Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Henry Has Good Eyesight

The other day, Henry told Sam, "Let me look. I have good eyesight." Hank said, "Did he just say that?" Henry is not quite four years old. But he definitely did say that. He got it from us. When he sees something far away, or finds something small, we tell him he has good eyesight.

This was actually a scary thing for me to hear. He may or may not have good eyesight. He has never been checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. We've never had a reason to take him to one. His eyesight does not seem to be an issue. Sam's doesn't seem to be an issue. They may have equally good eyesight. Or maybe Sam's is better than Henry's. Or maybe Henry's is better than Sam's. I don't know and it doesn't matter. What matters is that we told Henry he has good eyesight. And he believed it and remembered it.

I've always heard that you never call your kids names or they believe it. You never say they're "stupid" because they will believe they're stupid. That word is absolutely off limits in our house. The thought of my kids calling each other such an ugly thing, or worse yet, thinking they are, is horrible to me. While I believe it can happen, it hasn't seemed very real. Until Henry said he had good eyesight.

Henry doesn't know what good eyesight is compared to bad. He knows it means he is good at seeing things. But he has no reason to believe it except that he has heard us say it. And that is scary. I know for a fact that I have never called him stupid, ugly, cowardly, or weak. But what about ridiculous, selfish, deceitful, careless, and rude? What about implying that he is naughty, thoughtless, or slow? When I tell him he's made a bad decision, what is he hearing? When I ask him why he would "do something like that" how is he seeing himself? When I'm frustrated because he's moving at a snail's pace, what does he think I'm telling him?

It seems like everything I say or think is damaging. He lies, hits his brother, coerces, he's loud, he's at that age where he doesn't understand how jokes work and thinks silly is the same thing as funny. He screams. he cries at the drop of a hat. He's infuriating. He's three.

The way I respond, though, is what will stay with him.

We know they learn language from us. It's apparent when he says, "What the eff?" in the elevator for no apparent reason. That was me. When he's in the backseat saying, "Mother effer, mother eff," that's Hank. (Why can't we think of anything other than alternative swear words?) The other day he ran into his room and slammed the door yelling, "You're a booty butt and you're HORRIBLE!" Booty butt is Sam. Horrible? Not sure. He starts a lot of sentences, with "Well..." with my same inflection. Sam says, "I ca-han't." That's me. But the stuff that he thinks about himself rarely comes out.

It's difficult to put these thoughts into words, only because it's painful. In writing it, I realize that I have many times said, "You're being ridiculous." Well, he is. I haven't heard him call Sam selfish or tell someone that he is thoughtless, in the same way his eyesight is good, but that doesn't mean it's not in there.

Peggy O'Mara, publisher and editor of Mothering Magazine said, "The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice." How scary. I always thought because I had cut certain words that were absolutely taboo, that I was on the right track. But I cringe to think of the things I have said or implied at such an impressionable age.

If you have young children, you know that nothing can make you more angry than an unreasonable toddler except maybe an ex-husband. Maybe you don't have a toddler yet, and you look down at your sweet baby knowing she will NEVER be that way. And you will NEVER lose your temper at your little angel. I laugh in your face. I only have toddlers, I have yet to experience awkward 9 year olds, obnoxious pre-teens, and independent teenagers.

All I know is that when I send them to bed crying, I feel pain because I remember what that feels like, and it's the worst. Or when I yell at them, I think of how that might feel to them, because I DON'T remember that. I don't remember either of my parents losing control and yelling at me like I have so many times. At BABIES. I have lost control and yelled at BABIES. I know that I am a big, unpredictable person to them. They never know when I am at the end of my rope. They don't remember all the rules all the time. They don't know what thing is going to send me over the edge.

I know I can't be perfect. I didn't make my own baby food. I don't juice that often. I don't spend a lot of time with them one-on-one, or remember to be positive. I don't always follow up anger with kindness. They are watching TV right now because I don't want to deal with them. I rejoiced instead of crying when they started school.

Sometimes I wonder how I could become a parent without a realistic understanding of what it would be like. My only solace is that Henry has said things like, "I have good eyesight" and has not said things like, "I move at a snail's pace." I want to be a better mother. I'm not talking about being a pinterest kind of mom. with pinterest bedrooms, craft ideas and birthday parties. We are having facebook friends only to a spaghetti dinner for Henry's birthday because I'm too lazy to send invitations, but have enough in me to create a facebook event. I'm okay with that while he's still in preschool.

I'm talking about the stuff that counts. Does he feel loved? Does he know I will love him no matter what? Does he know I will always make sure his needs are met? I'm not sure he does. And I'm trying, I really am, but I'm falling so short that I'm afraid it won't be enough.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"It Goes So Fast"

It's so often that I'm out with the kids, and people say, "Enjoy it now, it goes so fast."

With MY kids, though, more often, it's, "Oh, yes, I remember those days," meaning when my kids were pulling stuff off shelves, running away from their mother, shrieking, crying, throwing themselves on the floor in the middle of a store, asking for things, throwing things, poking their fingers through fresh bread, and biting packaged cheese.

The kindest people say, "It won't be like this forever."

One of my best and oldest friends, Brooke, sent me a video of a mother who had two boys. Brooke also has two boys. Of course, every parenting experience is different, but having two boys is special, and there's a bond with other moms who have two boys. This video pointed out that you think the children will always be willing to cuddle up with you and ask for a story at bed time, and love you, and want to hold your hand, and basically, the point is that all of a sudden they're going off to college.

I was just thinking, it's so true. What I said in the second paragraph is also, true, and more of the time, they are doing those things than snuggling up for a story or asking me to sing them a song when they are in bed. But it must even out, because I keep doing what I do, and I keep loving them. And those little moments, I enjoy. I often think about how fast time is going by.

They are crazy, but at least I have those little moments. When they're teenagers, you only get the crazy.

Just the other day I was dressing Sam in some hand-me-downs of Henry's. He was in Henry's clothes head to foot, shirt, shorts and even sandals. I said, "Are you my baby?" and he said, "Yes!" But when Henry was wearing those clothes, he didn't seem like a baby. I regret that we didn't get to enjoy the littleness of Henry when he was only Sam's age. Henry has always been the big brother, and he's only 3 1/2. Since he was already 19 months when he came to live with us, and Sam was 3 months, Henry already seemed so big. We didn't get to enjoy any special Henry only time before Sam was born. We didn't get to see his first smile, or steps, or words. And there were a lot of expectations of him because he was bigger.

There are a lot of things I wish I was better at. I want to be kinder. I want to spend more quality time with them. I want to say "I love you" more than "no." I want to squeeze every last, "I love you, Mommy" and giggle and story out of them before they turn into pre-teens and it's over. I don't want to look back and wish I could have this time back and regret that I didn't enjoy the parts that I WAS able to enjoy. When I see their beautiful smiles and their big dark eyes, it's no so bad that I didn't get to conceive and carry them myself. Although I missed a big piece of their lives, I don't want to miss what I have now.

The nearly two years that I've had them have been the hardest and some of the happiest of my life, and I don't want to miss the good parts.

Because it has gone so fast.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Could I Love an Adopted Child Like My Own?

It's been a while since I've posted and the reason is life is busy. If I don't make writing a priority, it doesn't get done. Since the last post, we found out that my sister is pregnant and today we found out she is having a GIRL!!!!

This is beyond exciting for me. I didn't hope it was a girl, I NEEDED it to be a girl. I cried when I got the text, "I guess you can buy that tutu now :)" I had geared myself up for a boy, but secretly didn't think God would be so cruel as to withhold a girl from me AGAIN.

What this means to me: those tea parties, doll strollers, and frilly dresses ARE in my future. Everything I have given up to raise my beautiful, healthy, adorable boys, I can have in the form of my niece. I went shopping right away, for the tutu, and while I was out, also bought two bracelets, a head band, and a matching purple sweater and pants set.

Although I have and have had other nieces, this is the baby of my only sister. It is also my only blood-related niece at this time. But this is not why I will love her.

Which brings me to the point. With my only sister having a baby, and it being such an important event in my life, it has me thinking about an issue a lot of people are faced with: Could I love an adopted child as much as my own?

Yes. It's easy for me to say. And maybe I'm not qualified to answer because I don't have any children of my "own." But let me put it this way. Let's take my littlest one. He was three months when I first held him in my arms, when he first laid his sleepy head on my chest and drifted off to sleep. He cried in the middle of the night for food from one of his sleepy parents. Now he plays balls, balloons, blocks and bubbles with the only father he remembers. He calls, "Daddy? Daddy?" and the occasional "Mommy?" in the morning until one of us goes to get him. We are the only parents he knows. Do you think he loves us less than he would his "own" parents?

The body is a vessel. It's a wonderful thing to carry your own baby and be able to experience all the joy and pain and discomfort and excitement that comes with it, but it's just a vessel-albeit a very important one. Once the baby is out, do you think that you will love that child more than I loved my sweet little Sam when I first picked him up, and told him he was coming home with us? Do you think it is THAT different to say those same words to a baby you just pushed out of you? Maybe. You may have waited a few years for various reasons, and now you're waiting nine months, which is something that most adoptive parents haven't done. But we have been waiting years. But you knew he/she was coming those nine months, and that there was very little risk as far as that baby being yours forever. What a gift.

Here's another way to look at it. After your first child did you wonder if you could ever love another child as much as your first born? I did, with my Rose and Sam. I didn't think it would be possible to love another child as much. But I didn't know how much love my heart could hold, and you didn't either. And you love all of your children equally, but also differently for their individuality.

Maybe your whole life you thought of what your babies would look like. What traits they would share with you and the love of your life. You would love them because they were part of you and they were part of someone you loved enough to bring a life into the world with. Maybe things worked out that way, maybe not. That was something I always hoped for. My children do not share a single blood line with me. You have to go back to Adam and Eve (creationists) or Africa (evolutionists) to find a gene we share. They don't look like me. But Henry gets the hiccups like me (all the time). Sam has an easy going temperament, but is given to being strong-willed at times. They have the same accents as me and their father, and the words coming out of their mouths are all us ("Go for it." "Here comes trouble." "Do you love it?") Random things that when we hear coming out of their mouths, we know is something we say a lot. They are part of me because I am their mother. And I love them for that and because Hank is the only man I want to raise my children with, and they are part of him because he is their father.

I love my nieces and nephews dearly, and they are too numerous to name. My best friend's kids, my ex-sister-in-law's kids, my brothers children, Roxy and Royce, and I will love my other brother's step-children. I love them all and in different ways, and not a single one of them is related by blood to me. But Karen is my sister, so I will hold a special place in my heart for her little girl. But it's not because she is my blood niece, or because she might look a little like me, or because I'll see features of our family in her. It's because she will be amazing. Just like her mother.