Be Gone, Drama!

I have a ton of gas left in my tank for crying, screaming, rages, aggression, urine going in places other than the toilet, hurtful words, defiance, etc.  A ton.  That stuff makes sense to me.  The world screwed them over, and I would be angry, too.  Not only did the world screw them over, but several families did as well.  They are going to hurt us before we can hurt them, and only time will eventually prove that we aren’t going anywhere.  We need to get through these behaviors in order to move forward.  We are up for it!

What I DON’T have any more patience for is the revolving door that is our house, social workers (even though we are blessed to have wonderful ones involved), visits with birth family, court, lawyers, therapy, millions of appointments, diagnoses, and drama.  I know our family might not ever be “normal” in the sense of many other families, but I am ready to have OUR normal.

Our finalization date keeps getting pushed back to the point where we can’t even see it anymore.  We all need the judge to declare us the forever family we already know we are so badly.  This was 100% just a vent, the process can be really frustrating sometimes. 

Rough nights: a blessing and a curse

Tonight did not start out awesome.  I will spare the details for your own sake as well as the privacy of our kids, but think multiple hour tantrums, flying objects, and feces.  That’s the curse part of the rough night, in case it wasn’t clear! 🙂 The blessing part is this: it is in our darkest moments that I can see Charlie and I working together in our finest moments.  Tonight that meant exchanging encouraging looks as our patience was being tested to the max, a quick hug in the hallway, a clear perspective when one of us is being triggered by hurtful comments.  You can do this.  This isn’t about you, it’s not personal.  He/She needs you to show her you still love him/her.  I’m here.  You’re doing great.

The divorce rate for couples parenting kids with attachment disorder is shockingly high.  Mark my words, we are not going to be a statistic.  I am so thankful for the painful 18 months where we were able to “practice” and work some of the kinks out with a foster placement.  We are so ready for this, we were so made to do this together!  I hope that doesn’t come off too cheesy or conceited…it is mostly a shout out to Charlie.  What are the odds of meeting the person who shares your dreams at such a young age?!  I am a gigantic advocate for adoption, especially special needs adoption, but it is absolutely vital that there is a healthy co-parenting team in place prior to moving forward.

The second blessing to this night is that as one of the kiddo’s rages escalated into being really out of control, I was able to pick them up and rock them.  Charlie has phenomenal instincts, and brought down a sippy cup of milk, and our kiddo allowed me to rock and hold the sippy cup.  The end part of a rage mimics that of an inconsolable infant so much, and I really do think that’s what’s going on inside the brain.  For the child to be vulnerable enough to allow the parent to soothe like that is really huge.  I remember when Jax was a baby, having a terrible night, that feeling of intense calm and love that I felt when I finally calmed him and we settled in…I felt it tonight with a child half my size!  Amazing.

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J’s Birthday Party

We celebrated J’s 6th birthday party with family tonight (his actual birthday is on Wednesday).  I honestly can’t quite articulate the excitement he had about his party!  I have never in my life seen a kid plow through presents the way he did.  I was feeling a little bad, because he was hardly even looked at each present before moving on to the next.  I think we underestimated a little how overwhelming it must be to come from his background and suddenly have a million perfect presents all at once.

Once everyone left, he shouted “I LOVE THIS FAMILY!!! ” He started really looking at each present, and kept saying how much he loved everything, over and over.  Literally every single present was the “best present EVER.”  It was a little tough getting him settled in to bed with all this cool stuff!  When I tucked him in, he said, “Thanks Mom, I’ve never really had a party like that.”  It pretty much melts my heart every single time he calls me Mom (which is not frequently)…and to hear such a young kid express thanks for a birthday party brought up lots of mixed feelings.  I appreciate it, and I love hearing it, but most kids wouldn’t think of that.  In all reality, they shouldn’t have to.  It’s funny how many of the things we wish our bio kids would do kind of breaks our hearts when J and A do them.

After he had been in bed awhile, he yelled for me again.  “I just can’t believe my life,” he told me.  I can’t believe my luck getting you as a son, kiddo!

Love Is Not An Empty Word

Randomly in the car today, “A” said to me – “Hey Mom?  Love is not an empty word.” I had a rare speechless moment as I tried to think of where that came from.  Someone told her that?  A song lyric maybe?  Huh?!   I just said, “Oh yeah?” to try to prompt a little more explanation.  “Yeah,” she said…”I love you and I love Charlie and I love “J” and I love Jax and that means something.  Love isn’t an empty word.”   When they came here, there was a weird transition from not having the word “love” in their vocabulary to loving everything/everyone (ie no boundaries).  Neither of us ever said “love is not an empty word” – but clearly she got that message somehow.  Hearing that message and putting that message into practice are such different things, and it was probably one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.

It was kind of a tough day for me at the U of MN (though we sure made the best of it with reframing it a girl’s day out!)  I say “me,” because “A” doesn’t really know what’s going on quite yet.  I am slightly anxious that someone that has more power than I do is not going to like this blog a whole lot, so I am going to refrain from disclosing a ton of information about that at this time.  I will say that I was feeling a little overwhelmed and defeated as we left there, and hearing “love is not an empty word” filled me with so much hope and optimism and awe I can’t adequately put it into words.

When I tucked my three beautiful little souls into bed tonight and habitually said “I love you,” I paused and thought about it.  Love is not an empty word, and it should always have meaning behind it.  I thought about WHY I love all three of them, in so very different ways.  It’s funny how much these kids are teaching me about life!  And here I thought I was the one with things to give them…

 

unconditional love

Having pre-adoptive kids is weird.  They are our kids, and/but technically they aren’t.  Someone can take them away.  We have to have permission to take them across state lines.  I have to tell a social worker about every bump and bruise.  Our home is a revolving door with social workers, guardians, therapists, etc. coming and going.  We can’t sign anything for them.  We have all of the responsibility, and none of the control.  We know it, and the kids know it. 

Any good parent knows that their kids will not (should not?) always like them.  It’s not our  job, as parents, to be liked.  It’s our job to keep them safe, love them, and help them turn into functioning members of society.  I feel comfortable with this line with Jax.  I feel confident that, even though he may not always like our rules or stucture, our bond is safe.  His love for me is not conditional.  He may not always like us, but I am pretty darn sure he will always love us.  If he were to complain to someone about us, it wouldn’t feel personal.  So, back to the whole “having pre-adoptive kids is weird” thing.  It feels very personal when they complain about us or we feel like they don’t “like” us.”  Despite understanding this is normal, it feels threatening and stressful in this situation.  It is unlikely that anyone will ever ask Jax, “so how do you like having your Mom and Dad as parents?  Do you like it there?”  J and A get asked questions like this pretty regularly.  I believe it gives them an unhealthy feeling of control over the situation, which includes an underlying tone as though this has the potential for not being permanent if it’s not working out.  It’s scary for the kids, and it’s scary for us.  We are so ready for this adoption to be finalized!

I should probably update you that I am 90% less of a train wreck than I was Mon-Wed last week!  Admittedly, this rollercoaster journey has had some higher highs and lower lows recently.  I am incredibly thankful to have a partner in crime to tag in and out with as needed.  As long as I’m feeling thankful, I also feel grateful to have an in-home therapist that knew with one look on Wed that she needed to give us a couple hour break rather than do family stuff.  The kids have a social worker that will answer her phone any day or time, which is pretty phenomenal and rare, I’m assuming.  Friends/family/neighbors are coming out of the woodwork to support us, and please hear me when I say it has a profound effect on our ability to get through some days.  The cards are definitely stacked in our favor, and even in our darkest of hours we know with certainty our family is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.  I smile when I hear Phillip Phillips “Gone Gone Gone” song: “I’ll share in your suffering to make you well, to make you well.”  Mark my words, these kids will be well.

J asked me today (again) what would happened if he burned our house down.  “What do you mean?” I asked, trying to buy some much-needed time to formulate an answer.  “LIke…where would I go?”  Holy cow – I think he is asking me if we would “keep” him even if he burns our house down.  For the record, I am (kind of) pretty sure this is metaphorical.  (RIGHT!?)  Disclaimer: I have no idea what I’m doing.  Seriously.  Anyway, I told him: “Well, buddy, I don’t think that will happen.  Dad and I are working really hard to keep everyone in the house safe, and you are getting stronger and learning how to make safer choices.  If it did happen, then all five of us would find another house to live in.”  He paused for awhile, and then asked – “our whole family?”  I wish I could make him believe me when I say that nothing he can do, even burning down our whole damn house, will change the fact that he is our son.  Somewhere along the line, our fake love progressed into real love.  I don’t know exactly when it happened, but when I answered him with absolute certainty that burning down our house wouldn’t stop us from loving him, it occurred to me that the love isn’t only “real,” it’s unconditional. 

More Than Meets The Eye: The Perspective of Dad

By Charlie:

More than meets the eye . . .

So everyone knows about Ann’s inability to transform transformers.  I have a minor in it from attending college longer than the average papa bear, but I knew it would come in handy!  If everyone out there doesn’t know me well enough, I love metaphors and analogies.  It’s a second language to me.  Ann has a common reaction to my metaphor speak which usually involves fake vomiting and rolling of the eyes.  Deep down she loves them!  Anyways, J loves transformers.  The transformer theme from the 80’s anyways was “more than meets the eye.”  In my experience with our foster kiddos and now our forever kiddos, I’ve learned the motto of the Transformers (J’s favorite toy) is very applicable to children of trauma.  They’ve been through a lot in their little lives and yet endured.  They have been through things their little minds can’t yet or may never comprehend.  They appear like typical 6/7 year-olds, but there’s more than meets the eye!  I’m doing a lot of transforming as a dad/person.  Our family has transformed.  Our water bill has transformed.  So much transforming!!!

What a journey for everyone.  It already seems ages ago when I picked these little rascals up and they, with their heavy armor on, were like super troopers loading all of their belongings into my sweet ass minivan.  They talked and chatted like nothing was wrong or out of the ordinary, granted they had stayed with us a couple of weekends, but still . . . they were moving yet again to their “forever family.”  It’s been interesting and inspiring to see the transformation from pretending to love us or pretending to care and listen and do all the “right” things to having “normal” days.

It’s been 85 days since J and A joined our family.  Fingers still crossed, but this big transformation for everyone has gone quite well considering the huge life changes for all involved.  For me, when we started our search and the whole process I was worried about how this would affect Jax.  Reflecting deeper into this, I think I was worried about our special bond.  I love that little dude so much.  I told Ann I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to love anyone as much as I love him.  Maybe every parent has this worry with subsequent children?  After talking with Ann, I felt better knowing that it’s okay to love Jax the way I do!  Great!   Also, you love your children/family no matter what.  You love each person differently though.  It’s not greater or lesser, just different and that’s okay.  That helped me going into this.  It’s nice to have a therapist for a wife!

So here we are, like I said, 85 days.  I already love these two bundles of joy.  85 days and this was meant to be.  I was surprised I would have these feelings so quickly.  Transformation.  With a pregnancy you have roughly 9 months to think about your child and love them and envision them in your family.  A question was posed on a message board how long it took on average to have that “real love” for your adopted children?  The answer, around 9 months.  The love transformation has been intense and surreal.  From faking love (i.e. hugs, rocking, singing, smiles, laughs, etc.) to loving these children for real (i.e. hugs, rocking, singing, smiles, laughs, etc.).  From actually physically and emotionally feeling the transformation in A and J (and myself).  It’s crazy how different a “real” hug feels.  I can feel it on my end and I’m sure they can feel it on theirs.

I smile as I step back and look at the big picture as each part snaps into place.  With time, patience, a few tears and a lot of laughing our transformation continues . . .