Sunday, December 20, 2015

Our Kids' Oldest Brother And Us.

When I stop and think about it, I am aware at how differently my life turned out from what I expected..  I always visualized marrying a man with brown hair who would make me laugh and feel safe.  I would get pregnant immediately.  We'd have 2 or 4 babies (I like equal numbers.)
and a houseful of animals.  We would probably live on a farm.  And, we would definitely be rich. 

Well, I married a man with brown hair who makes me laugh and feel safe.  I definitely have a houseful of animals whether that brown haired man likes it or not. ;)   (He doesn't really mind, for the record.)  There is no farm...yet.  And, we are so not rich.  I didn't give birth to babies, but I do have them.  Four noisy, silly, and adorable babies of all shapes and sizes. haha

But, really, I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on it.  I guess that's why I am re-surprised (if that's a word) every time that I do. ;)  But, most of the time, it seems perfectly normal.  Well, as normal as life with us involved could be.  My point  is that my life didn't go as I expected.  But, it went, nevertheless, and is still going in a pretty cool way.

And, it definitely doesn't go in any typical order.  And, every time that I think it has settled down and gotten "normal," it gets interesting again.

When we got the boys and thought that we were settling down and starting a happy ending, we were aware that there were two older brothers (and an older sister) out there somewhere.  At the time, the older brothers were together in an adoptive placement in south Florida and, we were told that the oldest sister had aged out of the system and was headed off to college.  We thought, "Great! Everyone gets their happy endings!" (Although, admittedly, the oldest sister's should've gone better.)

Around the time that Lizzie was born and  had come into our lives to re-start our happy ending plan, the oldest brother was leaving his adoptive placement and opting for returning to the system  (creating a rift between he and Kaleb which continues to this day).  The would-be parents were ok with this because they didn't realize yet that all the trouble that they thought he was causing was primarily Kaleb's antics. The oldest brother was covering for him.  Later, as Kaleb's adoption was falling apart for a variety of reasons, not just his antics and not all of his fault, we were getting to know the oldest brother who was living at a nearby group home.  We're gonna call the oldest brother, Frank! 
All was well until the group home that he was at decided that he was getting too attached to us and started restricting contact.  At the time, I didn't understand why they would discourage contact between him and his siblings and us who were not going anywhere.  Particularly, since one of the people involved was me who secretly (not so secretly to Brian) hoped to adopt him as soon as we were in a better position to do so.  (We were still waiting to see if we got to officially adopt Lizzie.)  I get now that part of their motivation was probably to protect him from getting hurt if we stopped visiting, but at the time it just stunk trying to explain to William why we hadn't seen him lately.

Anyway, as our contact was being restricted, he bonded with a family who did adopt him. Despite my feeling of loss, I knew that it was a happy ending and it was certainly his turn for one of those.   

We hung out a couple of times, but as life goes; they had theirs and we had ours.  
Contact was lost and I told myself that was ok. 

A couple of years later, we learned that Kaleb was back in the system and, well, you know that story. Oh, if you don't know that story, we adopted him! :) And, we re-started, again, our happy ending.

Somewhere in the midst of all of that, Frank left his (adoptive) family. He was 18 but still in high school.  He says that they kicked him out, they say that he left. There are more details involved, but, of course, it's not my place to share them.  But, basically, it boiled down to an "If you don't like it, you can leave!"  moment.  He heard them say to leave now and they watched him leave now.

Very sad. Even sadder was the fact that he was suddenly on his own with no G.E.D, no job, and no emotional support.  He reconnected with some of his biological family, but since not a lot has changed there, it hasn't exactly increased his chances at success.

That's all I will say about that. The point is that he found himself in a situation with little to no support. He is working dead-end jobs, scraping by, walking to work, losing those dead-end jobs when he gets there late due to late buses or miscalculating how long it will take him to walk, sleeping on random people's couches...basically,
living life as a high school drop out. He is living the life of a kid who aged out of foster care without any of the supports. Because it turns out that he can't get them.  (I checked, he doesn't qualify.)

We didn't realize how bad his situation was, until now. He would send me messages here and there and then disappear.  And, although I cared, I would get wrapped back up in my life, not realizing that he might need us and not realizing that I needed to reach out to him if I wanted him to stick around.  He was living with the belief that people don't stick around so I'm guessing that he was assuming that we wouldn't either.  But, t
hen we started to realize that he might need us.  So, then I started reaching out and he started communicating more.  That's when we started to understand how bad the situation was.  That's when we decided to be involved.  Because as far as we are concerned, we are his family, too, even if it's not true from a technical or legal standpoint.

It's been wonderful being able to connect him with his 3 youngest siblings again.  I'm trying to patiently wait for Kaleb to come around (I know that he will) and haven't forced him to see his oldest brother...yet.  ;)  Frank embraces the big brother role perfectly and is a natural at it.  He also is very tolerant of my need for pictures and smiles for each and every one. haha.

We've helped him financially as much as we can which is tricky for a paycheck to paycheck fam.  We've fed him.  I've marched him through Walgreens, buying a variety of cold medicines and cough drops because he was sick and I hated the idea that no one would be there to take care of him.  In an effort to try to help him get his car all registered, tagged, and licensed and to get him in a safe, stable living arrangement, we created a gofundme on his behalf and some wonderful people have donated. And, I am so grateful for the donations, the shares, and the words of encouragement!
We're not doing this because we are great or anything like that.  We're doing it because someone should be and no one else was.  And, of course, because we love him. :)  And, even though, he's a legal adult, he's still a kid in many ways.  I can't imagine trying to get by at age 20 without support and I'm so glad that I didn't have to. 

So, here we are with our 4 kids and our whatever the heck Frank is in our new version of reality.  I embrace the unofficial mom position because it's just kind of what I do and he needs someone to love him.  And, I do.  I always have.  And, I think he's starting to believe that.  So many people in his life have let him down and I don't intend to be one of those people.  (As long as he doesn't equate me being perpetually late to me letting him down. haha.)  Because Frank (just like my kids, everybody's kids, kids who were/are in the foster care system, and kids who grew up in stable homes) deserves to be loved, really, really loved.   

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Wish Someone Else Had Adopted Me!

"I wish that someone else had adopted me!"

I looked at my little girl, laying in a grouchy heap on the couch.  I thought briefly about how it is better not to react to hurtful statements like that, how she didn't actually mean it, and how it's totally normal.  But, since I was already in the process of reacting (I mean, really, really reacting), it was too late to consider that option. 

"What??  There's nothing that you could say to hurt me more, Lizzie!  Go to time-out!"

William and Antwan immediately came rushing out asking "What did she say??" and "Do you need a hug?"

I didn't repeat what she said, but took the hugs.  I took a moment to quietly sob in the kitchen, then got back to it. 

Now, this is not how I would have planned to respond if I had the opportunity to prepare the script ahead of time.  But, in this improvisational life that we all lead, that is how it went down.

In some cases, this may have had some profound negative effect.  But, luckily, in this case, it just led to an annoyed 7 year old flouncing to the time-out chair.  After all, she wasn't trying to hurt me or give me a clue of some mixed emotions that she was feeling (not this time, anyway).  She was really ticked off that I intended to make her go to homeschool P.E. class.  Despite the fact that we go every Tuesday and Thursday, she is still surprised and irritated by it each time.

When I went to the Time-Out chair, explained to her why she was there, and asked her to say she was sorry; she did and we moved on.  I knew that she hadn't learned a valuable lesson and I also knew that I was too emotional to try to explain it to her at the time.  Plus, we were going to be late to P.E....again.  Why are we always late every where??

I had always known that, at some point, I would hear "I hate you" or "You're not my real mother."  And, I knew that I wouldn't react well.  But, for some reason, "I wish someone else had adopted me" hadn't occurred to me.  As if we were just random parental units that could be switched out for better models.  I also assumed that comments like that would come later, in the teen years.  You know, when I didn't let her go to that party, spend the night at her friend's on a school night, or leave the house wearing that outfit.  I didn't think I would hear something like this when I was trying to insure her physical health at the YMCA.

I sent a dramatic text to a friend and dragged my kids out of the house...metaphorically speaking, thankfully.  By the time that we were in the van, everything had shifted, and everyone was cheerful.  And, by the time that I got a response from my friend, I wasn't even particularly upset anymore.  I saw it for what it was. 

To paraphrase myself in a previous blog post, adoption adds another layer of stuff to deal with.  Sometimes that means that you are dealing with your child's deeply instilled insecurities and they say hurtful things or make inexplicable bad choices out of reaction to those insecurities.  But, sometimes that means that you have heaped so much love onto your child that she feels totally secure and comfortable lashing out at you when you have the audacity to take her to a P.E. class.

At the end of the day, I'd call that a success.   But, that sassy little girl better not ever say that to me again. ;)

Do we wish someone else had adopted you, Lizzie?  Not for a single moment of a single day....