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. :)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Remembering To Be Grateful.

It's human nature to take things for granted.  We all try not to do it, but we all do.  I think I'm pretty good at remembering how fortunate I am to have my family.  I worked hard enough to get them, after all. But, a couple of months ago, I found myself feeling a bit unappreciative of the fact that these children who I love so much were home with me so much.  I had fought so hard to homeschool all three of my younger children and I felt so guilty for wanting a break from them.  Of course, wanting a break is also human nature.  Any primary caregiver knows that wanting a little time to yourself is no reflection on how much you love those people that you are the primary caregiver for.  But, still I felt guilty.  I didn't even tell Brian for fear that he would think in his head that maybe I wasn't cut out for homeschooling, after all.  (This is the part where I tell you that Brian is fully supportive and doesn't give me any reason to think he would judge me for being human.)

Either way, it dragged on for a couple of weeks.  I was painfully aware that they were always here and that they seemed to think that I should take care of them, drive them around, feed them several times a day, and, on top of that, teach them! What madness is that?? ;)  And, of course, poor Kaleb would come home from school, expecting me to be ready to chat about the day or quiz him on Spanish.  And, all I would want to do was hide under my blanket in my recliner. 

I don't want to sound too dramatic. Although, I think it might be too late for that.  I wasn't regretting my decision to home school.  It only took a few moments of pondering the alternative to know that this was definitely what I wanted.  I was just a bit burnt out. 

What's the point?  This is the point.

I was walking into Target with Antwan and Lizzie.  Now that William is 13, he likes to stay in the van and play his tablet when we go to the store.  And, when it is a short trip, I let him.  So, we were walking in.  I was holding both of their hands, a walking pose that I would normally just love to pieces.  But, today, I was mentally grumbling that I had been dragged to Target by Antwan who wanted to buy a new toy with his allowance.  That's when I ran into her.

"Her" is a teacher at Lizzie and Antwan's former preschool.  Although, they never had her as a teacher, her daughter was Lizzie's teacher and she is just as nice as her mom.  I don't know either one of them all that well, but I really, really like them and wish I knew them better.  Anyway, I think she asked me how homeschooling was going.  And, when I usually say how wonderful everything is, instead I made some kind of comment about how they are always there.  I was trying to be funny (with a side of truth), but I'm not really sure that it came off that way.  Anyway, I kind of expected her to agree that it's hard, overwhelming, or something like that.  She didn't. With a smile, she just said something about how I should enjoy this time, they won't be young forever, or something to that effect.  My memory is fuzzy on her words, but the message was clear to me.  The message was clear because she was taking a page from my own book.  I should remember to be grateful for the moments.

I walked away from her feeling a little paranoid that she would judge me and feeling a little guilty for saying it what I said. And, I was also wondering why she wasn't quite as up-beat as normal.  (She was not rude in any way, just didn't seem as perky.) But, the important thing is it snapped me out of my funk. She was totally right and I totally needed to get it into perspective. 

And, I did.  After that moment, I felt revived.  The whole homeschooling thing and parenting, in general, is still exhausting and overwhelming, of course, but there's nothing else that I want to do more.  (With the possible exception of hanging out with Batman.  That would be pretty cool, too...)

Why do I feel compelled to write about it now? Because I just learned that when I ran into this woman on a random afternoon, she was going through her own struggle.  She had been sick since December and they didn't know what was wrong yet.  They just recently discovered it's cancer.  I can only imagine what that has been like for her and her family.  And, I can only imagine the struggle to come. 

When I heard the news of her cancer, I was brought back to that moment in Target.  Suddenly, the conversation meant so much more.  Her casual comment had so much more weight. She was looking at me, a frazzled, overly-tired, burnt out, but healthy mom with my healthy, happy children.  She had passed the time in her life when her children relied on her for virtually everything.  And, she understood something that I had lost sight of in that moment. Time is fleeting.  She didn't know yet that she had cancer.  But, she knew that she was sick and was probably quite scared.  Knowing now what I didn't know then, her message to me has become an even bigger reminder.  We just don't know what the future holds and we should never miss an opportunity to appreciate what we have. 

So, my friend, I don't know you well, but I care about you.  I will be praying, sending good vibes, wishing on every twinkling star, and crossing my fingers and toes that you will beat this quickly.  And, I want to thank you for what you said to me in Target that day.  You probably didn't think anything of it, it was just a passing comment for you, but it meant a lot to me.

You have reminded me of what matters.  Inadvertently, in your time of crisis, you have helped me and I will always be grateful for that.