Creating connections with Adoption Choices families

Posts tagged ‘parenting’

Love and Offering Help

Vanessa McGrady’s posting, The Birth Parents Move in, in the New York Times Motherlode Blog, both broke my heart and cracked me up. As I sat at my computer (ok, maybe I was in the loo looking at my iphone, it was 2 weeks ago, I can’t remember) reading the posting, I recognized myself in her writing. I voiced an inner “oh god” reading the first paragraph where she loaded her child’s birth parents into her car to rescue them from homelessness, their rabbit cage and all. Oh god, that’s not a good idea, oh god, I could totally see myself doing that, oh god, my therapist would think all her work was for naught if I did that, oh god, my kids would be so excited if their birth families moved in, oh god, bunnies stink. Oh god, Ms. McGrady sure summed up the complexity of adoption in just a few short light-hearted paragraphs.

I can relate to Ms. McGrady’s desire to help her daughter’s birth parents, to swoop in and lift them up. I have felt this same tug when I hear of setbacks, or unexpected turns in the road, for my daughter’s birth family members. In the past I have helped on a few occasions, none that involved a bunny moving in, and sometimes it worked out well and other times; the assistance was awkwardly given and uncomfortably received. In our open adoptions, I often come up against the complexities of family, fairness, justice, opportunity, love, privilege, loss, power, judgment and suffering when I feel the urge to help, especially when it isn’t asked for. Our adoption constellation is complex and even a simple thing like lending a hand requires deep consideration and reflection. However, I have come to accept that the greatest help I can give my daughter’s birth parents is to love, care for, and raise my daughters well, to become kind, loving, healthy and happy women.

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.

SURPRISE!  GLOWING REPORTS.

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.

A child of my own

“Do you think you’ll be able to love a kid that’s not yours?” “Do you ever wish you had a child of your own?” “Do you know who K’s real mother is?”

Questions like those once had tremendous power over me.   They had the power to sting.  They had the power to make me feel less than.  But, they don’t have power any more.  You see, I became a real mother over 15 years ago to a child who is every bit my own.

I was real when the delivery nurse placed a newborn baby in my arms.  I was real when I walked out into the California sunshine with my girl.  I was terrified, but I was real.  I was real when relief rushed over me the next morning because M and I had managed to keep K alive for an entire day.  Real, when the terror returned and I realized I had to keep her alive for every day of my life.

K was mine when nightmares sent her climbing into my bed because sleeping next to me was the only thing that made the bad dreams go away.  She was mine each time she ran into my arms when I picked her up from school.  She was mine when she held me after my mother died and said “Mommy, what will I do if you die?”

It’s been a long time since I thought about any of those questions.  Why think about things that have no power?  But last week, we spent  two nights with K in the ER.  She’s fine, thanks, but those were a couple of exhausting, scary nights.  There were moments when I had to force myself not to cry.  I had to listen to the doctors and pretend not to be afraid.

In the midst of it all, I heard that question from long ago – “Do you ever wish you had a child of your own?”   And my mind repeated the answer that I’ve known for every day of K’s life – I have a child of my own and she is everything I ever wished for.

katie and mom communion

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.

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

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 patch.com 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.

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