Friday, August 12, 2016

Simone Bile's Parents Are Her Parents.

"Parenting Is hard. Really hard."

I said these words to my 13 year old son, yesterday, after a mini argument that could have been avoided if he simply stopped when I told him to stop and went to his room when I told him to go to his room. But, that's neither here nor there. What is here and there is the fact that he is my son and I am his parent. Oh, and that parenting is truly hard. 

Did I give birth to him? No. Did I even know that he existed until he was five? Existentially, sure. I knew in my heart that my child was out there because I was just that connected to my fate from the beginning.  But, the short answer is no.  But, do I know he exists now? Yes. Did we adopt him? Yes. Is he ours? Yes. In a few short moments, will he likely wake up and annoy me with his thoughts for the day because he is way chattier than I am in the morning? Yes.  Ok, that part isn't relevant, but I'm sort of dreading it. :) Because, again, parenting is hard.

Why am I saying the same things (in creative new ways) that I have said in other posts? And why am I so hooked on question talking? I don't know the answer to the second question, but I do know why I am bringing it up again!

Because a kid who has worked really hard and had a major success on the Olympic floor had to waste a minute dwelling on the fact that some sports commentator (Al Trautwig) trivialized her relationship with her parents.

After being called out on twitter for referring to Simone's parents as her grandfather and his wife, he responded with  "They may be mom and dad but hey are NOT her parents."

Well, I find it a bit ironic that he did give them the mom and dad title since that's usually the one that adoptive parents have to fight for, but he un-did any good by not giving them the title of parents.

Biological grandparents, adoptive parents, whatever. They committed, they signed, they promised, they became her parents through adoption. And since it can be super hard (granted, also, super rewarding, too, though) to be a parent, they deserve the title.

They deserve any and all titles that work for their family.

In an interview, Simone remembered how Ron and Nellie who they initially called “Grandpa” and “Grandma,” sat them down to talk one day.  “She said, ‘It’s up to you guys. If you want to, you can call us Mom and Dad. I went upstairs and tried practicing it in the mirror—‘Mom, Dad, Mom, Dad.’ Then I went downstairs, and she was in the kitchen. I looked up at her and I was like, ‘Mom?’ She said, ‘Yes!’ ”

It matters.

Some members of the adoption community get offended if you compare human adoptions to animal adoptions. I don't.  Partly because I love my animals so fiercely.

Heck, on some days, I like them better than my kids. ;) But, here's the thing. When you adopt an animal, no one wants to talk about your legitimacy as the dog owner just because the dog has had previous homes. No one points out that you are not the dog's real parent. Maybe I am oversimplifying things or treading too close to comparing children and animals too much. But, that's not my intention. My intention is to ask why these animal connections are given more respect than human connections?

Why do adoptive families live in a semi-constant state of justifying their families?  Why didn't that guy immediately apologize and say he misspoke, instead of digging in his heels and continuing to minimize her identity? And, why do people exist that agree with him?

Parent is both a verb and a noun.

I was a parent as I parented my 16 year old who ran away for a night causing lasting damage to our relationship.

But, this to shall pass...

I was a parent as I watched my younger boys actually get along for five minutes while they played the piano and I was their parent when I had to do some parenting and break up an argument a few minutes later. (I refer back to the beginning of my post.)

I was a parent as I watched my daughter acolyte at church for the first time and I was her parent when I later watched her try to stay awake in front of the congregation.

Parenting is hard and as sure I know that I am stuck in the trenches, I know that I want to be there.  I'm guessing that's the case for Simone's parents, too. So if these people made that commitment which they so clearly took seriously, if they stuck by her during those times when parenting her was not as glamorous as watching her do flips in the Olympic Arena; they sure as heck deserve to be called what they are. Her parents.

You might think it's not a big deal, we are just too easily offended or we need a safe space (based on some of the tweets that I read). If so, then you have probably been lucky enough to not have to reassure your kids that no matter what the jerky kids at school said, you are his real mom, dad, parent, etc. And, you might not have had to promise your kid again that you and Daddy will love him forever. I'm guessing that Simone has had similar conversations with her parents, as well. (It's common to our realities.) And of all the things to get "worked up" about, I'm thinking that worrying about the emotional health of kids is a pretty valid one.

Because worrying about kids is just something that parents do. Just ask Ron and Nellie Biles.

You've heard of them, right? They are Simone Biles' parents.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Raising Kids Isn't Easy, But Loving Them Is.

Seriously, parenting a teenager is hard.  Even on good days, for some reason, it just takes more mental energy to keep up with it.  You never know what curve ball is coming your way.  With Lizzie and Antwan, I am not surprised when I hear that the water balloon that they were filling up in the bathroom sink that I didn't give them permission to do in the first place....exploded all over the bathroom floor. And I know how to handle it when Antwan is broken hearted because I am asking him to eat turkey instead of bologna. (We were out of bologna.)

But, teenagers. I don't know when William is going to be on board with a project and I don't know when he's going to react to whatever I happen to say with an attitude.  (Although, he will swear that he doesn't have one and get mad at me for suggesting that he does.) But, even with William, there are the days when he clings to his youth and plays silly games with Lizzie and Antwan.  And he's always ready to watch whatever superhero show is on our DVR.

Then there's Kaleb.  I never knew Kaleb when he was a silly kid whose biggest problem in the world was whether his mom had stocked up on the right type of lunch meat.  Of course, knowing his past, we know that was never his biggest problem.  But, you get the point. (If you don't know his past, here's the upshot.  His past sucked. He didn't have a stable home until we adopted 2013.) And I can't look in his eyes and see our influences because it was other people who influenced him.  He hasn't played silly games with Lizzie and Antwan since maybe the first summer.  And he would prefer to watch the superhero shows on his phone alone instead of with us.  (And then make sure to complain about how predictable they are or how much he doesn't like the plot line.)

Sometimes, well, a lot of times, I feel like we are the Parkers and Kaleb.  I feel it when we walk into church and I know that Kaleb is home sleeping. I feel it when the kids and I are galavanting around town and he is with his friends or home playing the xbox.  Because that's what he would prefer. I hate that.  But, long ago, I gave up on forcing family unity because it just doesn't work.  William and Kaleb can not get along if left to their own devices and I just stay on edge waiting for it not to work out, waiting for him to take offense to something Brian or I said or something else to go wrong. 

I think in a lot of ways, that's just normal.  Teenager life and all. So I mostly accept it.  I try to remember to take the moments when they come with Kaleb.  I try to validate what he says when he says it.  Even though, he tends to say it when he comes home from his friend's house, just in time for bedtime and then wants to "run some things by me."  I look forward to the day when they are all older and can bond on a deeper lever.  (I dread that day at the same time, though.  No getting older!)  And, I try to accept him for who he is. A complicated, challenging young man who is basically never going to tell me what I want to hear.  But, he is never going to be boring!  (You can decide if that's a good thing or not, haha.) 

And he is going to keep giving me reasons to groan loudly because he has to keep arguing a point.  Like the other day when he said "I'm not letting this one go, Mom. Normally I just argue because I like arguing.  But, this time I know I'm right.  What was he arguing about, you ask? (Someone please ask!) I asked him to go to his room for bed (or to a friend's) 30 minutes early on days when Brian is closing so I could have a little me time.  As a reward, he wouldn't have to do chores that day. This was a great deal, if you ask me.  I explained that I really needed a little me time to decompress.  He agreed but explained that he doesn't get alone time either so it was basically the same thing. I explained that he had endless opportunities for alone time.

I said, "You could go to bed right now and stay in your room for the rest of the night if you wanted to."

He said, "Technically, so could you." (It was 4:30 pm)

"No, I couldn't!" I responded, incredulously.

Not long after, I groaned loudly and told him to go away.  Satisfied and convinced that he was right, he went off to hang out with friends.

I'm off track, I just really wanted to share that story. haha.

So, the point is, he will always be challenging. I will always wish that he had come to us sooner so we could have influenced him more. I will probably always doubt my various choices with him (but not my choice to score myself 30 minutes of Emily time because, man, do I need that!).  I will always worry about whether he is happy and whether he regrets agreeing to the adoption.

But, I will never worry about whether or not he loves me and whether or not he
knows I love him.

Recently, he texted me from school on a friend's phone.  I'm fairly certain he was asking a favor involving me driving him somewhere.  I would say that's why he said "I love you" at the end.  But, really, he usually does that, anyway. But, I took note of it, particularly since it was from a friend's phone.  I debated whether I should say it back because I didn't know if he still had access to the phone and I didn't know if his friend would mess with him about it.  But, ultimately, I said "I love you, too" because I thought the risk of him noticing that I didn't say it back was bigger than that other stuff. 

Later that night, he mentioned it.  He said his friend was surprised that I said it back because his mom doesn't.  I find it unlikely that this other teen's mom is refusing to tell her kid that she loves him so no judgement here.  But, I did like the fact that I had told my kid I loved him and, even better, he had told me first.

If it's true that love makes the world go round, that all you need is love, and that love is thicker than water (that's an Andy Gibb song, thanks google!); then we're going to be ok. :)