Friday, December 30, 2016

Race and Shifting Perspectives.

When I was a kid, I was very aware of the perceived differences between black and white people and the basic separation.  It was rare to see an interracial couple and when you did, it was a big deal.  And not necessarily in a good way.  I didn't have an issue with it, but, yeah, it seemed strange.

As I got older, it was less strange but still noteworthy. In college, I even kissed a black boy, mostly so I could say I did...and because he was cute. ;)  But, oh, I felt so wild! haha. (Shout out to Adrian, wherever you are!)

In my 20's, a black guy asked me out and I felt so brave going to dinner with him.  (That seems so ridiculous now, but it didn't seem that way then.)  I was sure that everyone was watching and judging.  And, quite frankly, they might have been.  But, I didn't really care.  Well, that's not true.  I don't like being judged and I don't like being looked at so I did care.  But, I didn't believe for a minute that I was doing anything "wrong."  Sadly, my "fell in my lap" opportunity to prove that I didn't care was cut short by the fact that we really didn't click.  And he never asked me out again. haha.

Now I have black children and my own version of an interracial family.  Ok, it's technically called transracial, whatever. :)  The important thing is that we are all kinds of mixed up and I couldn't care less.  I mean, I care about the fact that I have a steep learning curve still when it comes to doing Lizzie's hair. But, I don't care that they're black.  And I don't care that we're white.  And, you know what, not a lot of people do.  I care that I love them and that they are mine.

As I have told the kids (as recently as this morning), as time goes by, transracial families and many other types of families will get more and more common.  As families continue to evolve, blend, change, and just get all mixed up, in general; it will be hard to tell what "normal" is or was.

Of course, there are still prejudices in this country and there are still people who act on them.  But, time does march on and people do evolve.  Most, anyway. ;)  I don't want to sound naive.  I know what's going on.  I know that there are still racial issues. I know that there is still a divide. I know that it's not as bad as it was, but I know that it's there.  I know it every time that Kaleb goes off with his friends.  And, I know it when I remind him to be extra polite and respectful to adults while knowing that it might not be enough.  (I know that parents of white children have similar worries, but this is just my perspective.) I know it when people are afraid to use the word "black" to describe my children.  Even though, they are in fact black and it is very much not a bad word.  I know it.  But I have to believe that things are ultimately heading in the right direction.  And I have to believe that our family will be less and less unusual as the future becomes today.  I have to believe that.

Back to this morning. 

Somewhat randomly, Antwan said that if he ever stops being homeschooled and goes back to public school and someone says something about his family being strange because he's black and we're white, he will just tell them that our family is special. 

Well, I really can't think of a better answer.   

Just as I know that we as a world still have a ways to go.  I also know that we're special.  We're special because those kids of ours make us special. :)

Monday, September 26, 2016

New Homeschool Adventures...Kind Of.

If you've been following my blog then you know that we started this whole homeschooling thing because William had trouble with bullies at school.  (If you haven't been following my blog, then , fyi, we started this whole homeschooling thing because William had trouble with bullies at school.)  Before everything went down with the bullying, the reacting to bullying, and the shaming of the victim; I never ever would have considered homeschooling.  It just seemed like a crazy idea for me.  But, of course, now I love it. 

There are some drawbacks, of course. That glorious me-time that occurred when the kids were in school was pretty awesome.  And, I totally miss that.  But, not enough to want to change anything.  And they are here more to make more messes.  That kind of stinks.  But, again, still worth it. :)

So after the whole "turning our lives upside down" thing for William's sake, he wants to go back. 

He told his father.  I'm guessing that he wasn't sure how I would react.  Smart kid. ;)  But, yeah, he told Brian that he wanted to be able to go to high school and that he was willing to serve his time at the alternative school to make it happen. 

At first, I was like "No way!" And "What? So he hates spending time with us now??"  (This is why he told Brian first.) This was in my head, of course, not to him. And eventually, I came around to the understanding that he wanted and needed to be around other kids his age.  Lizzie and Antwan are pretty cool but they are 8 and 9.  Kaleb is also pretty cool but would rather have his wisdom teeth removed than spend time with William.  Sadly. ;(  He has a couple friends in the neighborhood but Kaleb is also friends with them. So you can imagine how well that works out for William when Kaleb is around.

So, things continue to be harder for William. Across the board. I try to help where I can like paying the neighbor girl to walk the dog.  It benefits Rose (the dog) and William gets to walk with her, too.  But, in the end, he still feels isolated and a 15 minute walk with a kid in the neighborhood isn't cutting it for him.

So, it looks like our basic plan is to have him finish most of middle school at home (virtually, on the computer) and then attend the alternative school for the last 45 days so that he can be all ready to start high school.  A quick call to the school board indicated that it would be a relatively simple process.

I've mostly come to peace with the plan.  I don't love it, though.  And, I'm terrified that it will end in a similar way as his 6th grade year.  But, here's hoping that high school kids really are "nicer" than middle school kids like everyone keeps saying.  Either way, we decided to home school William for his emotional health and now it looks like we have to public school him for the same reason. 

But, as is true with life, people keep you guessing.  And, after the soul searching and the school board calling, William unexpectedly announced that he had changed his mind and would rather continue to be homeschooled. When I asked him why, he said that he wanted to be home to spend time with us.

But, I'm thinking the speech that I had just given him about working hard to make sure to stay on pace so he would be on the same level as the school kids (when at the time, he really wanted to watch TV instead), may have had something to do with it. Haha.

Good luck, William's future teachers, good luck. ;)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Trying Is Exhausting But Important.

Ok, I lied.  Well, I didn't realize that I was lying, but turns out I was.  Because I just can't resist writing one more Kaleb post.  Only days after writing the other one!  Wow, I might need some practice at this not writing about Kaleb thing!  But, since this is kind of more about me than him, I think I can get away with it. ;) And, I just can't stand to leave it on such a defeated tone. So, I just wanted to say this.

Boundaries, making an effort, trying.  It all matters.

After writing my last post and reading the comments (Thank you so much for the support, by the way!), I was re-fueled, rejuvenated, inspired, etc.  I started to force myself to get back in the game.  I made him clean his room.  I mean, really clean his room.  Well, not really clean his room. There was so much more that he could have done but the important thing was that he did so much more than he wanted to. ;)  I won't go into details. but it was pretty much a textbook teenager room cleaning experience.  He cleaned very LOUDLY.  Many things were moved ANGRILY.  But, when I let him stop and he left to go hang out with his friends, I felt better.  I had regained some confidence as a parent.  And, I knew that I had done the right thing.  Even if it totally made my afternoon just plain suck. ;)

Throughout the week, I made my efforts (and he did, too).  I don't remember the scenario but I remember a moment when I told his back (because he was walking away) that we wouldn't get close again if we didn't start fighting again.  While, thankfully, that didn't end in a fight, haha, but it was yet another wake up call for me.  It only kind of mattered if he got my point.

But, what really got me was the other day when he finished mowing the rest of the grass for Brian.  Before he went out to do it, he had been talking about how a particular function on the mower worked.  Brian had some trouble with it, but Kaleb was confident that he could make it work.  And when he came in (after doing a much quicker and less thorough job than Brian would have), he immediately said "I don't see what was so hard about that."  I was instantly annoyed because I could look out the window and see the spots that he missed.  So I responded, pragmatically and un-helpfully with "Well, that's because your father does a more thorough job than you."
Of course, he responded just as un-helpfully with "Whatever. If he doesn't want me to do it, I won't do it."  And I responded with something to the effect of "I'm not trying to upset you and we do appreciate your help. I'm just saying that's why it's harder..." Etc, etc. It didn't matter what I said, he was walking out.

(Come to think of it, I think that's when I made my "We won't get close again if we don't fight" comment!)

Anyway, I stewed on it as he showered and changed.  When he came back, I called him on the fact that he shouldn't walk away, blah, blah, blah. He said that he was just trying to point out that he was able to get the mower to turn on right.  While he still could have picked a better choice of words, I realized that I had taken offense to the wrong thing.  Or more to the point, taken offense where no offense was intended.

So, I apologized for misunderstanding and taking offense.  I said that I was glad that the mower worked and acknowledged that I was expecting him to say something rude so I was ready to react...which wasn't fair. 

And, even though, I was forced to admit that I was wrong which is never fun, I again felt better.

I felt like maybe I could do this, after all.  I'm confident that won't be the last time that I will take offense where none is intended and I'm just as confident that sometimes offense will totally be intended.  But, still, maybe I can do this.

But, I'm not looking forward to the next room cleaning day.... ;)

(Ok, now back to not writing about Kaleb for all the really good reasons that I said in my last post!)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My Son Ran Away. But, He Came Back. Now What?

It was kind of a strange summer. It started with me trying to appropriately discipline Kaleb and ended with me feeling like I lost a son and gained a roommate.

You see, Kaleb ended the year with a D in Geometry.  And, unfortunately, it wasn't a case of him not understanding the material, he just didn't do the work. Or he didn't understand the material because he didn't do the work, whatever. But, regardless, we grounded him.  This was not a surprise to him nor was it very rigid as evidenced by my softening and letting him go off to Daytona with his friends in the middle of his groundation (Yeah, I'm just blatantly making up words now.). So when I found out that he had snuck his tablet back into his room, I felt totally within my logical rights to let him know that he would no longer be un-grounded on the following day. I thought he'd be disappointed and mad at himself, but instead he ran away.

There were a lot of dramatic moments of him yelling that I broke a promise of him being free on the next day and that he was leaving and me yelling that he wasn't, as I blocked the door in a quite silly attempt to pretend like I could physically stop him. And then telling him that it was he who broke the promise. Anyway, in the end, he went back to his room. And, as I silently praised myself for standing my ground and tried to stop shaking, he climbed out the window.

It was only a few hours. It seemed like longer. It was awful. I got in touch with everyone that I could think of, Brian drove all over, and Kaleb hid in the neighborhood the whole time. But, either way, he came back. We barely spoke for days. It wasn't exactly like we were giving each other the silent treatment or anything; he did write an apology letter, after all. But, there was a level of discomfort that I hadn't experienced before. I just didn't know what to say. I did tell him that I forgave him and that I wanted to start over.

But, like most things, it's easier said than done.

So for the next couple of weeks, he basically did whatever he wanted to do. He would always come home by bedtime but then go hang outside as I slept. Then when I heard that he was bragging that he got away with everything, it was too much for us to take.

When we confronted him, it blew up fast. And, before everyone was done listening to each other completely, he announced that one of his friends read my blog and messed with him about it.  What? That took the wind out of my pissed off sails. He had successfully distracted me from the topic at hand and made me feel all kinds of guilty. When the fight was over, I didn't know whether to mourn the loss of trust between my son and me or the loss of my freedom to vent on my blog. Of course, I'm doing that now so I guess this is my goodbye piece (or more accurately, goodbye to full disclosure venting).

We had one more talk, Kaleb and me. I explained that he needed to be home when I think he's home, that he could not be outside at 2 in the morning (talking on the phone) and that he needed to do his part around the house.  I said that I needed him to do a chore, any random chore before going out to hang with his friends.  I said that once a month, I would like him to come to church with us.  Because even though, he didn't feel connected to the church, it was a family thing and really not fair that he is the only kid who gets a vote on going.

It was a good talk and I felt so delightfully proactive. But, nothing happened. The rest of the summer, he slept all day, only getting up to go hang out with friends. He did no chores with the exception of my occasional "Can you help me with _____?" because he happened to be standing there.  I stopped giving him allowance since he wasn't doing his chores but he didn't even notice because his friend kept buying him dinner. 

And the worst part is that I let it happen. I felt like I had a roommate, not a son.  Granted, he was a pretty good roommate.  He kept to himself, didn't say much, etc.  Between his determination to avoid William (Those two just can't get along!) and his determination to avoid us all, in general, he was the best roommate ever.  ha.  That's not what I want from family life.  But, I also have no idea how to fix it.  I never even asked him to elaborate on his friend reading my blog.  I didn't know how to bring it up and wasn't sure if I wanted to know, anyway.  Instead I wracked my brain for a way to blog about my life without blogging about my life.  I've already shared more in this post than I meant to.  But, old habits and what not. ;)

So school is back in and the routine is back.  I wouldn't say that everything is back to normal, but I would say that there is hope.  I mean, there is always hope, right?  He's hanging around more, talking to us more.  I've tried to get the rules back on the table.  It's mostly not working, haha, but at least, I am working on breaking my habit of looking the other way.

That's it, that's all I've got. I'm adopting a "this too shall pass" and just "keep on keeping on" attitude because I don't know what else to do.  My posts might contain a little more silly and a little less deeply honest and touching raising children of foster care adoption stories.  (Unless they are about Lizzie and Antwan because I can totally get away with that for a few years!) But, there's always homeschool stories, tips that I don't have on getting kids to do chores and go to bed on time, my thoughts on the importance of teaching your children the history of Batman, and random pet updates! ;)

Hopefully, that will be almost as good.  Because as much as I love writing about doing right by my children, it's more important to actually do right by them. I have to find the balance between my need to vent and my kid's need for some privacy.  Even aloof teenagers who would currently rather be anywhere but here. :)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Simone Bile's Parents Are Her Parents.

"Parenting Is hard. Really hard."

I said these words to my 13 year old son, yesterday, after a mini argument that could have been avoided if he simply stopped when I told him to stop and went to his room when I told him to go to his room. But, that's neither here nor there. What is here and there is the fact that he is my son and I am his parent. Oh, and that parenting is truly hard. 

Did I give birth to him? No. Did I even know that he existed until he was five? Existentially, sure. I knew in my heart that my child was out there because I was just that connected to my fate from the beginning.  But, the short answer is no.  But, do I know he exists now? Yes. Did we adopt him? Yes. Is he ours? Yes. In a few short moments, will he likely wake up and annoy me with his thoughts for the day because he is way chattier than I am in the morning? Yes.  Ok, that part isn't relevant, but I'm sort of dreading it. :) Because, again, parenting is hard.

Why am I saying the same things (in creative new ways) that I have said in other posts? And why am I so hooked on question talking? I don't know the answer to the second question, but I do know why I am bringing it up again!

Because a kid who has worked really hard and had a major success on the Olympic floor had to waste a minute dwelling on the fact that some sports commentator (Al Trautwig) trivialized her relationship with her parents.

After being called out on twitter for referring to Simone's parents as her grandfather and his wife, he responded with  "They may be mom and dad but hey are NOT her parents."

Well, I find it a bit ironic that he did give them the mom and dad title since that's usually the one that adoptive parents have to fight for, but he un-did any good by not giving them the title of parents.

Biological grandparents, adoptive parents, whatever. They committed, they signed, they promised, they became her parents through adoption. And since it can be super hard (granted, also, super rewarding, too, though) to be a parent, they deserve the title.

They deserve any and all titles that work for their family.

In an interview, Simone remembered how Ron and Nellie who they initially called “Grandpa” and “Grandma,” sat them down to talk one day.  “She said, ‘It’s up to you guys. If you want to, you can call us Mom and Dad. I went upstairs and tried practicing it in the mirror—‘Mom, Dad, Mom, Dad.’ Then I went downstairs, and she was in the kitchen. I looked up at her and I was like, ‘Mom?’ She said, ‘Yes!’ ”

It matters.

Some members of the adoption community get offended if you compare human adoptions to animal adoptions. I don't.  Partly because I love my animals so fiercely.

Heck, on some days, I like them better than my kids. ;) But, here's the thing. When you adopt an animal, no one wants to talk about your legitimacy as the dog owner just because the dog has had previous homes. No one points out that you are not the dog's real parent. Maybe I am oversimplifying things or treading too close to comparing children and animals too much. But, that's not my intention. My intention is to ask why these animal connections are given more respect than human connections?

Why do adoptive families live in a semi-constant state of justifying their families?  Why didn't that guy immediately apologize and say he misspoke, instead of digging in his heels and continuing to minimize her identity? And, why do people exist that agree with him?

Parent is both a verb and a noun.

I was a parent as I parented my 16 year old who ran away for a night causing lasting damage to our relationship.

But, this to shall pass...

I was a parent as I watched my younger boys actually get along for five minutes while they played the piano and I was their parent when I had to do some parenting and break up an argument a few minutes later. (I refer back to the beginning of my post.)

I was a parent as I watched my daughter acolyte at church for the first time and I was her parent when I later watched her try to stay awake in front of the congregation.

Parenting is hard and as sure I know that I am stuck in the trenches, I know that I want to be there.  I'm guessing that's the case for Simone's parents, too. So if these people made that commitment which they so clearly took seriously, if they stuck by her during those times when parenting her was not as glamorous as watching her do flips in the Olympic Arena; they sure as heck deserve to be called what they are. Her parents.

You might think it's not a big deal, we are just too easily offended or we need a safe space (based on some of the tweets that I read). If so, then you have probably been lucky enough to not have to reassure your kids that no matter what the jerky kids at school said, you are his real mom, dad, parent, etc. And, you might not have had to promise your kid again that you and Daddy will love him forever. I'm guessing that Simone has had similar conversations with her parents, as well. (It's common to our realities.) And of all the things to get "worked up" about, I'm thinking that worrying about the emotional health of kids is a pretty valid one.

Because worrying about kids is just something that parents do. Just ask Ron and Nellie Biles.

You've heard of them, right? They are Simone Biles' parents.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Raising Kids Isn't Easy, But Loving Them Is.

Seriously, parenting a teenager is hard.  Even on good days, for some reason, it just takes more mental energy to keep up with it.  You never know what curve ball is coming your way.  With Lizzie and Antwan, I am not surprised when I hear that the water balloon that they were filling up in the bathroom sink that I didn't give them permission to do in the first place....exploded all over the bathroom floor. And I know how to handle it when Antwan is broken hearted because I am asking him to eat turkey instead of bologna. (We were out of bologna.)

But, teenagers. I don't know when William is going to be on board with a project and I don't know when he's going to react to whatever I happen to say with an attitude.  (Although, he will swear that he doesn't have one and get mad at me for suggesting that he does.) But, even with William, there are the days when he clings to his youth and plays silly games with Lizzie and Antwan.  And he's always ready to watch whatever superhero show is on our DVR.

Then there's Kaleb.  I never knew Kaleb when he was a silly kid whose biggest problem in the world was whether his mom had stocked up on the right type of lunch meat.  Of course, knowing his past, we know that was never his biggest problem.  But, you get the point. (If you don't know his past, here's the upshot.  His past sucked. He didn't have a stable home until we adopted 2013.) And I can't look in his eyes and see our influences because it was other people who influenced him.  He hasn't played silly games with Lizzie and Antwan since maybe the first summer.  And he would prefer to watch the superhero shows on his phone alone instead of with us.  (And then make sure to complain about how predictable they are or how much he doesn't like the plot line.)

Sometimes, well, a lot of times, I feel like we are the Parkers and Kaleb.  I feel it when we walk into church and I know that Kaleb is home sleeping. I feel it when the kids and I are galavanting around town and he is with his friends or home playing the xbox.  Because that's what he would prefer. I hate that.  But, long ago, I gave up on forcing family unity because it just doesn't work.  William and Kaleb can not get along if left to their own devices and I just stay on edge waiting for it not to work out, waiting for him to take offense to something Brian or I said or something else to go wrong. 

I think in a lot of ways, that's just normal.  Teenager life and all. So I mostly accept it.  I try to remember to take the moments when they come with Kaleb.  I try to validate what he says when he says it.  Even though, he tends to say it when he comes home from his friend's house, just in time for bedtime and then wants to "run some things by me."  I look forward to the day when they are all older and can bond on a deeper lever.  (I dread that day at the same time, though.  No getting older!)  And, I try to accept him for who he is. A complicated, challenging young man who is basically never going to tell me what I want to hear.  But, he is never going to be boring!  (You can decide if that's a good thing or not, haha.) 

And he is going to keep giving me reasons to groan loudly because he has to keep arguing a point.  Like the other day when he said "I'm not letting this one go, Mom. Normally I just argue because I like arguing.  But, this time I know I'm right.  What was he arguing about, you ask? (Someone please ask!) I asked him to go to his room for bed (or to a friend's) 30 minutes early on days when Brian is closing so I could have a little me time.  As a reward, he wouldn't have to do chores that day. This was a great deal, if you ask me.  I explained that I really needed a little me time to decompress.  He agreed but explained that he doesn't get alone time either so it was basically the same thing. I explained that he had endless opportunities for alone time.

I said, "You could go to bed right now and stay in your room for the rest of the night if you wanted to."

He said, "Technically, so could you." (It was 4:30 pm)

"No, I couldn't!" I responded, incredulously.

Not long after, I groaned loudly and told him to go away.  Satisfied and convinced that he was right, he went off to hang out with friends.

I'm off track, I just really wanted to share that story. haha.

So, the point is, he will always be challenging. I will always wish that he had come to us sooner so we could have influenced him more. I will probably always doubt my various choices with him (but not my choice to score myself 30 minutes of Emily time because, man, do I need that!).  I will always worry about whether he is happy and whether he regrets agreeing to the adoption.

But, I will never worry about whether or not he loves me and whether or not he
knows I love him.

Recently, he texted me from school on a friend's phone.  I'm fairly certain he was asking a favor involving me driving him somewhere.  I would say that's why he said "I love you" at the end.  But, really, he usually does that, anyway. But, I took note of it, particularly since it was from a friend's phone.  I debated whether I should say it back because I didn't know if he still had access to the phone and I didn't know if his friend would mess with him about it.  But, ultimately, I said "I love you, too" because I thought the risk of him noticing that I didn't say it back was bigger than that other stuff. 

Later that night, he mentioned it.  He said his friend was surprised that I said it back because his mom doesn't.  I find it unlikely that this other teen's mom is refusing to tell her kid that she loves him so no judgement here.  But, I did like the fact that I had told my kid I loved him and, even better, he had told me first.

If it's true that love makes the world go round, that all you need is love, and that love is thicker than water (that's an Andy Gibb song, thanks google!); then we're going to be ok. :)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Remembering To Be Grateful.

It's human nature to take things for granted.  We all try not to do it, but we all do.  I think I'm pretty good at remembering how fortunate I am to have my family.  I worked hard enough to get them, after all. But, a couple of months ago, I found myself feeling a bit unappreciative of the fact that these children who I love so much were home with me so much.  I had fought so hard to homeschool all three of my younger children and I felt so guilty for wanting a break from them.  Of course, wanting a break is also human nature.  Any primary caregiver knows that wanting a little time to yourself is no reflection on how much you love those people that you are the primary caregiver for.  But, still I felt guilty.  I didn't even tell Brian for fear that he would think in his head that maybe I wasn't cut out for homeschooling, after all.  (This is the part where I tell you that Brian is fully supportive and doesn't give me any reason to think he would judge me for being human.)

Either way, it dragged on for a couple of weeks.  I was painfully aware that they were always here and that they seemed to think that I should take care of them, drive them around, feed them several times a day, and, on top of that, teach them! What madness is that?? ;)  And, of course, poor Kaleb would come home from school, expecting me to be ready to chat about the day or quiz him on Spanish.  And, all I would want to do was hide under my blanket in my recliner. 

I don't want to sound too dramatic. Although, I think it might be too late for that.  I wasn't regretting my decision to home school.  It only took a few moments of pondering the alternative to know that this was definitely what I wanted.  I was just a bit burnt out. 

What's the point?  This is the point.

I was walking into Target with Antwan and Lizzie.  Now that William is 13, he likes to stay in the van and play his tablet when we go to the store.  And, when it is a short trip, I let him.  So, we were walking in.  I was holding both of their hands, a walking pose that I would normally just love to pieces.  But, today, I was mentally grumbling that I had been dragged to Target by Antwan who wanted to buy a new toy with his allowance.  That's when I ran into her.

"Her" is a teacher at Lizzie and Antwan's former preschool.  Although, they never had her as a teacher, her daughter was Lizzie's teacher and she is just as nice as her mom.  I don't know either one of them all that well, but I really, really like them and wish I knew them better.  Anyway, I think she asked me how homeschooling was going.  And, when I usually say how wonderful everything is, instead I made some kind of comment about how they are always there.  I was trying to be funny (with a side of truth), but I'm not really sure that it came off that way.  Anyway, I kind of expected her to agree that it's hard, overwhelming, or something like that.  She didn't. With a smile, she just said something about how I should enjoy this time, they won't be young forever, or something to that effect.  My memory is fuzzy on her words, but the message was clear to me.  The message was clear because she was taking a page from my own book.  I should remember to be grateful for the moments.

I walked away from her feeling a little paranoid that she would judge me and feeling a little guilty for saying it what I said. And, I was also wondering why she wasn't quite as up-beat as normal.  (She was not rude in any way, just didn't seem as perky.) But, the important thing is it snapped me out of my funk. She was totally right and I totally needed to get it into perspective. 

And, I did.  After that moment, I felt revived.  The whole homeschooling thing and parenting, in general, is still exhausting and overwhelming, of course, but there's nothing else that I want to do more.  (With the possible exception of hanging out with Batman.  That would be pretty cool, too...)

Why do I feel compelled to write about it now? Because I just learned that when I ran into this woman on a random afternoon, she was going through her own struggle.  She had been sick since December and they didn't know what was wrong yet.  They just recently discovered it's cancer.  I can only imagine what that has been like for her and her family.  And, I can only imagine the struggle to come. 

When I heard the news of her cancer, I was brought back to that moment in Target.  Suddenly, the conversation meant so much more.  Her casual comment had so much more weight. She was looking at me, a frazzled, overly-tired, burnt out, but healthy mom with my healthy, happy children.  She had passed the time in her life when her children relied on her for virtually everything.  And, she understood something that I had lost sight of in that moment. Time is fleeting.  She didn't know yet that she had cancer.  But, she knew that she was sick and was probably quite scared.  Knowing now what I didn't know then, her message to me has become an even bigger reminder.  We just don't know what the future holds and we should never miss an opportunity to appreciate what we have. 

So, my friend, I don't know you well, but I care about you.  I will be praying, sending good vibes, wishing on every twinkling star, and crossing my fingers and toes that you will beat this quickly.  And, I want to thank you for what you said to me in Target that day.  You probably didn't think anything of it, it was just a passing comment for you, but it meant a lot to me.

You have reminded me of what matters.  Inadvertently, in your time of crisis, you have helped me and I will always be grateful for that.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Should My Black Kids Have To Hear The N-Word?

So, the other day, I took the kids to McDonald's after my daughter reminded me that I had promised her a trip there at some point in the week.  On a side note, I've got to stop doing that.  Because I may forget, but she definitely won't.

The three of them were sitting at a little table with cute little stools, having a perfectly nice time and then it changed. 

In came a young black man, maybe 19 or 20 years old.  He was wearing a construction vest and seemed to be on his lunch break.  This isn't really noteworthy, in and of itself.  What was noteworthy was the fact that he was blaring his music through his portable speaker.  Everyone in the restaurant looked up and looked vaguely annoyed.  And, they should; it was really rude. 

As "luck" would have it, he sat down near us.  He set his speaker on the table and started to eat his lunch.  I looked at the kids and realized how quiet they had gotten.  Suddenly, to play with their kids meal toys together, they would have to practically yell across the small table to hear each other.  Initially, I was planning on handling it like I handle most situations.  I was going to look around at the other customers in hopes of exchanging solitary annoyed glances. (Check) I was going to glare at him.  (Check) I was going to watch in shock as employees walked by him and said nothing. (Check) I was going to point out to my kids how rude he was being so they would know to never do something like that. (Check)  I was going to wish my husband was there so he would say something. (Check)  And, I was going to leave with irritation, dwell on it, and complain about it on Facebook (Check, except I'm going with blog post, instead, haha)  But, then I started listening to the lyrics.

I heard lyrics about "kissing me on the thigh" and something about drinking a lot of alcohol.  Now I am no prude, but I also want to have a bit more control over what my children hear at McDonald's on a Friday afternoon.  But, it was when the n-word started popping up repeatedly in the song that I started to really get upset. 

I looked at my kids.  The boys were just sitting there, not saying anything.  And, Lizzie was covering her ears.  Then I knew it was time.

I got up and went to the counter.  I waited until I saw the manager walk by and called to her. 

She came over and I said "My kids have been looking forward to this all week.  Now they have to sit here and listen to the n-word flying around and other inappropriate lyrics."

She looked genuinely surprised as if she was unaware.  Maybe she was in the back?  Either way, she went to him and told him to wrap it up and I heard him ask "Did she complain?"

Utilizing my new found courage, I said "Yes, I complained!  I'm glad that you are not offended by the n-word but I am and my children are." 

Then I thanked the manager for her help and sat down.  I was shaking from the adrenalin rush of potentially inviting conflict and the pure emotions that the n-word brought out in me. 

I should point out that I was the only white person in the situation.  All the employees (that I saw)including the manager were black and, of course, the guy providing the musical entertainment was also black.  So, there was a bit of irony involved in the white girl getting all worked up.  But, this white girl is the mother of 4 awesome black children who should not be subjected to that word.  And more importantly, they should not hear the message that the word is not a big deal.

Anyway, immediately after the encounter, I sat down and had a heavier conversation than I had intended when we walked in a few minutes earlier.  I talked about how horrible of a word it is and how much power it has.  I acknowledged that it was common to hear the word in various rap songs and that some of the black community use it in an effort to "take it back" and make it their word. 

Recently, we had a similar conversation with Kaleb, the resident teenager, who listens to songs that commonly include the n-word.  He and his white friend were jokingly calling each other cracker and the n-word.  I didn't know about it until it trickled down to Willliam, my second oldest.  Brian and I were appalled that they were joking back and forth using those words.  We told Kaleb not to use cracker and not to allow others to call him the n-word and firmly disagreed with his belief that adding an "a" instead of "er" makes it not a big deal.  I was relieved that Brian was there for that one.  He is very good at those conversations and he explained to Kaleb how hurtful the word could be.  Fortunately, the friend's mother backed us up.  I'm not naïve, though, they probably still use the words.  But, at least, there will be no confusion on what our opinion is.

Maybe that's evidence for the theory that rap is making the n-word ok or maybe it's a coincidence.  All I know is that I will not condone the word.  I will not ever condone making my children's identity about nothing more than their color.  But, at the same time, their race is part of their identity and I want them to be proud of it.  It's complicated.

No matter what, they are going to deal with racism in their lives.  They will be judged for being black.  If they make bad choices (and they will) at some point in their lives, their actions will reflect on the race, not just on them,  And, one day, Antwan might have more trouble getting a call back for a job because he has a clearly African American name.  Lizzie might be labeled as a typical black woman when she gets good and mad about something.  (Knowing how worked up she can get, I guarantee she will get worked up in the future.  But, it's because she's Lizzie, not because she's black.)  Sales Associates might watch William more closely when he walks through the store with his hoodie on.  And, Kaleb, with his loud, boisterous personality which can turn into grumpy teenager personality on a dime, might be labeled as an obnoxious black kid.

And, it won't be fair.  And it won't be under my control.  But, on this day, it was.  On this day, I was able to shield my younger children from a hateful word.  I was able to remind them that they are more than that, that they don't deserve to be called that.  And, I don't care if it's in a rap song from "their people," from a white supremacist, or by a neighborhood friend.  They don't deserve it.  On this day, I was able to protect my children.  And, I did.  Quite frankly, I don't think I've ever been more proud of myself.  I actually spoke up!  But, that's really not the point.  The point is that some random rude guy at a McDonald's shouldn't influence my children's perception of the world.  And, he darn sure, shouldn't interrupt a good game of Transformers and Paw Patrol.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Adoption In Television

Two of our current favorite shows are Supergirl and The Flash.  Both have inadvertent adoption/foster care themes.  Barry Allen's (a.k.a. The Flash) father is in prison as the show starts and he has been raised by his foster father, Joe.  Since he has raised from age 11, he thinks of him as a son and Joe is another father to Barry.  Meanwhile, Kara's (a.k.a. Supergirl) parents died on Krypton and she was adopted by The Danvers.  Alex is her sister and, even though, Alex often breaks my rule of identifying Kara as her "adopted" sister, it's clear that she loves and accepts her completely as a sister.

But, the shows' terminology makes me nervous.  There's also a lot of mentions of "real mom" and similar statements.  So, I worry about whether it will trigger any insecurities or doubt in the kids, especially William.  But, I remind myself as I'm watching that I can't keep them from hearing things and wondering.  I have to focus on making sure that they are as secure as possible so that simple labels won't touch them.  Also, they are really good shows and I don't want to stop watching them with them. ;)

The other day, William was talking about Supergirl and referencing her birth aunt who had come to Earth to cause all kinds of trouble.  When he tried to talk about her, he hesitated like he was unsure of whether he could call her Kara's aunt.  Sadly, I probably made him that way.  He knows that I'm sensitive to references to his birth mother and he's probably unsure if that will apply to other aspects.  But, the thing is that's not entirely true.  As much I'd like to pretend that there was no mother before me; there was.  The good news is that she didn't raise the bar too high so I think it's safe to say that I was an improvement.  But, the fact is she still exists and I have to be adult enough to deal with that.  Or at least strong enough to pretend to deal with it when my kids are around. :)  And, I have told him more than once that it's ok to bring her up if he needs to and to ask any questions that he has.  But, in the end, William is always going to worry about hurting me.  It is very sweet, but probably not so good for him.

Anyway, I said that he seemed unsure of what to call her and acknowledged that she was, in fact, Kara's aunt.  I suggested a couple options if he needed to clarify like "birth aunt, biological aunt, or even, Krypton aunt."  Admittedly, that one doesn't carry over to reality so much.  But, in our preferred world of superheroes, it worked.

I also mentioned how I noticed that the show characters point out often that Kara is Alex's adopted sister, instead of just saying sister.

William, "Yeah!  Why do they do that?"

Me - (something like this) - "Mostly, the writers are trying to clarify for the audience who is who.  But, really, Alex doesn't think of Kara as her adopted sister, she's just her sister.  The world does love labels, though."

He agreed that was silly.

(I realize now that this was ironic since I had just given him several labels to use in regards to his aunt, of course, but I'm stuck with it.)

Anyway, I went on.  I was on a roll and doing what I always do.  I was trying to cover as many angles as I could think of at once, haha.

"The show also shows that there are many different kinds of families, doesn't it?   She's got her birth family from Krypton, her adoptive family on Earth, and her friend family on Earth.  They have different forms, but they're all her families."

He agreed. 

Because, I never miss an opportunity, I emphasized again that her adoptive family is legit and important.  And, that they don't feel differently towards her because she's adopted. 

Then I added, "Do you think Aunt Monica (my sister) would love you differently if you were biologically related to her? Would she love you more?"

He said no.

Upping the anty, I said. "Do you think that I would love you differently if I gave birth to you?"

Unexpectedly, William paused and said "Well, yeah, kind of."

Ok, that was not what I expected.  I guess I expected him to say no because it was the right answer.  Then I would say something about how much I love them and would hope that he internalized it. 

But, "Yeah, kind of?"

With affected casualness, I asked him why.

Then, putting my fears to rest, he said "You might love me differently because you chose me."

Did he just suggest that I would love him less if he were biological?  Not true, either.  But, I can live with that. :)

"We sure did.  We chose you.  All of you.  We were meant to be."

I know that my boy has a ton of insecurities and a fear of rejection that puts Peter Parker to shame, but, in that moment, part of him got that he was meant to be with us.

He is my son.  My adopted son.  My legal son.  My crazy son.  My too much energy in the morning son.  He is my son.

And I would choose him, any day of the week.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Raising A Teenager Is Different.

I haven't written about Kaleb much lately.  Not because he hasn't given me some material, he's a teenager, after all. ;)  But, most of it has been just that.  He's a teenager.  And, wow, aren't they just plain irritating??  I mean, really!  He has all the answers and doesn't mind telling you. haha. And, even though, in reality, a lot of times, he is just plain wrong, he'll continue his argument with determination. 

For example!

The other day, he was defending himself against a demolished wicker table. 

Back story.  He and a few friends were hanging out in the front yard and Wilfred (the dog) was losing his mind.  When Kaleb popped in, I suggested the he take Wilfred out with him and he did.  About five minutes later, he came rushing in, complaining that Wilfred had climbed on the table, stepped on his charger, and poked a hole in the table.

I'm sorry, Mom.

 I decided not to go look because I knew it would upset me. (I love my free, found it on the neighbor's curb table.)  But, obviously, I had to go outside sometime.

And when I did, I saw a destroyed wicker table, shreds several feet away, and a crowbar on the ground a few feet away.  

Now, I'm no detective but that looks a little suspicious.

For reasons un-known, I didn't address it with Kaleb.  I think that I was trying to find an angle that would actually get him to admit something.  (There is no angle, by the way.)  For reasons even more unknown, I didn't pick up the crowbar myself.  Either way, when Brian saw it, he was upset.  And, understandably so.  He began to talk to Kaleb about respecting others' property, not destroying property, etc.  Kaleb stood unimpressed.  He admitted and apologized for randomly picking up the crowbar and leaving it in on the ground (progress!).  But, he stood by his "the dog climbed on the table" story.  And, of course, he gave the vibe that his father who didn't want crowbars thrown in the yard was the one who was out of line, haha.

Anyway, this led to some new ground rules (complete with consequences) about not touching other people's stuff.  This was a long time coming because Kaleb is famous for picking up things that aren't his and leaving them in other places.

And, it led to William confirming with a mutual friend that the dog did, in fact, climb on the table.  This didn't impress me much because I was convinced that there was still more to the story.

Later, even though, I had accepted that I would never know the truth and was focusing on making sure that it didn't happen again, Kaleb brought it up.

"Mom, Jordan and (name I can't remember) were there that day and saw Wilfred climb on the table."

Me, calmly, "That may be.  But, there's more to the story.  Come on, there was a crow bar."

"I picked it up, but I didn't use it on the table!"

"There are shreds from the wicker table several feet away.  Did Wilfred throw them?"

"I picked the table up and moved it because it was in my way."

"But, you shouldn't do that because it's not yours to pick up and move...."

Then he tried to remind me that he brought it home for me so it was his, too.  The reality is that Brian and I picked it up from a neighbor's curb on trash night because it matched the wicker chair that he had brought home for me, one day (upon my request).  Or maybe the chair came first, I don't remember.  I just know that I brought home the table._

"No, you brought home the chair, I brought home the table."

"No, Mom!  Wait! You're not going to win this one."

What?  That was when I started to be amused by the whole thing.

"I don't have to try to win!  I've already won!  I'm your mom and I'm telling you not to move my stuff."

I think, at this point, I chased him back outside where his friends were waiting.

It was a calm conversation.  It was also a ridiculous conversation.  Come on, how naïve does he think I am?  Either way, all he has to do is leave things alone and part of the problem will be solved.

I sighed with exasperation when he left and William asked what was wrong.  "Oh, your brother is frustrating."  I didn't really feel bad about saying it because William is fully aware of that fact.  haha. And, the fact is that I would say it to him directly. :) 

But, that's when it kind of hit me that things had changed.  He frustrated me and then it was over. 

I have spent a lot of time feeling guilty and not wanting to admit that my feelings for him were not actually the same as for the other three.  And, I don't know why I thought they would be.  He became my son at an age when he was going through a ton of changes.  He already had been influenced by so many people, not all good people.  It wouldn't be realistic to expect us to immediately have the same relationship as the younger three.

Nevertheless, there was idealistic Emily who thought everything would be wonderful from that point on (for the most part, I got the fact that there would be some transitions for all.). But, then I was so upset when it wasn't wonderful.  When it was hard to be around him, I felt like a failure.  When I was relieved when he didn't come along to outings, I felt like a horrible person.  Why was I relieved?  Because it's easier with just the younger three.  Not for any exact reason.  But, he's a handful.  He talks a lot and loudly, sometimes about nothing at all.  He has admitted that he doesn't like the quiet.  Guess who doesn't mind the quiet? Me. ;)

But, still I have spent 3 years punishing myself for feeling what I feel. 

But, you know, I think it's ok.  I realize now that it would be impossible to instantly feel the same way.  I had the others when they were young.  I've had the luxury of influencing them.  I'm not saying that they are perfect but we have the same value system and sometimes Kaleb's doesn't align with ours.  And, that's hard for me.  It would be crazy to suggest that there would not be a learning curve with a teenager. 

Relationships take work.  It's always going to be easier to deal with Lizzie, the little girl who wants to curl in my lap and talk about dogs. (Come to think about it, that's what Kaleb wants, too.)  It's natural and simple.  It's always going to be harder to deal with Kaleb, the loud and pushy teenager.  But, that loud and pushy teenager has a good heart and I love him.

So, it's ok if I have to work harder with him.  It doesn't make me a bad person.  Destroying my wicker table doesn't make him a bad person, either.  Although, it really stinks.  

Anyway, the other day, I had to take Kaleb to school because he overslept and missed the bus.  I might have had an excuse to be annoyed, but I overslept, too. ;)

I walked into school with him to sign him in.  I was disheveled and groggy.  As I was filling out the form, I wondered if I was allowed to hug him in the school.  I also wondered if he felt awkward about the fact that his mom was white.  I didn't ponder it that long, it's a short form, after all.  But, I did wonder.  I took a chance when I finished and went in for the hug.  I can't remember if I made him hug me or if we just hugged.  But, I do remember this.  As he hugged me, he told me he loved me.

I might never know if he deliberately hit my table, was covering for his friends who hit the table, accidently dropped the crowbar on my table (several times), or climbed on the table himself to do an Irish Jig and fell in.  All I know is that if a 16 year old can tell me he loves me in the lobby of his high school, I'm doing something right.  And so is he. :)

All the cool kids and moms take selfies. ;)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Does My Daughter Feel Different?

I read a lot about how different transracially adopted kids can feel and it always makes me worry.  I like to think that it's not that big of a deal, but I'm sure that's a bit of denial talking.  You only have to clink a link on the internet to find a story about how hard it was for someone who grew up with white parents when he/she wasn't white.  But, still my kids seem ok and I like to think that it helps that there are four of them.  How different can you feel in your home when it's really your parents who are the "odd" ones? ;) 

Even though, I like to be blasé' about it, I do recognize that it's something to take seriously and I do. 

I particularly worry about Lizzie.  She seems more aware of the difference between herself and others around her than the boys do.  Or, at least, she seems to dwell on it more.  She has a greater tendency to refer to someone by their skin color.   "The white teacher." "The black lady."   I don't know where she gets that from.  I can honestly say that we don't identify people by their color, unless it's relevant, so I don't know why she would feel compelled to.  But, I do point out when I see other transracial families or really any family that is different from the norm.  I do this with the hope that it will make her and the boys feel less different.  But, maybe that's made her more aware of the differences, instead?

Either way, I use any opportunity that I find to try to make them feel good about themselves (physically) by talking about how pretty their skin is.  Today was no exception.  However, today Lizzie reassured me that she has a positive attitude about the whole thing and isn't particularly insecure.

I was looking through my Facebook memories (I love those!) and I ran across a particularly amusing picture of Lizzie.  She was a couple of years old and was wearing a Dora The Explorer wig. 

                           She looked so different and so much older than she normally did at that age. 

I showed her the picture and she thought it was funny, too.

Then she said, "I looked like I was turning white."

I didn't really see it, but I went ahead and agreed that she looked lighter in the picture.  And when she added, "My skin is a lot darker now," I was ready to pounce on it.

I said, "You're right, it is darker and it's so pretty, don't you think?"

Lizzie casually agreed with a nod and then said, " Black is cooler than white, anyway."

Me, not knowing where she was heading with this, said, "Black is pretty cool..."

Lizzie, gesturing towards a poster of Batman on the wall, "Yeah, Batman wears black.  He's cool."

She raises a valid point.  Batman really is very cool. 

I know that it can't always be that simple, but, at least for now, I think she's ok. :)


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Understanding My Son

So, I took William to counseling, the other day.  Each time, she talks to me first so I can update her on William's progress or issues.  I often feel like I'm the one being counseled.  She has even  suggested that I come in to see her myself if I can find the time.  Would you believe that she implied that it might benefit me to have tools to deal with my stress level?  What could I be stressed about??  ;)  Anyway, I am all for it if I can find that elusive free hour.  Because after talking to her, I feel heard, really heard.  She is officially my favorite counselor that William has had and I feel optimistic that she can help him.

She's also the analogy queen.  It's like she has a Analogy Thesaurasus and she skims through it before each session.  But, I'm not making fun of her, it's brilliant.  The point of analogies is to drive a point home and they do.  One of her favorites is to say that William has a fire burning inside him and it's causing smoke.  The smoke equals the behaviors (i.e. lying, stealing, etc) but until we figure out what's going on inside (what's causing the fire), we can't really help him.  Just putting out the smoke won't stop the fire. 

We wouldn't have him in counseling if we didn't realize that there was turmoil within, but the analogy does, in fact, drive the point home.  I'm frustrated with his behaviors and I can ground him all I want, send him to bed early, or whatever else I can think of; but that won't solve the problem.  She's not suggesting that he doesn't deserve consequences for actions, she's just suggesting that we keep it in perspective.  To wear our "perspectiples."  

I have already learned so much with this intern who is wise beyond her years.  (I don't know how old she is so maybe she's appropriately wise, but, either way, she knows her stuff.)  She's made me realize how much shame and lack of worthiness that William probably already feels.  It's something common to former foster children.  When your first 5 years involved not being your mother's top priority, it's easy to assume that you're not worthy of being a priority at all.  He may feel like his mistakes are who he is and that he's not necessarily worthy of love.

So, why does he do these things when all we try to do is show him that he is and tell him that he is worthy? Why doesn't he believe us?  Why does he reward us by lying?   The answer is...I don't know. I just know that it stinks.  Can the bucket with a hole in the bottom ever be closed by super Parker super glue?  Will it ever be enough?  Again, I don't know. 

Is she right when she says that, due to his trauma, his threshold for how much love and reassurance he needs to feel secure might simply be higher than the average child?  I think she is.  I think he must need more than we have been giving because the amount that we are giving is clearly not  enough.  And, that's daunting.  Because I feel like I'm giving a lot.  I mean, I know that I fall short, sometimes.  I see those moments.  But, am I falling even shorter than I thought?  How is that possible when I thought I was standing so tall?  (Ok, now I'm getting carried away with the analogies!) 

But, the most concerning thing of all is this.  She told me that at the last session he reported that he felt like he couldn't do anything right.  That's not surprising, he has said that before.  It was the fact that he told her that we told him that.  That's simply not true.  That's a blatant lie.  I have made plenty of mistakes in how I have interacted with him in our time together, but never anything so blatant. And, Brian, the one less likely to get overly-emotional when talking to him, hasn't either.  And, of course, I told her so with a defensive tone, I'm sure. ;)  But, then I realized something as I was assuring her that we didn't say that.  (Even though, she pretty much already knew that.)  He wasn't lying.  His mind was twisting whatever we did say and internalizing it as that.  He's famous for misconstruing things that are said to him.  Which is why I often say things like "To be clear, I'm saying this...... I'm not saying this......"  It's scary to think that even with our best efforts, a kid who believes he's a failure will be convinced that others do, as well.

I don't know what the answer is.  But, I know what I need to do.  Well, I kind of know what to do cause in a lot of ways, I don't have a clue.  But, I know that I have to try a little harder, be a little more patient, be a little (or a lot) more careful about my word choices, just be a little better.  Because, even though, it seems terribly unfair that I have to put so much mental energy into one kid who quite frankly has made our life so complicated when I have 3 others who need and deserve a bunch of mental energy, is what it is.  So, I have to figure it out.  He's my son.

Last night, as my kids and husband got ready to eat their gourmet frozen pizza, I made them mute the tv for a minute.

I announced to my unimpressed children.  "You're all good people and we love you!"  I continued, "You might make mistakes, like everyone else, but that doesn't make you bad people.  It has nothing to do with your souls, what's inside.  You are good people!"

I think that I said a few more things but they probably had zoned out by then, anyway. 

Except for William.  He smiled and said, "Ok."

Baby steps. :)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Mind Of My Troubled Son

There is no doubt that William was the one most affected by his past.  While I can give you examples of how everything affected the other the fact that Antwan's speech was about a year behind because, by all accounts, no one really talked to him for the year before we got him.  Or that Lizzie was so terrified of strangers for a long time that she would hide behind my legs.  This was especially true with black women.  (The driver to the biological visits was black and, of course, the biological parents were black.  So she equated black women with being taken away from her home and comfort zone.)  And, how she would come back from visits completely shut-down for about an hour, wouldn't smile, wouldn't play.  Or how Kaleb is so determined not to have emotions at all that he has convinced himself that he is un-phased by all of it. 

But, all things considered, they are in pretty good shape.  They are happy, confident, and healthy.  With all the drugs involved in their prenatal existence, they are healthy!  When I look at the health issues that my friends' children have (also adopted from foster care), I am amazed that mine are basically ok.

And, William seems basically ok, too.  But, not completely.  If you've been reading my blog for awhile, then you know about all the drama, last year, at school.  How he was bullied until he eventually started to bully back/defend himself.  This resulted in his impulsive decision to take a box cutter to school (I didn't even know we had a box cutter?!), get himself suspended, and assigned to an alternative school.  We decided to go the home school and counseling route, instead. 

Even though, I knew that it was the right thing to do and was totally on board with standing by my son, I wasn't thrilled with losing my me-time.  Who would be?  But, now that I home school Lizzie and Antwan, too, I can barely even remember a reality that involved me-time.  And, actually, I'm pretty ok with that. :) I am keenly aware of how quickly time goes.  And, how I'll have more me-time than I want, later. 

Anyway, what I worry about is whether he is getting any better.  I don't know that the counseling officially helped.  Particularly because there were some scheduling changes at the office and once we got comfortable with one, he would get switched to another.  And, the worst part was (yes, I said worst part) that the last one had to google what Jedis are!  How could my nerdy son connect to someone who didn't know anything about Star Wars? ;)  But, to her credit, she tried.  I don't know if it helped.  But, after taking a several month break due to: the summer, getting our new 3 kid home school routine established, and my naïve lack of awareness of how badly he needed to go back; I can say that things are not better without it. 

In the last several weeks, we've watched his behavior deteriorate.  While he was staying at my parents' house, a little over a month ago, so Brian and I could attend his father's funeral, he stole something from my mom.  Then, a few weeks later, at Thanksgiving dinner, he pocketed a lighter that my sister had sitting by a candle on the bar.   It's not because he's devious or unconcerned with his family, it's because he's impulsive.  He has always impulsively done things and then not known how to get out of them.  This is why he can't be trusted with internet access because he will look up whatever pops in his mind and it's not necessarily appropriate. This is why his lying has always been a problem.  Once a lie pops out, he sticks to it, no matter what. It doesn't matter how many "get out of jail free" cards you give him or take-back opportunities he is offered.  It doesn't matter how much you explain that he will always get in more trouble for lying, he will stick to it.   There are rare hopeful moments when he will fess up.  But, the majority of the time, he will let me make a fool of myself first.  My all-time favorite will always be going to the school to report the kids who had torn apart his shirt.  (In reality, he tore his own shirt.)  It took me a long time to get over that.  And, yeah, I'm the mom and I shouldn't hold a grudge.  But, there it was. 

And, you can imagine how successful friendships are when his friends can't trust what he says. 

The lighter incident was particularly scary because, of course, he played with it.  He played with it outside when trying to light moss on fire.  He played with it in a closed bedroom with Lizzie and Antwan.  So, so scary!

William's got a good heart.  He really, really does.  But, he's got issues.  And, it scares the heck out of us.  He's always been impulsive and, of course, that goes hand-in-hand with ADHD.  But, I guess I thought it would get better over the years, but it has just changed.  And, he knows it.  And, he doesn't know why.  When I was lecturing him about the lighter and highlighting all the things that could've have happened, he started to cry.  That's not unusual, but then he said "I think something's really wrong with me."    And, I was terrified that he was right.

So, we went back to counseling and got another new counselor.  And, she really seems to know what she is doing and, almost as importantly, haha, she watches The Flash and Arrow.  And she likes Star Wars. ;)

Hopefully, she can help him. 

Sometimes, in the midst of the worrying, you have other moments.  Last night, we were grabbing something for dinner in Walmart and he was talking about still needing to give me a Christmas present.  I hadn't really thought about it, but usually my friend takes them to The Dollar Tree to pick out presents for the family.  This year, my friend didn't have time.  So I suggested that he just make me something and he agreed.  But, at the register, he decided to get me something, anyway.  I had to look away as he swiped it at the self-checkout.  Then the cashier played along and helped him quickly bag it after she had to come over and unlock it from its security packaging. 

When we got to the van, he presented me with my very own portable phone charger that he had bought with some of his birthday money.  Since my phone famously dies all of the time, there couldn't be a more needed gift.  He picked blue for the Doctor's Tardis and was very excited to show me how to use it.  I drove home with a not-dead phone and was also presented with a handmade clay snail, not long after we got to the house.

I got me some pocket juice!

In the midst of all of the chaos that he manages to cause, it's sometimes easy to forget what a good heart he has.  In that moment, he wasn't a former foster child who impulsively lies and inexplicably steals, he was a kid who loves his mom and wanted to make her happy.

And, you know what?  He did. 

Whatever is going on in that head of his, we will figure it out.  Because that kid who loves his mom has a mom who loves the heck out of him, too.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Fighting For My Children

There's a difference between prejudice and racism.  We all have prejudices.  Right or wrong, I think we all do.  The trick is to recognize them and not to let those prejudices dictate your behavior.  Because then you are a racist.

Growing up, I had black friends.  It wasn't a big deal.  Why should it be?  But, I did go through a brief phase in middle school when I started to believe that black people were "mean."  This was due to the fact that I went through a few weeks where I was picked on and they happened to all be black.  I found myself adopting the prejudicial belief that "they" were all like that.  Black people, well, black kids, were mean.  It didn't take me long to realize what I was doing and abandon that way of thinking, especially since no one in my life thought that way.  So I can see how it happens, particularly if you are being raised in an environment that supports that way of thinking, but it's wrong.  Really, really wrong.

Obviously, I'm far away from the middle schooler who held a racial grudge for a handful of months.  I now identify more with black people than white people in a lot of ways.  And, when I go to a group event and there is a black woman, I will try to gravitate towards her.  I say try because the reality is I'm still fairly shy and group events scare the heck out of me. ;) 

So, what's my point?  I guess, basically, my point is that racism stinks.  We've come so far and we have so far to go, still.  I enjoyed my time in the land of white privilege, but now I live with more of an understanding of what it's like to be black in our world.  The other day, I sent William in to pay for my gas.  As I stood outside by the van, I could see him in line.  I realized that he had his hood up on his hoodie.   When he came out, I suggested that he take off the hood when going into stores.  I told him that it was different if he was wandering Walmart with me but when he was going to pay for something, he should take it down.  He agreed cause he's an agreeable kid.  In a way, I was perpetuating a cycle, but. more importantly, I was protecting my child.  What's more important than that?

But, it made me sad.  It makes me sad that it's even a thing.  That black kids in hoodies make us think of Trayvon Martin.  It's sad.  It's scary that I have to think about this stuff now.  Thankfully, William's small stature will make him look less threatening to the Zimmermans of the world.   But, I do worry about Kaleb.  He's a big kid, he's loud, and, although he's got a good heart, he's not always super polite.  So, I worry.  And, that's sad.

Anyway, I'm getting off-track.  I don't even know what I'm trying to say, exactly.  Except this.  I'm sad.  Brian and I have recently become estranged from a family member (on his side) due to racial issues.  That is both bizarre to me and sad.  Really, really sad.

Basically, a facebook meme was posted by a family member.  It said "Merry Christmas from The Obamas!"  And the picture was of two adult apes and a baby ape.  The baby ape had Barack Obama's face pasted on it.  I've seen a lot of anti-Obama memes, but that was the worst, in my opinion.  Because it had nothing to do with politics, it was pure racism.  Is the color of his skin the reason that he is a bad President (in his opinion)?  No, of course not. 

Obviously, as parents of black children, we were offended and hurt.  Particularly, since it was from a family member.  In separate comments, Brian and I each politely asked him to remove it.  I explained that we were focusing on the racism of the meme, not the political opinion.  He reacted with hostility and invitations to unfriend him.  I was accused of bringing everything back to race and politics (this was the first time that I had commented on any of his posts) and being the one to bring my kids into it, not him.  When I explained that it was not about politics and that my kids were relevant to this, I was unfriended. 

I am floored.  In part, I regret engaging in the dialogue, because it may have blown over if I had kept my mouth shut.  But, on the other hand, I was defending my children's honor.  Because when you attack someone based on their race, you are attacking their race and all others of that race.  You just are.  As Brian said, our kids will have enough to deal with, without having to encounter racism in their family, so maybe it's better for them that, for now, ties have been cut off with that person. 

I don't know.  I just can't wrap my mind around the idea that an adult could be so hateful towards another human being.  And, it's not about the President, my kids, or the token black police officer or sidekick in a lot of the recent CW shows.  It's about the fact that who they are is about the content of their character not the color of their skin.  (Yeah, I'm stealing from MLK Jr.)  If you think that the President sucks, fine.  But, it's not because he is black.  If you think my kids are wonderful ;), yay, but it's not because "they are some of the good ones,"  And if you think Joe from The Flash is hot, like I do, it's not because he is black...well, it is a little bit because of his appearance, haha, but the point is, he's not a good actor because he's black, it's just because he's super talented. ;)

So, racism stinks.  It's not ok.  It will never be ok.  It's not ok that there were angry hashtags because one of the leads in the new Star Wars movie is black.  It's not ok that someone made the Obama/ape meme in the first place. It's not ok.  But, thankfully, as the days go by, things get better and better.  And, those who post rude memes, angry hashtags, or just think horrible thoughts in their head are becoming the minority.

But, we're not out of the racial woods yet.  As Brian put it, last night..."White people have freedom.  Black people view freedom as something that they are still fighting for." 

Now, I don't know if it that is a Brian original, he is pretty clever, after all, or if he was quoting someone.  But, I like it.  And, it's pretty accurate.  I can't think of a better reason to fight than my children.  So, as a mother to black children, I will keep fighting.  I will fight against racism and I will fight for my children.  It's great that the government protects them and other races/groups of people.  But, they also deserve respect from their friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.  (They especially deserve it from family.)   

We raise our kids to show respect to those around them, they deserve the same.