When we first got the kids, they were rough. They fought and screamed. They stole and lied. They had boundless energy they didn’t know how to control. All thier lives, they had bounced around between parents and in and out of foster care. At one point all three had lived with the biodad of the two youngest children, but after a few months when things got too tough, the oldest was sent away. Eventually they were all taken away and sent back to biomom and then again to foster care.
The angel foster mom kept them for much longer than she was supposed to because she knew they needed stability. She was able to get them into therapy and onto medication. When they came to us, they were housebroken, and heartbroken. They didn’t know what life held in store for them, they only knew a gypsy lifestyle and pain.
I promised that was over. I promised that our house was a safe place and a permanent place. When they lashed out and said they wanted to leave, I lashed back that I loved them and this was their home forever. I promised that no-matter what, they had a home and they would grow up in our town.
Now the promise is broken. Despite my promises I couldn’t keep the littles safe from the oldest and I couldn’t save him from his own self destructive choices. On Monday we have our first court date for the assault charges against my oldest grandson. On Monday he faces the judge with a public defender by his side. Juvenile Justice is willing to work with us. Oldest’s biodad and stepmom are working hard to make sure they can take him into their home, but that is a hope, not a reality. They have created a wonderful stable home and they have developed a good relationship with him over the past four years that he didn’t have before he moved here.
Only the state’s attorney and a judge will make the final decision, and then the other state has to accept him into their juvenile justice system. He will have a record, he will have consequences, we are just hoping those consequences can be met, while he is being supported by someone who loves him. His father will have the extra financial burden and responsibility to make sure he gets to his therapy and meets the requirements of his sentencing.
His deceptively sweet personality hides his rage. His compliance and willingness to help makes me forget his dark side. Instead I see a stretched out little boy. I see an almost six foot child who yearns for a forever home. He understands that he is in very deep trouble, but he cannot fathom how far the charges will reach into his life. When we speak of the crime, his eyes glaze over and he shuts himself off from me.
I don’t know if he can be rehabilitated. I don’t know for sure that some day he won’t make the horrible choice to take his own life or someone else’s life. Will he make the choice to prove us wrong and turn his life around, or will he use the anger inside him to lash out at the world. I am an educated woman, but I still believe in the goodness of people. I cannot fathom the darkness of his heart or the depth of the pain in his life which put it there. I can understand the premise of his actions, I can logically explain what I believe to be his motives, but only he knows for sure.
I do know that he has friends here, and was making plans to be in the high school marching band. I know that he had friends in Scouts and wanted to help other kids. I know he has frequently helped a friend with her son who has severe autism. I know it will be good for him to be with his father.
my heart is breaking. I made a promise to always love and protect them and I failed. I made a promise that he would always have a home with me and now I have to break it. My dear friend Arthur says he hates when parents promise children they will always be with them and they will always be safe, because we never know what is going to happen and if something terrible happens, the child sees a broken promise and the adult feels his/her own anguish, plus the anguish of the child. I hate proving him right.
Twenty more mornings of making lunches, twenty more shaking the beds to get everyone moving. Twenty more days of “I can’t find my backpack and Grandma you have to sign this permission slip”
The school days since spring break have been much tougher than the ones before. A little strife is healthy for us to truly appreciate the good times, but I promise to appreciate the good times if everything will just settle down. In the last two weeks alone we have been on a whirlwind schedule.
We’ve had two trips to the ER, three school referrals, one detention, two days of ISS, three sick days, prescriptions to be filled, therapy appointments, doctor appointments , soccer games, baseball games, work commitments , girl scouts, boy scouts and a myriad of day to day drama that just keeps us running from dawn til dark.
Lucky for me, my village is full of wonderful people who have stepped up to help with appointments, airport pick ups, weekend logistics and sick children. I don’t know how I would get through the weeks until the end of the school year with the help of wonderful friends. Twenty more school days til summer…
BUT THEN WHAT? In my crazy brain last fall, I planned out a summer of travel for all of us. Girlie is heading into her junior year of college and manchild is going to be a junior in high school.. I am on borrowed family time now as it is. I dreamt of a trip to Texas to visit my brother, a camping trip to New England to see family , several long weekends with extended family in VA, SC and NC, culminating with Girlie’s drop off at college in the fall…. (Presumably we would all travel in a big painted bus singing kum-ba-ya) I was relatively serious that it was a plan I hoped to carry out. The reality of life is that both Girlie and Manchild are working this summer and my oldest grandson will have high school marching band camp. I have already been asked by the church to serve as the skit coordinator for Vacation Bible School. Let’s not forget a week of Girl Scout camp to start everything off right. That leaves just a little over three weeks for swimming lessons, hikes in the woods, visits to family and relaxing before we have to head back to school.
I’m sure summer will be kinder and easier on the schedule than the school year. Maybe I will get some time in at the pool and read some trashy novels before I have to gear back up for the school/work/scouts/sports marathon. We may not be heading out in the bus with our tamborines rattling, but I just may get to pull off one more big family road trip if I plan it right.
So although technically this is my 20th Mother’s Day, it is my 4th with the extra kids. It’s been a long road, but it’s a good road. It started with the traditionally with me being held hostage in my bed so they could “surprise” me, then we transitioned to a hike in the woods and then a quick trip to the urgent care center for me and my lovely bullseye and of course ended with some wine and laughs with some wonderful friends. It was the perfect Mother’s Day.
I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I remember writing my daughter’s name in my high school notebooks years before she was born. I dreamed of sitting in the stands at little league games from my son. I got to do that and so much more. we had wonderful adventures and I loved watching them learn and grow. My children made me so proud and so happy I couldn’t believe they were almost grown.
My husband pretended he was good with leaving childhood behind as our teenagers started to grow…but then he arranged for us to coach a 4 yr old T ball team. We spent the spring laughing and high fiving little hands. He started taking more and more pictures of friends’ babies when we were at events. We willingly babysat for anyone who asked and took to hosting events for our kids and inviting younger siblings of friends.
We were made for kids. We love sports and scouts and the smell of babies. We wanted more and more time with our VA grandchildren..but they were growing up fast too….they had friends and activities and they lived four hours away.
and then Divine Providence. We were given the charge of three young children. They blended so easily into our lives..making friends with our friends’ children and sharing our love of life.
We met new friends and expanded our social circle. We listened again to three blind mice being played on recorder and mediated disputes over who’s seat was who’s on the couch. This morning I opened cards made with little hands, colored with crayon and lovingly glued into place. Five years ago my daughter was already in high school and my son was in middle school. Hand made cards were a thing of the past tucked away with belief in the tooth fairy and Santa. I am so grateful that I still have little people who pick dandelions for me and are willing to curl up in my bed while I balance scrambled eggs and coffee on my lap.
Its just a regular day in the house of chaos. It is field trip day for one, field day for another. I haven’t lost any more weight in two days, but I’ve been on plan for a whole week now. Its a Friday (which is always good). We’ve got two soccer games, an Eagle project to help with, a swim class to get to and DH has a meeting all day on Saturday, and I’m just now trying to figure out the logistics. It’ll work out.. it always does.
I won a bottle of wine yesterday and a bookstore gift card in our Teacher Appreciation Week prize drawing, Girlie will be home in exactly one week and this weekend is Mothers day. Its crazy terrible busy and wonderful all at the same time. There is nothing too spectacular about this day, but at the same time everything is spectacular about it. I hope everyone has a day as blessed as mine.
It used to be easy (and cheap) to buy Mother’s Day Cards. It was just my mother ..one card (two if I bought one from the kids to send to her) now, we have disjointed extended families. The littles of course want to send one to their mom, and other grandmothers and to the amazing foster mom and the oldest grandson asked for one for his step-mom. I used to get internally bitchy about sending cards out to all these women….why should I send them to people who aren’t in their lives? They aren’t the ones wiping tears and working on book reports. I’m the one up all night sweating over the glue gun to make President Taft’s head stay on his styrofoam body. Then I changed my thinking and looked at the positives they added to my little’s lives.
I know my stepdaughter, the bio-mom has made some HUGE mistakes, but she is still their mother. She has been calling once a week for the last few months, she tries to remember activities, and to encourage them to do well in school. She speaks well of the bio dads and extended family members. In reality, she will never be the mother they dream about, or see in movies, but she is there as the dream and she is making an effort to stay in their lives. The kids need to have the dream. They have started to forget all the bad days, they know they are with us forever, but they still want to know that she is out there and loves them and they love her.
Both of the paternal grandmothers stay caught up on the kids lives. They enjoy visits with them when they visit with the Dads, send birthday cards and checks at Christmas, they both have many grandchildren. One keeps up regularly on Facebook, commenting on pictures and activities, the other sends old fashioned letters and cards. They have also shaped the children in good and positive ways.
The step-moms are both lovely women. I get along with one easier than the other, because she has a wicked sense of humor and she is pretty down to earth. Although they have only known the children for a couple years, they both have spent weekends and vacations with them. They enable the kids to be part of the fathers’ worlds so they also need to be thanked.
The foster mom gave up ten months of her life to help “housebreak” my wild children . Ok, they weren’t wild, but she got them fresh from the drama and all full of PTSD and ADHD, she got them into counseling and adjusted the medications to help them sleep and focus in school. She was their lifesaver when no one else could help them. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for the love and patience she showed to the kids and to the system while we worked together to get them up here to MD .
So, this morning we had a card signing assembly line. One mom, two Nanas, another Grandmother, the foster mom and one step mom. .. little notes were written with x’s and o’s and the kids signed their full names.. just in case someone forgot. I will rush out after work to send them out, so they can get there in time, with pictures enclosed for the ones not on Facebook.
I was talking with a few other kinshippers/foster parents about the downfall of these “Holidays” they are made up and sold such a HUGELY commercial level, its impossible to ignore. There isn’t a day for them to just focus on who they live with right now. I can’t be angry at the kids wanting to send cards to all the people who have mothered them over the years, its good for them to think about all those people in the world who love them. Kids in non-traditional households have so many problems fitting in, getting to take part in this Hallmark holiday is one gift I can give them. I let them make the arts and crafts in school to send to the Mom. I let them trace hands and paste xeroxed poems to construction paper hearts. For a little bit they can feel like the other kids in the class and they don’t have to explain where they live and who they live with. They know I’m cool with it and won’t have my feelings hurt.
My blessing out of all of this? For the fourth straight year, I will get surrounded in my bed by a gaggle of children, grinning from ear to ear with runny scrambled eggs and flowers picked from the garden. They may forget to wash their gym uniforms, leave homework at school and somehow miss the laundry hamper when they toss dirty underwear in the general direction, but they are, for better or for worse, my people, big and little.
Since most of my posts lately have been riddled with angst and self torment, I thought I’d just put out there that life in the house of crazy people is good sometimes too. I don’t know what makes it so right, or so good .. and goodness knows it could still go horribly horribly wrong, but overall, I am at peace today. I do spend hours awake in the night wondering about the minutia that gets in the way of fun, but some days even the crazy neighbors, the passive aggressive Facebook posts, the damn dogs and cranky pre-teens can’t get me down.
Last week, we had a day when our morning was filled with the usual craziness, lunches to be made, dogs to be walked a cranky pre-teen to scold, it was picture day.. OH YEAH, and I had to have my cholesterol checked, so I couldn’t have coffee until after 830!!! The day was set to go wrong, but somehow, it didn’t. NONE of my pants fit comfortably, but my hair came out nice, so I was ok. The nurse doing my blood work, had to poke a couple times, but I was still in and out of the dr’s office in less than 15 minutes. This meant I had time to drop off the kids and run to MC D’s to get breakfast AND TWO LARGE COFFEES! 🙂
Just in case you don’t know this, if a school secretary begs for one of your coffees, you don’t ever say no, so I had gave one up, but I still was ok. My husband , my darling wonderful husband, brought me another cup of coffee… and lunch! We had a lovely lunch amidst the clutter of my office. We chatted about the kids and our plans and spring break. It was wonderful and so very necessary. Just to have a neutral place to sit and talk was refreshing.
that was one day last week.. this morning was the day the dogs ate the sandwiches (which of course used the last six slices of bread) .. it was raining and there was an email from a teacher regarding 3’s behavior in class lately. Oy.. it was still ok. The sun is coming out and the trees are glowing with beauty (and pollen) If I can give one piece of advice to young families starting out (or to Kinshippers dealing with another set of kids to raise, when we thought we were done! ) ..
.. embrace the crazy, laugh at the silly things you have to juggle and smile through the tears. Hang onto your faith. There will be years when the it feels like the snows will never stop and winter will last FOREEEEVER!!!!! But eventually, the sun comes back out and the ground dries up and you move forward. Maybe not on the path you thought, but on a new path. A really cool path with people you love and who have been through the long dark winter with you and came out to embrace the sun with you.
Here’s one of my favorite essays a dear professor shared in Grad school… it applies to so many of our lives. This may not be the place I planned to live, but I kinda like it anyway.
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
Emily Perl Kingsley.
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.
My conversations with 3 always crack me up. He has a flair for the dramatic and last weekend was no exception.
My youngest grandson “3” had a camping trip this past weekend with his Scout troop. As a 12 year old he is my least comfortable in the outdoors and was still very out of sorts from his trip the week before to see biodad. He loves to play sports and enjoys his time on the soccer field, but he prefers to stay inside watching tv or playing legos. He had started seriously feeling the spring pollen and he swore he was not going to have a good time. His anxiety about the trip combined with the drama of coming home from a week of no-rules dad’s house had led to difficulties on the soccer field and in the classroom. He HAD to get out to the great outdoors with his buddies for his own safety. (and for my sanity)
When I picked him up on Sunday morning, he looked very dirty and very tired. He immediately launched into an explanation of going to Mass outside on Saturday night with a “really cool priest” from a local Catholic High School. After he finished I asked about the rest of the weekend. It had been a Hunger Games themed weekend with contests of camping skills between several scout troops. In a very Eeyoresque tone.. he said.. “It wasn’t that great, I had a terrible time”.
Undeterred.. I asked about some of the competitions. He scored a two out of three bullseyes at AX THROWING..more questions brought out.. well he did meet a cool lady who works with me at my Girl Scout camp during archery, and then there was this time when he created a bear trap out of scraps and caught the senior member of the troop in it (which made the guy scoring laugh out loud, so they won that competition) He grudgingly admitted that he and a friend made a cross-bow out from scratch and it shot straight. He was named lunch cook so he made a huge pot of chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for all the guys and then he taught a younger scout how to tie some knots.. but he had a terrible time. Yes, his troop had won the entire competition, yes he did stay warm and dry throughout the thunderstorms.. oh yeah, and he learned how to play the game Spades while they were in their tents late one night. But he didn’t really have fun. apparently.. he had some down time (I have no idea when) and he spent it looking at the clouds talking with friends.. and that was kinda boring.
ahh well, I guess some weekends are just meant for slowing down and relaxing. 🙂