Monday, October 7, 2013

You Don't Have To Be Perfect To Adopt A Teenager. Got That Covered.

Why don't people want to adopt teenagers? Is it because my teenager got mad at me several times the other day for reasons that didn't seem reasonable to me (but obviously to him)? Is it because they come with memories and issues and firmly established personalities? Is it because it's harder to entertain them? Is it because they are more expensive, eat all of your food, and change their opinion of things every 5 seconds? 


Is it because they are typical, normal teenagers, but with extra baggage?  Is it because if you adopt a teenager, you are expected to jump right into the tumultuous waters that a typical parent usually has time to ease into?


So, when people think it will be harder, they are right.   When they think that it will be frustrating to deal with issues that are not your fault, they are right.

I've been trying to post this blog for a couple of weeks.  When I initially wrote it, I was feeling introspective and positive; despite the fact that he wasn't speaking to me at the time. :) But, when I went back to proof it and post, I was feeling less optimistic and kind of scared that this was going to be a disaster.  So, I changed it.  Then when I went to proof and post that one, I was feeling better!  So, I changed it again.  I don't know what was frustrating me more.  The fact that his moodiness was affecting our home life or that his moodiness was affecting my blogging.  haha.

Then, this morning, it occurred to me.  This is what it is.  It is ridiculous of me to expect all of his days to be good.  And, it is likely that I'm not noticing that William, Antwan, and Lizzie are having good and bad days because I'm so focused on his. 

Patrick has been with us since the end of June. We've been through a lot, but I am aware that it could be worse.   He hasn't tried to burn the house down (he has stuck with the occasional burning of scrambled eggs).  He hasn't attacked the dog or stolen our money.   In fact, he has been fairly wonderful.

In the past month or so, I think we hit the "honeymoon is over" phase.  I want to say that it's just him that shifted, but, in reality, I probably did, too.  He has seemed moodier, grumpier, less patient, and sometimes, just unpleasant.  But, truth be told, I've also been moodier, grumpier, less patient, and, although it seems unlikely, haha, maybe a little unpleasant.  I'd like to say that all my emotions are a response to his, but I'm guessing there's some kind of wacky give and take.  Last week, he bent over backwards to be nice to me when I was feeling stressed.  Today, he's gone to his room twice because I apparently offended him; even though, I've been making an effort to be nice and pleasant. 

I just think, now that it's getting closer to finalization, there's a little bit of a worry (on both sides) that things won't stay the way that they were or that we'll change.  And, therefore, they are.  Or maybe this is just part of it all.  Who knows?  I try to look back on the transition with William.  I remember feeling some similar emotions and concerns, but when it comes down to it, it's just different with a younger child (he was five).

If Patrick's worrying about things changing, it's understandable. In his former adoption, that's what happened. By all accounts, his adoptive parents changed as soon as they finalized.   They went from forming a family unit to leaving him at home while they took their biological daughters out on outings, feeding him separately, and locking him in his room at night.   So, yeah, it makes sense if he has fears.

One night, several weeks ago, I tried to talk to him about it.   As we were in the kitchen, I said to him, "You know, we're not going to change, right? After we finalize..."   Patrick responded, dismissively, with a grin, "I know, I know."   Translation: I don't want to talk about it.  :)

And, I thought he meant it, but now I think I'm wrong.  I think that he isn't nearly as secure as he wants to be and wants us to believe.  And, who could blame him?  So many people have let him down.  It makes sense that he's sensitive to whether he's getting enough attention.  Or whether my tone is positive enough when he asks me a question.  Or whether I answer his voice fast enough when everyone is talking to me at once.  Or whether I can stay awake, too, when I let him stay up a little later because it's a Saturday night. 

It makes sense,  but it doesn't make it easier for me. 

He's spent a lot of time (from my perception) accusing me of not taking his opinions into account, not listening, and just plain being unfair.

I've spent a lot of time telling him that I'm sorry, that I very much care how he feels, or explaining that sometimes he has to just go with the flow and do what I need him to do because I'm mom.   My other favorite response is to remind him that we're both still trying to figure it all out.

AdoptUSkids has a slogan.  "You don't have to be a perfect to be a perfect parent.  There are thousands of teens in foster care who don't need perfection, they need you."  Well, I definitely am not perfect and, neither is he.  So, I guess that works out. :)

No, I'm not perfect. But, I'm the one who tucks him in at night. And, we're the ones who nag him about his homework. I'm the one who he has been forbidden to volunteer at his school, but I'm still the one who was willing.   And, Brian is the one who has him doing wacky impressions of famous people.   Could someone tell me how to make that stop, by the way?  ;)

No, he's not perfect.   But, he's the one who rushed over from across the street when the power went out in the neighborhood to make sure that we were ok.   He's the one who helps me with the groceries.   He's the one who proudly calls me his mom in public.   He's the one who wants me to tuck him in at night and secretly loves that someone cares if he does his homework. (Maybe love is a strong word.)  And, he's the one who makes the effort to speak in a gentler tone to William, Antwan, and Lizzie because we asked him to.

So why should people adopt teenagers when it is clearly more of a challenge?  Simple.  Because they are children who deserve homes.   They have been wounded by the world and some of the people in it.  And, they deserve to be happy.  Because our children in our country are growing up without actual families and that's not ok.

Since he came to us. His grades have improved.  Moodiness aside, he seems happier.  And, I hope his personal self worth has improved.   Being in a stable home is why he has a better chance at a successful future.   And, in our case, being in a home with three of his siblings is why he will have less of a hole in his heart from now on.  And, when I watch him wrestle with Antwan or strawberry Lizzie's belly, I know this is an absolute good.  

And, I have noticed that there are a lot of advantages to having a teenager. And, it's not just that I have someone to help with groceries or bring me a Cherry Coke at bedtime.  He does both of those things, though, without being asked.  :) 

What I love is the relationship that you can have with a teenager.   Hearing how his mind works. Watching him learn.   Cooking dinner together.  Seeing him play with his siblings and make up for the times when he didn't get the chance to play with them hen he was younger.  It all kind of rocks.

The other night, Brian noticed that there was a new "Teen Titans Go" on that we hadn't seen. He immediately paused it.  In minutes, the kids had brought out blankets, turned out the lights, and we all watched the show together.   Patrick was right there, laughing with us, because the show is hilarious. I looked around the living room that was cluttered with toys, blankets, random snack cake wrappers that no one seems to know how to throw away, and smiling faces; and I felt happy.

So, here's me; officially trying to stop taking things so personally (Brian's advice), be a little more patient, and try a little harder.  Because he deserves that and so do William, Antwan, and Lizzie, for that matter.

And, when I get mad and frustrated and scared that it's always going to be so hard, it's not going to be so easy to do all those smart things that I just wrote.  So, that's when I'm going to try to take a page from Patrick's book.  Here comes a page from Patrick's book!

It was morning time and he was not speaking to me because I snapped at him.  It happens.  I'm not proud of it, but it's not easy for me to stay chilled while trying to get 4 kids to school in the morning.  I had apologized, but hadn't quite been forgiven yet.  But, when I asked him if he wanted to go along on the boys' eye doctor visit (after school) or stay home.  He only pondered it briefly and said "I'll come along.  Because, even though, I'm very mad at you right now, I still want to be with you."

As much as I hate to admit that I kind of got schooled by the 13 year old (Am I too old to say "schooled?"), there it is.  So, if he can be so unconditionally committed to this crazy family, so can I. :)