Posted tagged ‘parenting’

20 Years Ago

November 18, 2013

Twenty years ago this month – which happens to be Adoption Month – my husband and I were finally on the same page at the same time in the same frame of mind and submitted an application to begin an international adoption.

Several weeks before we had attended an international adoption forum at a sort of local hotel where six different adoption agencies were represented.  It was a Monday night and the hubby was semi willing to  attend as long as I promised to leave in time for him to be home to get his weekly televised dose of WWF.  Of course I’d promised.

With fingers crossed behind my back.

It was crazy.  There was a table on a small stage lined with agency representatives.  The little room was almost full.  Full of families contemplating adoption…..families that had completed adoptions…..families in the process of adopting….and kids.

Kids of all sizes and ages, running around the room, dodging parental grips, snatching hugs, sharing toys, giggling, sipping juice boxes and just having fun.

About half way through the question and answer session, I nudged the hubby to ask if he was ready to go and he shushed me.  He was listening to what people were saying. He was hooked.

Line and sinker.

Sadly, albeit appropriately since the Baby Jessica and Baby Richard sagas had just played out in the local media, the biggest concern for the pre-adoptive families was the permanency of an international adoption. And how to fund the expensive process.

We talked on the way home.  It had been a bit of a journey for us to reach this point.  We’d experimented briefly with fertility drugs.  We’d toyed with the idea of just being satisfied with the exposure we had with his daughters.  We explored adoption through foster care, open adoption and family adoption.  Nothing felt right….until that night.

So we filled out the first of three applications that were to come.

We were requesting  a little girl from India.  A toddler….or an older child that needed us.  We felt led because we had watched a tv program that depicted the dire prospects for baby girls in India just a few weeks before.

And we began to think about…and prepare…to add a little girl to our lives.  Our hearts began to open and to flower and to ready themselves for that child.

Seriously.

But it would be three months before our child was even born.

And another three months until we were handed this:

Image

Our case file had been matched to a baby boy in South Korea.

It would be another six weeks until we were to hold him.  He would be four months old.

And it was seven months after submitting that first application to adopt.

Seven months of waiting and planning and preparation……and loving.

I have done a lot of reading over that past 20 years.  I understand that children who are adopted can sometimes feel a sense of abandonment.  That they may feel a sense of loss at being released for adoption by a birth parent.  I often wondered if mine ever wished for a different family.  Wished they had been matched with a family that could have given them more….or a different kind of life.

We have never talked about it…..and so I still wonder.

We have talked about their adoption situations however.  Shared what we know and the little bits of information that we have.  Told him how lucky he was that his mother knew very early that she wasn’t ready to raise a child on her own.  How grateful we were that she made the decision that brought him into our lives.

But there is another part of that story that I have neglected to share with them.

I have neglected to tell him (and her) how much they were loved even before we knew them or held them or hugged them.  How  our hearts were growing and getting ready from the day we filled out those early applications.

So while their birth parents were struggling and planning to leave them, on the other side of the world we were planning….and loving….and waiting to receive them.

Its a sad world in which adoption is needed.  But it would be a sadder one if it wasn’t available.

For everyone.

 

 

A Letter to My Son

October 22, 2011

Dear Daniel

It’s over. It was a heartbreaking loss in that second playoff round. You had some pretty awesome saves in that game. But it still didn’t lessen the fact that you were hoping for a different outcome for your senior soccer season in high school. Watching you stand at the goal when the buzzer sounded the end of the second ten minute over time, and knowing how you were feeling was the hardest thing I have had to watch since you first started playing the game. And soccer is a game that you have come to love with a passion.

You were just five when we signed you up to play in a 3 on 3 learning league. We commiserated with other parents about having to fit your first game schedule around the Saturday morning Kindergarten Round Up program. You loved the cleats, your coach, your jersey and socks and your team mates. You weren’t too crazy about that first pair of shin guards however. You were very excited about your very first real honest to goodness grass stain. And true to your pre-Kindergarten self, the best part of the 30 minute practice/30 minute game process was the snacks.

The following year we were in the midst of dealing with the massive paperwork process to complete your sister’s international adoption. When we didn’t hear from a coach about the start of your 5 on 5 learning league, I surmised that I might have not sent in the paperwork like I thought I had. I scrambled to find a place for you to play and you ended up on a YMCA team. You were one of two boys and a gaggle of girls. Your coaches loved you and your fierce kick. The entire team loved the game as much as you did. And after your first YMCA practice I got a call from your coach with the other program. Oops. I had sent the paperwork in after all. But, since they were two different programs with two different styles of training, we decided to let you play both of them for a while and let you decide which one you wanted to stay with.

Oy.

We should have known then what your future would hold. You stuck with practices or a game every single night of the week that spring and played for both teams without a single complaint. And you were only six.

From that point on our family life revolved around soccer. Soccer shorts. Soccer cleats. Soccer socks. Soccer jerseys. Soccer shin guards. Outdoor practice. Outdoor games….in the heat, in the rain, in the sleet and in the snow. Indoor practice. Indoor games….at varying times between 5 am and 11:30 pm. Ice packs. Ibuprofen. Heat packs. Ice packs. Athletic wrap. Athletic tape. Bio Freeze. On and on and on.

For the next twelve years.

From a parent stand point, the logistics of this passion of yours has been very frustrating. This was especially true after your sister decided that soccer was her game as well. Carting two of you here and there, using vacation times and vacation money for out of town tournaments, stopping for quick ‘fast food’ meals to and from practice sessions, dealing with stinky, sweat soaked shoes/socks/jerseys locked in our car all weekend, sitting on the sidelines watching practices, sitting on more sidelines watching games, critiquing coaches and referees and keeping our mouths shut – or open – as the situation called for it. Soccer parenting is not for the faint of heart. I don’t think ANY kind of sport parenting is.

And what do your Dad and I want you to take away from all of these years?

Mostly we want you to take away the memories. Memories of team mates that provided you with camaraderie like no other. Memories of times when you succeeded when you thought you couldn’t….and failed when you thought you shouldn’t. Memories of hot summer days when sweat poured from your body and yet you pushed forward. Memories of cold freezing days that energized you even more. And of course….the snacks.

And we also want you to take away respect. Respect for the coaches you have had that have shared their gifts with you. Respect for the coaches you have had that taught you to be the best that you can be. Respect for the coaches that have believed in you and stood up for you. Respect for all of the opponents that challenged you to give it your all. Respect for the team mates that have trusted you….and that you have given your trust.

We hope that you have learned that soccer – like life – is not a ‘blame game.’ That you will not always be able to achieve what you want or expect to – but that there is a certain fulfillment in knowing that you have given it your best shot. That when that buzzer sounds at the end of a game – or a day in your life – you can always say, ‘I did my very best.’ We hope that you have learned that you will need all kinds of people on your ‘team.’ We hope that have learned to value each of them for what they bring to the ‘game.‘ We hope that you have learned that everyone plays a part in your successes and shares in the disappointment of your losses.

We want you to take away a sense of self and self-esteem for what you have accomplished as a player….and as a person. You are someone with skills. You are someone that can be counted on. You are someone that expects the best in others because you know you will be giving the best that you have. You are someone that enjoys a good laugh….and a heart to heart talk.

And we sincerely hope that you find a way to continue with this game that you have grown to love – as a player or as a trainer or as a coach or as an official…..or as a parent. And if that day ever comes, we have some good, solid sideline chairs and an umbrella you can borrow.

We love you, son. You have made us very proud.

Mom and Dad

Riding in the Car with Mom

January 13, 2011

“….now we need to find him a car and I am never driving my kids to school again!”

At first, I heartily agreed with a friend’s Facebook status expressing exhilaration at her son finally getting his driver’s license.   Not having to cart your socially active/sports playing kids/teenagers around town is kind of freeing.   But driving them to school?  Hmm…..

My children have had to deal with Mom’s Taxi from the very start of their school careers out of necessity.  Since we didn’t live in the school district where I taught, and wanting him (and later, her) to be on the same year round school calendar as I was, I enrolled Prince across district boundary lines.  This meant that he needed to ride with me every day and spend a time in the before school child care program at his school so I could skedaddle to mine.  Later I managed to find a parent closer to our house who could babysit in the mornings and they could catch the bus from her neighborhood.  Then I was transferred to a school right next door to a middle school so they could ride to work with me in the mornings and then walk down and wait my classroom till the end of the elementary school day.  When he went to high school we even managed to finagle a ride for him on a high school route that would drop him off at my elementary school so he could wait even longer.

But they did their homework in the Media Center, helped out in classrooms and got into some harmless trouble now and then.  But we rode together……every day.

Back and forth.

In Mom’s Taxi.

When they were younger we would sing songs at the top of our lungs, practice spelling words and talk about books they were reading as we drove back and forth.  We knew the routes to take to see the MOST obnoxious holiday displays and the short cuts to avoid – or not – on muddy days.   We knew where to plug our noses to avoid the smell of mulch in the making.  We knew where to see nesting swans and baby ducks in ponds along the way.  

But the reason that I could relate to my friend’s happiness at those ‘taxi’ days coming to an end is because driving kids – now teenagers – can be a bit aggravating.  We have had days when the only conversation we had were grunts or snorts as they took cat naps in the car.   And the surliness of kids who were tired of the mundane routine of school was a little hard to bear at times….especially if my own day had been challenging. 

 I did have some respite from the task when HRH was laid off from his job for a period of six months last year.  He did the chaffering to their schools and I enjoyed the luxury of being able to leave home a bit later in the morning.   To play MY songs on the radio.  To roll the windows down and turn off the air conditioning.

But the truth of it is, I kind of missed those morning and afternoon drives after a while.  I missed the forced containment in a small space with my kids for a short period of time. 

You see, riding in the car with Mom gave me a few moments of the day to reconnect with them.  To hear about how their day went, who they were sitting with at lunch and what ‘crappy’ homework they had to do.  I heard about substitute teachers that were awesome and shenanigans in the hall that others were involved in.  Always….others. 

I know the music they like and the radio stations they tune into.  I know the fast food places they want to stop at for an after school ‘snack’ and how quickly they can ‘power shop’ in the mornings at the 24 hour grocery store.  I knew how they felt about the current events we saw happening on the news as we were on the way out the door. 

So now that one has a license to drive and the other has her learner’s permit the campaign to get a car for them has stepped up somewhat.  They want to drive themselves to school.

But, in all honesty, I am planning on holding out for at least another year. 

I’d miss my kids.

Sigh.

Open or Closed?

August 12, 2010

Adoption is beginning to rear its bright, beautiful  little head in our family again.  Not that it hasn’t in the past.  WE have mulled it over on rare occasions of parental happiness and so has my youngest step-daughter.  But it is the oldest that is taking steps….actually taking STEPS….baby steps…..to add to her family with an adoption.

I remember being at this point.  You think the biggest decision is MAKING the decision to adopt.  Everything after that should be a piece of cake, right?  You want a baby/child so you know there are lots of  parent-less children available and you fill out paperwork and voila!  Instant family member.

It should be so easy.

But there are lots of decisions that come at the beginning of this journey.  International or domestic?  Which agency to use? What kind of funding resources  are available?   What kind of an adoption are you comfortable with?  How long can you wait?

HRH and I were able to make most of those decisions in unison at the very start of our journey.  (We now allude that most of these ‘decisions’ were completely out of our hands.)  The press in our area had been following the Baby Jessica case quite rabidly in those days so an international adoption was much more appealing than a presumably precarious domestic one.  We attended an adoption forum and were able to consider six local agencies at once before settling on the one we decided to use.  We began setting money aside in a special savings account and the right amount always seemed to be there when we needed it. Or the resources opened up.  We asked for a little girl from India and were matched with an infant boy from South Korea.

We know now – that God was totally in charge of our adoption – from the start.  The same was very true of our second adoption.  We were never really faced with the kinds of decisions that my step and her husband are mulling.

The biggest one is whether they would prefer an Open or a Closed adoption.

If you are aware of adoption issues at all, then you know that an Open Adoption is one that allows the birth parents to maintain contact with the child and the adoptive family in some way.  A Closed Adoption is one in which the adoption records are sealed and neither party is aware of the other’s whereabouts….unless there is an agreement to open them at some point and make that information available.

Reality television has given us so many ‘pictures’ of both situations.  We see families that have been split up and adopted by different families and suddenly finding each other on the news.  One reality show – ‘Pregnant at 16′ – has followed several teens as they carried through their pregnancies and made plans for their unborn children and subsequent lives.  One of them chose adoption for her daughter.    ’60 Minutes’, ’20/20′ and ‘Dateline’  have all done exposes on the adoption process from every possible angle.  We have seen tiny little children refer to young women next to them as their ‘birth Mommy.’   We have seen college students studying pictures received from the adoptive family of the babies they never can see.  We have seen the anguish of an adult facing a birth parent wanting answers for their feeling of abandonment.  We have seen adoptive parents thanking birth parents for allowing them to raise a baby.  (My favorite of that was an Oprah segment in which an adoptive mom told a birth mom that the adult daughter they shared had a dimple where she had been kissed immediately after birth.  Aww.)  And then there are the celebrities..both adopted and adoptive.  (Bet there aren’t many that remember the actress – who went on to captain the Enterprise later in her career – that very quietly gave her child up for adoption for real while starring in an afternoon drama.)

Open or Closed.

Our adoptions are decidedly closed.  Internationally closed.  It seemed like a good thing at the time.  We liked our privacy.  We like the finality of it all.  But now with my daughter’s questions about her birth parents and wanting to see their pictures and wondering what they are like or what happened to them, I sometimes wonder if  ‘closed’  is such a good thing.  These are questions we will never have answers for.  Would being able to share pictures and stories and medical facts with her be such a bad thing?

Fear is what guides us in this decisions sometimes.  I think.  Fear that a birth parent is going to come swooping in to reclaim the child or its affections.  Fear that there is someone out there MORE invested in your child and its well being.

I have lived with that fear.  I sometimes wonder when we are embroiled in some teenage angsty moment if my children are thinking that there is a birth parent out there that would be less demanding, happier with their minimal efforts on school projects or more accepting of their needs….and wants.  I wonder if when they are not listening to a raving, ranting me , if they are wishing for that mystical birth parent who would SURELY love them more.   

Its an emotionally scary, scarring thing to have in the back of your mind.

And I came kind of close to facing those fears one early fall day several years ago.  Our adoption agency has a picnic every year and we received a letter stating that the foster mother that had taken care of our son in Seoul was going to be present.  My ultra quiet and shy son was – surprisingly – excited about seeing her.  We put together a little photo album and a quilted pillow with pictures he picked out on it.  I will never forget the way her eyes lit up when this squat Korean woman was reintroduced to the child she had once cared for.  Nor will I ever forget the look on my child’s face when she hugged him, whipped off the carefully selected tee shirt he was wearing and replaced it with a light blue shirt she had brought with her from Korea.  With a collar…..and buttons.  He wore it for the next three hours.

Without complaining.  How did she DO that?

Someone invested in my child’s well being.  It was a little….. exciting….and touching…. and surreal….. and a little threatening.  Sort of. 

I was musing about the whole birth parent/adoptive parent thing for the entire day.  Worried about it, in fact.

But the truth is that YOU are the one they come to with a problem, the one they expect to cuddle away night fears and to make that outrageously embarrassing appearance at some high school event.  You are the one that nixes an oufit, rants about sun screen/ toothpaste/general hygiene and library book fines.  You are the one that sees that they have all of the ‘right’ school supplies and tennis shoes.  You are the one that sees that they are on time for the bus and the practices and the games.  You are the one that knows their favorite restaurant, the spot on their feet that draws the most giggles and the right thing to say when their heart is breaking. 

 Would I like an Open Adoption as opposed to the Closed Adoptions that we have?? 

I would like to have pictures to show my children….and I would like to have someone else that is invested in their well being to share THEIR pictures with.  I would like medical information to share with them.  I would like a little history to share with them.  But I am still mulling over the rest.

Ask me when they are older.

And actually LIKE me again.

Tues-Dates

March 25, 2010

I am a part time Teacher.  Years ago, when we brought the Princess home from her Russian orphanage, I became a ‘half time’ Teacher.  I taught one section of Kindergarten.  My students came two and a half days per week…and then 2 days one week and three days the next week.  How 5 year olds adjusted to THAT routine is another blog.  This schedule allowed me to bring home a paycheck and STILL do the ‘Mommy and Me’ thing with my new five year old daughter.  She went to preschool/daycare on the days that I worked.  When she started school full time, I applied myself to getting back into a full time position….for seven years.   Not easy……and not fun for the pocket book now that my kids were older.  But I DID like my days off.  Our house was quiet.  I was writing….and sewing….and quilting…..and shopping……and cleaning (sometimes). 

Last year I was upgraded to an 8/10ths position…..or four days a week.   MUCH nicer on the bank account.  And my Principal, who was involved in the “specials’ scheduling process asked which day of the week I wanted to keep as a day off.  I could pick any day except  Monday or Friday. 

I kept Tuesday….which wierdly works to my benefit in the long run.  I am never working on that first day of school so I can get my own kiddos off to a good start.  And those Monday Off holidays always turn into Monday/Tuesday Off holidays for me.  I cherished my Tuesdays.  Our house was quiet.  I was writing….and sewing….and quilting…..and shopping……and cleaning (sometimes). 

So when the Hubby told me last fall that he would be laid off for a considerable amount of time ( five MONTHS…yikes!) , I was a bit crushed.  Lump in my throat kind of crushed.  And not about the money or the time He would be home.  My solitary and quiet  Tuesdays would be gone.

It took us a couple of weeks of dancing around each other come January when his lay off began but my Tuesdays gradually evolved into our ‘Tues-Dates.’

Tues-Dates!

We have taken in afternoon movies together.  We have gone shopping together.  We have gone to  restaurants for lunch together.  We have attended appointments together.  We have driven around and through neighborhoods together looking for a new house.  Sometimes we have just spent the day quietly at home.

Tues-Dates.

When you have two active children who need to be driven to sports events and practices, driven to school, driven to friends’ houses,  have homework monitored and a constant supply of meals and snacks and laundry tended to, that ‘date time’ gets lost in the shuffle.

And to think I always shook my head when I would hear that ‘parents need to schedule time together AWAY from their kids.’  Not us.   We CHOSE this parenting thing.  Its part of WHOWEARE.   Heh.

Our Tues-Dates have given us back what we used to have – before kids.  We talk more.  We share more.  We strategize our parenting more effectively.  We enjoy each other more.

And now that he is talking about going back to work again….about the assembly plant reopening…..I have been crushed.

My Tues-Dates will be gone.   Our house will be quiet again.  I will be writing….and sewing….and quilting…..and shopping……and cleaning (sometimes)…again.  Alone.

Rats.

A Little Prayer Moment

March 22, 2010

It’s Spring…….and I teach in an elementary school. 

 ‘Nuff said.

Our lack of a Winter Break has taxed us to the max.  Kids have been raring to bust out of their snow pants and mittens and hats for weeks.  If only their energy level could be collected and bottled.

  I believe we would be on Mars by now.

Every time I pass a Teacher in the hall or the workroom or the lunchroom, we roll our eyes and carry on.

But I….honestly….have a little secret.

Every morning, I sit in my car in the parking lot and say a little prayer.  I pray for a good day.  I pray that my children will be inspired to do their best and to make choices and have actions that will reflect their love of God.  I pray for my sister and her family and the trials they are dealing with in their southern home.  I pray for my parents and their life in an even more southern home.  I pray that my husband will find something constructive and healthy to do with his day while he is laid off.  I pray for the new home we are trying to find.  I pray for my colleagues and their students to make the most of their ‘learning day.’  I pray for myself.

To have patience.

To teach something worthy.

To make my students feel good about themselves and what they can do.

To make my friends feel good about what THEY do.

And then I walk inside and face the day.

With a smile.

And a sense of peace.

And it works.

I mean, who says that God can’t come to school?

The Truth of it is…..

May 10, 2009
2007

2007

I have been getting a lot of sappy – ahem – meaningful… poems and posters and sayings in my email box and on my Facebook page.  All of them are crowing about the fact that my friends and my family regard me as a ‘good mom’ and want me to pass the message along to other ‘good moms.’  The truth of it is that – this week – I didn’t feel like such a good mom.  This parenting thing is hard stuff.  It always has been.  And I signed up for it.  Willingly…….

When the Prince was just a little guy he made it known, rather loudly in fact, that he was simply not a morning person.  Dragging him out of his crib and slipping him into jeans and a tee shirt and zipping him into a snow suit was the worst morning ritual possible.  When he was a bit older we had the issue with the seams in his socks.  Could not stand them.  Could NOT abide them.  Making choices was always difficult.  Clothes to wear…cereal to eat….what to put in his lunch box….ai yi yi.  Always a worry that something else might be better.  Transitions were difficult.  Home to school.  School to soccer practice.  Soccer practice to home.  Summer vacation to school.  School to summer vacation.  One teacher to another teacher.  Even transitioning from one season’s clothing to anothers resulted in ‘issues. ‘

You would think that 15 and a half years of this would have given me the foresight to see what would happen when I asked him to stop watching television to fill out his application for the YPA youth leadership opportunity.  Now, he has been talking about becoming a leader with the Youth Police Academy since completing their program LAST summer.  He had every intention of filling out the application.  He just didn’t want to do it….right now.  But I insisted on it….right now.  So all the teenage angst and frustrated Mombusiness came pouring out in all it’s ugly glory.  For about two hours.  Heh.

He is SO not like me.  I think. 

The Princess has been slip sliding through the spring semester, studying hard and not being altogether sucessful with Math and Science.  Her mind is on bike riding and skateboarding and how many friends she can gather with in a 24 hour period.  Unlike the Prince, she doesn’t argue or fuss….much.  Ask her to do something and she stops everything to do it….and then gets back to her social life.  Wherever it’s happening.  She dutifully checks in but feels the chains rattling if you keep her home at a unreasonable (in her mind) hour to get rested for school….or because it’s raining outside.  She’s actually gone…which is worrisome…..most of the time.

She is SO not like me.

But the truth of it is that he is a Good Kid….polite and interested in what is going on with others.  He has a wonderful sense of humor.  Adults enjoy him.  He is a solid ‘B++’ student who is very much a peer leader (but doesn’t feel like he is).  He is passionate about soccer.  Really passionate.  He is one very bright spot in a lack luster spring season for his ‘real’ team and has been invited to guest play for another team in an upcoming tournament.  They are so happy to have him as a goalie that they are actually registering to play in a higher – more challenging – division. 

She is also a Good Kid who is very well liked by her peers and her teachers.  A member of her school’s educational team made an off hand comment recently about how vocal she is with peers about teasing and playing fair and being kind to others.  And how much they appreciate that about her at school.  Her track coach told me that she loves having her on the team because she will run anything without complaint.  Her soccer coach said she is a ‘natural’ when it comes to knowing where to put the ball in a game.  And even with all the slip sliding and necessary support, she is a solid ‘B’ student as well.  She even got a ‘Rock and Roll’ award recently for bringing her Math grade up a peg or two.

The truth of it is, I’m sure they’ll be just fine.

So why do I feel like I have failed them this week?  There are piles of socks and shoes and papers and books and markers everywhere.  Peanut butter and jelly knives fill my sink while the open bread bag spills out of it’s basket on the counter.  There is ALWAYS a battle royal when it comes to getting the dishwasher emptied and loaded again….or the trash taken out.  There are rolling eyes and  muttered retorts when I rein in the social life in favor of homework and rest and chores.   I can’t begin to describe the war when I ask that they change in more appropriate clothing for the event of the day.  Or the battles we have almost daily about toothbrushes and skin care.  I feel like the big ugly Mom most of the time these days.

The truth of it is….I was a pretty ugly teenager myself.  I was moody and angst ridden and smart mouthed and stubborn at times.  Most of the time.  I complained about chores and argued about restraints.  Loudly.  I remember those days.  Vividly.  I am sure there were MANY times when my own mother was muttering… ‘just you wait……’ 

Looks like you got your wish, Mom,

Happy Mother’s Day!

: O )