The rush of time

This is how I know I’m stressed – when a friend offers to arrange a massage for me (AND watch the other kids….AND bring me Starbucks!) AND…. I actually consider it.  Never been a fan of massage, I hate to say….but I do know that all the muscles that I can still name from medical school anatomy class and the ones that I occasionally pull and can’t remember their name – they’re all pretty tight right now!!

The other way to tell that life is in that “stress” mode is the lateness of this post. When your brain is filled with the “have-to’s,” there’s very little space for the creative. Yet, if you pause enough, it will come.

Every single year I have high hopes for Advent. Teaching the boys about patience and waiting (“I hate waiting”). Focusing on hope, love, joy and peace (“It’s my turn to blow out the Advent wreath candles!” “No, you blew them out last night!”). Thinking about service and how we care for others (“Oh man, I’ll just get that Angel Tree gift myself this year”). Starting new traditions that will carry on year after year and become that lore in adulthood of “well, when I was a child, we always did…..at Christmas.”

When I struggle to slow time down – it has a way of speeding right along.

Literally, this Advent season has been:

  • Choose a new school district for the boys from (thankfully) some really great choices. My sister and I have thought about which district we would prefer “in theory” for a few years now, but we suddenly needed to make the decision….like yesterday!
  • Put up Christmas tree top-heavy with the “fragile” ornaments
  • boy tree_wp
  • Tape up a strand of Christmas lights around the door frame
    • Re-tape
    • Re-tape
    • Tape again
    • “Stop playing with these lights!!”
  • Find a place to live – not only within the school district but in the “zone” that feeds into the elementary school that handles kids with “special emotional/behavioral needs”
    • Search for places online – Thanks, sis, for handling the brunt of this!
    • Visit homes for rent, townhomes, apartments
    • Agonize
    • Look at more, change mind, get close (oh, wait, this place doesn’t take dogs!)
    • Sign lease
  • Fill Advent calendar boxes with candy
    • Forget to open a box every day – our calendar says it’s December 7th – we have LOTS of shopping days left!
  • Complete paperwork for neuropsych evaluation intake appointment for Super Tall Guy
    • Freak out the morning of the appointment when the forms are who knows where
    • Out-smart 8-year-old to get him in the car to go to the appointment
    • Pat self on back for remembering to charge and bring along the DS game system
    • Groan when informed, “Mom, there’s no game in this DS”….ugh!
  • Thank Grandma for bringing over “Advent Bags” filled with toys/treats for each evening of Advent
    • Forget to open them after day 5 or 6 – we’ll just save them for next year (Did we say that last year?)
  • Complete (redundant, endless) paperwork for school enrollment for two boys
  • Find central admin office just in time for school enrollment appointment
    • Freak out in parking lot over who has the copy of the lease – really – honestly – the ONLY important paper we need today
    • Sweat bullets over whether all the forms are done correctly as the administrator slowly marches down the checklist – check, check
  • Complete paperwork and behavioral forms for behavioral assessment intake appointment for Super Tall Guy
    • Huh, he is pretty challenging
  • Bake brownies for
    • Christmas party #1
    • Christmas party #2
    • 2nd Grade Christmas party
    • Kindergarten Christmas party
    • Oh, you want some for your second-grader as well??
  • Battle with self-will to NOT go in to Toys R Us
    • Lose battle
    • Spend too much (again) on the boys
  • Sit on the couch
  • Turn off the lights
  • Soften Christmas music
  • Cuddle with sleeping dog
  • Get lost in the glow of the tree lights
  • Breathe
  • (message friend to accept massage offer….)

Want to slow down time? Just do it.

The moments of parenting “expensive” boys!

I sat beside him crying. “I can’t keep doing this,” I said over and over. I’m sure it was lost on him, but the feelings just become so huge and overwhelming to me. Okay….so it’s just a window – I say days later. Yes, it’s the stained glass window that he kicked out – recently replaced and huge –  but it’s still just a window, and just the corner of the window.  Yes, it’s another expense (you know, in addition to the TVs he has destroyed), stained glassbut it’s still just a window. It will cost about $1000 to take it out and back to the store to replace the corner and bring it back, but it’s still just a window.

And yes, it’s another marker of  his inability to control his anger. But really, who am I to judge? Sometimes (a lot…) I don’t control my anger either and I’m 36 years older than him.

Sometimes though it all just feels so “Big” – that suddenly everything is crumbling – that my son has enough “problems” to be asked to leave a school (okay, so a private school that worries they can’t meet his “needs”…); that I’m an awful parent who can’t figure out how to stop the “antecedents” and triggers of anger explosions in my kid in time to diffuse the situation; that we’re never going to get anywhere.

You ever sink into this abyss?

So deep that you drive sub-consciously to Grandma’s house with the youngest child while tears stream down the cheeks?

And you remember sitting down on a date the other week and pausing at the question, “Do you ever regret it?” Tough question. Do I regret adopting three boys? My honest answer – “It’s pretty hard sometimes. But I don’t regret it. The boys need a mother to love them and I do think that the brothers need to be together.” And admittedly, I need them to bring depth and joy to my life.

But driving away from my angry and now grounded son, my tears return to that question. Do I regret it?  It certainly has been harder than I could ever have imagined. My mind briefly recalls reading about “reversed adoptions”…. “failed adoptions.” I remember being appalled (especially as it would completely undermine a kid’s sense of belonging and family and hope) and yet I think I can understand the draw to find an “easy” solution to the complicated mess called parenting.

Sometimes it’s easy to pretend that this parenting is all fun and games. It’s the cheesy Facebook photos. It’s the awesome crafty Pinterest project. It’s the hugs and kisses and gentle sleeping snores of tuckered bodies. It’s the fluff and love. But it’s actually so much more than that.

I talked to a mother of a two-week old last week in for a pediatric check-up. She lamented, “Everyone keeps saying ‘enjoy these wonderful moments,’ but I’m not really feeling it. What’s wrong?” I smile graciously, shaking my head, “Those moments – those moments are rare. So very rare. They will happen, so grab them and hold them in your heart. Because the rest of the moments range from mundane to pretty darn hard to down-right heart-wrenching horrific. But the good moments are just fantastic.”

The other morning the moody, grumpy, stained-glass-window kicking Super Tall Guy rolled over before completely waking and said, “I love you, Mom.”IMG_7706

A moment.

Grabbed.

Held.

Peace.

To us all.

No regrets.

 

Don’t mess with Mama Bear

That should be the mantra for all parent interactions. Say, for example, that you are a school representative about to deliver bad news about a child’s behavior. You might just have this line running through your mind. Kind of like – the customer is always right. Don’t mess with Mama Bear.mama bear2

Apparently the meeting with the principal 10 days ago was to let me know that Super Tall Guy needed to “transition” out of the environment in which he no longer “fit.” From the principal’s perspective, they had done all they could in adjusting his environment but it wasn’t helping and things were getting worse. Super Tall Guy was more disruptive and more disrespectful and beginning to require “in school suspensions” sitting in the principal’s office.

I could see this was the end of our grace period, but I am also absolutely convinced that an 8-year-old boy does not need to be expelled from school. That while trying to figure out what’s going on inside the head, we need to support and keep alive a desire to learn and succeed. We can’t let very young children develop a sense of failure. We need a smooth transition to the next arrangement. In that vein, I offered to take him out of school at lunch time since it was clear that he was consistently falling apart in the afternoons.

It was certainly an emotionally charged meeting – Mama Bear was in high protective mode, while also trying to acknowledge and understand their point of view. Disruptive children do not fit into the beautiful “orchestra” of small private schools.

As often happens, though, emotions cloud discussions and we never wrapped up the details. However, when I arrived to pick up Super Tall Guy the next day – Friday – I was distressed to find that he had been sitting in the office of the Head of School all afternoon – having a “nice time looking up insects on the iPad….as we were expecting you to pick him up at lunch.” “Oh,” I replied. “I didn’t know that was starting today. For I had no details. For example, do you know what time his lunch is? Do you know when I was mama bearexpected to be here?” Don’t mess with Mama Bear – because she’s holding herself together pretty darn well right now given that Baby Bear is staring at us! Because, you see – you just made Baby Bear miss out on the combined second grade class holiday party?!?!?

The calm before the storm was a bit eerie. Why wasn’t Super Tall Guy more upset about missing his party?  It took 24 hours for the waves to swell and the gale-force winds to build ….when he realized his behavior at Grandma’s had just led to missing “movie night” of the next Star Wars film. And then it all unleashed. The anger. The pain. The disappointment. The fear. The frustration. The teeth on my arm. The kicking feet. The refusal to try any calming tactics suggested by the therapist. The storm, it seems, just has to settle itself out…and then the tears flow about how unfair the world is. How sad it is to miss a party that you had been looking forward to.

His pain pierced Mama Bear’s heart.

My sister, bless her, kicked into active drive, spending hours on the internet looking for a new school district and a place to live. I, however, spent a couple days with my heart wrapped up. Distraught by the realization that my eldest must have some “problem” clearly severe enough to disrupt schooling and result in the whole family moving. Saddened by the way he has struggled for months. Disappointed in myself for not recognizing all this sooner. Frustrated by the crumbling of our current status quo. Overwhelmed by the thought of moving and packing and transitioning boys to a new school – much less trying to decide “which” new school.

And yet hopeful – that we might find a school that will honor my son. One that will meet his needs and build on his strengths. A place that will not try to “break the strong willed boy” but will seek to understand his struggles and help instill healthy coping strategies and skills. A place where he is not judged as “bad” but will rejoice in the small steps of progress.

For Mama Bears have pretty high expectations. Don’t mess with them.

 

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.