Friday, December 30, 2011

Is love colorblind?

"I made you black." William said, kind of sheepishly.  We were sitting in the play area at the mall.  Antwan and Lizzie were playing.  I had ordered William to take a break from his new Nintendo 3ds, so he could get some exercise.  But, instead, he had moved on to telling me about everything that he had done on his 3ds. 

He was telling me about the avatars he had made.  "I made you, but I made you black."  He went on to say that he had made Daddy black, too.  I don't think he was sure how I would react, and I didn't really know how to react.  So, I asked him, "Is that what you wish?  Do you wish we were black?"

He paused and said "Yes and no." 

Even though, it wasn't much of an answer.  I could tell it was the most he wanted to give and, anyway, I still kind of got it.  It would be much simpler if we were all black.  But then again, we wouldn't be us. 

I've come a long way from the beginning of our lives as parents.  Right after adopting the boys, we were interviewed on the news as part of a story about adopting transracially.  I was very cavalier about saying the color didn't matter.


But, now I realize, it does matter.  It matters because it's who we are and it's who they are.  It matters because for their entire lives, they will be black and have white parents, and that's unusual.  But, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I don't want my children to focus on the color of their skin and the different color of ours.  But, at the same time, I don't want them to be afraid to acknowledge it.  Tricky stuff.

Now that Antwan is getting older, he's noticing it more.  The other day, he told me that he wished he was "yellow" like me. I responded by talking about how beautiful his skin is.  He seemed unimpressed by this.  And, when I was telling him a story about me as a baby, he asked me if my skin was brown like his.  I thought that was interesting.  And, boy, is he going to be surprised when he stays black! ;)

The other day, William said hello to a classmate in the grocery store.  After they passed, he said, "I think he thought you were my babysitter."  That was the first time he had given any indication that he worried about it.  We talked about it, a little; as much as you can in a grocery store.  He admitted that he worried about people not knowing that I'm his mom.  There wasn't a lot that I could say.  If there was, I couldn't think of it.  I couldn't tell him that it would get better because it won't.  There will always be confusion.  Evidenced by the fact that I had a whole conversation with a mom at Antwan's school.  She looked confused then finally said, "Oh! Are you his mom?"  It was then that I remembered that it's not obvious. :)

But, the love is obvious.  I look at these children and I don't see my black children.  I see my children.  My amazing, beautiful, intelligent children.

Every family has complications.  Well, this is ours.  I can laugh when I accidentally confuse a mom or see the surprise in a child's eyes as we pass.  Or I can dwell and worry.  This was the advice that I gave William.  To try to find the humor in it and accept that it's going to happen.  But, me, honestly, I do both.  It is amusing, but I do worry about how they will handle it as they get older.  I know more comments are coming and I can only hope we are preparing them.  When the kids at William's preschool asked why his mom was pink, we laughed.  But, when a kid asks him about me (I know it will happen) and it's mean and deliberate.  It's not going to be so funny.  That scares me.

Does this mean that we shouldn't have adopted them?  No, of course not.  There is no doubt in my mind that we did the right thing.  We did the right thing because they needed a home and we needed children to love.  We did the right thing because they were always our children before we ever met them.  We did the right thing because life would not have been the same without them, specifically them.  We adopted these children and no other children would've been the right children for us.
Is love colorblind?  William said it best, "yes and no."  But, love is unconditional.  And, Brian and I, the white parents of our black children will love them forever.  We will always be white and they will always be black.  We will always confuse the heck out of people.   And, there will be times that they will wish we were different, but, frankly, that would happen, anyway. :) 

Well, moments after he told me that he made us black and I still had heavy thought in my head, he also said he made me bigger than Daddy and gave Daddy glasses.  Then he started rattling on about his Mario Kart game.  I think we're going to be ok.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I am happy to be his mom.

It is a known fact that if I sit down anywhere in my house, I won't be sitting there alone very long.  Because there will soon be a little Parker ready to visit. 

The kids were happily playing so I sat down in my beloved recliner and opened my laptop.  I was ready to sneak in a few minutes of internet time.  But, moments later, there was there was Antwan.

I love how he cuddles into me.  It is very sweet, despite the fact that it makes it harder for me to click the mouse. :)

I looked at him and, feeling sentimental, I asked him "Do you know how happy I am that I'm your mommy?"

He looked at me, thoughtfully, and said "42!"

I don't know what I thought he'd say, but that definitely wasn't it.  But, when you think about it, 42 is a pretty big number.  So, although, there is no way to accurately measure the love I feel for that boy; I suppose if I had to guess...42 seems pretty accurate. :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Watching Television During Dinner.

We usually have the tv on during dinner.  I've never been quite sure how I feel about that, but I know that Brian and I both like the background noise.  Of course, this usually means that one of the kids has to be told, at some point, to stop watching tv and eat dinner. 

Who has time for dinner?  Bubble Guppies is on!

The other night, there was an (apparently) irresistible episode of Spongebob on and Lizzie and Antwan kept turning around in their chairs to watch.  Finally, I decided it was time to take a stand!

So, I got up to turn off the tv.  Lizzie and Antwan both frantically asked me not to do it.  But, in my best "I used to walk 30 miles" tone, I said, "When I was a kid, Grandma turned the tv off every night during dinner." 

As I sat down, William, in all sincerity, said "I thought they didn't have tv's back then.."

I may have taken a stand, but I got knocked down a peg.... :)

I wish that Mom had gotten a chance to watch tv when she was my age.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My son doesn't like change.

"I'm scared to turn 9." 

It was the last thing that we expected to hear.  After days of random and inexplicable behaviors, William finally said those words to Brian.

And, suddenly it made sense.  We understood why just a few days before his birthday, William was refusing to do his work, drawing on his pants, and, generally, breaking rules.  He was freaking out. 

William doesn't like change.  In the first five years of his life, change meant he was going somewhere new to someone new.  To someone who may or may not be nice to him, take care of him, and make him feel secure.  When he left his last foster home to come to us, his foster father broke the news by saying "You gotta go."  I'm not sure if that's exactly what happened, but that's what he thinks happened.  So, that's all that really matters.

He acts out at the beginning of the school year, the end of the school year, and even before family vacations.  So, once he admitted he was scared, it was so obvious.  Most kids look forward to their birthdays.  They are excited about getting older.  But, William just feels more pressure and uncertainty about what being a year older means for him. 

This was the first time he was afraid of a birthday or at least that he told us that he was.  I don't know what it was about 9 years that intimated him so much, but there it was.  And, just like that (although he didn't escape consequences), I wasn't mad at him anymore.  I was just worried.

We talked about the positives.  Brian talked about how much he had enjoyed being 9.  We talked
about how he was going to be turning 9, no matter what he did, so he should accept it and see the good in it.  I reminded him that acting out and making it hard for people who care about him wasn't right.  Brian talked to him about all the things that made him special like being in chorus, being so smart, and his sense of humor.  Things that were not going to change.  And, above all, we asked him (again) to talk to us, just talk to us.

And, the acting out stopped.  He said he was going to try very hard to have a good day at school, the next day, and he did.  On the way to school, he told me that he was really happy that his birthday was on a Saturday and he could be home with me.  He also said that he was now happy about turning 9. 

And, the birthday was like a birthday should be.  He woke up, extremely wired, too excited to eat the special breakfast that I had made him.  He was so excited that I was exhausted by mid-morning.  Just like it's supposed to be.

I know that we haven't solved all of William's issues with our pre-birthday conversation.  It's so unfair that he had to go through everything he went through and still have to live it in his head.  But, he's doing better than he was last year and I'm doing better at handling him when he's not.  Our challenges will continue, but progress is progress.  I'll take what I can get. 

So, after the cake, the singing, and, of course, the presents; William decided he was really happy about being 9.  He said he was "used to it now."

And, I'm happy that he's nine and maybe a little scared.  It is a new year with new challenges and new progress.  But, on the day, he turned 9 yeard old, I got a nice day with one of the loves of my life.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday. :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What Will My Children Remember?

I often think about the memories that my kids will have of me.  I have really great memories of my childhood and I want them to, as well.  There was a lot of singing and dancing in my house when I was growing up.  My parents (especially my mom) were silly. 

My mom once asked me what my happiest memory was.  She was expecting something sentimental.  Instead I talked about a time when I was in the bath tub and she sang and danced to "Rubber Duckie."  She was so silly and it made me laugh.  She was surprised by my response because, like I said, she was expecting a sentimenal memory.  But, the thing is, it was sentimental.  My mom was fun and she made me happy.  She was making the effort after what was probably a very long day to do a little extra something to make me smile.  She loved me.  And, I felt it.  With everything that I have learned, in the last few years, I am even more keenly aware how special that is and how lucky I was to have it.

I want my children to feel that.  Books talk about the primal wound in adopted children and how there is a hole in their heart that will never completely be filled.  I hope that's not true, but it probably is.  So, all I can do is fill it as much as I can with love.

William knows I love him.  I tell him, a lot.  But after 3 years, I feel like I've just become more aware of how much he needs me to show it.  The slightest aggravated response will stick with him all day.  This hit home, the other day.  I was lecturing him about something he did wrong.  I don't even know what it was, but it seemed relevant, at the time.  At the end, I gave him a hug and told him I loved him. And he started to cry.  (This happens.)  But, this time, he told me about a kid, at school, who yelled at him.  The kid wasn't even mad at William, he was reacting to something else.  Plus, he apologized, a few minutes later.  But, William was still hurting about it.  It's so important to him that everyone likes him and is happy with him. 

Because of this, I'm trying extra hard to be aware of what I say.  I try to remember that the things that I say and do will be remembered, long after they've left home and started their own families.  (Which will be hard since I'm never letting them grow up...)  I wish I was more successful.  I say things all  the time that I wish I hadn't.  I constantly miss opportunies for a memory.  I know that I'm not unique in this, but I also feel like it's really important that I do the best I can do because my kids really, really need it.  This is a bit overwhelming.

But, the good news is, when I'm not losing my cool or missing the moments; I'm singing silly songs, dancing, and making jokes.  I sing, dance, and joke so much that each child has asked me to stop, on different occasions.  I don't, of course.  That just wouldn't be any fun.  But, there are worse things. :) 

So, the other day, I got to thinking that we needed a "thing."  We needed one of those sayings.  "I love you to the moon and back." or something like that.  I wanted something that I could say to them, always.  I could say it now.  I could say it in their teenage years when it would annoy them, but they'd later think of it, happily.  I could say it when they go off to college.  I had big plans!  I was getting really excited and wracking my brain for our super sweet "thing."  :)

I finally came up with one. 

Me - "Who loves you?"  My loving child - "Mommy!"  I was also willing to accept "You do!"  ;)  It wasn't neccesarily a masterpiece of sentimental expressions, but it got the point across.  So, I was off to try it.

"William!  Who loves you?"  William looked at me blankly, with confusion.  I guess the answer was a little more obvious to me.  I advised him that it was me and moved on. 

"Antwan!  Who loves you?"  He looks at me and casually answers "Girls!"

Well, the answer was obvious to just wasn't the one I was looking for. :)

Lizzie just ignored me, completely.

At this point, I gave up and just told them to go to bed.

For a week, I asked Antwan and he would always say "girls."  My victory came when he amended it to "Girls...and mommy."  Hey, I'll take it. :)

I don't think they'll remember our catch phrase.  Well, they might, but it won't be a demonstration of my everlasting love for them.  Unfortunately, I know they will remember the time that I lost it because William took my spot on the couch yet again.  But, with any luck, they'll also remember my brilliant songs, silly dances, and hilarious one-liners.  And, hopefully, they'll smile.  And, know they were loved and that they will always be loved.  Because they are.  They really, really are.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I am the mom of my children.

The other day, a well-meaning, curious person asked me if Lizzie's mom is in the picture at all.  And, I felt like she had slapped me in the face.  I explained that all parental rights had been terminated, so no.  She was relieved to hear it.  She walked away and I sat with unpleasant memories flooding back. 

There is no question that I am dramatic and get worked up about things I can't control.  Just ask poor Brian.  There's also no question that she meant no harm.  But, unfortunately, there is also no question that it hurt me and felt like a little part of me and who I am to her was being taken away.

Growing up, my dad had a mug.  It said something like, "Anyone can be a father, it takes someone special to be a dad."  And, that's how I feel about this.  No, I didn't carry them in my belly.  No, I didn't pee on a stick and see two lines.  (Although I'm quite familiar with seeing only one.)   And, I definitely didn't make stupid and dangerous choices that endangered their well-being. 

But, I did make the decision that I wanted to love them forever.  That I wanted to take care of them everyday.  That I wanted to get up every morning when I so desperately want to sleep.  That I want to never have a snack, talk on the phone, or fold laundry in peace again.  That I wanted to laugh at their antics until I cried, scream at their antics until I cried, and talk about their antics while they slept.  That I wanted to get man-handled, interrupted, hugged, and kissed constantly.  This is what I decided.  This is what I do.

I also made the decision to deal with the fact that one day they might want to look for her.  That they will always have biological family out there somewhere.  Some that we will meet and some that we will not.  I made the decision to raise black children in a white world and to try desperately to help them deal with that reality.  I didn't realize how complicated these decisions would be.  But, I made them.  And, I don't regret them.

And, it's hard.  Not the regular mom stuff.  Well, it is.  But, that's what being a mom is.  It's the other stuff that I thought I understood but really didn't.

I know one day they are going to ask about her.  I also know it's totally understandable, but I'm not looking forward to it. Brian already has a plan when they ask about their "real mom."  He is going to say, "Your real mom is in the kitchen making your dinner and I don't want to ever hear you use that term again.  But, if you want to know about the woman who gave birth to you, I'll tell you everything I know."   I love Brian.

Adoption is complicated.  Transracial adoption is even more complicated.  It will always be obvious to everyone who we encounter that they're not biological and people will always have questions.  And, that's ok.  In a way, I feel that we were given this great opportunity and responsibility.  We can try to educate, encourage, and inspire.  It is my greatest wish that because of us, we will not always be so unusual.  That someone who encounters us will decide to adopt, too.  That would be amazing.

But, there is one thing that I know I can do.  I can try to get people to stop referring to someone else as my children's mom.  I've been trying really hard to be assertive and speak up.  Usually, I will politely say, "Oh, you mean, the biological parent?"  They will correct themselves and I will answer all questions.  The other day, though, I didn't correct her.  I was taken off guard and didn't want to offend her.  So, instead I dwelled on it and wrote an angsty blog.  :)

As I was talking to Brian about it, in all my angsty glory, I was saying that I just need to stop letting it get to me.  But, he encouraged me to continue to correct/educate people.  Otherwise, they'll just go on to say it to someone else.  Well, he had a point.  (He does that.)  Back to that responsibilty thing. 

For the rest of my life, people will ask awkward questions.  I will know that there is someone out there who got to have a piece of them that I never can.  I will be worrying about them.  Lecturing them.  I will probably still be trying to figure out how to do Lizzie's hair.  But, these are my children.  This crazy universe full of: inexplicably fertile drug addicts, well-meaning people with poor choices of words, beautiful friends, amazing family members, and family court judges, brought us together.  Thank you, universe!  Their mom loves them like crazy.  I would know, it's me. :)

Friday, September 30, 2011

From non-relative placement to forever mom, looking back to 2 years ago (September 29, 2009)

On September 11, 2008, a  case worker brought Lizzie to us and we fell in love.  We were contacted because we had already adopted the boys.  In the first conversation, we were asked if we would like to adopt her and advised that it would be an expedited process.  We said yes, but then things got complicated, and almost went horribly wrong.  Because we did not have a foster care license (We had adopted, but never fostered.), we were classified as a non-relative placement.  Through the year, we learned that meant that we had no rights, no financial assistance, and no idea what was going to happen next.  We also learned that there was no end to the love we had for this amazing little girl.  On September 29, 2009, after the biological parent rights were terminated, we went before a judge and he made her legally ours.  And, then I breathed again.

We were getting ready to go to the court house, like we had so many times, in the last year.  But, this time it was different.  This time the kids were coming along.  This time we were all dressed up and smiling.  This time, we weren't wondering what was going to happen.  This time, we knew that Lizzie was about to legally become our daughter.  It had been a long year.  There were lots of ups and downs. A lot of sleepless nights.  A lot of tears.  But, on this day, everything would change.  I couldn't guarantee that there would be no more ups and downs, sleepless nights, or tears.  But, I could guarantee that when I went to bed that night, I would be Lizzie's mom.  And, that was going to be perfection.

When we walked into the courthouse, I couldn't help but look around for the biological parents; even though I knew they wouldn't be there.  But, I did see one of their attorneys. She and another attorney stopped to admire Lizzie and the boys.  They started to discuss who the kids looked like and call her by her birth name.  I was instantly upset.  Aside from my gut reaction, it was also a confusing conversation for the boys to hear.  Then I realized that after a long year of playing the game, being patient with all the changes, staying silent (because no one was listening anyway); I finally didn't have to.  I told them that I didn't want to hear about that on this day.  They weren't expecting my response and I didn't understand why they weren't expecting my response.  But, they stopped.

We headed to the court room.  Family and friends were there.  Court house employees were there.  Our current case worker was there.  Our original case worker who no longer worked for the agency was there.  Our attorney was there and the attorney who had refered us to her were there.  Many had gotten emotionally involved.  The judge came in and the adoption finalization began.  For the first time when we stood in front of the judge, he was talking to us.  On all the previous court dates, we had stood silently, as events transpired around us.  We were there to answer questions on the well-being of the child.  We were not required to be there.  But, we were.  We were there to make sure everyone knew we were there.  But, not anymore.  Today, the judge was smiling.  Everyone was smiling,   Today, he made Lizzie our daughter.  It was a blur.  I remember trying very hard to speak slowly and clearly.  I remember trying to hold a restless Lizzie.  I remember when he said that she was ours.  I remember crying and I remember the bailiff coming to me with a box of tissues.  I remember feeling the unexplainable feeling.  It really is such a strange thing to love a child as your daughter for months and months before a bang of the gavel makes her your daughter.  But, that was what happened and it was amazing,  We left that day as a family, just like we were when we walked in, but different.  Because for the rest of our lives, no one could come and take her away.

During our year, we had met many people.  Some were wonderful, some were apathetic, and some were somewhere in between.  I had such anger towards the system.  But, not anymore.  I think that's important to say.  It was a traumatic year and many mistakes were made.  At the  heart of it, most people were trying to do the right thing; even though, I didn't always agree with how they were going about it.  In the end, Lizzie was protected.  And, she ended up where I, of course, believe she belonged.  It's a complicated thing, trying to decide the futures of these children.  And, these children are reliant on employees of these agencies, lawyers, and judges to make that call.  Lizzie was placed with us.  We were told that we could adopt her, but then told, maybe not.  The boys bonded with a sister that they might lose.  And, the biological parents bad-mouthed us and judged how we cared for her.  It was not easy.  And, while it was totally about us, we had to remember according to the system, it was not.  We were in charge of keeping her safe and healthy.  The focus was whether the biological parents would complete their case plan and do what they needed to do.  But, in our case, they wouldn't.  In the end, they wanted the drugs more than they wanted her and we wanted her more than anything in the world.  Would I do it again?  Yes.  Would I adopt from the system again?  Absolutely.  Would it drive me crazy? Probably.  Would it be worth it?  Yes!

Right after court, we went to lunch with the family.  Later, we went to dinner with our friends.  We came home and put our kids to bed.  I don't remember what I did on September 30th.  I know it was a Wednesday.  I know William had to go to school and Brian probably went to work.  I probably bummed around the house with Lizzie and Antwan.  Or maybe we went to the park.  The only thing that I know is that I was happy.  Really, really happy.

                                                             Video of the finalization!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Raising My Self-Confident Child.

My Antwan.  He's smart, compassionate, and a fast runner.  Most things come easy to him.  He's absolutely beautifiul.  And, in many ways, he's become my biggest challenge.  William is eager to please and is insecure.  Therefore, he really tries to do what I ask of him.  Antwan is eager to please, but not the tiniest bit insecure.  And, therefore, will only sometimes try to do what I ask of him.  The rest of the time he will simply explain why he didn't.

From early on, it was clear that Antwan had an opinion on how the world should be.  It was a little funny when he was a baby, he would get all worked up when his toys were moved in spots that he didn't put them in. But now that he's 4, it's sometimes a little hard.  He has no time for these silly ideas about me being in charge.  We're a team.  He really believes that.  If he thinks I'm being unreasonable, he will tell me, with no fear (and no interest) of contradiction.  He's not a mean child.  He's not a rude child.  He's got a heart as big as...a really big state (I don't do geography.)  On most days, he will bring home extra candy from the treasure box at school, so he can share with us.  He just thinks that he's got it all figured out.  And, when I watch how he takes care of Lizzie and, even, William; I sometimes think he's right.   

We met Antwan and William for the first time on January 31st, 2008.  They were both so little and Antwan was still crawling.  (This meant that I was the one that got the first steps.  I'll always be grateful to the universe for that.)  He didn't talk much (but soon he did.)  It was clear that the foster parents took adequate care of him, but we don't think they spent a lot of time talking to him, as his language development is the only thing that is delayed.  It seems that he is about a year  behind.  It's all in his head, but he can't always get the sounds out clearly.  Now, with all the 4 year old thoughts floating through his head, he sometimes has trouble expressing them.  And others sometimes have trouble understanding him. 

The good news is Antwan has confidence.  If he is not understood, he will keep on repeating it, usually very patiently.

So, back to that compassion of his.

The other day, he was cleaning his room.  This really means that I was cleaning his room while complaining about how he trashes his room.  He does help clean, but needs specific directions like "put this there."  I look forward to the day when I can send him to his room and he'll clean it.  Will that day ever come?  I have no idea.  So, as I complained about the mess, he would answer, calmly, "I'm sorry, Mommy.  I'll try not to mess up my room anymore."  He and I both knew that this wasn't true.  But, he effectively stopped my rant.  Well-played, Antwan.

As I sat on the floor, picking up toys, he sat behind me and started to rub my back.  My back has been hurting a lot lately and, although, I hadn't said anything, he assumed, correctly, that it was. 

Then, he said.  "I'm rubbing your back to make it feel better.  When I get bigger and you get smaller, I'll take you to the little mom doctor to make you feel better."

He had just given me a scary glimpse into my future.  A future where I will be a little old lady whose large (Have you seen his muscles?) black son towers over me.  I don't want to be a little old lady and I hate going to the doctor.  But, ignoring that, I also felt very loved.  I am so proud of my high-maintenance, stubborn, ridiculously self-confident son who means it when he promises to take care of his little mom.  Although, I see many lectures from him in my future. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Adoption Placement Memories (3 years ago, I met my daughter.)

September 11 is a date that will be remembered by Americans everywhere, always.  It was a terrible day that shouldn't have happened.  But, for us, September 11th (2008) also represents a new beginning because it was the day that we met Lizzie.  I'm aware of the irony.  On the date when so many lost so much, we gained so much.  On this day, We held her for the first time.  We looked into her eyes and we introduced her to her brothers.  It was amazing, scary, overwhelming perfection. 

I wasn't there when the case worker brought her because I was held up at work.  I don't think I will ever forgive the universe for that.  But, when I came home, there she was.  It is a surreal experience to walk into your house and meet your daughter.  It would be a little over a year before she actually was, by legal definition, my daughter.  But, really, as soon as I walked into the house, saw Brian happily holding her, unceremoniously said "Let me have her!" and yanked her (gently!) out of his arms; she was my daughter. :)

As I've blogged about before, we went through a rough year.  The quick, easy process was anything but that.  But, on September 29, 2009, we finalized our adoption and she was legally Elizabeth Eileen Parker (my grandmother's name).    It's taken a long time to stop dwelling on the angst.  But, I did.  (Although, I still can't talk about it without wanting to cry.)

Now, I'm left with an amazing little girl.  And, at all times, when I look at her, I still feel a sense of awe that she is mine.  I have the same feeling with the boys, but, with them, I am spared an awareness, in the back of my mind, that they almost weren't mine.  Because once we were matched with the boys, it actually was a quick, simple process, although it didn't really feel that way, at the time.

Lizzie turned 3 on the August 23rd and, it was a fun day. 

It blows me away that this much time has passed.  When Lizzie turned 1, we knew that we were going to get to adopt her, but hadn't been officially able to yet.  When Lizzie turned 2, I was keenly aware and kept pointing out that it was the first birthday that she was officially ours.  For that reason, I obsessed about how we would celebrate and wanted to make sure it was  special.  (It was.)  But, this year, when she turned 3, she was my daughter and it was her birthday.  I still obsessed about how we were going to celebrate, but only because I am obsessive  I didn't really think about anything beyond that.  And, that was pretty cool.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Adopted children and their need to be accepted.

Driving home from the store, (It seems like we are always driving home from the store), William referenced the eternal "Can I ______, I'll be your best friend!"  (When someone wants what you have or wants you to do something and offers to be your best friend...) 

Then he said, "But, they never keep their promise."  Then, added, "But, today, someone did!"
Apparently, a little girl in the 2nd grade offered to be his best friend and stuck to it, at least temporarily.

This made me very sad.  I knew that each time, he was taking the bait.  William is eager to please and desperately wants to be liked.  He has been this way, for as long as we've known him,  I don't know if it's because of his history and the five years of his existence when all he wanted was to truly be liked (if not loved) and belong somewhere.  I don't know if that's why he's like this, but I think it is.

Because of this, he's easy to manipulate.  If a random kid asks him for his quarters at an arcade, he's going to give them to him. (This happens all the time.)  And, if a kid offers to be his best friend, if he does what they want, he's going to jump on it. 

We worry about him as he gets older.  Peer pressure was invented with kids like William in mind.  All we can do is talk to him about it and hope for the best.  That is the reality for any parent, but it's not too comforting.

Since he wants to be liked, doesn't want to disappoint anyone, and is so eager to please, we've always struggled with was getting William to be honest about his opinion of things.  I guess he thought that if he disagreed with something, we wouldn't want him anymore.  Problem is, his efforts to be agreeable and not disappoint us, almost always backfire and do disappoint us.  Not to the point of us not wanting him or giving him a real reason to think that.  Just to the point of making us crazy.

My favorite, frustrating example, was the time he hid his cereal bars in various spots in the dining room because he didn't want to tell me that he didn't like them.  I, of course, also being eager to please, (especially at the beginning) kept buying them because he seemed to be eating them so quickly, so I figured he must like them.  The day I found them hidden in the board games, behind the water cooler, and other spots that I have, thankfully, forgotten, we were furious.  It was wasteful, dishonest. and gross. 

It took time to understand the good, but misguided intentions behind this deceit (and all the similar ones after that).  That's the challenge when you've got a kid with issues.  You have to find the balance between understanding and trying to help him emotionally and making it clear that lying is never, ever ok and will not be tolerated.  When I find that balance, I'll let you know.  But, today, I still have no idea.  Sometimes, I think I do and have these inspiring (although, admittedly one-sided) conversations with him that I just know have solved the problem forever!  Then Brian quickly reminds me that that simply will not be the case.

Then sometimes I just want to shake him and scream "just stop lying! I don't care why you're doing it, just stop!"  I don't, I just want to. :)   Usually, I'm somewhere in the middle and, yet, oddly, still not balanced. 

So, as we drove home, this was just another example of William.

I started to try to make the point that real friends aren't your friends because you do something for them. 

"Like, Ms. Jennice is one of my best friends..."   I wanted to explain that we do things for each other because we are friends, not so we will be friends.  I wanted to remind him not to sacrifice himself for people who don't really value him.  But, I didn't say any of it because it got noisy in the van and Antwan and Lizzie who were in the middle seats, had no interest in this deep conversation.  So, I stopped before I really got started.

Then William said, "Have you been friends since you were kids?"

Me - "Well, we met in 7th grade.  We weren't friends at first, but became really good friends in 8th grade.  We've been friends ever since." 

Again, I had all these extra things I wanted to say about mutual respect, learning to understand our differences, and how we had to work on our friendship.  I wanted to say all kinds of profound things to give him a real sense of what friendship is.  But, again., I didn't because he wouldn't have heard me anyway so I made a mental note to return to the topic later.

Less than a minute later...
William blurts out-"That was a great story, Mom!"  With more enthusiasm than seemed necessary.
"You're the best storyteller ever!"

I guess this was one time that William's eager to please nature benefitted me. haha.  Imagine how impressed he would have been if I had elaborated!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fostering to Adopt. Not Easy but worth it.

"Dragon*Con is the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe!"  (  And, it happens every Labor Day weekend.  We had been going for years.  We had gotten to meet our favorite celebrities

and spend time with Brian's side of the family (he's from the Atlanta area).  And, we always spent a lot of time talking about how much fun kids would have there.  (It always came back to kids.) 

And, after all these years of going, this year, in 2008, was going to be very different.  Because we were getting ready for our first Dragoncon with kids.  We were focused on getting the boys ready and figuring out how we were going to afford the trip at all, with two new sons.  We couldn't even begin to imagine that just a few days after we'd come back, our lives would change again and I would get the other call that would "change our life."  It was the call that turned our world upside-down, the call that introduced us to the frustrating, but well-intentioned side of the system.  This was a side that we had been spared by adopting children who were already available for adoption.  It was the call that would steal my sleep for a year, due to late-night feedings then later followed by nights of endless worrying.  But, it was one of the best calls ever because it brought me my Lizzie.

A wise man once told me that things work out how they are supposed to.  That was Brian.  He is my Ricky to his Lucy Ricardo (yes, he calls me that).  He is the eye of my storm.  He is whatever other random analogy I can come up with.  He is logical and I am ruled by emotion.  So, when we were waiting to find and be found by the boys, he would tell me that he knew things would work out how they were meant to.  I took great comfort in these words, even though it did not make me feel more patient.  But, he was right, it did work out like it was supposed to and we became parents to William and Antwan.

As we went through the year of Lizzie drama, Brian continued to assure me that things would work out and he was right.

But, even Brian had no words on the day that we came the closest to losing her.  It was a day that we listened in horror as the biological parents' lawyers told the judge that they had been staying off drugs, but in reality, they hadn't been tested.  It was a day that he granted unsupervised visitation pending a successful home study.  (They later failed the home study because they failed drug tests.)  It was a day that Brian tried to cut the grass when we got home and could barely do it because he couldn't stop crying.  And, on this day, in court, I couldn't say anything because I wasn't allowed to.  It was a really bad day.  It was the worst day. 

I had never known what it would feel like to lose your child.  And, for us, she was; regardless of what the law said, at the time.  Thankfully, I only got to the point of feeling like I might lose her.  And, wow, it was awful.

I write this from the adoptive parent's perspective.  The system is not designed for us and, quite frankly, it shouldn't be.  It's designed to try to reunite children with their biological parents, if at all possible, and to protect the children.  Biology wins and, in many cases, it should.  Anyone getting involved in the foster-to-adopt side of the system needs to be ready to endure visitations, court dates, constant changes and possible losses.  This is exactly why we didn't want to get involved in it.

Yes, it is one of the surest ways to end up with a baby...eventually.  But, we wanted to be parents to the children that were meant to be ours, regardless of their age.  Sure I wanted a baby, I'm only human.  But, I also wanted a child.  And, as I pondered cribs and mobiles, I was also looking into the faces of older children on my computer screen.  And, then I knew I didn't care.  I just wanted to be a mom to the child that needed me to be his/her mom.

The first child that we fell in love with was an 11-year old. Her name was Elizabeth (the name we had chosen long ago for our daughter).  There were many children after her, of all ages.  Some we were officially passed over for and some we didn't hear anything about after inquiring.  The waiting was hard and made me a little crazy.  But, then there were William and Antwan.  And, life was good. 

So, off we went to our weekend of geek.  We all dressed up as pirates and the boys were batmen.  It was fun.

We came home from our weekend trip.  We were happy, exhausted (wow, it's less relaxing with kids!) and broke (wow, it's more expensive with kids!).  We had no idea that we were, in fact, about to end up with a baby.  But, we were.

So, I got the call.  The biological mother had another baby.  She's 2.5 week olds.  She had drugs in her system (and cigarettes, we later learned), but seems alert and was healthy.  Any potential disabilities wouldn't show up until later. (But, they didn't.)  The process would be expedited and she would be ours very quickly.

Two days later, Lizzie arrived and a year of blissful happiness combined with seemingly endless torture begun.

We didn't know that our experience would be pretty much the opposite of expedited.  We didn't know that caseworkers would schedule last minute visits, then other caseworkers would schedule last minute visits to make up the other workers' last minute visits because they quit or got fired (both things happened).  We didn't know that I would agree to transport Lizzie to a visit, then spend the rest of the afternoon vomiting because it upset me so much.  We didn't know that Antwan would get upset and confused every week when the driver took Lizzie away for three hours.  We didn't know that we would find ourselves in the exact situation that we had decided not to put ourselves in. 

But, we did know we loved her and that there is no question that we would do it again.

I would take the tears, the fears, and something else that rhymes.  As long it would mean that I would have this perfect, almost 3 year old girl who is currently standing by my chair, inexplicably letting me type, as she flings Antwan's leapster into the chair, way too hard.  Because she is amazing; really, really amazing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Foster Care Memories After Adoption

Leaving the park today, William randomly says, " I'm lucky to have a family.  I would have had a bad life if you and Daddy hadn't found us."  It's random statements like this that stop me in my tracks, in one way, and then at the same time, I take them in stride because it's stuff that I think about a lot.

I don't know how it is for other parents.  But, I spend a lot of time thinking about how my kids came to be mine.  Sometimes, it's because it boggles my mind that this is our life.  Sometimes, it's because I'm thinking about their previous reality or what their future reality would have been without us in it.  Sometimes, it's because I feel pressured to give them a good life since we chose it for them, but other times I am comfortable in the understanding that life is not always parks and fun.  Sometimes, it's cleaning your room, doing your homework, and being dragged around to stores.  Most often. though, it's because I want to make sure that I don't lose sight of how much we wanted them.  And, we did. 

So, when William brought this up, I wasn't expecting it, but didn't mind talking about it.  I told him that I didn't know what his life would've been like, but I was glad we found him.  I pointed out that it's possible that he would've continued to grow up in foster care like so many other kids do.  (I said this to increase his awareness of how lucky we all were, not just to toot our proverbial horns.)

Then he started talking about his foster home.  He said that the other kids got all the special stuff and he didn't get anything.  After some dissecting of "William-talk," I figured out that he was referring to the biological children of the foster parents.  In all the training classes, they tell you that they want you to treat the kids like family.  But, unfortunately, William didn't feel that way.  That's another blog, though.  One that I can't write.  And, suddenly, it made sense why William gets jealous so quickly when anyone else gets something.  He doesn't make a fuss, but we can tell it bothers him and sometimes he acts out in subtle ways.  All kids get jealous and all parents should try to keep it as even as possible, including us.  But, with William, I now think it also feels like potential proof of his fear that he's not as important.

I really didn't know what to say.  I was standing outside the van, sweating, leaning in to talk to him about a really serious topic.  And, I had nothing.  I wanted to say something to wipe away all of his doubts, fears, and bad memories.  But, that wasn't going to happen.  So, I just told him that we were a family now and that he, Antwan, and Lizzie all deserved the special things and that we would do the best we could to give them the best life possible.

He seemed satisfied with that.  He talked a little more about one of his foster sisters and how she had the same past as him.  But, by the time I got in and turned on the air, he had moved on to Spongebob on the dvd player.

When we got home, there was a package for him.  I had ordered him a wolverine costume (his pick) and he had been anxiously waiting for it.  When he opened it, he discovered that the costume included the claws (I had made sure of this.) 

"You got me the claws?!"
"Of course, you gotta have claws."
With an extremely grateful and surprised tone.  "Wow, Mom, you are really nice to me." 

This was so sweet and so sad, all at the same time.  After three years, he was still a little surprised that I would make the extra effort for him.  It felt good to be appreciated and I want him to be grateful.  I just don't want him to be surprised. 

He spent the rest of the afternoon in the costume.  At one point, he came over, unexpectedly, and hugged me. "Thank you for buying this for me."

Like I've said before, he does a really good job of pretending that nothing bothers him.  I can't imagine what it's like to be uncared for by a biological parent, in almost every possible way and then put in a foster home where he felt second best (regardless of their presumed good intentions).  Then we show up.  I have to remember that he has spent less time with us than he has in all of his previous realities, so I suppose it's hard to trust it or to break the mental cycle of before. 

But, I do love that boy.  I love the fact that he is currently sitting in a spongebob chair watching tv while wearing a wolverine costume.  I don't really love the fact that he's messing with the mask so much that it will probably rip.  But, I guess I can live with that.  Cause, he's all mine now. :) 

I love those children more than I can ever say.  At the very real risk of sounding melodramatic, I think my official purpose in life is to be their mother and to do the best job I can.  Some days, I do a pretty good job (yesterday we had a tea party).  Some days, I grumble non-stop about the toys all over the living room (actually, that was yesterday, too...).  But, they do know I love them and hopefully, that will be enough.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Raising Black Childen in a White World

iAdopting black children changes your perspective.  I find myself drawn to other black people now.  I also find myself saying things like "other black people" because I now think I am one. : )  I worry about race in a way that I didn't before.  I knew racism existed and I knew that I wasn't a racist.  But, I was white and had the luxury of not worrying about it much.  That has changed.  I think about it a lot now. 

My area is white. Really, really white.  We ended up here by sheer coincidence when we were looking for a place to live.  It was a happy coincidence, though.  My sister lives in this area and the school system is the best around  This was a really great thing since William was a little behind when he started kindergarten.  All the smarts were there, but he needed a little extra help.  And, he got it there.

I was really worried at the beginning.  There was only one other black child in his class and his grade. 
That made him very different.  But, for the most part, there turned out not to be much reason to worry.

One day, though, on the playground, a child told him that he couldn't climb on some of the playground equipment because he was brown.  To their credit, everyone at the school took it seriously and handled it well.  I got a call from the principal, advising me of the situation, apologizing, and letting me know that he would handle it.  The child was talked to, at length, and had to write an apology letter.  William moved on and I held a grudge against a 5 year old for a year.  I didn't say I handled it well. : ) 

There was one other comment that he should be going to a black school (ugh).  But, then I never heard anything else from William about any problems at school due to his race.

Until the other day...

Driving home from the store, William blurts out, "At school, someone said I look like poop, because I'm black."

I started with the popular, but not overly helpful, "Are you poop?"
"Well, there you go."

Then I started trying to think of something more helpful to say.

I later kind of wished that I had told him to tell them that they look like bird poop because they're white.  (Brian's mostly joking, initial response to me, when I told him. haha)  But, I suppose that wouldn't have been appropriate.

Then he goes on.  "And, sometimes, people say I'm not as good because I'm black.  In kindergarten, they said I should go to a black school.  And most of the kids there are white."

I started trying to cover all the angles.  Kids can sometimes be mean, but they will learn to be nicer.  You have every right to be there.  It's just a color and it's a beautiful color.  Yes, there are more white kids;  doesn't make them better, just means there are more of them.  How you feel now is why it's so important  that you never treat people this way.  etc. etc.

I discussed one of the most challenging things he'll face while navigating traffic on a busy road.

William doesn't like discussing serious topics.  This is why the heart-to-heart from the other day/two blogs ago was evcn more significant.  When we try to explain something serious to him, we usually end it with, "Do you have any questions?  Anything you don't understand?"   William will almost always say yes and then ask some version of why the sky is blue. 

I really couldn't believe he was bringing it up at all.  (I also couldn't believe he was waiting until summer when I couldn't do anything about it...) 

At the end of my hopefully inspirational, but more likely, rambling speech, he says "Mom?"

"Yes?" I say, anxiously, wondering what else he will share.

"How about we move on from this?"

"Ok" I say, totally confused, but I guess we were done.

 He then asked me to turn the music back up.  He sang along, happily.

This was so William. 

It's so hard to get in his head.  So, I might never know if I effectively reassured him, if he shut down as a defense mechanism, or if he just got bored and wanted to hear the music.  Maybe a combination of all three?

William is different, in so many ways and it's something he's going to have to deal with.  Ironically, if you get him talking about it, the fact that he's small seems to bother him more than anything else.  (Antwan is only 3 pounds less than him but 4 years younger.)

 I worry that we've made him more diffferent by adopting him.  And, well, we have.  But, I know in my heart, that those three are supposed to be with us and any other challenges that any of us face, will be worth it. 

From the beginning, we've tried to instill pride in his color.  We bought books about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.  We've talked about his skin and how pretty it is.  We've even talked about how lucky he is that he is unlikely to ever get lice. ( :

I often wonder when Antwan and Lizzie will figure out that they're black or understand what it means to be adopted. 

Brian talks to Antwan about his skin.  I've told Lizzie repeatedly how pretty her hair is (partly, in an effort to off-set all the talk she hears about me not knowing what the heck to do with it). We talk to them about being adopted and how happy we are that they are ours.  We're trying to make them aware of it without making it a constant issue.  Hopefully, we're doing a good job with that.  Only time will tell.

I can't imagine what it's like to grow up black.  Or what it's going to be like to grow up with a couple of goofy, white parents.   But, they are and they're going to. ( :   But, the one thing I know is that we're the Parkers, for better or worse.  (See! I'm goofy!) The good news is, it's mostly the better! 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

People in the real world and their questions

Perception is an interesting thing.  I live my days with three children that are so much mine, in my heart, that I practically have memories giving birth to them.  I know I didn't, though.  No need to be concerned for my grasp on reality. : )  I don't dwell on the fact that they're adopted much unless I'm reminded.  Well, that's not true, exactly.  I do dwell on it, in a way, because I am so amazed at how the universe brought them to me.  And, how my tears at not being pregnant, month after month, were actually necessary evils so that we would go looking for them. 

When we go out, I'm often asked questions about our family.  I don't have the ability, if I wanted to, to hide the fact that they're not biological.  I'm one pale chick and I've got 3 beautiful, black children.  The boys are darker and Lizzie is a little lighter.  So, maybe Lizzie could be mistaken as mixed, but not a chance with the boys.  So, people sometimes ask.  And, I don't mind.  I feel it's an opportunity to try to educate and encourage others to make the same choice that we did. 

The only thing that I do mind is when phrases such as "real mom and dad" are used.  Because that just hurts.  I am fully aware that I didn't give birth to these children.  But, in our situation, that's pretty much the only good thing the biological mother ever did.  (Forgive the anger.)  That makes her the biological mother, but I'm the mom. 

I've blogged about this topic before and I'm sure I'm repeating myself a little.  But, it's a recurring topic.  So, I guess this is a recurring blog.  ( :

I've made a promise to myself that I am not going to let it pass anymore.  I truly believe that no harm is intended in these situations, but if I don't speak up, who will?  And, as the kids get older, hearing these things, will just give them one more thing to be confused about.

Yesterday, we were playing at the mall play area.  Somehow I ended up in a conversation with another mom.  She knew that Lizzie, who was staying close, was my daughter.  Then the boys came by. So, she asked "All three are yours?"  I told her that they were and waited to see what she would ask next, because they always ask another question.

"Do they all have the same daddy?" 

Well, this was new.  But, I was determined not to let the moment pass, so I said "Yes, my husband.  We adopted them.  So, he's their father."  I think (actually, I know) that my attempt at calmly correcting her came out more angry and ticked off than constructive.  I really felt bad about that, but, there it was. 

Then she said, "Oh, they're adopted?  I totally thought they were completely from you."

It was then that I realized that she was not asking an intrusive question about the adoption or trying to take away Brian's title.  She had no idea that they were adopted and just figured my children have a black father or two or three.  (Well, they do have black biological fathers, but you get the point..). 

I didn't know how to respond.  It was a little funny.  It was a little embarrassing.  It was a little rude.  It was a little cool that she thought they were biological.  And, it was definitely not the conversation that I expected to be having.

I'm used to people wondering about the adoption and I think it's important that the kids hear me talk about the fact that we adopted them and understand that it's totally normal, ok, and definitely nothing to be ashamed of.  But, wondering how many baby's daddies I have?  That I wasn't ready for. ( :

I can add it to the list of things that I didn't expect when I thought I knew what to expect.  I definitely don't hold the monopoly on unexpected parental experiences. ( :  But, these are the experiences in our reality.

Wherever we go, people will notice us.  Sometimes, people will ask us questions.  Sometimes, people will compliment us (that's way more than sometimes).  And, sometimes, people will ask me how many different dads my children have.  I've learned my lesson on that one.  Next time, I'll just say one.  Yes, they all have the same daddy.  Because they do.  And, he's pretty awesome. ( : 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adopting foster children and their issues.

He was born 3.5 pounds, 6 weeks premature, at home.  He had crack in his system.  The biological mother was allowed to go home with him because she was cooperative and, therefore, it was labeled "low-risk."  Two years later, he was put into foster care, with his three siblings, when it was obvious that it was not, in fact, low risk.  He was a foster child until he was five years old.

Then we met him.  And, were thrilled at the chance to adopt him and Antwan! 
(This is the first picture that we were shown.)

Today, William is a happy, goofy, silly boy who drives me crazy on a daily basis.  This, I've learned, is his job as my son.  He puts on a good show and it is way too easy for me to forget his past.  And the fact that it still affects him.

When you adopt a child, you want it to be easy.  Of course you do and that's ok.  Why wouldn't you?  The trick is to be willing to do the work when you have to face that's it's not.  We knew it wouldn't be easy, we did our research, we thought.

When we met William, we were amazed at how well-adjusted he was, despite what he had gone through.  He seemed so happy and quick to bond.  This was something that I said to my friends when telling them about him.  These assessments of his personality really show how naive we were.  We understood that kids in foster care would have issues.  We had talked about it and researched it.  But, we thought that somehow we had hit the jackpot and gotten the one kid who had seen it all, but really didn't care all that much, because now we had swooped in and saved him!  Naive.  But, we learned.

It's true that he was a generally happy kid, but some of the bouncy enthusiasm was due to undiagnosed ADHD which probably drove his apathetic foster parents crazy.  He did bond with us, but he was in tears just a few days ago, because he still wonders if he'll have to one day leave us.

William doesn't like change.  He never has.  At the end of kindergarten and 1st grade, he wet his pants "accidently" (a defense mechanism that he utilized way too many times).  After all, it was the one thing that he could control.

This year, he didn't seem to have any interest in following rules.  He was breaking basic rules for no apparent reason.  I felt like I was losing my mind.  Finally, it dawned on Brian that it was the end of the year and this might be his new way of responding to it. It made me feel a little better to realize that, but not particularly less frustrated.

The next night, at bedtime, I said, in my full-on, weary, mom tone, "If you're freaking out about school ending, this is not the way to deal with it."  He instantly broke down into tears.  Having trouble switching gears (like I said, he was driving me crazy), I muttered something unhelpful and left the room.  It took me just a couple of seconds to realize what I had just done and the damage that could cause.  I broke down into tears, too, swallowed my pride and when in to talk to him.

And, we talked and talked.  We started with talking about the fact that school was going to end, no matter what he did, and what he could control was his reaction to it and how breaking our rules, doesn't make things better.  We moved onto how change scares him and his memories of his time in foster care.  He told me that he went to a bunch of different foster homes to see if they could be his family.  In reality, I think it was actually respite care (temporary care while regular foster parents go out of town, etc).  But, really all that matters is that he thinks that he was rejected by several families.  No wonder he didn't really believe us when we said that we wanted him to be our son forever.  He admitted that he still worries that he'll have to leave.  After all this time, he doesn't get that it's forever.  That just broke my heart. 

A couple weeks after we got the boys, we moved.  When Brian told William that we were moving to another house, he said "But, I want to move with you."  We emphaticlly explained that he was.  That seemed so sad.  Three years later, that seems somewhat minor or unsurprising, compared to the fact that he still has that fear.

I didn't know how to make him feel better.  I said all kinds of reassuring things.  I told him how much I loved him.  And how I wish I had gotten him from the very beginning.  I said all kinds of things and gave all kinds of kisses.  But, is it enough?  I don't know.

I compare William to a bucket with a hole, in the bottom.  It doesn't seem to matter how much I put in there, it always leaks out.  I can only hope that the hole gets smaller over time.

I do know a few things.  I know that I love him.  I know that I love him so much that my eyes are welling up as I type this.  I know that he has added an unbelievable amount of joy to my life.  I know that even if he always has emotional scars (and I'm guessing he will) that he is better off with us than in foster care.  I know that he is where he belongs and that I was meant to be his mom, just like I was meant to be the mom of Antwan and Lizzie.  I know that I don't regret a thing. 

When explaining to him that it doesn't matter how mad I get at him or how mad he gets at me, we are a family forever; I said "I would rather fight with you every day, then not have you at all."  (This was too complicated a statement and required a few minutes of clarification. But, hey, I was trying every different way that I could think of to drive the point home.)  But, the point was, that I really would rather fight with him everyday than not have him at all.  But, fingers crossed that I won't have to fight with him everyday, because my strong-willed, afraid of nothing, Lizzie is getting older and older and I'm gonna need some energy left for that. : )

It's easier for Antwan and Lizzie.  And, it will always be easier raising them.  But, it doesn't make it better.  Just easier.  Good thing I like a challenge! :)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Antwan's Got The Whole Situation Under Control.

Antwan's at a tricky age.  He knows he's a kid, but he doesn't want to be treated like one.  Actually, he's always been like that, so maybe it's just that he's tricky.  He doesn't find anything more frustrating than feeling like he's not being listened to.  He has somehow picked this up from Brian. ( :  "Because I said so" is no more effective on Antwan than it would be on Brian.

On numerous occasions, Antwan has lowered his voice, told me to calm down, and explained his point of view when I was expressing my disapproval over any given situation.  He truly believes that once I understand what's going on, all will be well.  But, of course, I really don't want to know why he has water all over the floor or why his clothes are off or why the toothpaste is on the bathroom wall, I just want him to stop. 

Antwan couldn't possibly love Lizzie more and puts up with a lot from her.  I have no doubt that he always will.  But, he really hates it when she yells at him.  And, she does yell.  We've successfully filled her adorable head with enough self confidence to tell any of us exactly what she's thinking at any given time.  So, she does.

I think it really hurts his feelings when she yells at him.  Often, he will break down into tears and come to me for a hug as he explains that Lizzie yelled at him. 

Lately, armed with his belief that we are partners and co-parents to Lizzie, he's been trying another tactic. 

The other day, I hear Lizzie yelling.  Then I hear Lizzie crying.  Then I hear William - "Mom!!  Antwan hit Lizzie!"  So I yell "Antwan!  Get in here!" 

When he comes in, I launch into "You do not hit Lizzie..."  But, I didn't get any farther.
Antwan - "Mommy!  Mommy!  (He put his finger on my mouth.)  Now you just calm down.  Lizzie yelled at me, so I hit her.  (He paused, seemingly for effect).  She shouldn't yell at me."

Now what do you do with that??  I tried, desperately, to regain some appearance of being the parent in the room and explained that I would talk to her about yelling, but it was never ok to hit her. 

So, it happened again.  Same basic scenario.  I hear her yelling.  I'm heading to his room where they are theoretically playing.  Before I get there, she starts to cry and comes running to show me her hurt finger, screaming "Antwan hit me!" I go to talk to Antwan.  He tells me to calm down again and explains again that she yelled at him.  I explain again that we don't hit. 

Antwan - "She yelled at me,"
Me, trying another angle, "Antwan, you can't ever hit Lizzie.  She's just a baby."
Antwan - "Yeah.  She's a baby who hit me."
Me - "Well, yes, but" I stammered.

I really have no idea what I said next.  But, it must have been somewhat effective because I don't think he's hit her since.  Or, more likely, he decided based on his own conclustions that it wasn't the way to handle it.  He is the co-parent, after all. ( :

Monday, May 9, 2011

Three Years ago, we adopted our sons!

Three years ago, today, on May 9, 2008, our adoption of William and Antwan was finalized.  They came to live with us on February 15th, but, on this day, it was made official and legal!

It was a special, monumental day.  And, at the same time, it was like any other day when you have children: complicated, frustrating, exhausting, amazing, and extremely fulfilling. 

In anticipation of the day, I had carefully planned the boys' outfits.  Being a former fashion-obsessed club-goer who turned into an it's only-a-little-wrinkled and basically-matches mom; I was very concerned that they looked nice for the ceremony.  They needed black dress shoes, but money was tight.  (Adding 2 boys to a family will do that to you!), so I scoured the consignment shops until I found shoes in their sizes.  I found William's shoes right away, Antwan's, for whatever reason, were harder to find.  But, I did.  Success! :)

Because it was so close to Mothers Day, we were going to take part in the Annual Mothers Day finalization "extravaganza."  Instead of just our family, friends, and a judge (like Lizzie's, later), it was going to be many, many families all finalizing on the same day.  That turned out to be a really wonderful thing to take part in.

As a perpetually late person, I tried very, very hard to be ready on time.  And I was.  But, I soon was reminded why Brian likes to leave extra early, in case something goes wrong.  Because something went wrong.

On the way, to save time (irony!), we ran through the Burger King drive-thru.  We ordered our food, got trapped in between cars, and learned that the computers were down and everything was being done by hand.  (On a super relevant side-note, our car at the time, was having issues with over-heating if it idled too long.)  So, we sat there in line (at least 20 minutes), unable to get out, and watched the little arrow go up and up.  We eventually got our order, which turned out to be wrong, and headed to the nearest store to buy radiator fluid (or whatever you buy when cars overheat!) and wait for the car to cool down.

With the car over-heated, us at least 30 minutes from the court house, and the ceremony starting in 30 minutes; it wasn't looking good.  I started frantically making calls.  None of my professional contacts were reachable, but my family was.  Because, you see, my parents left super early and did not stop for lunch.  Eventually, my parents tracked down the judge's secretary and we were told to keep coming and they'd work us in.  Yay! 

Good news, but we were still stuck in the Food Lion parking lot with an over-heated, but very sporty Mustang.  I don't remember how long it took to cool down, it seemed like such an eternity, but we finally started driving again, while anxiously watching the temperature gauge.

We finally made it!  The ceremony was only about half-way through.  We found our family, sat down, and tried to decompress.  Decompressing is slightly challenging when you're in a crowded room and have been freaking out for an hour and a half.  But, really, I was just happy.  I was so happy to be there and so excited to finally, truly, officially, legally, become a mom. 

Nothing else mattered.  Not the car, not the money issues, not the run in my hose, nothing.

Then Brian pointed out that Antwan only had one shoe on.  Ok, that mattered a little.  We looked all over, but didn't find the shoe until we went back to the car, later.  Oh well, my boy became a Parker, wearing only one shoe.  In hindsight, that seems about right.  :)

It was a typical day in our life.  Things went wrong, things went right.  It's not easy, it's not normal, but always, always worth it.
I don't have the words for how lucky I feel to have these boys in my life.  My life is the opposite of everything that I expected it to be.  I never thought I wouldn't be able to get pregnant (What the heck?  My sister had 4 kids!).  And, I definitely never expected to become a "local trans-racial family" (as they called us on the news).  Well, maybe it's not the complete opposite, though.  I expected to be madly in love with my children.  And, I am.  And, as much as I wish I could've skipped the heartache of trying to have a child, I know that it had to be that way.  If we had biological children, I don't know if we would've thought about adopting. And, that was how it was supposed to be.  And, if we hadn't wanted children so badly, would we appreciate them as much as we do? 

So, we left that day, parents to William and Antwan.  We felt completely fulfilled.  And, we were.  Little did we know that Lizzie was on the way to fulfill us even more and would be with us in 4 short (hectic) months.  That was also a happy, crazy, things-going-wrong, things-going-right, kind-of day, but that's for another blog.  :) 

This is a video of us of the finalization. :)  (Thanks to Jennice for filming it!)