A Dozen Good Eggs

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Maia

She has been attached to my hip since she was born. she is now 9. Still attached to my hip. Still loves her special blankie which is in shreds in a pillow case because its been loved to pieces. Still carries pillow case full of blankie bits all over the house. I don't like when the kids are sick. I worry of course. But when Maia is sick, she is clingier than ever. She needs constant contact and cuddles. She will follow me everywhere. She will lay on the floor at my feet while I cook or do dishes. She would probably sit in my lap while I use the toilet if I let her. If I go upstairs to use my bathroom or get dressed she follows and lays on the bed waiting. She loves her mama. She is attached to her mama. She is my love. I adore her. She gets her feelings hurt easily. She is my mini me. she is so smart but struggles to pay attention. She takes a scolding personally. She is sensitive. She is so much like me I cant even believe it. but about the snuggling. Maia was sent home from school sick Friday. Saturday she was my shadow when she wasn't in my lap. Sunday she perked up a little, but still very sleepy and weepy and clingy. (it just occurred to me that she could have mono) This morning I Had to PRY her hands off of me to get her to go to school. School mornings usually include Maia Bopping around being loud and silly and me reminding her to get her lunch made, get breakfast, get shoes on, GET MOVING! Today she was done in 10 minutes and spent the rest of the time clinging and following me around. I love her snuggles her constant need for physical touch. but this is over the top even for her. It worries me. Is she depressed? Is she more sick than I thought? To be honest I expect the school to be calling me to come get her. Im just not sure what to think about this over the top need for me. I know growing up is tough. and growing up with sibs who have SN is tough. and growing up in a large family is tough. but where has my dreamy silly funny girl gone?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The adoption option

Many of my kids are adopted. They came to us at various ages from 2-8. They did not come without issues. They did not come without pasts. They did not come to us as a clean slate, a tabula rasa. Occasionally in the news there is a story about a child whose issues were too great for his adoptive family and they are forced to walk away, for their safety or that of the child. Consider the differences in the scenarios below.

 Before birth we do whatever we can to protect our child's health. We stop drinking and smoking in pregnancy. We dream of the child to be, we make plans for them, we bond with them,  we LOVE them.  We visit the doctor regularly to be sure our pregnancy goes off without a hitch. When you give birth to the child you intend to raise, you love that child and give them the best of everything you are able. You know their every experience. You know their genetics and the likelihood of the personality being compatible with yours. You take them for well child checks and jump on it if they have delays. They will get help meeting milestones so they can meet them as soon as possible. Your child knows your voice and your smell. They suckle at your breast, you nurture them, and love them. You care for their every need. Its exhausting, but everyone knows its what is best for baby. you raise them in love and anticipate their every mood.

Now imagine a scenario where a pregnant woman is fighting many demons in her life. She struggles to maintain a job, drinks alcohol and /or does drugs. She doesn't take care of herself, often forgetting to eat. She finds out she is pregnant and knows she can not raise a child, she can barely take care of herself. She smokes while she ponders what to do. She never bonds with this child within her. She doesn't tell anyone she's pregnant. She tries to figure out what to do. She drinks heavily to forget. Maybe she WILL forget. but the fetus keeps growing. Soon her clothes don't fit properly. She is reminded again that there is something, someone growing inside of her. She drinks more to quell her fears, to calm her mind, to forget.  She smokes because it calms her nerves and she is very nervous wondering what in the world she will do with a baby. lather rinse repeat.

Eventually the child is born. He may or may not be born substance addicted. He may appear perfectly healthy at first glance. But brain damage can't be seen with the naked eye. The life giver walks away from this small person, knowing she can never make a life for him, and places him for adoption.  A family adopts the child not knowing what his future will be. not knowing if he will be a rocket scientist or struggle to pass science class.  They commit in a way the life giver could not. They are in it for the long haul. Come what may, they say, he is ours. we will love him, they say, no matter what the future holds.

The child now has been abandoned by the woman who gave him life. The person caring for him doesn't smell like the woman who carried him 9 months. The voice is not the same. There was no special bonding before birth. If a fetus can feel pain, a fetus can absolutely feel love, or lack thereof. The child grows and begins acting out at an early age. His abandonment is not something he can name but it affects him deeply. His adoptive parents continue to love and guide him, they seek help for him. They talk to doctors and psychologists and psychiatrists. They throw around words like autism, primal wounds, reactive attachment disorder, explosive disorder, adhd, fetal alcohol syndrome. In short: this child is damaged. The life that could have been at conception is no longer an option. The adoptive parents try many different things to get help for the child. He continues to defy them and all medical interventions. He is not attached to them. He doesn't care for them. They are just one more person who will walk away from him. If he never lets them close he wont feel the loss when they quit on him.

His behaviors escalate as he grows. He becomes violent. He attempts suicide. Still the parents try everything they can think of; they see every doctor or specialist who will listen. They beg for help for their child. While he is not attached to them, THEY are attached to him. They love him. They long for a life of peace. They consult the agency who placed the child with them. Little can be done.  They talk with social workers, and medical people. They send him to residential treatment centers, at great cost, emotionally and financially. When the child is released he burns down the house, the same house they mortgaged to get him help. They miss so many days of work their jobs are in jeopardy. They are spent. there is nothing left. They have no money. Their lives are in danger. The child they loved and longed for will never be normal. They are at the end of their rope. This child will never care for them. That much is clear.

 They consult with social services to place him in foster care. They are denied. Or they are told they will be required to pay child support to the social services center, and continue to pay for his medical needs. How can they pay that when they are destitute from trying to care for this child already?  This child who appeared so perfect at birth. This child whom they love more than anything, but clearly can not help. What do they do now? They can't keep him, he will kill them. They can't release him to foster care, they cant afford it. They run away in the night. They abandon the already once abandoned child. They leave everything behind. It's the only way. They can see no other way out of this mess.

After all of this, the people of this great nation say "how can you just walk away?" "how can you give up on a child?" "They are awful people to leave this child in need, after they promised to care for him no matter what."   In truth they have done all they could do, they asked for help again and again, it was denied, or didn't help. They tried to leave the child in the care of safety but were denied that as well. They did not readopt him to another family, not wanting to put someone else in danger. They walked away. They left him an orphan, to be a ward of the state, in hopes that he would finally be seen as he is and get the help he so needs. Walking away was a final desperate attempt to help this child that they loved. They did it out of love. Not spite or malice, not even after everything the child has put them through. They did it out of love for this child.

We like to think that our society is so advanced; we have come so far from the days of our grandparents. Help is at our fingertips. We need only ask. No one need suffer anything anymore. Help is readily available for all things. My grandmother had to give up her son to the state, make him a ward of the court, in order to help him with his mental illness. Today many families are forced to do the same, by walking away as in the story above or relinquishing custody to the state. Sometimes the decision comes down to time. Is there time for court hearings and lawyers and debate? or does this kid need help ASAP?  Many times parents are so defeated and their children so disturbed that by the time they are looking at custody hearings they can wait no longer. They walk away.  Its the only option. They leave the child they love BECAUSE he is the child they love. The system is flawed. Parents are the last people to be believed when a child presents with mental illness. The parents must be the problem. They need more parenting techniques. It can't be that the child is damaged. Until the system changes, there will continue to be parents who are forced to leave their kids behind. Unless you have lived in their shoes, try not to judge their actions. You have no idea what they have been through. You have no idea the strength it takes to make the ultimate act of love and walk away.

Monday, November 4, 2013

But it's not fair!!!

We must hear this a hundred times a day. Its not fair that one child got a good grade and I didn't. Its not fair that so and so got to go to a friends house and I didn't. Its not fair that he got to sit in THAT chair and I don't. He ALWAYS sits there! 

When our kids came home from orphanages they had this idea of fair where everything is exactly the same for each kid. If one child ate because they missed dinner because they were elsewhere, then everyone needed to eat, or it wasn't fair. Reasoning that they already ate and this child didn't, and if they ate again they would eat twice and the other only once would not be fair either was useless. It was only fair if everything, for everyone, every time was exactly the same. 

Over time as their English improved and their opportunities improved they started to expand their not fair reasoning to include another child SEEMING to have more than they did in any capacity.  If a bag of hand me down clothes came and two things fit one child and 3 things fit another, that is not fair. I cant even begin to tell how many times I have heard ITS NOT FAIR!

I tried reasoning and explaining. I tried keeping everything exactly fair, which is impossible. Neither approach worked. EVERYTHING was still unfair, at least as far as they could see. I started taking them out with me one or two at a time to get a gallon of milk, or walk to the mail, or visit the neighbor. It wasn't fair. but I did it anyways. Some outings included a little treat, some didn't. If there was a treat it had to be a secret or else it wouldn't be FAIR and then I wouldn't be able to take them with me and give them treats anymore.  Im sure each kid thinks they are the only ones who has treats with mom because they don't talk about it.  

I also stopped trying to be fair. I just cant be fair. in most cases its MOSTLY fair but I will not count out rice granules to be exactly fair. They still say it sometimes, its NOT FAIR! and I always say life isn't fair. Sometimes I hear them complain to a sibling about something not fair, and the other child will tell them life is not fair.

Life is NOT fair. why does one child survive an orphanage relatively unscathed and another nearly unable to function? Why do people we love die? Why do bad things happen to good people? its not fair. none of it is. but we do our best to get through the unfairs and enjoy the good times.  That's what I am trying to teach my kids. Life is not fair, but we can and should enjoy it anyways.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things!

There are some things that some of our kids really dislike. but we do have a lot of favorites.  One of our heirloom family recipes is Squash Souffle' born of an excess of squash and lack of ideas how to cook it.  Most holidays we have it and many times in between. 

We love going to museums. I think our favorite is the Minnesota Institute of Art, and the Minnesota History Center coming in second. the kids as well as Eric and I try to get there at least a couple times a year.  The period rooms decorated for the seasons is always beautiful. When we tell the kids we are going there they get all excited.

Our favorite board game is Chinese checkers. We have a variety of games, yahtzee, chutes and ladders, scrabble. but they always go back to Chinese checkers.

Personally my favorite season is summer. I THINK the kids would choose summer as their favorite too. They love the beach, they love the green grass and playing outside and going barefoot. When it turns to cold weather I have to hound them to put clothes on. so I am guessing they would choose summer as their favorite also.

Cheaper by the dozen is our favorite movie as a family. Everyone has their own favorites individually but as a family we love watching Cheaper By the Dozen.  The funny thing about that movie is that everyone MOSTLY gets along and have alliances. But our kids fight all the time. Of course they are a tv family and we are a real life family.

We love cats and dogs and our chickens.  The kids and I would love to have goats and sheep and a cow someday. I don't think we have a favorite animal. We love all our animals.