Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Protecting My Sensitive Child

There are many difficult things about being a parent.  Watching your child suffer while feeling powerless to stop it ranks up there.  William has always had it rough.  Rough compared to his siblings, rough compared to his friends, and rough, in general. 

He lives in a house with an older brother who is naturally good at everything, a little brother who is stronger and faster than him, and a little sister who believes (quite correctly) that she is in charge of the whole Parker show.  Meanwhile, William is socially awkward, struggles with ADHD, has bad vision, and just can't quite find his place in the world.  Having said that, he's a pretty awesome kid with lots of awesome thoughts.  But, all too often, the other stuff overshadows that. 

Way too many of his days lately have gone like this.  Lizzie complains about absolutely everything that he does.  He breathes wrong.  He looks at her wrong.  He thinks wrong.  She's relentless.  And, yes, I am redirecting this.  But, I haven't found a brilliant way to make her stop yet.  And, of course, moments after she gives him a hard time, they are playing together.  Because she's 6 and isn't really trying to hurt him.  She's just figuring out her way.  But, still, it does hurt him.  So, such is life.  Then, Kaleb accuses him of things.  And, it won't matter if he didn't do it.  His previous lies continue to haunt him.  Most recently, he was trying to figure out how Frank the pug got out of his room.  William said that he didn't let him out.  Well, William was the only one who could have let him out.  Ignoring the obvious question of who cares who let Frank out, the conversation continued because we all assume that William is lying.  It's a hard habit to break.  Kaleb gets frustrated, William gets defensive and deflated.  And, I just wish that we could all get along.  Sometimes I think that William doesn't always remember what he does or doesn't do.  (That's scary on a different level.)  I have come to this brilliant conclusion because that's what he told me.  I asked him, later, about Frank.  I told him that it really didn't matter and he wasn't in trouble, I just didn't want him to lie about it.  He quietly said that he didn't remember.  And, I believe that.  I can't always remember why I walk into a room.  I told him just to say that from now on.  I later explained this to Kaleb.  This paired with the story that I'm about to tell you seems to have made an impact.  Because Kaleb has been making an effort to be patient ever since.  Kaleb, if you're reading this, thank you.  And, please don't stop because I pointed it out. ;)   

Anyway, because of his stress level and his unhealthy habit of internalizing everything, when I legitimately redirect something that he really shouldn't be doing, he gets really upset and gives me an attitude.  Then I give him a hard time for giving me an attitude.  This is reasonable, but solves nothing.  The other night after I called him on giving me a tone, he said with desperate frustration in his voice, "I'm sorry, it's just that Lizzie keeps yelling at me for everything."

I looked at my son and I could just see him crumbling inside.  And, it broke my heart. 

So, not long after that, I finally got William, Antwan, and Lizzie to bed.  I had let them stay up later than normal and instead of being tired, they were fairly wired.  But, I did get them to bed and since they were all having a sleep-over in one room, it didn't stay quiet for long.  

That's when I tried to do the most challenging thing that a mom can do.  I tried to go to the bathroom.  I will never understand how so many interesting or terrible things can happen when I try to take a moment.  So, really, I blame myself for what happened next.

It was just moments after I entered my sanctuary before I hear yelling and the dreaded "I'm going to tell Mom!"  Then Lizzie was outside the bathroom door saying "William jumped on my head!!"  Followed by an exhausted and desperate - "No, I didn't!" from William.

For the love of God!

I came racing out and launched into a lecture. 

I told them that at some point, they had to stop attacking William and start looking out for him.  He is their brother and, no, he is not perfect and, yes, he has made mistakes, but he is their brother. 

I used expressions like "he is all messed up and he needs you" that I don't normally use in these situations, but I thought might make more sense to Lizzie.

"At some point, you have got to start to taking care of William and stop attacking him."

"William can't possibly be wrong all the time about everything.  He can't take everyone coming after him.  He has issues! 

(To Kaleb) "I am glad that you handle your past so well."

(To Lizzie) "I am so happy that you don't have the bad memories that William and Kaleb do because you were a baby when you came to us."

"But, William isn't handling it as well.  I know what's going through his head.  I know what he says in counseling! (I quickly added that I didn't know everything so that he wouldn't stop talking to his counseling.) He needs us to support him, not tear him down! 

Antwan (who is never mean to William) said "Yes, ma'am" several times while Lizzie tried to glare at him through my face blocking hand.  She eventually stopped.

I continued some more, trying to explain that it wasn't ok to accuse him of everything.  Yes, he has lied in the past, yes, he has made bad choices, but he can't take this.  Etc, Etc.

I felt very empowered and fueled by my passion on this topic.  And I knew that William was relieved that someone saw it and when I periodically paused and asked "Am I right?" he would quickly agree.

I continued talking until Antwan looked up to say something.  I paused to hear what supportive comment he was going to make (he is our peacemaker, after all) and he said...

"This is a really long lecture."

I tried to stay composed, but I couldn't.  I laughed, instead.  Then, we all laughed.  We laughed a lot.

"Darn it, Antwan!  I was on a roll." :)

So, that was that.  My lecture was apparently over and it's hard to say if it did any good.  But, at least, William knows that I support him.  And, at least, we were all laughing together.  So, there was that.  Laughter is the best medicine, after all. :)


Monday, June 8, 2015

When I Was A Little Girl.

Motherhood.  It's such a common thing and yet for some it is (or was) so hard to achieve.  We take it on cavalierly like it's not a big deal and is all at the same time.  We try to do our best as we take on the power to completely make or break someone.  If you want to have great power and no power, all at the same time, become a mom.  Or, a parent, really.  But, the point is, every little action can have so many consequences.  And, you can't pick what your kids will remember. 

You ask Brian about his childhood and Oreos and he'll instantly tell the story about the time that his mother wouldn't let him have a cookie.  He asked nice and felt that he was a good kid.  But, she said no.  No reason, just no.  This doesn't make her a horrible mother.  In fact, she was a good mom.  She took care of him.  She made him birthday cakes, fed him, and, currently, has apples ready when his crazy, cow-obsessed wife comes to visit so I can feed the cows. :)

Dingy the cow is the best. :)

Cow selfie!

But, among all the good things that he remembers, he remembers not getting an Oreo, too.  Hmm, maybe that's why he feels compelled to eat so many cookies now!  Or maybe he just likes them.  ;)

Anyway, it's a lot of pressure. 

And. sometimes it feels so heavy and so real.

Recently, I started telling Lizzie, "When I was a little girl...." stories.  I wasn't sure whether she would be interested, but I told them, anyway.  Because I remember when my mom told me stories.  And, I remember asking her questions.  And, trying to visualize her as a little girl.  It fascinated me. 

When relating to my daughter, I often think about my mom and how she related to me.  And, I remember feeling loved.  Really, really loved.  (By both of my parents.)

So, I started telling Lizzie these stories.  I've told the boys, too.  But, Lizzie is the most interested.  She is the one who stops and listens.  Maybe it's a girl thing.  And, for a little girl who spends a great deal of her awake moments talking, she is also really good at listening.  (When she wants to...haha).

I tell her what I played with.  I tell her what I liked and what I didn't like.  I always start my stories with "when I was a little girl..."  This is not for any special purpose except that I like symmetry in my speech and my posts. ;)

I tell her that I dressed up my dogs.  I tell her that I loved holding lizards.  I tell her about my dog, Austin, who meowed like a cat.  I tell her that my friends and I rode our bikes down a hill (just like she was doing). 

One of the stories that she found most amusing was one about her grandma. 

Whenever my mom tried to rest her eyes, I naturally became suddenly bored.  My mom laying down on the couch was the most inviting thing ever.  I'd show up with my Barbies or dolls or something that would involve her being forced to be awake.

I'd say, "Mommy, will you play with me??"

Through closed eyes, she would say, "Ok, I'll be the baby taking a nap and you be the mommy cleaning the house."

I was never on board with this suggestion and couldn't understand how she could possibly be so tired.  (I sure do understand now, though!!) 

It makes me smile to remember that.  And, that's what I want so badly to create for Lizzie.  For the record, Mom, I also remember all of those moments when you played with me.  There were a lot of those, too. :)

The other day, I was cooking dinner.  Lizzie had acquired a balloon that day and came into the kitchen with it. 

"Mommy, when you were a little girl, did you play with balloons?"

That was when I knew for sure that she was enjoying the stories.

"Yes.  I loved playing with balloons!  I would hit it up in the air and try not to let it touch the ground.  Or it would get eaten by crocodiles."

Then I realized that I was mixing up memories.  Really, if it hit the ground, it would explode.  But, I couldn't let myself touch the ground or the crocodiles would get me. 

I started to clarify my memory, but then realized that it might lead to Lizzie climbing on all of the furniture to avoid the floor.  So, I kept my mouth shut.

Anyway, she smiled at my partially accurate story and walked away, hitting her balloon in the air.  Just like I told her that I did.

As she was leaving the kitchen, she said to herself, "Watch out for the crocodiles!" and gave the balloon a good hit up and safely away from the floor.

It just felt so heavy.  She wanted to be like me.  Because I am her mom!  I am shaping her with my actions and my stories.  And, she will one day do the same with her children.  The cycle will continue and it will be bigger than me. 

It makes me happy to think that she will take a bit of me with her.  Who knows if it'll be the balloon story, the mom always fell asleep in the recliner story, or the mom could never seem to get me in matching socks story.  But, I'll be there. :)

Spidey knows what I'm talking about... ;)


Monday, June 1, 2015

Exposing My Kids To Their Culture.

When you adopt transracially, the concern about whether you can adequately expose your children to their black culture and educate them on what it's like to be black in America is a valid one.  I have read that many families have chosen to move to more "black" areas, thus making themselves the minority, instead of their kids.  I think that's great.  But, we have chosen to stay in our ridiculously white area because it has the best schools in the city, maybe the state, I'd have to fact-check that. ;)  Since our boys were starting out behind academically, it was great to have such good teachers ready for them.  And, as the years passed, more and more people of color have moved to the area.  So, it has gotten a little better.  And, meanwhile, they have a dad who knows everything about everything. (I am not exaggerating.  The man is a walking encyclopedia!)  So, he is well equipped to teach them about their history.

But, still I worry.  I worry that they feel different.  I worry that they won't fully connect to either the white or the black culture; always feeling slightly different.  I look for ways to connect with more black people so my kids won't feel isolated.  But, it's not like you can post a craigslist ad...seeking black friends.   Well, you can, there's some crazy stuff on craigslist.  But, it doesn't seem like the way to go.

Then something happened.  We met the Jedis.

Most of you know that we're kind of nerdy.  We love sci-fi/fantasy/superheroes.  I would run away with Batman in an instance, if only he existed.  If only.... ;)  Anyway, Brian's bookstore was doing pop-culture events, last summer.  This gave him a lot of chances to wear costumes to work. 

My personal favorite

During the Marvel event, Brian connected with someone who had a Jedi group and he agreed to bring his group to the event.  They perform at conventions, do charity work, and, of course,  come to book stores.  So, The Jedi Academy of North Florida came.  They did a saber training session for the kids and posed for pictures.  It was, scratch that, it was very cool. 

Anyway, after the event, Master Will explained that he was trying to build the academy and asked if he could train William and Antwan as his Padawans.  Um...yes!  This quickly evolved into the five of us joining the academy, followed by Kaleb (once he realized that he was, in fact, not too cool to be a part of it, haha). 

I don't know...he is pretty cool.

The reason that this is relevant is that the Jedi Academy of North Florida is primarily black.  So, without even trying, we had achieved two of our life's goals (that may be overstating it, slightly)!  We had connected with more black people AND more nerdy people! 

And, I can't say enough about these wonderfully nerdy, black people (and that's the last time that I will describe them that way).   Master Will is a super nice guy and his children (young adult son and teenage daughter) are basically how I hope that my children turn out.  Everyone in the group is just wonderful. 

So, we have been spending a good portion of our time practicing Jedi moves.  And, basically learning the ways of the force which is all about patience and control and harmony.  Good stuff.  And, after a lot of practice, the boys performed at a couple of conventions.  With more to come. 

These two are always ready to pose for a picture. :)


I have even been dubbed a master.  I spent a week practicing "taking a knee" because I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to get back up if I got down.  Ah, middle age. haha.

You can do it, Emily.  You can do it!


I'm so happy that we got involved with them.  I especially love that it's the whole family. 

Brian and I have talked about the fact that we are the minority in the group.  (Although, as the group grows, it will blend more and more.)  We think it's awesome.  Well, more to the point, we don't think anything of it.  We're just glad that our kids don't feel like the minority.  Maybe we worry about it too much, but if you make the mistake of reading too many transracial adoption group posts or talking about it too much, you can start to feel like you are not worrying enough.  Either way, we have inadvertently found an awesome solution to two of our problems.  Because being nerdy can make you feel pretty alone, too. 

So, the other day, the younger boys and I were talking about it.  Curious about their thoughts, I mentioned that it was probably nice for them to be around other black people.  I asked Antwan, "Do you feel better being around other black people?  (When he didn't respond, I added...) Or does it even matter to you?" 

He paused and said "A little bit yes and a little bit no."

I asked him what he meant.

"I like being around black people.  But, I also like it when you're there."

I explained that I didn't mean, instead of me.  But, meanwhile, my heart was so happy.  With a simple statement, he epitomized it. 

Color matters, it just does.  But, you know what matters more? 


You don't need a craigslist ad to find that in our family.  There is plenty to go around already. :)