After some recent conversations with friends, I have had some thoughts about adoption floating around in my head. I have been having a hard time articulating what I mean, but I keep finding myself floating to the words – “if you’re doing it right. adoption SHOULD be selfish.” That sounds weird, I know. Hang in there with me for a minute.
Just minutes ago, my 10 year old daughter was chattering away in the kitchen after a softball game. I went upstairs as the conversation was winding down, and she randomly yelled up – “Mom, thank you.” “For what?” I asked. I hadn’t really done anything. She came upstairs, she looked me right in the eye, and she said – “For adopting me. For feeding me.” My eyes filled up. Good grief. YOU DON’T HAVE TO THANK ME FOR THAT! I wish she understood that she owes us nothing. We believe that all kids belong in families, and that should be a fundamental right…not something earned or gifted.
Kids deserve parents who love them fiercely. Who want to parent them because it’s awesome. Who love them because they are amazing kids. Who get joy from them. The parents should be GETTING something out of it if it’s done right. I feel worried when I hear people choosing adoption to save a child, because they pity the children in foster care, or because “it’s the right thing to do.” I think that is potentially a set up for both child and parents. I am still struggling to clearly articulate this, but would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this while I sort my own out. Ready, go.
This week, I called my family and said “I LITERALLY CAN’T DO THIS ONE MORE MINUTE.” We have had all kinds of sickness and behaviors and generally just kind of a hard week. I have noticed that if I just hold on through those moments of “not being able to do it one more minute,” that minute passes. It’s replaced by another minute or 60 that are relatively uneventful, and then a another minute will come where I am struck by something amazing that reminds me why we do it all. It’s pretty messy (our life and our house. And you would NOT believe how many bikes and skateboards and buckets fill our garage). It’s also awesome and beautiful if you just hang on long enough. (And don’t mind messes too much)
A bunch of the kids were jumping on the trampoline with the sprinkler today, and our 3 year old foster son yelled at Alyssa – “I’M SO MAD AT YOU!” Without missing a beat, she cheerfully said “Hey! High five, buddy! Great job using your words!” I was struck. Struck at the power of modeling and at this amazing thing we have built. She reminded me that it is okay to use our words to say hard things. It is okay to say and feel that we can’t do this one more minute. That it’s hard. That it’s overwhelming. That we’re mad. High five, peeps.
Today is our 10 year anniversary. Someone asked me today, “Did you ever imagine you would be parenting 6 kids!?” The answer is yes. And no. And we always knew this was kind of our thing. Sometimes we suck at it. Sometimes we are awesome at it. Most days, we are somewhere in the middle of those two things. We just do it. And most days, that’s enough.
We had a super relaxing night in a tree house (Seriously – if you are looking for a way to recharge, check out Stoney Ridge Treehouse). THANK YOU KARIN AND MATT AND LINDSEY AND MOM AND DAD for taking our brood. Amazing. We laughed and we cried and we drank way too much beer. We have plenty to talk about that doesn’t involve kids, and we did talk about those things. But we found ourselves drifting that direction. We found ourselves planning the next trip to the treehouse with the kids. We found ourselves feeling a generally feeling of contentment about our chaotic life. Content and chaos don’t always go together, but in our family, they do. Our sweet little monkey often says “happy” when he’s feeling happy, and it is quite possibly our most favorite thing. Happy.
Somewhere between the treehouse and now, I finally switched my “birth parent switch” from pretty much angry and resentful and irritated and judgemental (I facebook stalk her – stop judging me) to YOU CAN DO THIS, MAMA. Or maybe you can’t, and that’s okay, too. But I hear you and I see you and you matter. You tagged out for awhile, and it’s ok – b/c we tagged in. We got this. We love your boys (and so did the last foster mama). They are loveable. I think they are loveable because somewhere along the line, you showed them love. I am remembering tonight, admittedly after a glass or two of wine, that you are our kids that never got placed in a different setting. You are our trauma kids who never had a chance. This is your chance. Feel our love and support and TAKE IT. Be happy again. Or maybe for the first time. If you want to fight, fight. If you need to let go, let go.
I had a bit of a hard week full of language like “I can’t” and “I’m overwhelmed” and “it’s too much.” Sometimes foster parenting has this strange dynamic where we technically choose to fill our plates to the brim, and thus feel uncomfortable verbalizing that. It’s like we have lost the right to be overwhelmed…to be stressed…to be sad. The things that fill us up are also draining.
I have all kinds of things to rant about our current bonus boys’ case, but I am told I need to keep my mouth shut. I’ll wait for the right time down the road to speak on that, but just hear this. Our system is BROKEN.
In an attempt to give everyone what they need, we took the day off to go to valleyfair this week. So. Much. Fun. J and A hadn’t been on rollercoasters, and it was just amazing to get to experience that “first.” We have missed soooo many firsts, that I cherish each and every one I am along for the ride on. (See what I did there?) In one of the longer lines, we had some talk about how the kids are feeling about foster care. We really try to encourage open communication, and big feelings are welcome in our home. If you feel it, you can say it (though we will practice appropriate timing and location and delivery). At one point, Alyssa expressed feeling like the boys were a burden. It kind of felt like a punch in the gut, but I asked her to tell me more. This (very quickly) spiraled into – “I MUST HAVE BEEN A BURDEN TO SO MANY PEOPLE.” I paused, not quite knowing what to say. My eyes filled up. Oh my gosh. She has an authentic feeling regarding our bonus kids about that, and it would be invalidating to argue with it. The reality is that kids need to be with their forever families as fast as they can possibly get there…whether their forever family is their biological family who learns to keep them safe or an adoptive family that is searching for them. I didn’t know what to say, but I told her that SHE was NEVER a burden. It had nothing to do with her. But/and, everyone knew she wasn’t where she needed to be, and THAT didn’t feel good. And then she found her forever family, and she was never ever associated with anything burden-like again.
As J said when considering riding the Wild Thing… “I want to be brave…and I don’t want to be brave.” This, Jacob….This.