No Daddy. Mommy!”

Today my husband asked Maximus if he loves Daddy. His answer:  “Tuesday”.  My husband took that as a sign of hope that at least on Tuesdays he could be loved.

I really do feel so badly for my husband and keep trying to convince him not to take it personally.  All of our friends say it happens to all parents eventually and that a few years from now Maximus won’t be all that psyched about me anymore.  This assumes however that I can’t overcome my fear of balls before then.  I am definitely scared of anything hard flying at my face, and this was even before Maximus broke my nose in an accidental head-butt a few weeks ago.  The thought of standing in front of him waiting for him to hurl a baseball at me seems ridiculous now, but I don’t think I’ll be able to let my rockstar status go without a fight.  I just wish both of us could be rockstars.  My husband is so much funnier and more patient than I am; he should really be the preferred one.

I’ve read a bunch of articles online to see how we can get my #1 fan to appreciate his father, and I think we’re doing all the prescribed things.  Maximus has special outings with Daddy, like eating their way through the Asian supermarket and picking out inter-galactic shaped fruits and vegetables.  (Maximus is from Korea and has already acquired quite a taste for super spicy kimchi thanks to my husband!). We make sure we share the care-taking tasks vs me doing them all, and I am constantly chatting up Daddy’s assets (“Daddy got that car just for you!” “Look, Daddy fixed your drum. He can fix ANYTHING!” “Daddy makes such yummy burgers.”)  Being a principled man, my husband could have locked up his #1 status months ago with some M&Ms, chocolate milk, and letting Maximus stay in either his tub or his jammies 24 hours a day, but he didn’t.  I admire that because I’m not certain I would have done the same.

We waited a long time for Maximus to come into our lives and being his rockstar mommy makes it all worth it.  Mercifully my husband seems to be able to cope with his “opening act” status, tomatoes and all.  I always suspected my husband was the kindest, most patient man in the world,  and Maximus gives him the chance to prove it to me every single day.  I know I should be taking notes for when I topple off my thrown, but I’d rather spend my time basking in the wonderful and fleeting devotion of this precious child.

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