How I made a Total Stranger Cry

He sat across from me at the optical store. We discussed new glasses and lenses.

He suggested progressive lenses.

I quipped that I wasn’t patient enough to wait for changing lenses.

He chuckled.

We chatted.

I suggested a new look.

He suggested the extended warrantee.

I agreed – “You never know what the boys will do!”

And then there I was explaining the foster care system to Brian, a young man with long brown hair, dark glasses and a curious mind.

“Yes,” I said, “they call and ask us to pick up a baby in 15 minutes.”

“It’s been so important to me to keep the brothers together.”

“We didn’t expect to be adopting, but now my sister and I have such a beautiful blended and crazy family.”

“Do you know that some kids ‘age out’ of the foster care system? They go through life, never having a ‘true’ family – no one to cheer at graduation, no one to walk them down the aisle, no one at Christmas….it hurts my heart. I would take many more if I could.”

“Do you know you can go on a local news website – click on a link and find photos of kids waiting for a family? Yes, almost like an animal shelter…sadly…”

His eyes welled up.waitingWP

He wiped a tear.

He paused.

“Wow,” he said, “I had no idea….about any of this.”

November is National Adoption Month.

Today is National Adoption Day.

Children are waiting.

 

Parenting THAT school-aged child

If there was a parenting manual for the school-age kid, I always imagined it would go like this. Get the kid up, dressed and off to school after a good breakfast. Your child will enjoy class time and friendships. After a snack and a break, child completes homework, studies as needed and succeeds.

Except for some children.

Some children wake up and don’t want to go to school. Some children say “I can’t do this” the moment they sit down to a work-sheet. Some children lay on the floor and roll around making noises in the back of the room. Some children talk out of turn and without raising their hands. Some children talk back to the teachers. Some children express anger. Some children just don’t seem to fit.

I read a fantastic piece today written by a teacher about “THAT” kid in the classroom. The one that other children always talk about. The one that other parents always worry about distracting their precious learning child. And I wept knowing that THAT child is my child. My boy is the one laying on the floor making noises. My boy is the one that gets “dangerous” sometimes and for no reason. My boy is the one that kids and parents talk about. My boy is the one who is not fitting.

And when the principal of your private school calls on a Friday afternoon to say “We really do want the best for your son, but this may not be the best fit for him,” you feel your world crumble right alongside you. The walls collapse. The ground shakes a bit as the weight of the words sink through the protective, defensive, mushy Mommy brain. Numbness turns to questions.

Questions which don’t really have an answer.

Questions that begin with “oh my goodness.”

What are we going to do now?

What are the options?

How do I help this boy who is struggling?

How did we get to this point?

What should I have done differently?

Where do we turn?

How do I parent “that” kid that doesn’t fit anywhere? Where is this parenting manual?

5 Things a 5-year-old Learned in One Week!

It’s been a bit of a busy week for a certain middle child in our household. It’s hard to believe he managed to squeeze all these moments within the course of a week, but he’s a bright one and likes to concentrate his learning!

  1. When you are supposed to be playing “quietly” downstairs with your older cousin while your mother puts your brothers to bed, it is unwise to empty out your brother’s two boxes of Pokemon cards, strew them across a previously clean floor, and begin to bat at them with flashlights. It is particularly unwise if the older brother had previously spent hours (with Mom) sorting those cards into a certain order and will likely be growling when he finds out in the morning.
  1. Oranges and apples should remain in the category of “food” and not be reclassified as “sports equipment” or as “weapons” to be propelled in the general direction of other boys while Mom is outside for all of 5 minutes to walk the dog! Secondly, fruit that explodes on the floor upon impact shall now be your responsibility to dispose of properly. After all, “You make a mess – you clean the mess!”
  1. Wood is a porous material – which means nathanthat if you write on beautiful hard wood built-in drawers in the upstairs room, they will not clean off very easily….even with all your scrubbing on behest of your mother. And the fact that you penned your own name onto the wood kind of answers the question of “Who did this?” Guilty, boy. You are guilty. You are going to have to own this one.
  1. It is true that you should not bite Legos to get them apart. And I can’t begin to recount for you how many times I have alluded to this timeless truth. The fact that your bottom tooth now hurts and “wiggles” is only confirmation that Mommy is always right. And yes, if you continue to bite Legos, all your teeth will in fact fall out and you will not be able to eat ever again! “And then you die?” “Not a chance you want to take, now is it, my young child?”  (And if you want to show off to the world that you now have a “loose tooth” you might just want to add how that happened….or I sure will whenever I’m around!)
  1. And lastly, for this busy week – The f-word and the middle finger are NOT appropriate additions to your vocabulary! It doesn’t really matter “what” the word means, nor whose brother told whose brother, or even if you said it “on accident” – you just better never say it again. And it is not, let me repeat – NOT your responsibility to teach every other kid in kindergarten (at your private Christian school) and your first (and likely your last) playdate buddy that they should never raise their middle finger. I think it’s best that you just forget all of that and let some of those grown-up people do the teaching!

    Mommys poor smashed finger this week!

    Mommy’s poor smashed middle finger this week!

Now that we got that all out of the way, we should be on target for a relatively quiet week!

 

Be the tissue sometimes

“Sometimes you’re the tissue, sometimes you’re not,” said The Little Guy at the dinner table when I pointed to the line of snot across the right shoulder of my sweatshirt. I just laughed. I have never heard him say anything like that.

I looked at him and said, “That really is so profound, Little Guy.” (like he knows what that means!)

Sometimes, you are the tissue.Tissue-clip-art-05

Sometimes there is nothing else. One of my favorite pieces of advice for a new parent is “all your clothes better be washable….half the time, they are a tissue.” There’s been many a day that I’ve seen myself in a mirror half-way through a work day and noticed the snot-line on the shoulder or across the bottom of the shirt. And I’ve never been upset. Instead I’ve smiled to realize that there’s someone at home in my life who is so precious that I get to be their tissue – I’m the one they come crying to when they get hurt, or are sad, or on days they just don’t feel well. I am the one who is there in those moments of their life, some of them little and some of them gushing blood. Sometimes I can find the tissue box. And sometimes I’m the tissue.

Sometimes I’m the tissue for other people’s kids too. Sometimes I’m picking up the little one who fell and wiping their tears.  Sometimes I’m holding my mother’s foster baby who at the age of 6 months is an adorable chunk of a boy….with plenty of drool and teether-crud all over his mouth. It’s important to be “in there” for others’ kids too so that they know there’s another caring adult in the world and that the line of snot running into their mouths is not going to scare anyone away (though I’m definitely looking for the tissue box here!).

And sometimes I’m the tissue for the good friend who is under some tough stress of life or just heard some hard news. Sometimes I’m the tissue for the happy tears cried onto the shoulder of a tight hug. Sometimes I have a tissue to offer and sometimes I don’t. But I’m always thankful to have close enough friends to cry together. Because sometimes I’m the tissue, and sometimes they hold that role for me. I wouldn’t get too far in life without having some tissue friends.

So get in there and get dirty.

Be the tissue for someone today or this week. We all need a shoulder.

Do not read this post….

….If you’re looking for parenting advice. Because if you’re anything like me – trying hard to be a good parent – making it sometimes and beating yourself up more than you should, you’re probably getting pretty exhausted.

The thing is, it feels like every time I’m on the internet – email, Facebook, Twitter – there’s another way to “be a great parent”….another advice column….another thing I didn’t do right with Super Tall Guy. Another opinion on co-sleeping, potty training, kid sports, handling emotions, time outs, time aways, time together, quality time, quantity time, quiet time (my favorite!)

And my problem? I actually don’t have time to read all this advice. And I don’t have the emotional energy most days to adequately decide that most of it doesn’t actually apply to my kids and therefore I don’t need to worry about it.

Now – there was that one post I read (wish I could remember it) that said that this current generation of parents is really struggling with parenting and reflecting on parenting and looking for advice. It’s one bit of a post that I actually agree with.  I spend a whole lot of time wondering about my wondering about my parenting!

But for the most part, I wonder….

  • Where the scissors are because we keep putting them up so the boys don’t get them….and then they disappear anyway.
  • Who used the silver Sharpie on the dining room table (but does it really matter “who” did it? Or the fact that it was a Sharpie?!?)
  • If the spiraling football is going to hit the fish tank and knock Lightning McQueen to the floor this time or not (because when else will this beta fish belly up? Or should I just clean the tank again?)
  • If that’s a small turd on the living room floor that I almost stepped on on the way up to bed, or? Nah, just a small rubber brown Ewok.  That, however, on the side of the bathroom wall really is what it looks like it is….
  • If Super Tall Guy will ever forgive me for tossing his Flash Gordon superhero toy in the trash can when he was two even after I told him 5 times that I would if he kept throwing it at the mall play area….and he did keep throwing it? Why did he just bring this up again?
  • If the washing machine can handle 5 pairs of muddy kid sneakers or was that too much? (Oh wait, seems I forget the left shoe for The Little Guy….oh well, it’ll clean off eventually!)
  • Why tremendously full Roxy glassespull-ups explode into a million tiny round gel pellets when you strip off pajamas in the morning….with no hope of really being able to clean them all up?
  • If the life expectancy of a dog is inversely correlated with the number of boys under the age of 6 in one’s household?

It’s probably better for my sanity to ponder this kind of stuff than to wonder if I will really mess these boys up for life, or if there is enough plasticity left in their brains to make it through my trial and error parenting stage? So if you were looking for some advice, I certainly hope you didn’t read all the way through. Maybe next week. Maybe next week.

 

 

 

Little boys do and will grow up

Once upon a time, there was a little boy. He was a mighty cute little boy. He had wispy blond hair and striking blue eyes. His face danced when he smiled. His lips curled into a perfect little “o” and he giggled the most delightful giggle. Oh, how he was loved by everyone who walked by and tickled his belly or stroked his hair.

But none could love him more than his mother. Yet with the fiercest of love, she also was the most generous with love – for she shared her little precious boy with me. He was four days old when we met and it’s been twenty-eight years of non-stop love. I babysat as often as I could. I used to wait at the entrance of the church for the family to arrive and I would snatch up that little bundle and carry him around on my hip as if he were my own. We were so attached, he and I. When he fell down and scraped up his knee, he’d walk past his mom and come to me kiss away the “boo-boo.” He’d cry when I left and quiet when I approached. We were so bonded, he and I.

When I left for college, I returned for his birthday parties. I spent the summers with him. I went to Disney with the family as his friend. As he entered high school, his mom would call me and say “He’s having a hard day, can you call him?” and I did. As he moved on to college and to his time in the service, we continued to talk and share and connect. When he took classes in the city, he would spend the night each week in our “toy room” and wrestle the boys in the morning before we all left on our separate ways for the day.

Any “normal” mother would have been threatened by this relationship, worried that her son had no love for her. But R.S. was no “normal” woman – she was amazing. She loved with abandon and taught her children to love as eagerly. I once asked her if she was concerned or “didn’t like” how close her son and I were in his early years. Her response was simple and profound – “the more people who love my son, and the more people he knows love him, the better he will be.”

And she was right. He did turn out to be fantastic. Oh, it was not easy. He had an abundance of stubbornness and strong-will. He did not care to sleep through the night for years. He had enough curiosity to rack up hundreds of dollars in damage. He had enough passion to punch a hole in the wall.  He had enough courage to serve his country. He had enough self-confidence to ask the girl of his dreams to marry him.RS Wedding

And yesterday he walked down the aisle with his beautiful wife and his face smiled and his eyes danced. In our firm embrace at the end of the pew, I told him how happy I was for him and how proud I was of him. I turned to walk out of the church with tears in my eyes – thinking, “there goes my little boy all grown up,” at the same moment that I turned to look behind me and …. “and there are my own little boys.”

There come along three stubborn, strong-willed, curious, active, and loving boys. There come three bundles of joy who have more energy in a millisecond than I have all day. There come three determined souls pushing against all the limits placed upon them, eager to engage the world, conquer the world, master their universe. There come three eager, yet anxious, boys calling out for reminders that they are loved – hugs and cuddles, kisses and “lovings.”

And I am reminded that it is my job to continue to seek out and build relationships with others who will be able to come alongside my sons. Who will love them. Who will model all of life redeemed for them. Who will cheer at their games and pick them up when they cry. Who will tell them that they are AWESOME and will correct them when they stray. For children need to know that there are at least five adults outside their family who love them so much, such that as life tosses them around, they can keep finding their feet again. I want that for my boys. There may not be too many “Nonni’s” in the world like I was, but there will be lots of love.

For one day, I will watch them take the hand of a beautiful lady and beam with joy as they walk through a gentle cloud of bubbles. And I will thank all who helped me shape the man. For little boys will grow up.

 

 

And then a little more chaos!

It quite likely could be said that some people seem to thrive on chaos. Given the way things seem to be going, it is highly likely that my sister and I are that type of person. We seem to invite it in to our house. Let’s see – there was Super Tall Guy, The Flipper, Mr. Ornery, along came Trouble followed less than a year later by The Little Guy. If five boys in a five year range weren’t chaotic enough….we added a sweet (yet apparently fragile) Bichon Terrier to the mix.

Now we add again.

Let’s just say that we spent almost the entire weekend rearranging two rooms of the house. The small third-floor room used for storage (since my “family” essentially lives in what might have been an attic) has pretty much been moved into my bedroom. This tiny space has now become the new “toy room” (and Super Tall’s dressing room).

Spending so much attention on this process sometimes leads to

  • A bit too much screen-time distraction for most of the boys,
  • A little bit of creativity for one of the boys,

IMG_5260

  • Not the healthiest of meals (ahem) for some of the kids,

IMG_5359

  • Finding some “great” clothes in the backs of closets,IMG_5316
  • And apparently misplacing the dog, as noted by a very unhappy neighbor.

But we managed to convert the former unrecognizable heap of a mess of toys into a beautiful guest room….(we sat in an exhausted heap in front of the TV this evening arguing over who had to get up to get the remotes…sigh…!)

IMG_5360

….for Wimon ….a woman from Thailand….a friend of a friend of my parents (you see what being Missionary kids does?!)….who is arriving late Wednesday evening to begin an English as a Second Language program in preparation for a doctorate in physical therapy. She’ll be staying with us for a “bit.”

I use Lego play as a way to coax a few words out of strong, silent Super Tall Guy. We talk about a new person arriving in the house. Someone who probably won’t speak English very well. He pauses and says quite quietly “I might laugh when she speaks.” “You just might,” I reply, “because it will sound different to your ears. She’s going to be so happy to learn from you” (and please, please….don’t you boys start chanting your usual body parts chants!!! Or run downstairs all “carefree” after your baths. Or burp and “putter” as if she’s family!). “Oh, she’ll be here for Halloween,” he exclaims excitedly. Yes, that should pretty much blow her mind in her first two weeks of culture shock. “And Christmas,” he continues eagerly. So far, it seems like this might go pretty well….

…though I’m thinking that we might have to quiet down the household a little…actually, I’m hoping that she might quiet it down a bit :) !!

Sometimes I wonder “what am I going to write about this week?” And then, there always seems to be something….always another adventure!