Adoption Day 2014

On June 25, 2010, our adoption became legal. The kids and I had dinner and dessert out today to celebrate. We spent a couple minutes sharing our memories from the past four years. I felt good that I finally had some memories to share with them that they didn’t remember. Since I didn’t know them as babies, I’ve not really been able to tell them funny stories about things they used to do. We talked about our first trip to the water park and a silly game I used to play with BC.  In another four years, the kids will be 10 and 13. It’s hard to image them being so old. When they were 2 and 5, I definitely couldn’t imagine them at the ages they are now.

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Homework horror

BC is in kindergarten this year and the homework situation is awful. Every Monday he brings home a packet of work that is due on Friday. For him, the work is simple – one digit addition, writing punctuation, and short spelling words like “it” and “can.”

I know he can do the work, yet he seems to enjoy making things more difficult. He often claims that he forgot how to sound out certain letters when he had read them perfectly fine the night before. It takes him a very long time to get through homework and he gets upset when BE finishes before him and gets to play.

I understand that something about homework is probably overwhelming for him, and I wish I could figure out what it is. He’s not old enough yet to really put words to his feelings. If I ask why he doesn’t like homework or what bothers him about homework, he just says he doesn’t know.

As always, I was reading the BCLC monthly newsletter, and of course Heather had some great advice. A reader had asked how to deal with her teenage daughter who wouldn’t help with family dinners, which made her appear lazy. Here are a few quotes from the response:

“To solve this issue, do proactive work and develop a plan with your daughter. This is a child who needs you to join her and to assist her in order to keep her from automatically going into overwhelm…. Explore the real issue: it’s too much for her and it is threatening…. Moving a child out of a state of overwhelm happens within the context of the relationship. Focus on the relationship.”

As always, for Heather, it’s all about the relationship. She did share some ideas for discussing the issue with the daughter, but I know BC can’t have that type of conversation yet. So, it’s nice to be reminded that building our relationship will help. I think he would like more attention than he’s getting, so the challenge for me will be to figure out how to invest more time. We don’t get home from latchkey/work until 6 p.m. and there’s a lot to do before bedtime. I’ll be looking forward to July when school is out for the summer.

BC’s 6th Birthday

BC had his 6th birthday earlier this month. I keep thinking about when first we met him, he was just over a year old and still learning to walk. He’s still as fearless as he was back then. Earlier this month he delivered a monologue at a school program and the audience loved him – check out the video (I apologize for the dark images – I tried to distort the video because I generally don’t share photos of the kids publicly) http://youtu.be/lSFEwc3Lw8A.

An unfortunate Christmas tree

For many years, I had a “themed” Christmas tree. Only star shaped ornaments in gold, silver, or white were allowed. The kids first moved in with us at Thanksgiving in 2009 and by the time Christmas came around, there hadn’t been time for them to make any of those homemade ornaments that I knew would ruin my tree. In 2010, I had a great solution – I bought them their own little miniature trees to keep in their rooms. I tried my best to make it seem like this was a favor to them – and not merely a way to keep their beaded wreaths and foam ornaments off my tree. It worked well for a few years, but this year I finally gave in. I can’t control everything, even though I still wish I could. I still haven’t caved on Santa though …

tree

A rare opportunity

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to do something most adoptive parents never get to do: I went to my kids’ foster home. For a year and half, BE and BC lived with the L family, not too far from where we live now. We’ve been fortunate enough to keep in touch with the Ls all these years, and one of the kids’ foster sisters recently invited us to a birthday party for her 1-year-old daughter.

I was ecstatic to see where the kids lived and I took a lot of photos of the house and the rooms. I did take photos of the kids with their four foster sisters and foster parents too.

I was fascinated by the people who were at the party. A good number of guests were former foster children themselves, now grown up with children of their own. The L family has been doing foster care for more than 20 years, and CL, the foster mother, estimates that she has had more than 100 foster children. I would love to interview her for this blog someday – the whole family is so unique that I just want to capture their perspective on family and life in general. Hopefully I’ll have a post on this in the future.

There were so many emotional moments for me during the party. I just felt so thankful that my kids had such a great family to take care of them. CL and I got emotional as she remembered rocking and feeding Brendan – she was pretty much his first mother. We’re so fortunate that we’re still in touch with the Ls and that the kids have such a large family of people who love them (including members of their first family of course).

fosterfamily

BC and his foster dad

Validating negativity

Right now, BC is driving me crazy. His behavior and listening skills are lacking and he doesn’t seem to have much empathy. (Now that I think about it, BE had about zero empathy at his age too, but that’s certainly not the case anymore.)

I haven’t found a solution, and it’s particularly challenging because he’s not really old enough to express what he’s feeling.

A reader question in the monthly Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control (BCLC) newsletter helped to give me some more insight. The situation wasn’t really the same, but Heather Forbes’ answer gave me a few ideas. Here’s the question:

My 8-year-old son ‘hates’ everything: the particular car driving down the street, the shirt I’m wearing, the kid next door, the color of the living room, the cashier at the grocery store, etc., etc. I am having trouble understanding this and how to deal with it. Any insights?”

Here are excerpts of Heather’s response:

“A child who ‘hates’ everything is a child in a perpetual state of fear and dysregulation. His neurophysiological system has been programmed to see the world as half empty instead of half full …

“Validate his negativity instead of trying to convince him of something more positive. ‘You really do hate this shirt. Wow. Help me understand how much you hate it. Tell me more.’ As he expresses himself, help him shift into the feelings behind these words. (It’s really not about the shirt.) ‘How does that make you feel? …’

“When you can help him to move into this core area within himself by listening, validating, maximizing, tolerating, accepting, and staying present with him, you’ll be there in relationship to guide him towards feeling safe and loved. Thus, you’ll be able to guide him to see that the world is good and hope does exist. It will take positive repetitious conditioning to do this for him.”

Ok, so BC doesn’t say he hates everything, but the advice about affirming his feelings and asking questions was very helpful. Because he’s only 5, I don’t think it will make a big difference right away, but I’m hoping it will set us on a good path for the future.

If you have any advice for me, please let me know!

Talking about adoption with an 8-year-old

When BE and I were at the market this summer, she asked me about something that might or might not have happened when she was a baby. I responded, “I don’t know, I guess we’d have to ask your first parents.”

This kind of comment in our family isn’t unusual. but that day, BE gave an unusual response. She said, “shh, don’t say that so loud, I don’t want anyone to hear.”

Up until now, my kids haven’t been shy or outspoken about their adoption; so far, it’s just been a normal fact of life. But, lately, BE seems to be more embarrassed by her adoption. I don’t know if it’s really embarrassment, or just a desire to fit in.

As my kids change (and their attitudes about adoption) change, I’ll be challenged to keep up. But, then again, not much stays the same, not even my own opinion about adoption. It’s likely my thoughts will continue to evolve right along with theirs.

Three grandpas, two moms, two dads

In Michigan, where I live, same sex marriage is illegal. Regardless of how you feel about same sex marriage, I believe our approach should be about what’s best for the children. In my opinion, children benefit from stability, but children adopted by a same sex couple are deprived of that stability. Therefore, for the sake of the children, same sex couples should be allowed to marry.

The NPR station, Michigan Radio, recently posted a story on the plight of an adopted boy named Lucas. Lucas has two dads, however since their marriage is not recognized in Michigan, only one of them is legally his father.

“Although there’s a lot of talk in Lansing about making kids safe and secure, when it comes to gay and lesbian couples, politics and attitudes about sexual orientation end that conversation,” the author wrote.

Of course, there are many more children like Lucas in Michigan and other states were same sex marriage is banned.  As I wrote in a post introducing a new series “The Future of Adoption,” I believe there are four issues that affect the current state of adoption. Number three was, “What if adoptive parents and their friends and family (and society as a whole) were not afraid of those who are different? (older children, children of other races, same-sex couples).”

Clearly, the real solution to this problem is to dispel fear of same sex couples. But, I don’t think that’s going to happen soon enough. In the meantime, let’s appeal to people’s concern for children.

My stepfather has expressed reserve at being called “grandpa” by my children. According to him, my kids already have two grandfathers, and don’t need a third. I’ve told him, and Grandma G, that there is no such thing as too many grandpas. I think my kids will only benefit from having many people who love them, even if it’s not “traditional.” I think that all kids can benefit from a large group of people who love them, even if that includes two moms or two dads.

Michigan’s same sex marriage ban is written into the state constitution, making it much harder to repeal. But another couple with adopted children is challenging the ban in court. Let’s hope this case results in a positive change.

A story of her own

BE is only peripherally aware of this blog. She knows the name of it, and she knows that I write about being an adoptive mother and about living in Detroit. At her request, I read her one of my recent posts. She wanted to know why I refer to her and BC by their initials. I tried to explain that being part of this family is her story too. That when she’s old enough, she can tell her story in her own way. And it will be her choice to attach her name to it.

A few days later, she showed me a piece of paper where she had written “her story.” It was just a few sentences long and she told me she wanted to “put it on the computer.” When I reminded her that my blog is available for anyone to read, she changed her mind. I assured her that I didn’t mind and that she could always share a story in the future if she wanted to.

I can see in other ways that she’s trying to make sense of her own story. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves over the coming years.