Overwhelm

I know it’s something everyone struggles with at some point. And to look at me in public, and most of the time even in private, I don’t looked “overwhelmed.”

But I feel overwhelmed. Maybe overwhelmed isn’t even the word. I just want out. I just want them to grow up already. The fighting and bickering. The attitudes. The fact that they truly don’t give a flip about a whole lot of things that I actually care about a lot. These things exhaust me. Beyond words. And I just find myself wanting out.

Is this normal too? I know we exhausted my mother, and that was a “picture perfect” home. So how much of this is adoption and how much of it is just that motherhood just isn’t all for me that it was cracked up to be. It would help if I was in love with my kids. But I’m not. I love them, but the fuzzy feelings…. they rarely surface around here. And that makes the other gunk a whole lot gunkier.

Ugh. I feel like a pig that not only wallows in the mud, but enjoys it. These feelings won’t go away by themselves… and I don’t seem to be too intent on sending them off on their own any time soon.

Which now adds guilt on top of my overwhelmed, I-just-want-out self.

Ugh.

Chipped Bowls…

I was married nearly 10 years before kids. And then I was a foster parent for another two, with teens who washed, put away, and cooked with all my dishes. All the chipped and broken dishes during that entire time was probably less than five. Now…I can’t even begin to count. Every single one of my plates and bowls is now worn and chipped around the edges. I bought glass storage containers like a month ago. One month. They’re already chipped. I almost cried. I did get angry. I didn’t yell, but I did get super grouchy and I did fuss at them.

But for what? Talking with a few parents of others in their class today, the other parent said that some kids will just never learn/outgrow it/ grow up… I feel like I’ve given up. Mine is one of those, and I have been defeated.

Every time I get a bowl or plate or storage container out of the cupboard, I want to yell and cry.

Should a chipped bowl really have this kind of effect on me? Will my kids ever start caring about something beyond the nose on their face?

I’m feeling defeated. It’s a feeling of utter exhaustion. I wouldn’t recommend it…

Judgey People

First off, in full disclosure, I have to admit that frequently I am a judgey person. I see, and based on what I know (which is often a whole lot less than I think), I make a judgement about the other person or their actions.

This happened to me recently. We were away from home and a meal was being served on the grill. My kiddos, for all their talents, don’t all possess the talent of being graceful at serving themselves. It was a hot grill. Outdoors. And the serving utensil was a flat spatula, not a spoon. Deciding that it wasn’t worth the risk of a child getting burned or spilling food all over the place, I jumped in line with them to serve. Plus, at our home this is a part of our culture. I frequently just serve everyone’s plate. It’s one way to say I love you!

As I finished serving one child and sent him on to the next spot where the cook was dishing food out to everyone at that spot, I heard these words. “Here, let’s cut those apron strings. Serve yourself at this one.” I looked up at him, and all I could say was, “You’re gonna get yourself in trouble.” Ya, lame I know.

But what was that????? Who does he think he is???? How does he know that I am simply a mother who can’t let her kids grow up? How does he know that they’re fully capable of serving themselves and it’s just me holding them back? Because of their size? Because of their age? Because they appear so normal in every way? And why on earth does a mother serving her children food now suddenly need to be an apron-strings-need-cutting incident? Why can’t I just serve them and it be an amazing mom thing?

I was ticked. I determined to talk to him – after I cooled down. That was at least two months ago now. I don’t think I want to deal with him anymore. This is going to sound really bad, but I don’t feel like “he” is worth it. Like, I don’t hang out with this guy all that much, it’s mostly just church events. So is it really worth him thinking me a lunatic (more than he must already)? I want to just let it go.

Although I am facing an upcoming week where we are going to be doing something as a group again, and this exact scenario has the opportunity to be repeated on multiple occasions over that week. What should I do if it happens again?

Things I wanted to say were along the lines of “Stop judging me, I just love my kids and that’s how we do it at our house!” Or maybe, “Stop judging me, my kid burns himself every time I let him in the kitchen (which is actually pretty regularly) and I didn’t feel like adding a first aid stop to our fabulous weekend – does that make me a bad mom?”

Alas, my comebacks/discussion points all started sounding corny after a while. But what if it happens again? What would you do? Would you have a response ready to go?

The Hunt…for answers

If I were adopted, I’d be obsessed with finding everything I could about my bio family. I mean, I think I would be. Especially if I were too young to remember anything bad in the case of foster care. So I’ve been a bit obsessive about keeping everything from my kids’ past in case they later want to look at it.

Well, about a year or so after the adoption, their mom tried to Facebook friend me. It still sits there, I won’t delete and I won’t accept. I look at her profile every so often to see if it’s updated. It was, until a couple years ago. Often she would talk about missing her babies on their birthdays. My heart hurts for her… but she did make her choices. Her profile sits silently now. And I wonder how she is. Has she relapsed into something harmful? Or is she just in that generation that thinks Facebook is no longer cool?

I’ve found some aunts as well. Pictures with grandma. Some cousins. I’ve saved them. Early on we showed some of the older ones the pictures of their cousins. It’s been awhile since new pictures were posted. We talk with a grandmother every few months. I’m just waiting for the time we call and she no longer answers… her health is not good. I know that even though I only met her once for less than 30 minutes, I will cry. She is the one person connecting them to their bio family. She is sweet. She loves them. And they love her back.

Will my kids want to initiate contact with their bio parents? One of the kids is getting older and legally could pursue contact regardless of our wishes. Should I show them these pictures I’ve discovered? Will that add drama to our lives, even if just for a time? What is the healthiest for them?

Questions and more questions. Fewer answers. Decisions that come with consequences. But what those consequences are remains a bit of a blur, a mystery.

For now, we are just going to keep the same routine. But maybe if it somehow comes up I’ll know I should show them these pictures at least.

And then we will find out where that could lead.

Death of a Dream…

I’ve had to say goodbye to a few dreams. In fact, I’ve come to realize that I’ve had to let some dreams die that I didn’t even know existed.

First, the dream of pregnancy and birthing a baby. That one was a big one for me. That dream has never actually died. I wonder sometimes if that dream came true how that child would or would not change my perspective or relationship with my kiddos. The chances of that dream ever materializing continue to decrease year by year, but that dream has not died…

The dream of a picture perfect family. Now, I would have told you that there is no such thing, but what I expected to eventually have and what I’ve got, are, well… they just don’t match up. I guess it’s similar to the girl who has fairy tale dreams in her head of married life, and instead ends up with reality. She would have told you she knew her husband wouldn’t be perfect either, but the expectations were still higher than could be reasonably achieved by anyone.

And I guess it’s funny I say that – most people look at my family and see “picture perfect.” But that is only when we are all together. As soon as my children step out of my sight, they have absolutely no attachment to at least 50% of what makes my husband and I tick. They don’t have any intrinsic motivation for the values that we hold. They continually sink to the lowest standard in the room, often creating it themselves if no one else’s is low enough. They are often unkind, disrespectful, and have no concern for the interests of anyone around them. This kills me. I never consciously dreamed about my children holding my values, it was something I always took for granted would happen naturally. It didn’t. Or at least it hasn’t yet. My oldest is probably the closest to an exception – I’m holding on to hope that things may still get better in the future.

The dream of my children internalizing my values (see above), work ethic, and core beliefs. Again – these were not spoken dreams, these are dreams that were just taken for granted in my mind and assumed. But as it hasn’t happened, I’m now faced with this reality. It is jarring and uncomfortable and causes a lot of tension in our home. I’m quite upset much more often than is healthy. It’s not good.

Let’s just take work ethic as an example. Clean dishes. We wash some things, and the rest go in the dishwasher. We take turns doing different chores, so most of them have had dishwashing as a regular chore at least a couple times. When I was there age we didn’t have a dishwasher – my kids have it so easy. So I showed them how to wash – in general and specific dishes as well as lessons were needed. I literally typed up step-by-step instructions to help them remember all those little things (use hot water, wipe the counter down when done, look at each dish before putting it in the drainer to make sure it’s actually clean….). I was tired of repeating myself so I’d tell them to read the list before they walked away. They’d read it – and not do a thing on it. I’d walk past the drainer not even thinking about dishes and a huge piece of food would compel me to call the child to return and actually clean the dish – with much anguish on both our parts, me from frustration at them not doing a decent job and them at being bothered to do a completed job again. Because of course they felt like they’d done it already and so should never touch it again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reminded them that I don’t care how many times they run the sponge over the dish, they aren’t done until it’s clean. I don’t care how many times they run the rag over the counter, they aren’t done until it is actually clean. It doesn’t matter how many times the broom touched the floor, they aren’t done until there is no more dirt.

We continue to have these same conversations. Conversations we’ve been having for well over four years, with some children closer to six. It is beyond my comprehension that I am still trying to instill a work ethic and sense of pride in a job well done into my young teenagers. No, they weren’t with me as babies, but really? Because they missed this kind of instruction in the first 1, 2, 4, or 7 years of life, they’ll never get it? Really? I just can’t accept that! But my reality is not changing. Not at all.

And now I sit here, on the edge of insanity. Is this dream supposed to die? For the sake of my sanity should I stop caring about how clean my mixing bowls are when I grab them from the cupboard? Should I stop trying to instill my work ethic into my children? Should I just accept the fact that they just don’t see dirt? Ever? Oh, when I wake up to the tranquility of a quiet house and eventually make my way down to start breakfast and am enjoying the peace of being the only one about…and I pull out a dirty dish!??!! It shatters my peace. I can’t wash it for them – they need to learn to be responsible. I can’t wake them up too early – they need their sleep and I need my quiet time! So I am just left with annoyance and trying to find another dish that will serve the same purpose.

I feel like so many of these unspoken dreams are now coming to my conscious, and I am in a constant state of grief. But not the grief that comes with death. No. The grief that comes with mourning something that is taken away from you, but still there technically. Like perhaps someday these dreams can come true, which keeps them alive. But the reality is that they aren’t coming true. And if I knew for sure they’d never come true then could I, perhaps, move on and accept my reality? But no, I grieve with hope, which is pretty much a type of torture I don’t enjoy and is a recipe for discontent.

I guess I’ll just end this rant here. I don’t even have advice for myself on this one. Often I feel like I know what to do but am a failure at actually doing it. Here? I have no idea. Let it die? Or work to make my dreams come true?

Poop

There are frequently issues with children of trauma having control over bodily functions. My brain knows this. My brain also feels like the type/level of trauma my children experienced should not have resulted in issues of this nature. Like I should be the judge. But just from everything I’ve read and experienced before with foster care, I don’t feel like this has to be an issue with them. And for most of them it’s not. But I have two, two that continue to have issues. My youngest is 10. And it wasn’t him having the issue this last time.

He was outside and needed to use the bathroom. His big brother told him to finish what he was supposed to be doing. So instead of just running to the bathroom anyway, or asking for parental intervention get permission to stop working and use the bathroom, he chose to poop his pants. Yup. This kid is in middle school.

We had incidents like this frequently when he was 5-7 years old. Then it went to every sixish months, once a year, and I think the last time was two years ago. I had hoped we were done. I had hoped I wouldn’t need to be his brain for him anymore, but could trust him to finally be able to listen to his own body.

But here’s the kicker. Instead of fixing the issue, of asking for help, of letting us know he needed to jump into the shower….he went to his room and put on about five pair of underwear over his dirty ones in hopes that no one would notice. Well, everyone noticed the smell and the wet spot.

What do I do with this? I feel a lot of anger – anger mostly at his pathetic attempt to hide it instead of being truthful. I’m incredibly frustrated – frustrated that this incident really happened to my middle school student. What if he forgets to listen to his body one day while at school? What if this continues on until he’s in high school?

His younger brother has had a few incidents of this same nature as well in the last year. Really, I just feel like it is laziness for both of them. They don’t want to listen to their body, and sometimes even when they know what their body is telling them, they choose to ignore it in favor of staying in the fun of the moment. We used to tell them they couldn’t sit down with us to watch a movie unless they had pooped within the 15 minutes before. Seriously. Things were that bad for a while. Too many mid-movie smells that weren’t popcorn. Such a turn-off.

Changing baby diapers is one thing. Dealing with a pre-teen’s poop? Well, I just won’t do it. They can clean themselves up – but I still get the unpleasant task of checking after the shower to make sure that their bodies are clean. This has also been a huge issue in the past. Thankfully that part at least has been better lately.

When will it end? There isn’t anything I can point to that explains why these guys have these issues. Their siblings (older and younger) tend to be very clean. My two poopers sometimes have to be sent back into the shower because underarms or heads still stink. My others never need sent back. I’ve never had any kind of incident with them. Same family. Same experiences. And yet those two have this issue.

Yes, I still love them. But they probably don’t feel like it when I’m (mostly) calmly telling them how unacceptable this behavior is and that they need to go jump in the shower NOW!

Maybe this last incident will have been our last…. a girl can dream anyway.

Milestones

I feel like there are a lot of milestones happening right now. I guess just two really. One is my son’s graduation from elementary school. Next year he will be in high school. Yikes! But as part of a fairly small school, there is a lot more personal touch for each graduate. And as tradition would have it, the expected email arrived. “Please send us a picture of your child’s baby picture by [date] so it can go in the yearbook.”

Well people, that’s not possible. Whether a picture of him as a baby exists or not, I do not know. But I do know I’ve never seen one, and certainly don’t have possession of one. It would be so wonderful, so be able to flip through a baby book and see how he looked so small, and how he grew until I actually met him. But I do not get this privilege. And he gets to be the kid with a younger version of himself in the yearbook rather than the baby version of himself.

Fortunately for us this year, there are some refugee families in the school and some in his class, so they don’t have pictures either. So he at least won’t be alone. Oh, and we don’t really publicize our adoption, so most of his classmates don’t know. Doubtful that this will cause questions, but it could. It can be frustrating when you are forced to address an issue you just weren’t wanting to deal with yet (or ever) depending on the situation.

The other milestone happening around this time is the wedding of my oldest…former child. She was one of the ones who got to go back home. And now she’s getting married. I couldn’t be happier for her. Her family of origin is from a culture that believes in the woman marrying young, and yet she refused to buy that line. She stayed in school (as in high school!) and refused to be distracted by guys. She got an associates degree! That is higher education than anyone else in her family has ever even dreamed of getting! And she’s working on getting a four-year now. She’s held a job since even before graduating high school. She’s just been doing so, so well. And when this prince charming walked into her life, she warmed up very slowly. She observed from a distance to see if he was for real. If he was going to be the kind of man she wanted to live with the rest of her life. The kind of man she would want to have children with. She watched how he treated other people. How he treated her younger siblings, her mother, her friends. And even when she knew that he was the one, she still have a few things to cross off that list before settling down to married life. She wanted to know that it would work and be for forever once she said “I do.”

I can tell you with nearly 100% certainty that that whole scenario would NOT have played itself out in this way had she not lived with us for those years (yes, years – foster care can drag on for so, so long!). But she saw a different way of life while in our home. She saw that she herself could actually make choices to get her to the places she wanted to go in life. She saw what education can bring to the table. She saw what working hard and staying in school can allow you to accomplish. And she determined to do what it took to get what she wanted. Did I mention I was proud of her? I couldn’t be prouder.

In so many ways I feel like all my parenting success is tied up in her. And the success of her siblings is tied up in her success and example. It’s funny, because her baby sister was in our home at the same time as she was, and she was the one who loved us unconditionally. She was the one who called me mama. She was the one I cried and cried and cried for when they left. Still do sometimes, even though she has long since become such a different person than I said goodbye to those years ago. And yet it has been the impact we made on the oldest that has been the most dramatic and the most long-lasting, as it is not HER influence on her siblings that is changing and shaping their future.

And I couldn’t make it to the wedding. I wonder if I will regret not moving heaven and hell to get there. My other half went. We figured she already has a mom – it’s the dad figure that she lacks, so he went. But it was hard, not being there. And all the siblings were asking about me. It’s kind of affirming.

All the things I’ve missed with all the kids who went back home… And all the things I miss because I didn’t have my children when they were babies. It makes milestones harder when foster care, abandonment, neglect, abuse, and loss is a huge part of your history. Even when you’ve got someone to celebrate milestones with, there’s still that knowledge that people are missing, regardless of why.

Not totally sure where to end this. I guess it’s just hard, and that’s just part of this life I’ve chosen. Something tells me that it doesn’t really get any easier from here, either.