All moms should be divas...this one just happens to be in Jersey!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Things Adoptive Moms Want To Say

I was very excited when Our Mommyhood asked me to write a guest post! This great site has such a wide range of content. I was asked to write about adoption or being an adoptive mom, so thought I'd take a chance to set some records straight. Big thanks to editors Liz and Betsy!

While I’m an adoptive mom, and would gladly extol its virtues, I wouldn’t say I’m expert material. A passing glance at my blog would call key parenting skills into question. So while “expert” is beyond reach, “adoptive mom who lost it a couple of times on strangers” is pretty accurate. “What is there to lose it about after adopting?” you rightfully ask. Well, apart from all the lovely stressors parenting brings, there are some comments you field that are unique to your situation. Sometimes, they just get rub you the wrong way. I really don’t think people mean any harm. They just don’t think or realize. My plan here isn’t to make you feel uncomfortable, but rather to help you see some things through the eyes of an adoptive parent. One less foot in a mouth… that’s what I’m all about here.

I’ll start out with the biggie:
Loving them as much as children by birth
My husband had two daughters when we married. I asked him repeatedly if he’d feel differently about his new sons vs. his daughters. After weeks of denial, he cracked. “Of course I’ll have a different relationship with them!” That saddened me, until he quickly clarified, “I was in my 30’s to 40’s for the girls but will be in my 50’s to 60’s for the boys. I don’t have the same career demands now. I probably won’t need to sit by a Barbie playhouse much.” It was really that simple to him, a question of lifestyle and gender play preferences. When I hear people talk about different feelings toward adopted kids, I go back to him since he’s poised to know the truth. He doesn’t get people who can’t believe you feel the same toward an adoptive child as one by birth. He’s really baffled by men’s reactions. “It’s not like you’d be breastfeeding yourself.” They’re just “his kids,” and by “they” I mean all four, all viewed the same way.

We clean up after kids who get the flu at 2:00am. We cry when we open hand drawn Mother’s Day cards. We stare at our sleeping kids, awed by their beauty, and befuddled that they can look so angelic in sleep while being so devilish when awake. We leave the house at 6:00am to schlep to gymnastics meets 100 miles away. Yep, we’re absolute idiots for our kids too.

“Real” Kids:
This was the phrase that put me over the edge on several occasions. I finally gave up, sarcasm taking over. To the woman in McDonald’s, the mom at my son’s preschool, the family friend at a party, and anyone else my flip tone offended at the time, I’m kinda sorta sorry. Eventually to comments such as, “They look just like your real kids,” I replied:
  • "He’s not go strings to hold him down."
  • "And yet, faux really is more humane."
  • "We decided real was best since the holograms were too expensive.
  • "Nope, he’s real. I lost the Nerf one years ago. The hubs was so pissed." 
  • "Madame Tussaud’s mail order~ what can’t they do?!" 
  • "Yeah, but the replacement parts are a bitch to find."
When you become a parent, God gives you the kids you’re meant to have. Everyone in our family believes this. My stepdaughters have repeatedly said it to me. Physical similarities, personality traits, talents, crazy flash temper (huh? who said that?)… my sons share some of these with me, and I love it. But it’s not what makes them “real” to me. Love alone does that.

“Bet you’re happy you missed that!”
This usually refers to morning sickness, swollen ankles, insomnia, labor pain. The paper pregnancy has its own set of challenges. There are things adoptive moms go through that can tear you down emotionally, then in turn, physically. For starters, births have a due date. You knew, much like a road construction warning, that “on or about January 10…” you would be a parent. In the majority of cases, adoption has no due date. Even when couples are working with a birthmother, there are legal milestones of equal significance, or an undying fear that minds could be changed. When you give birth, there’s no real fear the baby’s going to change his mind.
Adoption brings all kinds of chances for uncertainty until final court approval. Don’t get me wrong- I’m ok with skipping some of the less than fun pregnancy highlights. Anxiety and doubt, though, can torment your stomach and sleep for months on end. Trust me, in the long run, the roller coasters of birth and adoption even out to a dead heat. One other snag I’ll mention that can hurt feelings is the issue that many women who have adopted REALLY wanted those experiences you’re joking about. You never know, so least said, best said sometimes.

“They’re so lucky to have you”
No. Not really. I feel very blessed that I was approved by the caretakers, judge, Russian Education Ministry, and above all, God, to be their mom. But no one walks around thinking, “WOW are my kids suuuuuuuper lucky that I’m their mom! I mean, I am FABULOUS” Whether you gave birth or adopted, you simply don’t think in those terms. Ok, maybe you do. No really, you don’t. I hope.

And while I’m on a roll
The last little tidbit I have is something I wish I could scream at every reporter everywhere. I don’t walk around calling my sons my “adopted sons.” They’re just “sons.” Did you ever notice that in a story about any celeb who’s adopted, the kids are always labeled? Read an article about the Jolie-Pitts, Sandra Bullock, Sheryl Crowe, etc and their children are labeled when adopted. Curiously, the genetic Jolie-Pitts are not labeled. They are simply their kids. All of them are “their kids.” Period. If you happen to be a journalist, please keep that in mind. If you know one, please share this. Feel free to message stories. Lord knows I do.

At the end of the day, however they ended up in our arms, they are our children. They imprinted in our hearts, like the werewolves do in Twilight. God sent me to them and them to me, not via a stork, but via Boeing. The humorist Art Buchwald was a parent via adoption. He once said, “You’ll know they’re your kids when you want to kill them.” On any given day, laundry, noise, and bickering floating through my home, I’m with him. I love them more than life itself, yet want to murder them in frustration at times. So I assure, you see, we are all the same. We are moms.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Get back in your own season!

There’s a reliable cadence during any given year as the seasons change. NJ is one of the states where we really get bang for the change-of-season buck. From blizzards to heat stroke, and every temperate temp in between, our lives are set to weather rhythms. Well, they used to be. Apparently the whole, “to everything (turn, turn, turn), there is a season (turn, turn, turn)” memo was not read by all. The tried and true markers of seasons are a-changing themselves, and our body clocks are sure to suffer in generations to come. Like many fast moving trends with unintended consequences, it seems spurred by well meaning parents and coaches we seem unable to refuse. Behold the days of winter lacrosse, fall baseball, and summer hockey. Cue the apocalypse!

Maybe astroturf is to blame, because actual grass growth cycles became irrelevant? Was it Under Armour? Has that flexi tech apparel marvel that clogs my laundry bins made warm weather sports comfy at odd times? Did global warming cause this? Is it simply warm enough to play summer sports year round, even without the body gear? But then how do you account for ice hockey in August? Our mastery of artificial climates is totally screwing with our sports seasons. Our kids’ seasonal reference will be more jumbled than mall shoppers faced with Christmas decorations in October.

Have the year round baseball advocates never heard of “spring training?” That’s when the whole shebang kicks off- not November! Did Don Henley sing of “The Boys of Winter?” I think not. Youth baseball has its place on the calendar. Please put it back there. And tell it to take softball with it, because the girls in town in their visors and knee socks look really out of place at the bagel store next to the football players.

It’s one thing when seasons overlap. Sentences like “I want to go snowboarding but I have lacrosse,” are perfectly fine in months that straddle seasons like March. Son1’s lacrosse vs. snowboarding debate was in December though last year. NO NO NO. For the love of God, I can’t even change out the Thule cases and sports gear racks on my car that quickly. You get one sport’s worth of gear smelling up my car at a time, Son1. Uno. I’ll give a pass to sports like swimming, karate, and gymnastics. They just never seem to end, you poor parents.

I’m always surprised how many kids do multiple team sports at the same time, and this seems to be escalating as the seasonal mash up continues. The 7th grader on Son1’s soccer team playing football and soccer has a busy schedule. He also has a friend though playing football AND baseball this Fall. To my seasonally-anchored-sports mind, that’s like surfing and skiing on the same day. Apart from that, when can they possibly be doing homework, and when do their parents ever get to stay home? I’ll be honest and say flat out I’m too frazzled and too selfish to spend every waking moment in carpools and on bleachers. Pick one, play hard, and then come home.

There is another category of concern in all of this sports jumble. It probably bears as much of the blame as superior HVAC systems. In an effort to foster what many parents see as a talent, they also think they see a way to fight rising college costs. Let me say clearly that if half of the kids on my sons’ soccer team think college bucks are coming, they’d better get cracking on a Plan B. (Lest you think I too share the delusions, I am totally including my own two in the Plan B planning team.)

Visions of financial aid have forced many parents into the delusion that honing their children’s abilities year-long will render them thoroughbreds worthy of NCAA nods and the scholarships that follow. So now we’ve messed up the natural rhythms of sporting goods retail AND deluded our children. Dick’s Sporting Goods’ merchandising team can adjust. The egos of some of these young athletes may take some more time when the light bulb flicks on that they’re not Division I, I-A, or even XIV-Z material.

Tonight, soccer practice is on the schedule, then ditto for tomorrow since both sons play. At some point, homework that is being brought home will be completed, and various household and family activities will ensue. It’ll be a busy autumn weekend, but it’ll be just an autumn weekend. It’s warm still, so some summer activities may resurface for the open slots, but spring and winter sports need not apply. You’ll have your turns soon enough, in your own season.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 1980 All Over Again

Just prior to seventh grade, my parents decided my brother and I should switch schools. I was pretty happy about it, being miserable in the junior high I attended. Yes- I said junior high- because it was the 80's so the societal "must call it middle school" crossover had not hit NJ. But I digress. This isn't about society, it's about me, in seventh grade. As eager as I was to change, I was nervous like any new kid in a school. By seventh grade, it wasn't just about being the new "kid" in school. Adolescence had set in, so there I was now "the new girl." The pressure to befriend girls but also enchant boys snuck in. Somehow, within one marking period, I had the cutest boy as my first boyfriend, my first kiss, my first puppy love. Then, my first broken heart rushed through in that pre-teen whirlwind.

When I look back, I feel like I was kid until sixth, then(BAM) a young girl nervous around boys in seventh. There's a clear line between kid and dating drama that is drawn in my memory at the "September 1980" mark. So here's my problem: Son1 just started a new school, and he entered seventh grade. He's girl crazy~ September 2010 is his September 1980. Holy crap, I am SO not ready for this!

Thirty years on, I'm still licking my wounds over why the cutest boy in seventh asked ME out only to move on in 3.873 weeks, give or take. I'm not ready for Son1 to try to sound romantic in that dufusy 12yr old boy way! And Good Lord does he sound dufusy. I love him to death, but it can be painful. Did my puppy love sound like such a goof ? I was too busy swooning to notice. But there's also the fact that I'm not ready for him to have that seventh grade heartbreak, either.

(Ok, I'm now flipping to the less correct "7th" form vs. seventh or I'll never finish typing.)

Son1 has a cell phone far more advanced than his social skills, so I do monitor the chatter. It also helps me see who's up to what. You know, like the way the CIA keeps tabs on terrorist chatter? Yeah, that's me with Son1 and his friends. Though I doubt Osama & Co. are all "like OMG U R 2 cute LOL" to his "shawtie." Whatever the hell that is. I will say 7th grade girls are clearly more advanced when it comes to verbal social skills. That's no urban legend. They can each forumlate sentence after sentence of dialogue, fit into Twitter-esque snippets. And then the boys reply, "k." Or, "kk." Then the girl goes on for 6 more sentences, then the boy replies, "Yep." Four more sentences, followed by the heartfelt boy reply, "Uh huh." (Do you notice this pattern? It will continue through life for male-female relationship interaction. But read it in text and it's like a coded transcript.)

What I don't understand is why the girls keep texting him back. He is a good looking kid, from a good family, with a stunning mom and two nice dogs. That part I know. But he opens his mouth around a girl and I cringe. His thumbs fly through a text and I groan. He sounds THAT "un-smooth." But yet, here come the girls, back for more scintillating "kk" banter. They really are that hormonally charged that they are beguiled by Son1's attempts at suave. Part of me wants to pass out. Not because because my son is old enough for this all, but that he's that bad at it all. But it doesn't stop the girls. They're like moths to flames. Even the AXE doesn't drive them away.

Son1 has now gotten himself to the girl-crazy point of complete focus on having a girlfriend. While this may not bode well for his Math and Social Studies instruction, it's not just the teachers that should be concerned. You'd think the girls in school should be alarmed. He's going to be throwing his inner-James Bond into hyper drive to charm you, ladies. But this is where I begin to get a little uneasy. They're falling for it. And then they're sacheting their short short tushes his way. If our recent trip to the amusement park in PA with my friend and her 13 yr old son is any indication, I've got a long road ahead of me. That day, our collective Sons1 were under surveillance with a subtlety not seen since Peter Sellers starred in a Pink Panther movie. The girls were circling like swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano... or vultures over Death Valley.

Well, there you go, right on cue as I wrap this. That infernal bleep/ring heralding a new text for him. Yes, there goes the really dumb wide grin across his face. Yes, he's a 7th grader, and yes, he's fresh meet for the boy-crazy girls. I can see the replay of my very own super-speed tween soap opera occurring any day now, and I know. I know I am not ready for this... simply not ready.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Why 3-Ring Binders Are Giving Me a Buzz

At 8:30 this morning, I began one of the happiest tasks of my entire year. It’s a seasonal joy that ranks up there with trimming the Christmas tree, planting the Spring flowers, or stocking the beach bag. I am bursting with a joy that needs to be shared. I organized the back-to-school-supplies! I think I have a buzz.

A few years ago, Staples had a commercial that became an instant classic. You probably know the one I mean, with Andy Williams singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” as a dad gleefully filled the cart. Yeah. Right now I’m that dad. Between rotating camp schedules, kids who think they should be entertained 24/7, and every pop-up road trip being marred by record-level road construction, I’m done. I love summer. LOVE it. Always have. But now I am embracing September as the perfect month. I’ll jack up the heat and whirl up a margarita if I need a summery smile. I gotta tell ya it would have to be some pretty solid Cuervo to make me feel as giddy as I do this moment writing Son1’s name on 27 places on folders, binders, and sundry supplies that’ll be lost in week anyway.

The only time I can recall feeling this happy for school related reasons was when late August meant back to college time. I attribute it to the feeling of impending freedom I felt. Right now, I’m less than 24 hours from freedom… freedom to go to work and know that from 8:45 through 3:00, my kids are in one place for recurring days and weeks, with no ride or pickup needed midday. Just off in the morning, and clear sailing until late afternoon when there’s an after school program. What’s more, next week, it will be exactly the same thing. And the week after that. And the week after that. For months on end, my days will be more predictable. Including their transit time, and barring any calls from the principal, school nurse, or school disciplinarian, I can rely on seven hours of just work time. It just took me five minutes to type that sentence because I was laughing too much to keep my fingers on the keyboard.

I won’t be spending days relaxing in the backyard, gardening, or jogging midday. I really am this stupid-happy at the mere thought of sitting in my office sure in the knowledge my 12 year old is accounted for, for nearly a full business day each day. No one can call and ask me something his father answered two seconds before. No one can call three times to ask if I take them bowling, to a movie, to Six Flags. It will be bliss. I may finally get work done. I’m especially looking forward to nearly eight tattle-free hours, since people in my office usually don’t unravel into whinefests of allegations over missing Wii controllers. They also won’t normally race to the laser printer tackling each other to make sure they got the last copy of whatever was sitting there.

There’s a bit of delusion tucked inside my euphoria, a little inflated optimism. There’s something so promising about all the clean binders, untorn folders, and unchewed pen caps. I know in a week this stuff will all look like it was run over by a truck. I know my color coding system for each subject will be totally ignored. Well I shouldn’t say totally. Son1 will ignore it. Son2, Felix to his brother’s Oscar, will take two weeks to develop his own system which will be so elaborate it will look like DNA sequencing while making mine look like three patterns of Garanimals characters. I know I’m going to curse under my breath like a sailor each time a project assignment comes home. I know the wonderfully laid out soccer and tutoring schedule balance will be shot to hell in three weeks, max. But all this can’t kill my buzz. I’m like those people who rack up New Years resolutions that they know are futile but doggedly make them each year.

I also just remembered that as if all that wasn’t enough, this Sunday, church school starts up again. So now we can sit and listen to the service without squirming kids forcing the most highly unchristian thoughts in our heads. September bonus!

It’s official, Mommy’s in her happy place… all week.