Category Archives: Parenting

It’s Not Just You

I just sent this text to a friend.

text

It helps to know we’re not the only ones. This is the greatest gift we can give one another, the gift of it’s not just you. I feel like I say this all the time (feel free to roll your eyes at me), but I really only write about it when I have to be reminded myself. If it happens a lot, it is because I am a slow learner.

We had a rough day yesterday here at the Circus. This morning wasn’t great either. I watched the boys clamber onto the bus with guilt-riddled relief. Some of what’s been happening is, I am certain, because of our recent changes in routine. Soccer is over. Paul and I were gone over the weekend. I want to be careful about sharing too much about my children’s demons in an effort to exorcise my own, but a quick Google about “adoption” and “routine” will turn up article after article about the way this can affect adoptive families.

When we have days like this, I am tempted to crawl into my metaphorical cave and pick at my wounds all by myself. Obviously, if I were a better parent (a better Christian, a harder worker, more physically fit … what, you wanted logic?), we wouldn’t have these kinds of days. If only I were perfect in every way, everything would be fine. It all makes sense in my head, and it feels safest to stay there, flaying myself, because at least then no one else will know about my spectacular failures.

The best antidote that I know is talking to other people. People who aren’t in your situation, who can say, gosh, that stinks, and hey, as someone who isn’t down in the trenches right now can I tell you you’re maybe being a teensy bit hard on yourself? People who are in your situation, who can say, yeah, I don’t really know what to do either, but here are some things I’ve tried, and we have that too, and it’s not just you. People who, no matter their situation, can say, whether they use these specific words or not, I love you. I’m with you. Solidarity, sister.

It isn’t always easy to reach out. It isn’t always convenient to stop and listen. But I am convinced that we need to. Really, really need to. One of the best things we have is each other.

At Seven

At seven, you’re getting better at a lot of things. Tying your shoes, writing … the list goes on. Other techniques, though, still need a little work.

E, reading from a popsicle stick: Hey mom? What kind of … what does B-O-A-T-S spell?
Me: Boats.
E: Hey mom? What kind of boats do … what does V-A-M-P-I-R-E-S spell?
Me: Vampires.
E: Hey mom? What kind of boats do vampires like?
Me: I don’t know.
E: Bl … what does B-L-O-O-D spell?
Me: Blood.
E: Blood v … what does V-E-S –
Me: VESSELS. It spells VESSELS.
E: What kind of boats do vampires like?
Me, gritting my teeth against the answer: I don’t know.
E: Blood vessels!
Me: <fake laughter>
E: … I don’t get it.
Me: <explains>
E: That’s not funny.
Me: Nope. Not anymore.

Boots

We had soccer today, and then we came home and did our Saturday chores. There was much less grumbling this week than usual, possibly because I reached the end of my grumbling tolerance last Saturday and I was so loud the neighbors were hiding. Whatever the reason, Saturday chores got done in record time. Next up was helping Dad outside with the fence. “He says you need boots!” I hollered as the door slammed behind them. I hope to work on door slamming someday. Today I was just happy they shut it.

Ten minutes later, Elias came inside, worked up to a fever pitch. He couldn’t find any boots. I took a deep breath.

I’ve been trying more and more lately to stop taking on their problems. I don’t mean the big stuff. I’m not going to stop ordering, picking up, and paying for Levi’s medicine. I mean stuff like boots. You can’t find your boots? I’m not the one who uses your boots. Your toes are not going to freeze off today. This is not something I need to take on.

So I said, “Here are the things I know. I know there are black boots and green boots. I know they were both in the garage recently. If they are not in the garage now, you’re going to have to figure out where they went.” And Elias went out again, dark thoughts about cruel mothers swirling almost visibly around his head.

And then I went ahead and forgot all about it. I don’t reserve much processing power for boots. Whoosh! Gone. Until tonight, when Paul and I were coming home from our date, may Auntie be blessed unto the Nth generation for making it possible.

“I forgot to tell you,” Paul said. “When we were headed out to the barn today, Elias told me he wanted to die.”

I asked why, without much alarm. Listen, I know people say that girls bring more drama than boys, but I ain’t buyin’. If that is actually true, I don’t know how anyone survives girl children. The boy children we have deserve Oscars.

“He didn’t have any boots.”

Paul, retrieving his eyeballs from where they had rolled back in his skull, looked at Levi’s feet. Black boots. So he asked where the green boots were.

“In the pool,” Levi said.

Yep. There they were.

“Why,” asked Paul carefully, “are your boots in the pool?”

“I was trying to wash them off,” Levi said, “and they got away.”

Why is our pool murky, no matter what we do? It’s a mystery.

Paul fished the boots out with a garden hoe (Why is our pool murky? IT’S A MYSTERY I TELL YOU.) and Elias decided he could probably go on living.

 

I am going to give up asking why. There are no satisfying answers. But at the risk of surrendering entirely to a cliche, this is why we can’t have nice things. Because pool boots.

9 1/52

I’m feeling guilty about this, my Levi, and you don’t even know anything about it. I wrote your brother a blog post on his birthday. I meant to do one on yours, and the day got away from me. Then the week turned into one of those weeks, and here I am, a week late.

That’s one of the things about you, though. You forgive quickly. If I brought this up to you, you’d say, “That’s okay, Mom,” and give me a hug. I love that, though I try not to take advantage of it.

You told me the other day that you can’t wait to be ten. I’m not sure what’s magical about that number. Maybe the double digits. But I’m asking you, sweet boy, to enjoy nine while you’re here. You are learning to do all sorts of things, and you think you have way too many chores. I have bad news: the chores do not become easier at ten. Or at forty. The gross things are still gross, and there are more of them. (If you’ve never caught vomit in your hand to keep it off the carpet, are you really a mom?) Lots of things are really good when you’re a grownup, but the hard things just get harder.

Nine is fun. Your front teeth are still too big for your face, and it’s still adorable. You can do things on your own, but you are not too cool to shriek with glee when you see one of your best buddies at the store unexpectedly.

You will leave me someday, and probably all too soon. I won’t know where you are all the time, and how you’re doing, and whether anyone has been mean to you that day. I’ve joked that my favorite time of the day is bedtime, and I do treasure the quiet of the house when everyone else has gone to sleep. But I also love the knowing. I know you are safe, and I know you are warm, and I know you are okay, because I saw you there under your comforter with my own two eyes.

Don’t be in too much of a hurry for eighteen, or for ten. Please, enjoy nine. I plan to.

Cake for breakfast, on the actual morning. Because I am not always heartless.

First and Third

Here we go!

I know lots of moms are sad today, and I support their right to the sadness. But I’m good. Besides getting a nice regular routine back, this will be the first time in quite a while that we aren’t paying for regular childcare. I would make the standard jokes about it being like getting a raise, but we just started making payments on an orthodontic plan, so it’s more like just a relief.

First try at a picture.

Elias is a little nervous. I don’t know what Levi’s face is about.

Better.

Balancing their stuffed-to-the-gills backpacks on the way down the lane. I told them they’ll never be this heavy again. Until they start bringing rocks home again, I guess.

Thumbs out so the bus driver will see us.

She did.

And they’re off.

I think I recorded first-day conversations last year, and I decided to continue the tradition.

L: Mom, why do we have arms?
Me: So we can keep our hands with us all the time.
L: Oh.

E: Why do we have to wear nice clothes and stay clean on the first day?
Me: I just like your teachers to know it’s possible.

Seven

Seven years ago, in the evening, I was leaving a board meeting for a chorus I was singing with, and my cell phone rang. It was our caseworker. “Baby was born,” she said.

She’d called the house a couple of times, finally rousing Paul from sleep for a confused conversation. He’d managed to wake up enough to convey the information that I was at a meeting just a few miles from the hospital. She’d caught me in time, and I could go and see the baby, if I wanted to.

I did.

So off I went, entering through the ER department because it was after hours. A busy nurse pointed me vaguely in the direction of the OB wing, and I explained who I was to the nurse guarding the door there. There was a side room in the hall stuffed with unused-at-the-moment equipment and some chairs. I settled into one, the plastic creaking as I shifted during the wait.

And then there you were. The scrawniest little brown boy you’ve ever seen, all huge dark eyes and wild black hair and chicken legs. I could not have imagined at that moment that at five, you’d nearly be able to knock me over with an enthusiastic hug around the legs.

Scrawny or sturdy, I fussed over you from that moment. Were you eating? Were the nurses holding you enough? Most of all, would you truly be mine forever? Would all the right papers be signed, the Is dotted, the Ts crossed?

I fuss over you still, over your health and your heart and your sweet little soul. You are almost never sick, and I wonder whether we brush you aside too often because we’re worrying over your brother. You are stubborn as sin, and I wonder how to help you learn to channel it into persistence instead of petulance. You are the most curious combination of temper and tenderness.

You are seven. You love your family and your duckling and you hate not being able to do everything Levi does. I cannot freeze you here in this moment, when you are reaching and stretching and learning to do without me, but still need sleepy cuddles in the morning. And I wouldn’t if I could. Not really.

But I will write you down, and I will take your picture. And I will answer the question you ask me the same every time. Every day, every year, every decade, whenever you ask me, and whenever you don’t. Yes. You will always be my baby.

Happy birthday, Elias. Thank you for being part of Us.

Also At the Circus

So I posted about strawberry shortcake on Sunday night, and everything was great and everybody was having fun, and then someone dropped a psychological stinkbomb or something, and Levi and I were both mad, and Elias was scared and my sister was uncomfortable, and Paul was trying to sort out what had actually just happened. Honestly, I don’t know. Still.

I got up and left the table, because when this happens and I stay, things usually get worse. Leaving also escalated the situation. It seems like the only possible way for me to avoid scenes like this would be a complete personality transplant.

Full disclosure here. At the circus: great food. Also at the circus: sobbing nuclear meltdowns, mostly but not exclusively on the part of the children.

Lovely, truly.

I could pack a week’s worth of clothes in those bags under my eyes. HOT.

 

So, I make killer shortcake. Also, I yell at my children, and my stovetop is probably going to be declared a federal disaster area.

I’m not telling you this so you can feel sorry for me or try to make me feel better. I’m telling you because we are all in this together, but we don’t seem to know it. I’ve talked to so many women who think everyone around them has got it goin’ on. Every one of them thinks she is the only one who cannot pull herself together.

I really think the only way to change this is to be a little vulnerable with one another. Start small. Tell one person. Don’t start with the scariest thing. Start with the laundry, like, “I am so behind on the laundry that my children are running naked from the shower to dig through the clean clothes pile for underpants.” 95% of the time the person you are talking to will look relieved, because THANK GOODNESS someone else is a mess too.

We are all just trying to get through the day. Sometimes the only thing we can offer each other is the assurance that we are not alone.

Be brave. Go first. You can always take with you the knowledge that at any given time, two of the three rings at this circus are a disaster. It’s not just you; at the very least, it’s you and me.