I’m making that.

I remember staring at Jax and just feeling so in awe…I MADE that!  I still stare at him like that, and I often quite literally can’t resist squeezing him, kissing him, touching him.  I remember having so much anxiety, and even guilt, that I would most likely never feel that way about adoptive kids.  I knew, without question, that I could love them “equally,” but I didn’t know if I would have that intense NEED to be close. 

Much to my surprise, I suddenly have an oddly similar feeling towards J.  I want to scoop him up and kiss him all the time, and I can’t walk by him without touching him.  I declared myself “attached” quite some time ago…but it keeps getting stronger.  Much like when Jax was a baby, and I kept loving him more and more and thinking I couldn’t love him more.  It is comforting to have this feeling with J and A!  I run a support group for foster parents and parents adopting out of foster care, and someone recently asked if there were any “success stories” because everyone’s lives seemed so difficult.  To me, successful and difficult are not mutually exclusive things. 

While I may not ever get the honor of looking at J and A with awe and thinking, “I made that,” I CAN look at them and remind myself “I’m making that!”   I am thankful for resilient kids, stretches of wonderful days to re-energize us, and big and small signs that they are exactly where they are supposed to be. 

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Attachment Cycle

The rollercoaster saga continues – horrific morning, amazing evening.  There is something amazingly powerful, it seems, for the kids to see us “showing up” in the evening after a morning like that.  We. Will. Not. Quit. On. You.  We hope to not get beat up or carry them to the bus every day for the next 12ish years, but we will if we need to. 

I drew “A” the attachment cycle (the healthy one) tonight, after going to that training yesterday:
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I don’t know why on earth I haven’t done this earlier, it was amazing.  I asked her what a baby needs.  “To be safe, milk, love, and diaper changes.”  I asked her what was different about her own cycle, and she pointed to the picture I drew that was “needs met by caregiver” as tears poured down her face. I am just so SORRY I wasn’t there.  We talked about what happens instead of trust when the “needs met” part doesn’t happen.  I told her she needed a “Mommy boss,” and when she didn’t have a “mommy boss,” she had to become the boss.  That’s why she “used to” be so bossy.   (“Used to,” haha)  “How do you know I used to be bossy?” she asked.  In my head, I said “because “used to” was approximately 30 seconds ago, my sweet daughter!”  What I ACTUALLY said was – “because I would be bossy and angry, too, if the things happened to me that happened to you.”   Insert two of us crying and hugging, and the most real “I love you” I have ever heard.  

The Best Way Out Is Through

Disclaimer: this is not one of those beautiful, feel-good posts.  I said going in that I would be honest, and sometimes honesty isn’t beautiful.  I want to be able to look back at where we were in order to see how far we have come, and I want to normalize these experiences for other adoptive families. 

The way our mornings go seems to be directly proportional to how much gas in my tank I have.  Parenting attachment-disordered kids requires A game.  We were playing some major B game this morning.  It has been a long, exhausting week, and I don’t feel a lot of “fight” in me.  My apologies to all the neighbors that saw/heard Charlie carrying a kicking and screaming kiddo to the bus.  Jax: “Mama, ___ is NOT making good choices.”  Indeed, kiddo. 

I spend much of my week helping other adoptive families heal.  I preach all sorts of specific parenting strategies, self-care, etc.  In the moment, I am blinded by my own closeness and feelings.  I feel rejected and hurt, which tends to come out sideways as anger and frustration.  I called a few therapist friends looking for some validation that the kids are so frustrating/making such poor choices – and mostly what I got is a challenge to consider how we responded.  Once I calmed down, I am grateful for this. 

I went to a really great training on trauma/attachment yesterday – and one of the many things I learned is that the limbic part of the brain (that houses emotions and attachment) does not differentiate between the past, present, and future.  When our kiddos were babies, and they had a need, Mom didn’t come.  It’s easier to respond to a need when it is in the form of a crying infant vs. a raging child…but it’s the same deal.  It’s coming from the same place.  They need these corrective experiences to heal…so here is my vow to pull myself together and give them those.   The best way out is through!

the invisible parents in the court room

Hey, judge?  Do you know us?  We are the parents in the back row of the court room whose hearts are beating out of our chests.  We are the young couple here because we are fighting for a teenager who doesn’t want us to fight for him.  We believe he deserves that someone fight for him, deserves the right to have a family, and we are also terrified of what that means for us.  We are here because we love our kids, and we believe they have the right to grow up with the one person that has been consistent in their lives. We are the people clutching each others’ hands, because our lives are in YOUR hands, and we have to sit here silently and watch it play out. Anything you decide is terrifying and life altering, and it’s not our decision to make.  We are the ones you reference as “foster parents” without giving us a glance.  We are the two in the court room whose blood pressures are out of control, because listening to everyone talk about OUR kids and make decisions for OUR kids without our consent or consultation kind of feels like watching our kids walk into a house fire without being able to do anything about it.  We are the ones who are looking defeated and are desperate for answers, and who feel like we can’t go another day living in limbo.  We are the invisible parents in the court room…the ones without voices.

“How come you adopted big kids?”

With a stressful week ahead, you can find J and I by the fire if you need us!  We have some great bonding time walking through the woods collecting wood and huddling close while we stare into the fire on a cold night.  I see him healing a little each day, and with that comes less of a preoccupation with fire.  I hope he always enjoys a good fire, though, because I will miss that!  Tonight while we were sitting by the fire he asked out of the blue: “How come you adopted big kids?”  We get asked this all the time, but boy did it catch me off guard coming from one of the “big kids” himself!  I decided it was best to just be honest and not over-think it.  “We knew our family was missing some important pieces, and something told us that maybe the missing pieces were in foster care waiting for their missing pieces, too.”  He gave me the biggest toothless grin ever and yelled “GOSH! How did you KNOW!?”  Love. That. Kid.

He proceeded to ask approximately 200 more questions, including when we first learned their names.  It made me smile to think back to getting a text message with their names and being relieved that they were “normal.”  (Side note – it’s kind of weird to not be responsible for naming your child).  He wanted to know how I felt and what I was thinking the first time I met them.  I could have told him that I was 98% I was either going to throw up or have explosive diarrhea, but I went with a less graphic “really excited and really nervous.”   He told me that he and A went back to their foster home after that first weekend and talked about how they really hoped we were going to be their Mom and Dad.  They didn’t know (and honestly, we didn’t know) that we would be a forever family for quite a few weekends in.  Looking back, it really breaks my hearts how they must have been feeling.  J told me, “I asked God to make you my Mom.”

I heard Ben Rector’s song “sailboat” tonight, and it described how I imagine it must be like waiting in foster care with zero control over who will become your family (and be old enough to understand that) must feel like.  Seriously, check it out – great song regardless of how it speaks to you! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6-VaqW1x18

Sometimes I have this overwhelming feeling of guilt that our kids had to go through so much.  Deep down, I know this guilt is not mine to carry.  Luckily, the wind blew them home!

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Grateful

This week has been a bit of a rollercoaster, but tonight I mostly just feel GRATEFUL.  I figured I better write about this before I find something to complain about.

*Grateful that my three beautiful kiddos cuddled on the couch tonight.  Looking at them, I have to laugh at the irony of how much they look alike

*Grateful for the overwhelming feeling of “this was meant to be”

*Grateful that the kids have a social worker I can text a picture to, and get a response, at 9pm on a Friday night when I need someone who “gets it” to share my amazement

*Grateful that my daughter said, “Good night, Mom, I love you” at bedtime

*Grateful for the ability to feel grateful after some of the events of this last week.  Pretty sure this is directly linked with the new lens the kids gave me to view the world.  Or the alcohol consumed…could be that.

*Grateful for a crazy husband who can find humor in just. about. everything. The phrase “laugh or you might cry” is a bit cliche, but I’m telling you what…

*Grateful for all of the people, near and far, who have come out of the woodwork to support us and root us all on

*Grateful for smiles that reached the kids’ eyes tonight

*Grateful that J wanted to cuddle at bedtime, because he didn’t feel good

*Grateful I get to take J to hockey this weekend, and for all the happy memories that come flooding back when I’m inside an arena

*Last, but not least, I am grateful for cold Coors Light and cream cheese wontons for the days I am less grateful  😀

Happy Friday!

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