This weekend BE asked, “how old was I when BC was in your tummy?” I wasn’t sure what to say to that, but she quickly corrected herself. “I mean my other mom’s tummy,” she said. I wonder how often this will come up, especially with BC. He’s only two, and he’s bound to get confused more easily. I have no qualms about talking about their first mother, I’m just afraid that the reminder, in this situation, would be painful. Will they ever wish that I had been there from the beginning?
We went to visit a family therapist not too long ago, and she talked about the pain that parents face when they’re unable to conceive. I replied that there is pain for all adoptive parents – it’s painful that we couldn’t be there all along to protect them from being hurt.
Sometimes BE says and does things that are completely contradictory. For example, she is very fond of saying, “I love you momma” several times a day. Now, I’m not complaining about that, but I do think that she mostly does this just to be reassured.
Anyway, we were in the car recently, and she told me that some kids don’t know how to love. I told her that was ok. Then, she told me that she didn’t know how to love. I told her that was ok too. I explained my philosophy – that love is part feelings and part decisions. That sometimes, you don’t always feel that you love someone, but that doesn’t mean that you quit. You remind yourself of the commitment, the decision that you made. And sometimes, you don’t start to love someone until after you’ve committed to the relationship, until you begin to treat them lovingly.
BE said that she thinks J and I tell her that we love her just to be nice. Of course, I responded by saying that in that case, we would be lying, and lying is not nice at all.
I was rather pleased with myself until the next day when BE told me that she wished I weren’t her mother anymore. Why? Just because she didn’t want to take a bath. Don’t “they” always say something about taking two steps forward and one step back? To BE’s credit, she later apologized – totally unprompted.
When we first decided to adopt through the foster care system three years ago, I told both sides of our family that we needed their help. I told them I knew it would be hard, and that we would need all the support we could get. At first, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out – I wasn’t sure if everyone would accept our decision. But this weekend, we saw a lot of the family for Thanksgiving, and I started thinking about how much we’ve been given.
I can’t explain how truly essential our family and friends have been to our survival this past year. Nearly everyone has accepted our children unconditionally. They’ve made BE and BC feel special and loved. The kids adore their new grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. This extended family has made it possible for our little family to grow (numerically and emotionally). Even if you haven’t experienced adoption, don’t forget to thank your family and friends this weekend!
I want to thank: Grandma K, Grandpa J, Grandma G, Aunt LM, Uncle LC, Aunt S, Aunt HK, Aunt AH, Uncle BH, Aunt JK, Uncle BK, Aunt SK, Cousin RK, Cousin CK, Cousin JH, Cousin MK, AP and her kids, MG, JT and her family, SD and her family, and so many others. You’ve made our little family possible.
I received some shocking news today: I’m not real. BE was the one to break it to me, and one of her teachers was the one to break it to her.
Apparently, BE told this teacher that she is adopted. As an aside, I was kind of proud of her. I think this is the first time she has shared this information on her own, and I’m hoping it means that she feels somewhat comfortable about it. Anyway, this teacher went on to tell BE that J and I are not her real parents.
BE was telling me all this at lunch and I asked her how she felt about it. She said she felt sad, because she was afraid that it meant that we wouldn’t always be her parents. To borrow a phrase from a good friend of mine – “it just burned me up!” I felt very angry. BE’s school was closed this afternoon, so I didn’t expect to reach this teacher, but I tried. When I called the school, I was told that nearly everyone had left for the day. I left a message to have the teacher call me back next week. I hope I’m calmed down by then.
But, BE and I talked about what makes a family and that although she has two sets of parents, each performing different functions, both sets are equally “real.” I also warned her that she’s likely to hear a lot more comments like this over the years.
The whole situation made me think of an anecdote I read in one of my many adoption books. In the story, a woman asks an adoptive mother if one of her daughters is her “real” daughter. The mother replies, “she’s absolutely real.” So clever – I love it!
I know it’s only been a few weeks, but I’ve already decided to change the format. Instead of doing a summary at the end of every week, I’ll do several posts throughout the week. The more I think about it, the more difficult it seems to cover so many different topics in one post.
About this post’s title: I’m a fan of Michael Pollan, the New York Times food writer. He’s also the author of several books and his mantra is “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” By “eat food,” Pollan means to eat things that are recognizable as food, instead of what he calls “edible, food-like substances.”
When our kids first came to live with us, all they wanted to eat was sweets and fast food. I know most parents would say this is pretty common, but to be honest, it was one of the hardest adjustments for me. I truly expected them to eat, and love, my vegetarian black bean chili (I’m a long-time vegetarian). Needless to say, I was in for a surprise.
But, I’ve had my small victories over the last year, and I’ve learned to cherish them. Like the time, I served sandwiches with cheese, tomatoes, and black beans. I hid the black beans in a thin layer on the bottom, and they never noticed! Or, the time I served veggie burgers – I simply called them burgers, and the kids ate every bite!
I feel that I need to tell you: I have no desire to raise vegetarians – that’s a choice they can make for themselves when they get older. I just want to raise healthy eaters.
Having said all that, I’d like to share a photo that would make Pollan proud. It’s also solid proof that sometimes, I do win. Here it is.
As you can tell from the caption this is a (nearly) empty plate of hummus. Guess what? The kids really like hummus! In fact, this is from today’s lunch.
If you have time this week, please take a few minutes to gloat over this small victory for me. Something tells me I might not have many opportunities to celebrate.
As I mentioned in my first post, November is National Adoption Month. And, there’s one simple thing you can do to help. Google your state + “adoption resource exchange.” Almost every state has one of these sites, which showcases local children who are available for adoption. (Here’s an example from Massachusetts http://www.mareinc.org/). J and I visited our state’s site a lot while we were trying to find a match. I don’t go there anymore though, because if I do, I’m certain I will want to adopt even more children! I challenge you to visit your state’s site and leave without wanting to add to your family too!
Last week I was at a meeting for the local women’s business organization. I was seated next to a women who had a four-year-old son, so we started talking about our kids. I told her my children’s names and ages. BE has sort of an unusual first name, so my new acquaintance commented about it. She said something about the name being unique and asked me for the spelling. She looked at me like she expected me to explain it. I don’t know anything about the origins of BE’s name, so I said something like, “Yes, she has a great name and I like it a lot.”
I hope that over time, I’ll develop some more witty and/or gracious responses. And, I want to get past that urge to share our history with everyone. I never actually do share, but it’s still the way we define our relationship. I hope that eventually we’ll have many more equally defining experiences to rely on.
I’ve read quite a few adoption books and the one I’m currently working my way through is “20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed” by Sherrie Eldridge. It doesn’t have my universal recommendation, but I do like that it discusses foster child adoption as well as infant adoption. It offers lots of creative ideas for discussing adoption with your children. One the chapters features a short story called “Little Branch”, which I recently read to BE and BC. BE asked to read it several times and we talked about the symbolism in the story. She proudly told J that it was about adoption and even explained parts of it. Anyone out there with children adopted through the foster care system might find it useful.
This week, BE declared us “mean” parents. In fact, her words were “you’re so mean.” And why are we so mean? It’s all because of potato chips. BE didn’t get as many potato chops as she would have liked during dinner on Wednesday. And, naturally, a lack of potato chips results in uncontrollable tantrums. When the whining started, BE was sent to her room and this is when she decided we were mean. Grandma G told me that this probably means that we’re doing something right, but still, it’s sad to hear.
Meanwhile, BC continues to confirm his ability to hit. When he gets crabby, he understandably has tantrums. But, he also hits. Being a two-year-old, it doesn’t hurt, but I don’t understand where it comes from. There were a couple of hitting incidents this week, including one today.
On the other hand, both BE and BC can be very polite, especially BC. Sometimes the best part of the day is when I hear one of them say, “Thank you, momma” – totally unprompted.
We were at the grocery store yesterday and the cashier had a mohawk. BE asked me about it, so I started a conversation with the cashier. BE was fascinated and asked if she could have a mohawk. Of course, I told her that she could make that decision when she’s older. But … in the meantime, I gave her a “fake” mohawk.
I’d like to say thanks to Aunt S for being with the kids these past few years and for continuing to visit every month. They had a visit this week and S brought cousins D and M. She’s very patient and obviously the “cool” aunt in her family.