Thursday, January 28, 2016

Raising A Teenager Is Different.

I haven't written about Kaleb much lately.  Not because he hasn't given me some material, he's a teenager, after all. ;)  But, most of it has been just that.  He's a teenager.  And, wow, aren't they just plain irritating??  I mean, really!  He has all the answers and doesn't mind telling you. haha. And, even though, in reality, a lot of times, he is just plain wrong, he'll continue his argument with determination. 

For example!

The other day, he was defending himself against a demolished wicker table. 

Back story.  He and a few friends were hanging out in the front yard and Wilfred (the dog) was losing his mind.  When Kaleb popped in, I suggested the he take Wilfred out with him and he did.  About five minutes later, he came rushing in, complaining that Wilfred had climbed on the table, stepped on his charger, and poked a hole in the table.

I'm sorry, Mom.

 I decided not to go look because I knew it would upset me. (I love my free, found it on the neighbor's curb table.)  But, obviously, I had to go outside sometime.

And when I did, I saw a destroyed wicker table, shreds several feet away, and a crowbar on the ground a few feet away.  

Now, I'm no detective but that looks a little suspicious.

For reasons un-known, I didn't address it with Kaleb.  I think that I was trying to find an angle that would actually get him to admit something.  (There is no angle, by the way.)  For reasons even more unknown, I didn't pick up the crowbar myself.  Either way, when Brian saw it, he was upset.  And, understandably so.  He began to talk to Kaleb about respecting others' property, not destroying property, etc.  Kaleb stood unimpressed.  He admitted and apologized for randomly picking up the crowbar and leaving it in on the ground (progress!).  But, he stood by his "the dog climbed on the table" story.  And, of course, he gave the vibe that his father who didn't want crowbars thrown in the yard was the one who was out of line, haha.

Anyway, this led to some new ground rules (complete with consequences) about not touching other people's stuff.  This was a long time coming because Kaleb is famous for picking up things that aren't his and leaving them in other places.

And, it led to William confirming with a mutual friend that the dog did, in fact, climb on the table.  This didn't impress me much because I was convinced that there was still more to the story.

Later, even though, I had accepted that I would never know the truth and was focusing on making sure that it didn't happen again, Kaleb brought it up.

"Mom, Jordan and (name I can't remember) were there that day and saw Wilfred climb on the table."

Me, calmly, "That may be.  But, there's more to the story.  Come on, there was a crow bar."

"I picked it up, but I didn't use it on the table!"

"There are shreds from the wicker table several feet away.  Did Wilfred throw them?"

"I picked the table up and moved it because it was in my way."

"But, you shouldn't do that because it's not yours to pick up and move...."

Then he tried to remind me that he brought it home for me so it was his, too.  The reality is that Brian and I picked it up from a neighbor's curb on trash night because it matched the wicker chair that he had brought home for me, one day (upon my request).  Or maybe the chair came first, I don't remember.  I just know that I brought home the table._

"No, you brought home the chair, I brought home the table."

"No, Mom!  Wait! You're not going to win this one."

What?  That was when I started to be amused by the whole thing.

"I don't have to try to win!  I've already won!  I'm your mom and I'm telling you not to move my stuff."

I think, at this point, I chased him back outside where his friends were waiting.

It was a calm conversation.  It was also a ridiculous conversation.  Come on, how naïve does he think I am?  Either way, all he has to do is leave things alone and part of the problem will be solved.

I sighed with exasperation when he left and William asked what was wrong.  "Oh, your brother is frustrating."  I didn't really feel bad about saying it because William is fully aware of that fact.  haha. And, the fact is that I would say it to him directly. :) 

But, that's when it kind of hit me that things had changed.  He frustrated me and then it was over. 

I have spent a lot of time feeling guilty and not wanting to admit that my feelings for him were not actually the same as for the other three.  And, I don't know why I thought they would be.  He became my son at an age when he was going through a ton of changes.  He already had been influenced by so many people, not all good people.  It wouldn't be realistic to expect us to immediately have the same relationship as the younger three.

Nevertheless, there was idealistic Emily who thought everything would be wonderful from that point on (for the most part, I got the fact that there would be some transitions for all.). But, then I was so upset when it wasn't wonderful.  When it was hard to be around him, I felt like a failure.  When I was relieved when he didn't come along to outings, I felt like a horrible person.  Why was I relieved?  Because it's easier with just the younger three.  Not for any exact reason.  But, he's a handful.  He talks a lot and loudly, sometimes about nothing at all.  He has admitted that he doesn't like the quiet.  Guess who doesn't mind the quiet? Me. ;)

But, still I have spent 3 years punishing myself for feeling what I feel. 

But, you know, I think it's ok.  I realize now that it would be impossible to instantly feel the same way.  I had the others when they were young.  I've had the luxury of influencing them.  I'm not saying that they are perfect but we have the same value system and sometimes Kaleb's doesn't align with ours.  And, that's hard for me.  It would be crazy to suggest that there would not be a learning curve with a teenager. 

Relationships take work.  It's always going to be easier to deal with Lizzie, the little girl who wants to curl in my lap and talk about dogs. (Come to think about it, that's what Kaleb wants, too.)  It's natural and simple.  It's always going to be harder to deal with Kaleb, the loud and pushy teenager.  But, that loud and pushy teenager has a good heart and I love him.

So, it's ok if I have to work harder with him.  It doesn't make me a bad person.  Destroying my wicker table doesn't make him a bad person, either.  Although, it really stinks.  

Anyway, the other day, I had to take Kaleb to school because he overslept and missed the bus.  I might have had an excuse to be annoyed, but I overslept, too. ;)

I walked into school with him to sign him in.  I was disheveled and groggy.  As I was filling out the form, I wondered if I was allowed to hug him in the school.  I also wondered if he felt awkward about the fact that his mom was white.  I didn't ponder it that long, it's a short form, after all.  But, I did wonder.  I took a chance when I finished and went in for the hug.  I can't remember if I made him hug me or if we just hugged.  But, I do remember this.  As he hugged me, he told me he loved me.

I might never know if he deliberately hit my table, was covering for his friends who hit the table, accidently dropped the crowbar on my table (several times), or climbed on the table himself to do an Irish Jig and fell in.  All I know is that if a 16 year old can tell me he loves me in the lobby of his high school, I'm doing something right.  And so is he. :)

All the cool kids and moms take selfies. ;)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Does My Daughter Feel Different?

I read a lot about how different transracially adopted kids can feel and it always makes me worry.  I like to think that it's not that big of a deal, but I'm sure that's a bit of denial talking.  You only have to clink a link on the internet to find a story about how hard it was for someone who grew up with white parents when he/she wasn't white.  But, still my kids seem ok and I like to think that it helps that there are four of them.  How different can you feel in your home when it's really your parents who are the "odd" ones? ;) 

Even though, I like to be blasé' about it, I do recognize that it's something to take seriously and I do. 

I particularly worry about Lizzie.  She seems more aware of the difference between herself and others around her than the boys do.  Or, at least, she seems to dwell on it more.  She has a greater tendency to refer to someone by their skin color.   "The white teacher." "The black lady."   I don't know where she gets that from.  I can honestly say that we don't identify people by their color, unless it's relevant, so I don't know why she would feel compelled to.  But, I do point out when I see other transracial families or really any family that is different from the norm.  I do this with the hope that it will make her and the boys feel less different.  But, maybe that's made her more aware of the differences, instead?

Either way, I use any opportunity that I find to try to make them feel good about themselves (physically) by talking about how pretty their skin is.  Today was no exception.  However, today Lizzie reassured me that she has a positive attitude about the whole thing and isn't particularly insecure.

I was looking through my Facebook memories (I love those!) and I ran across a particularly amusing picture of Lizzie.  She was a couple of years old and was wearing a Dora The Explorer wig. 

                           She looked so different and so much older than she normally did at that age. 

I showed her the picture and she thought it was funny, too.

Then she said, "I looked like I was turning white."

I didn't really see it, but I went ahead and agreed that she looked lighter in the picture.  And when she added, "My skin is a lot darker now," I was ready to pounce on it.

I said, "You're right, it is darker and it's so pretty, don't you think?"

Lizzie casually agreed with a nod and then said, " Black is cooler than white, anyway."

Me, not knowing where she was heading with this, said, "Black is pretty cool..."

Lizzie, gesturing towards a poster of Batman on the wall, "Yeah, Batman wears black.  He's cool."

She raises a valid point.  Batman really is very cool. 

I know that it can't always be that simple, but, at least for now, I think she's ok. :)