Saturday, November 15, 2014

He Has Been My Son For A Year.

It's been almost a year since the finalization of Kaleb's adoption.  Almost a year ago, I sat in front of the judge (it was so weird that we were all sitting, by the way) and promised to accept him as my own.  For better or for worse, 'til death do us part....  Wait, those are the wrong vows.  But, you get the point.  In a lot of ways, it is more sacred than marriage vows.  Marriage vows can be broken.  Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's not.  But, they can be.  Not the same with adoption.  Yeah, there have been cases.  The fact that this is not Kaleb's first adoption rodeo is evidence of that.  But, when we adopted him, that was it.  I knew that then and I know that now.  I wish that I could say that it's been a magical year, that I've sat in awe and marveled at his amazingness, and thought about how lucky I am to be his mom.  But, I would be lying.  I hate to think that and I hate to say that.  But, there is that Emily honesty for you.  Here is that honesty again.  I had no idea what I was getting into.

I had no idea how frustrating teenagers can be.  And, I had no idea how much I would suck at it.  Because when he isn't doing something to frustrate me; I'm ready and willing (it would seem) to do something that frustrates him.  We clash. 

One of my problems is that I build up things in my head.  I have a vision in my head of how things should be and when they aren't, I'm heartbroken.  (This sounds familiar.  I apologize now if I've already said that in a previous post! ha)   So, you've got me building things up and him being a teenager who is into something one moment and then not the next.  It's hard.

Along the way, I basically stopped trying.  I used to drag him along on my outings because I felt strongly that we should all be together.  Now, I give him an option and focus on my kids who want to be there.  Or, who are we kidding, they have to be there; because they're still young enough to drag around.  They just go with the flow, we taught them that.

You don't have to tell me that this is not the right away to do things.  Or maybe it is. I don't know. Maybe it's ok to live slightly separate lives because, after all, he is a teenager.  And, what teenager wants to hang out with his family all of the time?  But, that's the thing, I thought that we would be different.  We are the Parkers, after all.  Or maybe it's good that we are now typical, who knows.

I have had many thoughts over the last year.  Some of them, I won't admit.  I have had so much guilt over not feeling how I want to feel and such anger that it's not how I thought it would be.  Yep, I have struggled.

But, I've also come to terms with a few things.  It's really hard adopting a teenager.  It really is.  But, it's also really important that there are people willing to do so.  But, yeah, it's really hard.  You don't start with a foundation.  You don't have the pre-existing bond from the early years.  You don't have all those memories to reassure you that you'll get through all of the drama and find your way out of the other side.  You have a teenager with his teenage issues and his deeply established foster care scars and his habits that he picked up there, which you can't begin to understand.  And, after a while, you just wish that he'd get over it.  And, then you hate yourself for thinking that because it's so unfair. 

And, he's got me.  Emotional, moody me.  I see him in the mornings when I am groggy and in the late afternoons when he gets home from school or I get home from the store and I am grumpy and stressed because I am worrying about homework and dinner.  And, I don't act as happy to see him as I should.  And, I hate myself for that.  The weekends are better, but we hardly ever do anything because it's super hard to come up with something that appeals to ages: 6, 7, 11, and 15.  Well, something that doesn't require a lot of money, anyway.  And, news to no one here, we don't have a lot of that.  (Second disclaimer!  We're ok, though.  Just adjusting to one income...)  So, he usually goes out to play with his friends and I hang out with the younger three.  Or, like today, I made plans to take us all to a Doctor Who micro-con, downtown.  Free and festive!  But, he doesn't want to go.  (How can you not want to go????  It's Doctor Who!) So, we are back where we started.  He'll go play with his friends and I'll hang out with the younger three. 

It's not always that way.  We did successfully play one whole game of Jenga, last weekend.  Then, it dissolved into building and then Dominos.  There were a full 20 minutes-ish where they were all enjoying themselves!!  Including me! 

Forgive me if I sound dramatic or harsh or unreasonable.  I've had to figure it out along the way.  I don't know what's normal or what's best.  I don't know if he's happy.  And, I don't want to ask him.  I'm pretty sure that he'd say no, but, hopefully, for no other reason than the fact that teenagers are not, generally, happy. 

So, no, it's not magical.  It's not easy.  I feel lost and confused.  And, I feel like I am not the mom that I want to be.  And, I feel like I have lost my silliness that made me, well, me. 

That's just not ok. 

I've had to forgive myself for my feelings.  And, I've had to accept that it's ok that it's different.  Of course, it is.  Adopting a teenager is a completely different scenario than adopting young children.  It's easier to adopt young children.  Maybe that's ok.

So, here we are, almost a year later, and he and Antwan have been happily playing the xbox for....well, for how ever long it just took me to write this.  So, that's nice. :)  In a few minutes, someone might get mad at someone.  Maybe it will be me.  And, that won't be so nice.  But, that's life.  Apparently.

It's occurs to me now that I can spin this into a National Adoption Month post!  So, here we go!

So, here we are in National Adoption Month... ;)   And, there are still a whole bunch of kids who need homes.  Seriously.  And, a lot of them are teenagers. 

Life after adopting a teenager will be harder than you think.  If I realized that, going in, maybe it would've been easier for me.  Hard to say.  Heck, life after adopting a child will be harder than you think.  With the possible exception of an infant.  It has been amazing getting to raise Lizzie from almost day one and getting to see my personality in her.  And, knowing that she has never spent a day not feeling loved, once she got to us.  That's just awesome.  It pains me that I didn't see William or Kaleb take their first steps. And, when William was in the hospital, super sick from Pneumonia; no one was there to comfort him.  But, the thing that I always go back to.  Is Lizzie more deserving of love or a family than her brothers?  Of course not.  Has this year of trying to figure out what in the world to do with Kaleb (as he thought the same thing about me) proven that he shouldn't have a family, our family?  Yeah, no. 

So, here's my advice to the world and to me from a year-ish ago.  Consider adopting an older child.  But, do your research.  Don't expect to feel the same way about a completely different situation.  Don't expect it to be just as easy as a younger child.  Don't expect him (or any of them) to be anything other than who they are.  (Although, it's still ok to teach them right and wrong and try to un-do bad habits.  You are the parent, after all.)  Most of all, forgive yourself and forgive him.  And, just love.  Keep loving.  Love when you want to yell. Love when you want to strangle.  And, love when you want to cry.  Keep loving and keep trying.

Hey, that's good advice!  Sounds like I have some work to do.  ;)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Does She Have Any Real Kids?

I got a text from a friend who saw us in the parent drop-off line.  She was saying how they were looking at our Star Wars stick family on the back of the van and naming the kids.  Antwan had slipped their mind.  She also mentioned that her daughter had asked if we had any "real" kids.  (Thud.)  She went on to say that she embarked on a pre-drop off life lesson speech and reminded her that she, herself, was in a "real" family. 

Now, since I had changed cell phones and not saved my contacts, I was confused.  And sad.  I was sad that this child innocently saw my kids as not real, in a way.  That's when I started writing a blog post in my head! ;)   And, I was confused by her reference to her own family.  But, her follow-up response cleared it up. 

The text was from, as I call her, the other transracial adopter in our area.  She and I are very different people.  I doubt that I'd drag her to a sci-fi convention in a costume, but I definitely like her.  And, it sure is nice to have someone else around here who gets it. 

So, I then understood why she reminded her daughter that her family was "real."  But, I also realized that, on some level, this little girl was defining herself that way.  And, that breaks my heart. 

Why do adoptive families/adoptees get sensitive about terminology?  That's why.  It's sad and frustrating that society perceives adopted families as less than real.  It's horrible that a child would think of herself that way.

So, what is real?

Well, google says....

adjective: real; comparative adjective: realer; superlative adjective: realest
  1. 1.
    actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.
    "Julius Caesar was a real person"
    synonyms:actual, nonfictional, factual, real-life; More
    "is she a fictional character or a real person?"
    • used to emphasize the significance or seriousness of a situation or circumstance.
      "there is a real danger of civil war"
    • Philosophy
      relating to something as it is, not merely as it may be described or distinguished.
  2. 2.
    (of a substance or thing) not imitation or artificial; genuine.
    "the earring was presumably real gold"
    synonyms:genuine, authentic, bona fide; More

    "tears of real grief"

    antonyms:imaginary, fake, false, feigned
    • true or actual.
      "his real name is James"
      synonyms:true, actual
      "my real name"
    • (of a person or thing) rightly so called; proper.
      "he's my idea of a real man"
      synonyms:proper, true;
      "a real man"
North Americaninformal
adverb: real
  1. 1.
    really; very.
    "my head hurts real bad"
Well, "my head hurt real bad," this morning, when Antwan and Lizzie talked loudly and excitedly when I stumbled out of my bedroom.  That was definitely real.   I didn't imagine that. 
We live together, love together, fight together, and thrive together.   (I know, that was a little cheesy, but you get the idea.)
We are a real family.  We are "actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed." 
A judge slammed his gavel after we filled out a lot of paperwork, got finger prints, and impressed case workers.  He made us legal family.  He gave us the same legal rights that other families have.  He made their names "Parker."  And, he assured us that nobody could come and take them away because they decided that another living situation might be better for them.  He gave me the right to authorize whatever medical treatment that I saw fit for my kids without having to show a red folder or explain who I was.  But, did he make us a real family?  Not really.

That just is.

What's a real family?  Is it shared biology or shared blood and DNA?   Yes and no.  If I slit my wrist and slit my children's wrists and tied them together like they do in a traditional Scottish wedding (Yes, I've been watching too much "Outlander."), we'd be sharing more blood than we are now.  Would it be more real?  Not really, I'd just be in a lot of legal trouble... ;)

Is it carrying a child inside you and experiencing the miracle of, but not altogether pleasant, experience of childbirth?  Yes and no.
Is it unconditional love?  Loyalty?  Security?  Permanent?   Is it a safe haven?  A place to go home for the holidays?  A place to be the real you? Yep!
There was even a time when it messed with my head a little.  So, I can see why it would confuse others.  The randomness of how we became a family.  The fact that they are our kids because the judge said so is just bizarre, in a way.  The idea that if a case worker didn't happen to see our home study or didn't like us or the boys didn't like us, then we could have ended up with different kids; it's weird.  It's real, but it's random.
But, then I thought about it. 
If you believe that it's all random,  then, sure, it really is confusing.  But, if you believe that things happen for a reason like we do, then you'll agree that it's not random at all.  You'll agree that we are all supposed to be together.  That the universe made sure that the judge slammed his gavel and that the case workers liked us.  That the universe brought our kids to us as definitively as it brought biological children to their biological parents.  Because we belong together and we are meant to be a real family. 

On the day that we officially adopted William and Antwan, we had the opportunity to say a few words.  When it was Brian's turn to explain why we wanted to adopt them, he said many wonderful things.  But, my favorite statement he made was "These are my sons, to the exclusion of any others."  Meaning, it's not random at all.  They are supposed to be ours.  They were always supposed to be ours.

So, to my friend's daughter who might have thought of herself as less than real, in some moments; you are wrong.  (But, in the best way, possible.)  You are their real daughter and you are part of a real family. It is "genuine."  It is "true."  It is real.  Please, believe that.  And, in answer to your question, we do have real kids and their names are Kaleb, William, Antwan, and Elizabeth.   We are their real parents and they are really lovable, exhausting, challenging, adorable, and ours.  Really, really, ours.