Tuesday, February 23, 2010

a hole in my wall

Therapist: You have to be careful to not build a wall around yourself when your children hurt you.

Me: Yes, I reach out anew every day...but there are times when my self-preservation kicks in and I just check out.

Therapist: (making a circular motion with her hands and bumping fists together) But a wall can either be hard or just not there...there has to be an in-between.

Me: I have a cordial relationship with my kids when I'm feeling hurt. I don't shut them out, I don't run away from home, I still offer myself as a parent to them, I simply don't sign up for abuse.

Therapist: Yes, you have to stay emotionally separated.

Me: (Confused...)

Sometimes I feel like I'm in a business relationship with my kids. I'm protective of myself. I try very hard to never, never, never be mean or nasty. I can't say I've never been mean...but on a general basis, I'm cordial. That's not a word I ever thought I'd use about my relationship with my kids. But, that's where we're at right now - and it's a better place than we've been in before. I allowed DS2 to hurt my feelings again today. And, they are really hurt. I try to tell myself that is what he wanted...and then I try to buckle down and not let him 'win'...but it stinks.

We have a running discussion of lying. I've mentioned that I don't feel I've ever lied to my kids - I've asked them to discuss with me if they feel I've lied to them. This weekend, DS2 was sent to his room so I could have a break. I said, "go to your room and don't come out". About an hour later it was lunch time and I was letting each child make whatever they wanted for lunch. So, I called him down to eat. Today he says that I lied to him because I said he shouldn't come out of his room and then I called him out to eat. EXCUSSSSSSEEEEEE me for feeding you! The tone of this revelation by him was rude...hateful...nasty. He kind of said it like "see, you are a loser mother"...it hurt worse than if he had said that. This was before school.

I spent the day trying to decide if there was anything that I should "do" about that disrespect, about that basic rude stupidity. I'm torn in these situations. I want to discuss with him, beg for an apology...I want to see that he cares that he hurt me. It seems that no matter how many times I model apologies and genuine sadness for hurting someone (because I DO apologize when I mess up and I AM sorry)...that just doesn't soak in. So, I did nothing and when he came to me tonight to tell me something about school - I found myself detached. I sat and listened, but not actively - I didn't ask questions, just commented on what I had to...and really, I didn't hear him at all. I was working really hard to be polite.

Dang...I don't want to have to work at that with my child. Dang...

Friday, February 19, 2010

An interview with Judy Miller

Through my good fortune to become involved with Grown In My Heart network, I've met some wonderful people. One of which is Judy Miller...and I'd like to share more about her...take a look!

An Interview with Judy M. Miller about Parenting Your Adoptive Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond
Judy M. Miller is an adoptive parent and adoption advocate living in the Midwest with her husband and four children. She has mentored prospective adoptive and adoptive parents for over a decade about adoption—its joys and issues. She is a member of Adoption Voices (moderating a group for parents of tween and teen adoptees), AdoptionParenting, AdoptionParentingTweens, Families with Children from China, and Our Chinese Daughters Foundation.
Judy is a columnist for the adoption network, Grown in My Heart. Her essays and articles appear in adoption and parenting magazines. Judy’s stories are featured in A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Families (Adams Media), Pieces of Me: Who Do I Want to Be? (EMK Press), and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom (Chicken Soup for the Soul). She recently presented on “Finding Our Stories Online” at Story Circle Network’s Stories of the Heart. Judy facilitates classes for adoptive parents of tweens and teens at Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens and Beyond http://judymmiller.com/.

What prompted you to create a class on parenting adopted children?
I was moved to create Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond for several reasons, but the main reason was that many parenting classes target waiting parents or parents who have recently adopted infants and young children. There are few classes for adoptive parents of kids entering tweens and teens.
I created Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond because I observed the hunger adoptive parents have to connect and share with other adoptive parents. I know from personal experience that this hunger to connect with other adoptive parents never goes away and is especially needed when parenting is most challenging—before and during adolescence.
I also found that as I became a more experienced adoptive parent, I had countless requests for my “expertise” for over a decade and fell into a mentoring role for other adoptive parents and parents beginning the adoption process. I believe we glean the most from our own tribe, from collective experiences as adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth parents. Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond was created in this spirit.
Why teens and tweens? Why not parenting young adopted children or school-age adopted children?
Issues inherent in adoption typically begin to surface when the child realizes they are becoming independent from their parents. Questions many parents assumed had been addressed when their child was younger often resurface. Most adoptive parents aren’t aware of this or prepared for it. Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond is a class that helps the adoptive parent navigate these parental challenges, which are compounded by the complexities of adoption. I often say that parenting is not adoptive parenting. Parenting adopted children is adoptive parenting—more is required of the adoptive parent in parenting the adopted child.
Who would be helped by your class the most?
Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond is for parents who have children between the ages 6 and 18. During these years kids begin to understand what they have gained and lost by being adopted. Parents find themselves challenges with a lot of questions as in “Why did my birth mother give me up?”, “What did I do to be given up?” and “Why did you adopt me?”
I even have one parent, who is considering taking the class now, even though both of her children are under the age of five. This parent wants to be proactive, prepared as much as she can be. She sees this class as the next step in parenting her adopted children. I think it’s always a good idea to be as informed and prepared as you can be as an adoptive parent.
Aren’t there already ample resources available on this topic?
Wonderful books, articles and resources are on parenting adopted teens are available, but reading takes time and digesting the facts takes even more. Many adoptive parents don’t have the benefit of having the “conversations” with other adoptive parents, who best understand what they and their child are experiencing. There are a few online classes for adoptive parents of adolescents, with little, if any, interaction with the other adoptive parents in the group. And, of course, there are online forums, but discussions there tend to go off on tangents and are not private.
Although I have a library of resources to draw from, my preference has always been to connect with others in the adoption community—adoptive parents, well-seasoned adoptive parents, and older adoptees for insight and perspective. So, I’ve created an e-mail class that offers the benefits of all the resources, my experiences parenting four kids, and the wisdom of the group.
If someone has never taken an e-class before, can you explain what they can expect in terms of their time commitment to the class?
I send course material out weekly via Word Document. The workbooks cover different topics related to parenting the adopted tween/teen. The beauty of the class is that participants meet each other virtually through the class introduction and sharing of weekly class work. Participating parents do weekly assignment at their convenience, when it fits into their busy life. The weekly time commitment is only a couple of hours per week but, of course, the parents can reflect on what they are learning and discussing as much as they like. The class lasts six weeks and the class materials can be referred back to as needed in the future.
The next Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond begins April 7th. Class is limited to 12 participants. Parents can find out more and register here. http://judymmiller.com/

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Didn't you smell the mustard?

We have many special little jokes in our house...some are really hilarious and others are only funny to my sweet husband and I. As I've mentioned before, we've found that if you don't laugh at RAD, you cry as it's sweeping you down the river to your eventual demise!!! So, we've coined Mr. Opposite as the name for those times when one or more of the kids will say that EVERYTHING we say is totally wrong. This happens in every house...you know how you may say "I'm making chicken for dinner tonight" and the smarty pants sitting near you will say "You didn't make chickens, God did"...or some other such crap. Yeah, that is Mr. Opposite.
In our house he takes many forms but is generally always present. Today DS2 came home from school covered in yellow stuff - pretty easy to see on a bright blue sweatshirt. I bowed to my own parently pressure of wanting to know...
Mom: What's that yellow stuff?
DS2: What yellow stuff? (as he's staring at it)
Mom: That (pointing to the whole sweatshirt)
DS2: Must be mustard
Mom: Ok...did you notice it was all over you?
DS2: I didn't put it there.
Mom: Wow...it just jumped up and attacked you?
DS2: My sandwich dropped it.
Mom: (walking away) That was a very mean sandwich, I hope you made it strong sit!

Incredible! That darn sandwich. Later, when told to be sure and spray and wash the sweatshirt (and please take it off before you smush the stuff all over your bedspread) - it was with great labor that he went downstairs and did the job the sandwich obviously should have done.

In crosstalk a bit later, I pointed out to myself that I wasn't going to take anyone who lies with me to Disney World...Mickey does not approve of lying and there was no way I was going to get in his bad graces by showing up with people unaccustomed to the truth. My daughter started crying. Please note: I was not talking to her or to him...I was talking in their vicinity. This is a trick I got from their therapist and I notice that it does get their attention. Since they are both quite the eavesdroppers...it seems that they really listen when they think I'm NOT talking to them. So, DS2 whom I was hoping to 'get' with my line said nothing...DD cried for a while. When I asked what was wrong while still feigning innocence that she had heard my self-talk, she said "I was really looking forward to Disney". Well...then tell the truth...

I got a snuggly for Valentine's Day - you know the blankets with arms. That has also been a long running joke in my house, because I'm always cold in the evenings and lo and behold - there is sat when I got up on Sunday. It's pink...and flawed by design. What woman actually can just sit on the couch for periods of time. I'm constantly pausing a show to redirect kids or change loads of laundry or clean up left over dishes. Heck even if you just shift slightly, drafts come in toward your backside. So, I tried wearing it with the opening at the front and I tied it shut with a belt. That worked better...then I created what I wanted out of it. I sewed on fabric scraps in order to tie it shut in 3 places down my front. If I'm moving a lot, I only use the middle tie...if I'm sitting I tie it shut at my neck and legs. However, the sleeves are too long for real work - so my next task is to figure out a way to hitch them up and down. When I am done I think I should sell my new design to the snuggli people. And yes, you can tell I'm randomly excited about this whole project!

DS1 had his first date on Monday. Lunch at Red Robin and an IMAX showing of Avatar. I got to pick them all up and drive (I seriously volunteered) and the girls were very polite. I've gotten basically no updates, no info...it's killing me. There is a thin line between forcing a teen to talk and hoping that they will. DH is better at that line than me - he can somehow joke around and get a bit of info. However, I do note that DS1 speaks loudly to his friends and gives them lots of info and I wonder if he does it on purpose...I'm a good eavesdropper too. He has to know that, right?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


"I don't respect you".


I've been told a lot of times that one or the other doesn't love me. In fact, I've been told I'm hated, horrible, disgusting, all the way up to I should simply go away and die. All very yuck - but I could handle it.

Today it came out "I don't respect you".

Respect is simply something I feel children give to those that have gone before them - those who know more...I know my kids do respect most adults - they are polite and helpful and fun to others and I guess I already knew this. I knew they didn't respect me - can you respect someone you hate? They've never acted respectful (unless they were angling for something)...but yet - the words hurt.

DS2 has a math test Friday. In the 10 nights of homework for this unit, he's gotten 4 problems right out of 48. This sounds mean - but I'm praying he actually fails the test. He asked me for help once - I really don't give it out much...it's a ploy. But, I was hoping (again) that he actually wanted help. About two minutes into me showing him how to do it, he said "can you just give me the answers so I can be done?" I said, that isn't very respectful and well...return to the top.

DD came home yesterday not feeling well. I was concerned it was a reaction to the tenex (which is still showing great signs of working)...I played it low key and just asked a few questions over the course of the evening. Finally right before bed she says "Well...I only started feeling like throwing up after the meatball sub at school. I don't think I should get that anymore." - I told her I thought that was a great connection - almost threw up myself (cafeteria meatball subs???) and sent her to bed not worrying about her medication issues!

She also called me out last night. I forgot that she owed me pay back time...I pointed out that she hadn't reminded me of it and she said "well, last time I reminded you, you thought I was bossing you around and you added more payback time". Ahhh...she is being honest - I do remember that day...and I remember acting inappropriately in my response. So, I apologized, cuddled in bed with her and told her that Mom is always 'right' but that doesn't mean I can't be wrong sometimes! How's that for confusion???

Maybe it wasn't very respectful...

Monday, February 8, 2010

The wide world of sports...joyfully

We went to a college basketball game this weekend. It was DS2 and DD's first college experience. We attend many, many sporting events and it usually doesn't go well. But, it's something we (DH and I) love and I won't lose it and yes, I keep taking them all, hoping for something amazing to happen and then - it DID! We had fun...we had no meltdowns and on the side, a few cool 'awakenings'!

DS2, as you know, doesn't like school. He hears us discuss college - with our smarty pants headed to high school, it's a topic that comes up in our house more often now. DS1 already seems to have big plans - all which take him far, far away from home. As we drove up to the campus (about 1.5 hours from our house), DH continued to espouse the joys of being closer to home...laundry service and easy drives home for cash being at the top of the list. I know that DS2 and DD hear and enjoy some of these conversations...and we include them - but DS2 would always say "nope...I'm not going to college"!

We sat near the student section at the game - yelling, costumes, face paint, overall craziness...and DS2 LOVED it. He asked lots of questions and couldn't believe that this, too, was part of college life. They study and go to class and have fun? Really? About half-way through the game he says "So, if I go here...". I could have cried. Not that it's the whole measure of him or any person, but it's a dream I've always had. College was a great time for me - my friends now are mostly from those connections. I loved every second of it. I've always hoped that all three of my kids would get to experience that - and the obvious benefit in the workplace that follows!

DD was enamored by the cheerleaders and sat quietly - except at correct cheering moments through the WHOLE game. People - 2.5 hours of calm, relaxed, joyful behavior from my precious daughter. Wide eyes and normal sensical questions...drinking a soda without purposefully spilling it...just too many wonders to name. Not one loud word about someone around us either...those words are almost always embarrassing! I hope this is a great side effect of her new med combo - she's now on risperdal and tenex - but more than that, I hope it's a bit of maturity and just plain ole' happiness settling her anxious soul.

We were there to root for the away team - my old alma mater...and folks were very nice and cordial. Happy ending because my Tigers won big...great conversation driving home...and actual excitement for the Super Bowl. Which concluded with another long marathon of watching the game, understanding it and actually ENJOYING it with my children. Great snacks (diet be darned for one evening...but oh, too much cheese in our bellies)...and happy attitudes.

I know it can be taken for granted - if you have kids that like to do things that you like to do...and do them with joy. Even if you have kids that do things with joy that they don't like to do.

This weekend was a reminder of how far we've come and how great the journey may turn out to be...remind me of that in 6 years when I'm paying for 3 college educations. I must continue to smile!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Is that the best you got?

Some little piece of me is a perfectionist. Ok, maybe a slightly larger chunk than I'd like to admit. Maybe perfection isn't the word - and really, in the life I have right now, perfection would be an improbability - it's just the striving for it. I like to do the best I can at whatever I do. I like the feeling of knowing I did my best and I even like the drive it creates in me when I know I didn't. Growing up I was mortified to get a B and honestly, never got anything lower. All this to say that it's hard to watch a child that doesn't seem to want the best for themselves.

We are still in a rut with DS2. He just doesn't have that fire - about anything. I'm doing a much better job of living with what he calls life...his choices, not mine. I stay out of homework and honestly, I've stopped fighting the school. The hard part of that for me is that I feel like I've stopped fighting for HIM. I know that I'm right about what he needs. I sincerely believe that I know best for my son. And, it's impossible to mesh the two things. Have I given up on him? He's a confusing young man. He is not screwing around during homework time - he truthfully sits at his desk and works...for a LONG time. He gets upset if I tell him homework time is over and he's not done. He wants to finish - but he doesn't seem to want to finish right. Or, a sad thought for me - is that maybe he can't finish right. But, that returns me to the fact that he needs something that the school is not admitting. So, when he brought his homework down tonight (after 2 hours and 15 minutes to do 16 math problems, alphabetize a list of 15 words and answer 2 questions about his 30 minutes of reading), I simply said "did you do the best you could do?"...and he stared at me. No answer.

I looked over the work later and it wasn't good. Then I pondered - would he really waste 2 hours of his life to purposefully do it wrong? And, if he is trying his hardest - how can there not be a learning disability of some kind to make him miss 8 out of 10 problems and leave 6 blank (remember, that amount of work took him over an hour)? I'm at a loss. I hope to see him make something great of himself...I do.

DD has consistently asked to make her hair blonder...for YEARS. I've preached the good line of "you are beautiful like you are" and "you don't want to mess with your hair so young". Then, she had these last 3 weeks. They've been tough for her...I would categorize her as depressed. My heart breaks for the princess and I got the idea to just do it. She and I together could color her hair. I bought the kit - read all the directions - changed my mind about 30 times and then saw her getting off the bus. I was excited! I brought her in with the big TA-DA and showed her what we were going to do. After a minor freak out about getting burned by the solution - she settled in and we spent the next 105 minutes playing hair salon. She laughed, I laughed...we hugged and bonded for that time. She sat still (perhaps the most accomplished part of the evening). The boys got interested in the process and hung around a bit to 'watch'...in the end, her hair was a bit blonder than I'd planned...but she had a huge grin and couldn't wait to show it off. The joy was worth it. I may have created a monster - one I hope never has purple hair...but for now, we have a real live barbie living in our house (yes, it's THAT blonde)!

DS1 is doing well...baseball starts in one week and he's excited. His grades are good and he is happy overall. Sometimes I'm amazed he can sustain that in this craziness!

And...to end with the best of the week...
DD to me in explanation of why I'm only her second favorite mom (compared to Russian mom)
"Well, you haven't even let me have the tiniest iPod ever made"