Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What Do You Have Against Peace and Love?

“Sometimes people are just jerks.”  These are the not so deep or overly-thought out words that I said to my kids on Sunday.  It’s simple, but true.  “Sometimes people do mean things for no good reason.”  In hind-sight, I’m not sure what a good reason for being mean is...

I said this because when we got to our van after spending the afternoon at the zoo, I saw that someone had ripped off my new Batman sticker.  It said (with symbols) “Peace, love, and Batman.” I thought it was awesome when I saw it on ebay and thought it was the perfect way to make my mini-van a little more me and to represent my new found obsessive love of Batman without being too extreme.  I still want to fit in at the school parent pick-up line, after all... ;)

I had gotten the sticker, just a few days ago, and proudly put it on my window, across from the elementary school magnet. 

So, when I saw my sticker ripped off and thrown on the ground, it stung a little. 
Re-enactment in my yard!

The really strange thing is that they very carefully took off only the peace symbol and the heart, but left the Bat symbol.  It is so perfectly done, they must’ve had a razor blade.  Apparently, the jerk had issue with peace and love, but Batman’s ok.  Strange.

The boys were upset.  Why would someone do this, they kept asking.  I started with “sometimes people are just jerks.”  And, then realized that I, at least, had an opportunity for a life lesson.  I said that most people are nice, but sometimes there are people that will do mean things for no good reason.  I told them that I knew they would never do something like that (finger crossed!) and that’s because they are better than that. 

After talking about it for a few minutes, I got in the van and discovered that there was a wet diaper stuck under my windshield wiper.  Seriously?  That's extra disturbing since that meant they had a child who must’ve seen them mess with my van.  Sad.

The boys had more questions after that, but I really didn’t have any better answers.  

William wanted to call the police, but I explained that they really couldn’t do anything about it and would have no way of knowing who did it.

Then, Antwan said “I’ve got an idea. What about the superheroes?”

I was confused.  "What?"

“We can go home and get our superhero costumes and come back and get them.” 

(We actually do all have superhero/crime-fighter costumes.  And, yes, Batman is involved…)

I told him it was a great idea and briefly (maybe not that briefly) fantasized about taking on the bad guys of the world as Batgirl.  :)

And, then we headed home. 

On the way home, Antwan was getting antsy.  He is a good boy, but he is also a 5 year old who has a low tolerance for being hungry or tired.  And, we had been at the zoo (and then, the “crime scene!) for a long time. 

I hear him say “I’m getting hungry and bored.  I feel like I’m going to do something mean to William.” 

In my distraction and confusion about whether he really just said that, I don’t think I actually responded.

Sure enough, in a couple of minutes, William yells “Ow! Antwan!?  Mom, he flicked his straw at me!”

(Well, he did warn us…)

I turned around (stop light) and said “Antwan, you know the people who ripped up our sticker?  They were being mean like you are being to William.  There’s no reason for that.  You’re better than that, aren’t you?”

He looked at me and I could practically see the light go on and he proudly said “Yes.”  From that point on, he made the extra effort to be nice to William.  There’s the silver lining!

There are way worse things that could happen to a person and way worse things that do happen.  But, it was not nice and it’s such a shame that someone took the time to do something so random and mean. 

I hope that my kids learned something from it and, I hope it prepared them for future random acts of meanness.  Because they’ll happen.

In the meantime, I’m going to order myself another Batman sticker, ponder how the Super-Parkers could help save the world, and, always, always keep in mind, the wise words that Brian spoke to me, via text, “I guess the lesson learned is, don’t park next to the Joker at the zoo.”  Indeed! J

Watch out, meanies!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Does Counseling Work?

There are two clocks in his office.  Neither one works.  One is missing a hand and the other is stuck on 3:00.  I'm watching him type on his computer, wondering what time it is, wishing I wasn't so hungry, and watching William wonder why he's here.  I'm kind of wondering the same thing.

After going back and forth between not knowing how to go about it and just plain stalling, we finally started William in counseling. 

I can't say that I have a lot of faith in counseling.  There's no denying it has helped people, but I gotta admit I'm skeptical.  What I do know is that my Mom didn't think counseling was helpful because they blamed her for all of my sister's problems.  And, when I went to counseling because I was depressed, they offered me Prozac on the first visit.  I thought that was disturbing, but I was also in my 20's, so I said yes.  Then, when we sent William to talk to the school counselor she bribed him with a prize for every week that he didn't steal something.  Wait, what??

Despite all this, I know that my child has stuff in his head that I don't understand.  And I know that my child has stuff in his head that he doesn't understand .  Between his foster care memories and his ADHD, he has a healthy amount of angst that he tries to hide and does plenty to make us a little crazy.  Sometimes a lot crazy.  So, with this in mind, I made the appointment.

We've been 3 times.  A lot of the time has been spent gathering history and working on a treatment plan.  Some of the time has been spent talking about the birth parents (when he wasn't in the room) who I would like to pretend aren't relevent.  But, of course, they are.

I did have a personal victory, though. When he asked about William's Daddy, I told him that it was Brian.  Before he had time to get confused, I added that I didn't know who the birth father was, though.  He smiled with understanding and I silently praised myself for not letting the moment pass.

So, here we sit.  He asks a question.  William answers in mono-syllables or looks at him in confusion as if he's speaking French; a response that I've become very familiar with.  I clarify.  He types for a few minutes.  The cycle continues.  Then he leaves the room to get the treatment plan off the printer,  When he's gone, I tell William to relax and answer his questions.  I tell him that's he's not in trouble and he only wants to help.  William says ok and starts to pretend that his hand is a bomb.  Not quite what I had in mind, but, at least, he's relaxed...  I look at the scale by the door and wonder if it would be weird if I were to hop up and weigh myself.  Because, even though, I should be focused on the situation, I'm wondering if the Publix scale that I've been using is accurate and I've been trying hard to lose weight. 

He comes back and asks a question.  William answers in a few more syllables and he types for a few minutes.  Then he leaves the room to get the revised treatment plan off the printer.  I jump up and go to the scale.  Its calibration is off and it sits at 10 pounds so I prepare for a high number.  I hop on the scale.  It goes up to 30 and stops.  So, according to this scale, I weigh 20 pounds.  I sigh and sit back down.  I tell William that he's doing a good job, think about how hungry I am, and smile as the counselor comes back in and asks a question...

I'm trying to keep an open mind.  He tells me that you have to treat the parent to treat the child.  He says the parent has to learn how to deal with the child.  Just fix him, I irrationally scream in my head.  Despite the internal screams, I do partly agree with the concept.  I don't have all the answers and I certainly don't understand ADHD, even though I live with it everyday.  But, I must be kind of smart because he hasn't told me anything yet that I don't already know. 

Don't yell at a child who is having a tantrum.  Don't get frustrated when it takes him longer than it should to do something.  Don't call it stealing when he takes food from his own kitchen but without asking.

I know these things.  I'm not going to pretend like I never broke any of these rules because, on occasion, I have.  But still I know.

I sit there, thinking that I could have read this stuff on the internet. In fact, I have read this stuff on the internet.  I wish that I was home, doing something more enjoyable on my 8th wedding anniversary. And, still wondering what my actual weight is.  But, I look at William and think about what he's been through and what we've been through with him and know that I would do anything for him.  So, I remind myself to keep an open mind.  Open mind, Emily, open mind.

We sign the treatment plan. I make another appointment for the next week.  I reluctantly sign up for the parent support group. 

The support group actually sounds like a good idea and it would be interesting to meet other parents with kids who have ADHD.  But, I know I can't reliably attend on a weekly basis.  Yet, when I told him that I didn't know if I could commit because Brian's schedule changes weekly and Jennice's (unofficially my nanny/officially one of my best friends) schedule changes weekly.  So, if I can only bring William, then I don't know if I could arrange childcare for Lizzie and Antwan every week.  Yes, my sister lives nearby but she works a lot and has a lot on her plate, already.  Yes, my parents live nearby, but the kids are a bit hard for them to handle alone.  (I know because they told me so.)  So, no, I don't want to ask them.

But, he tells me that I should make it a priority and should just take them to my parents since it would only be a couple of hours and it's so important. I say ok, resent the implication that I didn't think it was important, and sign up; but have no intention of putting my parents in that position.  I just want to go home.

So, I did. 

I went home and felt a little more patient with William.  Maybe talking to the counselor helped. Maybe knowing that his behaviors are typical helped.  Maybe the fact that he said ADHD kids don't have empathy, but my William does, helped.  Maybe knowing that I already had the right ideas about a lot of stuff helped. 

Or maybe finally getting something to eat helped. 

Regardless, we'll go back next week and I'll have a snack beforehand.  I'll find a reliable scale and maybe wear a watch.  And, we'll just see how it goes.

Because William is worth it.

Showing off his All About Me board at school.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Would This Happen If My Child Was White?

One thing that I have learned is that when you adopt transracially, it's going to be different.  There are things that I have learned about being black and things that I've learned about being the mother of a black child.  I've learned that even the most well intentioned person will make a prejudiced statement and that there are preconcieved notions in most people.  But, I've also learned that people, in mass, just don't care. 

I've learned, but really should've already realized that it won't be obvious to everyone that we are, in fact, related; even though to some it will be clear.  As I go around town, I assume everyone knows, but that's not always the case.  It's easy to forget.

I was reading an interesting blog post, the other day,  and it got me thinking.  It reminded me that this is my reality and it isn't and will never be typical.  And, it reminded me of an experience that we had about two years ago.

It was spring break and we were heading to Orlando.  The children were much younger. 

William was awesome, but prone to tantrums and still struggling with not wetting his pants.

Antwan was adorable and very busy.

And, Lizzie wasn't technically "Lizzie."  She wasn't officially ours, had a different legal name and we had to get permission from the birth parents to take her on the trip at all.  And she was amazing.

So, after two days of theme parks, we decided to check out downtown Disney.  We were taking a day off from the big theme parks and were trying to have a day to recuperate before the Magic Kingdom, the next day.  It didn't work out that way. 

We rode a boat across the little lake and when we got off the boat, I looked at William and saw that he had wet his pants.  He was totally soaked.  I was just beside myself.  See, William was going back and forth between legitimate accidents and deliberately wetting his pants to regain control of a situation.  But, he was hanging out on a cool boat, had gone potty recently, and had not mentioned needing to go!?!  We couldn't fathom why it was happening.  He pretended that he didn't know he was wet.  And, I pretended that I wasn't furious.  Oh, wait, no I didn't.  I was really frustrated.  Whether or not I should've been doesn't really matter now, no one really remembers my reaction.  It was soon the least interesting thing happening.  Anyway, I told him that we had to leave since he now needed dry clothes and he promptly started to scream.

That's when Brian stepped in, took William's hand, and said "let's go."  One of my all-time regrets will always be that I misunderstood what his intentions were.  I thought he was taking William aside to lecture him and get him under control.  But, what he was doing was trying to get us out of the park and William into clean clothes as quickly as possible.  This would take awhile as we were basically as far away from our parked car as we could be.  So, I stopped walking and gave him the space that he didn't want.

As they walked off, I stopped and let the babies play with Legos.  I chatted with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law who had taken the trip with us.  I tried to make the best out of a bad situation.  And, just waited for Brian to call.  Well, he called.

When he did, I found out that things were anything but the best out of bad situation.  While I was clapping for Antwan who had built a lego tower, Brian was going through hell.

As Brian tried to walk William out of the park, Willam started to officially tantrum.  He refused to walk, so Brian had to carry him.  He kicked and screamed and yelled "I want my Mommy!"  People started to look.  People started to stare.  People started to chase him.  Then a large man who could've easily hurt Brian...a lot; stepped forward and said.  "Stop right there.  I believe you are abducting this child."  That's when Brian turned around and saw an angry mob of about 30 people following behind and ready to intervene and he realized that things could quickly get out of control.

That's when Downtown Disney security took over.      

When Brian called me, he was with both the Orange County police and the Disney police and he said he needed me to come immediately.  I left the kids with the in-laws and rushed to the other side of downtown Disney.  In hind-sight, I should've brought them because it would've quickly made it obvious that William was with us.  But, I didn't. 

ID's were run, William, Brian, and I were all questioned separately, and Brian and I quietly panicked.  We didn't have any proof that William was our son.  Why would we?  But, we found ourselves having to prove it, anyway.

Luckily, Brian was able to keep calm and explain that he was his father and his son was simply having a tantrum. Extremely luckily, William was able to calm down and confirm that he was having a tantrum and Brian was his dad. .

When I was taken aside, I told them the same thing that Brian and William had already told them.

In the end, it was pretty obvious to everyone that nothing was going on.  And, they let us all go.

The police were just doing their job and, thankfully, they did it well.

I'm sure it's not surprising to anyone that the Magic Kingdom didn't seem so magical with the emotions of the day before still with us. 

This was the first time that I really realized how having black children when you are white could affect things.  And, it hurt my heart.  It was also when I realized that people as a mass will step in and try to help, as unnecessary as it was.  It took me a long time to see the good in that.  But, it is good.

Brian has said that the only thing missing from the mob scene were pitchforks and torches.  He had nightmares for weeks.  I can only imagine what it must have felt like to be chased, confronted, and questioned.  All because he was removing his child from a situation while ignoring a tantrum, just like you are supposed to do.  Well, we can add it to the list of things that wouldn't have happened if our children were white.  It's just not fair.  But, it's life.  Ours, anyway.

It's not as simple when you are transracial.  There are issues that we have encountered and will, in the future.  As I've said before, I try to have a sense of humor about it.  (Although, this memory will probably never be funny and will always haunt us.)  But, I try to prepare myself for the future, whatever it may bring.

With all the issues, preconceived notions, unusualness, and drama; do I regret adopting them?  I think we all know the answer to that.  Just look at them!