Saturday, October 22, 2011

Breaking Point

A showdown has been building for the past two weeks. Every morning there is a new layer of defiance, or a slowness to respond to a direction. Maybe the child chooses to take her time getting out of the car on the way home or says things like "you can't tell me, just kidding". For two weeks, I have tried to hold it together, to respond calmly and rationally to the little pin pricks of annoyance, but this morning I lost it. A tantrum about getting ready, a refusal to wear a bathing suit and a string "Ok, Ok, Ok, Ok Juli Ann I hear you!" while I was attempting to speak to her about the choices she was making pushed me over the edge. I was just plain mad.

In a tone that sounded very much like my angry mother coming back across the decades, I let Miss Thing know that she did not speak to me like that, that she would do what I told her, and that I was done with her games. I shouldn't have done it, because there was a part of her that loved it. Up until this point we have refused to engage in this game, but this morning she had co-player and she went for it. I went to the kitchen to get water and calm down. She continued to shout complaints and announcements from her room. When I went back for round two, Justin opened the door and told us all to calm down, and she smiled a little smile and went back to her room.

Now I wasn't just upset and mad at myself and the kid, now I was frustrated at my husband as well.  How dare he undermine me like that? He doesn't know what has been going on, and you know what, she never pulls the attitude with him that she pulls with me. What followed was a mini fight between Justin and I, a long period of silence before swim lessons and a child who was waffling between enjoying the situation and clearly not sure about the situation.

When they left for swim lesson, I picked up the phone to call my Mom and tell her what a martyr I was. She listened to the whole story, and told me to grow up and figure it out. Turns out, I am not the only mother who can tell the child how "it is". She didn't abandon me, she did offer to problem solve with me. She told me to pray and she reminded me that I had a pretty amazing husband who was just trying to bring peace to his home. Moms, I didn't want to be one and I didn't know how much I liked having one.

I took a deep breath, had some coffee and took the cat to the vet (ear infection no biggie) and when I came home, I was still cranky. My mother called and suggested I run errands with her and give myself some time to think and process.  Moms, always showing up to help when you didn't know you wanted them. So, I went off with my Mom, who bought me lunch and told me a bunch of stories of moments she would take back. The crazy thing is, the fight she really regrets between us (involving me about to be picked up by Sean Mansfield for something and freaking out on her about my crappy clothes that suck and why don't we have money and ending with  me not going anywhere for that night or several nights) I didn't really remember until she brought it up. I am sure at the time I was furious and wrote pages in my journal about it, but I had nary a memory until she reminded me.

She told me that it was on a Friday night and she was so tired and stressed about making the mortgage because she was paying for me to go to DC and had bought me a homecoming dress and she felt like I was being ungrateful. Clearly I was ungrateful. In fact, my 33 year old self really wants to go back and slap my 16 year old self.  I also felt so awful that my Mom had no one to tag out to. No one was going to open a door and tell her to calm down. No one was going to take the child away and give her time to think.

That is when the neon light of "BAD WIFE!" "UNGRATEFUL WIFE" "FAILURE AS A MOTHER" "YOU WEREN'T MEANT TO HAVE CHILDREN" "EVERYONE CAN DO THIS BETTER THAN YOU CAN" "YOU DON'T DESERVE YOUR FAMILY!" came pouring into my mind. I had lost it. I could never fix it. I sucked. My mother, who has uncanny telepathy, told me to get it together everyone has bad days and what are you going to do about it. Moms, knowing you better than you know yourself and using that knowledge against you.

So, I talked it out with my Mom. I told her how frustrated I was. How every morning was a landmine of whining and cajoling ending with me frustrated and stressed. I told her how I felt like a biological Mom would be better at handling it and how I was afraid that this was a taste of bigger and badder behaviors that I was not equipped to handle. I told her that I don't remember the last time I slept through the night and that my job seems to getting more stressful by the day. I told her that money worry is oppressive and how I feel like I am not doing a good job at any of my jobs. Then my Mom hugged me. Moms, knowing how to make you feel better without having to say anything.

My big solution was to pray. I put all out there to God and asked for help. I realized that my love wasn't enough and I needed something bigger. By the time I got out of church tonight I had a plan and some peace. In conversation with the child I laid it all out. After apologizing for speaking in a "mean" voice, I explained that from here on out I would tell her what time she needed to be ready and expect her to do it. Whatever state she is in at the time we have to leave is the state she will leave in. If that means messy hair and an unmade bed, so be it. I also told her that if she complained about her clothes, I wasn't going to argue. I would simply take those clothes and donate them to a kid who needed them, and she would be responsible for buying new ones. 

I also told her I love her, but I knew that she was behaving this way to gain some control and get some attention. I reminded her that she has all of our attention and we will not be rewarding her for her negative actions. She was quiet, but seemed to get it. It will be a challenge. I will struggle to leave the house with a kid with messy hair and not feel like it is a testament to my crappy parenting, but I will persevere, or at least call my Mom for strength. Moms, always there when you need them.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

You've got a friend in me....

The last two weeks have been filled with a lot of friendship talk. Ashley has never really had friends before and has had some issues determining what makes a good friend and what makes a bad friend. She has been exposed to some girls who are definitely in the latter category. One of them has a very strong personality and seems to suck the other girls into making poor choices. We have had a lot of talks about how you have to walk away and when do you know if someone if is your friend. Part of me feels awful, this kid is finally connecting with her peers and we have to break the bubble and let her know that not everyone is good, not everyone is honest, and some people are mean.

This has been an extra struggle for me because I don't remember "learning" how to make friends. When I asked my Mom about this, she pointed out that from the ages of 3-10 I was glued to the side of Nicole. This was a bonus in the friend making market, I never worried about making friends because I always had Nicole. I think we must of stood up for one another, I don't remember being angry at other kids for being mean to me, but I do remember yelling at a girl who lived in our neighborhood and was mean to my cousin. I guess by the time we moved to Oregon, I was old enough to just figure it out. Plus, I am pretty comfortable talking to anyone so that helps.

It is weird how much you forget about growing up. The little things, like the belief that any kid that comes up to you is going to be your friend or that Narnia may really be in the back of your closet. That coloring and singing are the two greatest things ever and that every day is a brand new adventure. Mostly I am amazed at Ashley's resiliency. Somehow, despite all she has been through, she has managed to hold onto her innocence and her belief that people are good. That is a miracle.

I hope she learns what a good friend is, and I pray that God sends her some amazing friends to bless her life. Friends have always been hugely important in my life and I want her to have those people that she can connect with at any moment. I truly hope she meets someone in elementary school. There is something special about a friend, or cousin, who can remember when set the house on fire because you wanted to know what would happen you microwaved the Kleenex; and  who was willing to always to be the first to try our homemade Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

As we become adults, those people become more precious because they connect us back to a time that feels so far away. I know that the road of friendship isn't always easy. Sometimes, you spend most of high school being friends with a girl who is mean to everyone, and goes crazy when she isn't elected homecoming princess, and it takes one clear moment of her being mean to someone else to walk away. There are moments when the dorky boy who never has lunch is assigned to sit across from you at lunch and even though you are annoyed at the time, he turns out to be one of your oldest friends. People will hurt you, and not everyone will turn out to be your best friend, but I hope that Ashley learns how to give people a chance. I also hope that she gets to experience the joy of being a good friend with someone for a long time.

A lot of foster kids miss out on this, and they are the ones who really need friends. I hope each the lonely foster kiddos out there get to have one true friend. To all my friends, old and new, thank you. I feel like I have been slacking in the friendship category the past few months, but please know that I can't wait to see and catch up with each of you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

So what? I'm still a rockstar....

There is so much that I want to be writing about right now, and yet I have NO time. I actually pause at moments in the day and think "that would be a good thing to blog about". This means I have ten sticky notes and no blogs. The last two weeks have been killer, not for any one reason, but for a myriad of intricate connecting stressors. The biggest of these being that I never got back in my devotions groove after we got back from Wisconsin. This is not a good. It is amazing how quickly we slip away from the things that keep us connected to God. This is a time when we really and truly need some God attention.

I know that all parents live in a world of "what ifs?" and "we don't knows", but we don't even know if the child we are parenting will be our child. Without giving away too much, all I can say is that our social worker came over tonight essentially to tell us the truth and to bring light to somethings that we had been left out of some of our conversations with other people. I was releived to see her, and even though she didn't say what I wanted her to, I was thankful to have someone who is honest and wise. She didn't have to come and spend time making sure we had a true picture of al that was happening, but she did and I am so grateful for that.

Today I was reminded that we are living on God's timeline, not ours. Whatever my plan is doesn't matter, God's plan will work to the good of all people involved. I am a weak person, who is easily defated by small whispers of unfaithful thoughts. I have a tendency to get wrapped up in my own head and become concerned with my feelings and my issues. This is such an icky way to be.

This morning I spent some quality devotion time asking for forgiveness and resubmitting my life, family, job and future to God's plan. It is so easy to be led astray and sucked in by all the things that the world brings at you. I am ashamed to say that while we have been working on one of the biggest changes in our lives, I have not been turning to God for guidance.

I slipped right back into my "control it" mode. I read a lot, I speak in a knowing manner. I sound so self assured and confident. I seem so with it, but inside there is a part that is so scared of making the wrong choice it can't let go. There is a part of me that is elated and a part of me that is resentful to the bchange in my life. How can all of this ever make sense?

I need to put all of it in God's hands and turn on the "let it go" mode. This is easier said than done, but I feel like today I made small progress. Hopefully some honest prayer and petition will enable to sleep through a night. The future is not my concern, how I am going to embrace God's love and plan today is my concern. It is time to get my faith back and leave my selfishness behind.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Whatta Mighty Fine Man

I married a man, not just in the gender terms, but in the good provider, totally responsible, self-sacrificing, upstanding, proud to be wife of man. My husband is loyal to the core. I fell in love with him on epic road trip to Disneyland. The longer we are together, the more I love him. His support for me through our journey of infertility was amazing and if you had asked me if there was anyway I could be more proud of, or more in love with, him a month and a half ago I would have said no.

That was before I saw him as a father. Justin the dad is amazing and he hasn't had it easy. Ashley wanted nothing to do with him for the first two weeks that she was here. She would refer to him in third person and refuse to engage with him no matter what he tried. It was painful to watch. He had waited so long to be a dad and the child was rejecting him. Neither of us knew what to do. He was angry and frustrated and hurt, but he didn't give up.

He doubled his efforts. He played Barbies and took her to the park. He encouraged her at swim lessons and crafted special days for the two of them. If she ignored him, he kept going back. When she seemed fearful, he reassured. No matter what she did , he continued to be there for her and after a herculean effort, she melted for him.

She misses him when he isn't home, and I am not allowed to read the story because "you don't do the voices good like Justin". She is worried about getting two spelling words wrong and swearing to work harder to impress him next week. When I pick her up from school, her first question is always "is Justin home yet?" This week she pretended to attack him so that she could give him a hug. I almost broke down and cried.

Justin the dad is choosing each day to demonstrate to Ashley that he is realiable and truly cares about her. No man has ever done this for her. You can see her blossom and grow in light of his love. I never thought I could love him more, but watching him the last month has made me fall in love with him in an all new way.

I am so thankful to blessed with such an amazing man as my husband and I hope I can be a wife who makes him feel blessed as well. Someone once told me that ninety percent of parenting was just showing up, but I think ninety percent of love is showing up. Justin shows up everyday to support and love us.  I am so excited to watch him grow as a person and a dad.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Extended Family

My definition of family is broader than the traditional. I have two half siblings and an entire step family. It isn't until I stop to explain the intricate web of my family that I am reminded that not everyone has the same diverse connections in their family. As complicated and diverse as my family is, it is also a huge blessing. As a child, I was literally surronded by people that loved me. My safety net was large, and I am the person I am today because my mother allowed me to have a myriad of relationships. This blessing has uniquely prepared me to parent the child we were given.

We spent the weekend coordinating visits with Ashley's sisters. They live in seperate homes and have seperate foster families. Somehow our three families have to coordinate interactions so that these three girls are able to maintain their sisterly bond. Ashley and I share the role of being the much younger sister. With this comes a strange combination of adoration and distance. When you are seven, it is a struggle to connect with your thirteen year-old sister (let alone your 20 year old mother of two sister).

Ashley's sisters are 13 and 14 and they both clearly care about her. It breaks my heart that these girls live apart. I can't imagine what my world would have been like without the constant love and support of my two sisters.  At the same time, Ashley has grown a lot in her time with us and it is clear that her being the only child in the house is the positive choice for her.

The reality of taking care of this child is that we now have become members of a much larger family that is focused on creating the healthiest environment for these children as we possibly can. The bonus is that it gives Ashley the feeling of being an only child, but at the same time she can be  a member of a much larger family. Not only will she slowly learn her way through our biological families, but she also gets to be part of the best parts of her biological family.

My hope is that if it all works out as we would like it to, these families will be part of our lives for a long time and hopefully Ashley will be able to look back and appreciate a large safety net of biological, foster, and hopefully adoptive families. I hope that she can reach the point where she forgets who is part of what category and just feels lucky to have such a large extended family.