Did you know it is very hard to make dead baby jokes after working in child welfare? True story. There are too many true stories that the jokes just bring up mental images you’ve tried to quiet, and you can’t laugh. Puns though, puns are my current favourite. A cheetah & a lion are having a race. The lion says to the cheetah, ‘hey, you a cheetah!’, and the cheetah says, ‘no, you a lion!’
I sent that pun, along with badly drawn pictures of a lion and cheetah having a race, to my daughter while she was at sleepover camp this year. I would like to go back to this summer, please. I feel stuck in the tug-of-war that is all in my head, between me and the birth parents and the kids this fall. It’s no fun sharing your kids, and yet it is rewarding in the moment. Parenting adopted kids is a lesson is selflessness – you are putting in so much love and energy into kids who are so likely to walk out the door at 16/18 and live with their birth parents, or spend their teen years telling their deepest secrets and fears to their birth parents instead of you, or making the birth parents elaborate and beautiful mother’s/father’s day cards while you receive a hastily drawn ‘love you too!’ card. Have I said before how much I dread mother’s day? I’ve learned to buy myself my own gifts and indulge in starbucks the day after or before, because mother’s day is not mine – it belongs to their first mother. Which is okay, and I have spent six years giving it away and facilitating things for this to happen, but last time I checked I, too, am a mother. So I spoil myself, and on the day of I just wish the hours to pass faster.
It seems to be that we have stumbled onto the preteen/adolescent years of creating and exploring identity, and it’s been long enough in a ‘stable loving home’ (my yelling & laziness notwithstanding) that exploring this must feel safe and achievable. Which is legitimately awesome – it’s why we went into this openness thing in the first place, and what is ethical and right and ‘how it should be’.
Except sometimes I fucking hate ‘how it should be’, because honestly I have no desire sometimes to be an adult and put myself second for two people who I find it hard to respect or appreciate. This is why I would not be able to do what I am doing without Jesus – love that contain all of us as parents and kids, without limits or conditions. But even with Jesus, the feelings of jealousy and frustration, broken heartedness (totally a word), and grief happen. Sometimes you just want to say fuck it, you want to just have kids who you gave birth to, or a totally closed adoption, because that seems a lot simpler and easier on your emotions. You have no desire to book any more visits, or to text again the parent who is asking you to pass on ‘happy first day of school!’ messages when they have done fuck all to get that kid ready for school and in fact, have created the very problems that you have spent months and hundreds of dollars to try and solve so that they can have a ‘happy first day of school’.
For some reason, life does not stop moving while you’re experiencing all this; you still have to get kids to school (including the ones who last night were telling you how much they love their birth parents), you still have arguments with your partner, you still have to go to work, you still have to advocate for your kids within the system.
I am glad I started my depression meds early this year (for the winter).
Next month, I’ll hit a milestone (for me) birthday. I seem to be struggling with this more than I thought I would be.
So far, I’m very happy with my life personally and professionally. I look at some of my high school peers on facebook, and while their lives look amazing and something to be admired, I love my life-with-kids, husband, suburban, working woman life. I just don’t like it changing.
It makes me uncomfortable to live in such luxury, some of the time at least. We’re having a municipal election that includes my town, and all of the hopeful councillor candidates include in their flyers such lines as, ‘keeping your tax dollars in town’, or ‘saving our schools from the Big City’, or ‘commitment to tear down the barrier to progress of bureaucracy’.
While the man and I laughed a bit at that last line, it was difficult to know that really, those are, in a way, our lived-out values. We did move here from a downtown, much less affluent and much more community based, urban home. We moved because of better schools, less crime, less drugs (this is a slightly odd worry that’s rooted in my work, as well as my kids’ origins), more peace. We do pay higher taxes here, taxes which are mostly going to downtown causes. Yet the idea that we need to redirect those monies back to our own affluence doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t like our schools closing any more than the next person – both my elementary and high school have now closed down – but I can’t see how this is more important than the lack of basic community services in our less affluent communities. Yet.. I choose to live here, and I wouldn’t move for anything right now.
September is here, and apparently I was not ready for it. The youngest munchkin received a beautiful loft bed from our neighbour’s son (see: Reasons Not to Move), and I came home from a weekend away with work friends to see him so high up and far away, and I was surprised by how it upset me. I’m not okay with my kids growing up. It seems they only just moved in and we became a family, and now they’re hurtling towards independence before we’ve had a chance to really enjoy life together. I know this is in my head, because I have years of social media photos to show that, yes, we Did Things and Went Places, and we played stereotypical Brady-bunch family games like Jenga together, ate at big chain restaurants like Montana’s with kid antler hats and crayons.
We don’t own a scale at our house, for weighing yourself. So, at the doctor’s recently, I discovered for the first time that I now weigh the most I have ever weighed. Considerably more. I’d like to chalk it up to muscle mass and gluten-free diet, but I only just started yoga, and I’m fairly certain that my Snickers obsession has a lot more to do with my SnickersBelt than going gluten free does. (Snickers are celiac friendly, and I have gladly indulged in this friendliness many times over the past year. Many. Times.) It is now such that my coworkers regularly bring me back coke (cola) or Snickers after going for grocery or corner store shops on lunch hour. This doesn’t help my SnickersBelt, but it does help my mental health. For a short time, anyway. Until the reality of where those chocolate bars go – my waistline – sinks in.
I suppose that this is my new reality, and I need to.. perhaps not embrace it, but learn to be content with it. I apparently know myself too well, because at my annual trauma moms retreat this past spring, I picked up a tattoo of an infinity loop to remind myself during those anxious doomsday moments that God, not I, is in control. (I enjoy ‘picked up a tattoo’. It lends itself to an image of happening upon a tattoo in an alleyway, picking it up, and BAM, tattoo! Now with 75% more infections!)
Not sure what my 90-year old senile self will think of a magenta coloured infinity loop on my upper thigh, but hey. It is going to be my mantra for the next decade – relax and enjoy the life that’s in front of me, because there’s little about it I can control. I trust in Jesus, and I’m hoping that’s enough.
First day of kindegarten for the miniest munchkin in our mix. While he has a larger than life personality, he also can’t talk properly thanks to a significant speech delay. Which means his personality is that of a funny 9 year old, which comes through the speech abilities of a 2 year old. Rather unique, this one.
Recently I asked my partner why he so ‘strongly dislikes’ (he used a different word, I just struggle writing such a sentiment) our kids’ first parents/birth parents. My partner turns, doesn’t say anything to me, and shouts over to mini munchkin ‘hey munch, say your ABC’s.’ Our five year old kindegartner has never been able to do his ABCs properly (he drops off after about G), nor his numbers. So, he looks at my partner blankly; my partner turns back to me and says ‘yep, that about sums it up’.
While I don’t hate nor strongly dislike the kids’ first parents, I do get the intense frustration that our children – mostly the two youngest, who experienced the most drug abuse & trauma at early ages – have such delays that were so preventable. Delays they live with every day, forever. Most of the time, you live with it because it’s your normal; everyone has something wonky that they live with in their lives. But school transitions always point it out fresh to me, because you’re telling their teachers and LRTs all over again about everything, and you’re watching your child not live up to where the rest of the class is, etc.
I think, for the most part, I feel mostly indifference to their first parents. They are people who are important to my kids, and we see a few times a year, and that’s it.
But man, is he cute. This morning he woke up and told me I had to move the coffee table in the living room, because he needed to do his ‘ekercising’ (exercising), of his ‘fwon fwip an back woll’ (front flip and back roll).
It is a good thing they’re cute.
Today is the first day of school, up here in the Great Northern Place.
Today I managed to not run away screaming. I have children who have trauma and attachment and low IQ/whatever else is going on in their minds, and this makes the first day – and every day – very frustrating.
My middle child, whose internet name I can’t remember because it’s been a while, gets the most anxious about transitions or any changes. This is understandable, because if you had to move foster homes repeatedly and never had a solid place you knew was yours for the first five years of your life, you’d would probably freak at any perceived new change too. Of course, it’s easy to remember the context of his behaviour when you’re removed from it, and not so easy when you’re in the thick of things and being asked for the hundredth time a question that makes no sense or is easily answered by having any thought in your brain, or you’re cleaning up another mess from someone’s anxious klutzy ways, or you’re being given attitude that makes you want to yell and scream. In those moments, as in those screaming infant at 3:30am moments, you want to shake something.
Don’t worry, despite having many opportunities to want to, I have never shaken nor hit my children. Put the phone down.
Because I’m so frustrated already, watching him struggle with easy tasks like putting his bike in the bike rack (he’s done this many times with no issue) makes me get both more bothered and also, rather depressed. I know that he’s not putting on an act: he really does struggle with mundane, everyday tasks. It’s why he has an IEP (individualized education plan) at school, because otherwise he fails every class, like he did in grade 2. How does one fail grade 2 you may ask? I’m not exactly sure. I think it’s a combination of not getting what the teacher is laying down because of mental capabilities, processing disorder, and high anxiety. I am thankful that he goes to a great public school with excellent resources, so that he has been identified and is helped a lot in the class, without much pushing from me at all. I am also thankful he loves school, learning, the friends he has there.
I’m off to work, which I am also thankful for, because there are children there as well, but they don’t belong to me. Work is often my saving grace as a parent – it allows me to pull back and see behaviours in context, and it shows me bigger problems that allows me to see the bigger world around me. Plus, dealing with other people’s drama all day is a lot of fun.
Never said I was sane.