I’m Thankful for Friends Who Talk Adoption

“You know your Mom’s not your real mom,” he quipped casually.

My heart nearly tripped as the words rounded the corner from the room where my older kids were playing with a friend.

“You’re adopted,” he continued. “Your mom’s not your real mom.”

We’re not adopted,” my daughter countered, “just our brother.”

I cried from outside the door.  I couldn’t speak in the moment, but deep inside I planned out a whole Mama bear list of things to talk to my big kids about later.  I was grateful the comment had no power to threaten their identity, but equally panicked over the reality that those same words might knock my then peanut-of-a-boy over one day.

We’ve always been honest with him about his story precisely so he can own his beginnings and identity.  It’s part of who he is, the messy and the miracle, the painful and the prayed-for.  He is just starting to understand that his story is different from his big siblings.  Most recently he’s started understanding that babies grow inside their Mommies.  He got upset one day when I was telling him about the mom he grew inside of, insisting he’d been in mine instead.  Even though I don’t want him to hurt, I also don’t want to cover the hard parts of his story to protect him, because it will just delay the wound.

But I want him to know at the same time that he is absolutely ours and fiercely loved.  And I wanted my big kids to know to know the same: that I was just as much their brother’s mom as theirs.  No doubt ever.  After their friend left, I told them they should stand up for their brother if they ever heard kids say something like that.  Ever.  It was an important reminder to them and to me to be prepared.

Yet my heart ached over the million imaginary ways my little son might feel out of place, hurt, or unloved because someone else didn’t understand his story.

Still, their friend’s tone had been matter-of-fact, not malicious.  He wasn’t taunting; I believe he was just processing in his own child-like way something that was foreign to him.  So though I was broken by the conversation, I was also thankful to my friend for even trying to explain adoption to her son.  It’s not easy.

What a bizarre cocktail of emotions erupted from one moment.  Welcome to the world of adoption.

People always seem to have something to say, don’t they?  Even under everyday scenarios, someone will be there to tell you to put another layer of clothes on your kid or ask you why you haven’t started your baby on solid foods yet.  Maybe as humans we can’t help ourselves.

But whenever your story is a little bit off the beaten path, people tend to say things that range from comical to extremely hurtful because they just don’t know enough about your story.  Certainly there are some who are just hurtful- who don’t want to even listen.  But I believe most people don’t intend to hurt- they just haven’t had enough experience with adoption so it’s like a foreign language to them, and they need to learn a few common phrases to help them on their journey.

Once a friend of mine was going through a hard situation that I’d never experienced.  I ended up looking up stories and comments from people online who had similar circumstances.  I was so grateful because I’m sure I would have said something absolutely hurtful without meaning to if I hadn’t tried to understand.

And today if YOU are reading this post as we head into Thanksgiving, you’re taking a step towards understanding adoption and I’m so thankful for you.  WE’RE thankful for you, because my friends have some of their own hard and hurtful stories as well.  I hope you’ll listen and learn a little bit about what it’s like to adopt and some simple well-meaning phrases that don’t come across the way you might think.  Some stories are painful to hear, but in sharing maybe we find healing.

Yes adoption is a many-layered wonder of loss and love.  Not all stories are easy or simple to share.  But I’m hoping that as we bring it into the open and talk more, our adopted children will grow up being confident of who they are, without fear that their story is wrong because it’s different.

(Maybe we’re doing OK because our kid so far has no shortage of confidence in being himself.)


Friends Share Their Adoption Stories…

*What people said to them that made them uncomfortable, and how they talk about adoption with their own kids.*

Pamela: (International Adoption- Ethiopia) People often talk romantically about adoption and how “lucky” our kids are to be in our family. I am always uncomfortable with that talk because it seems to gloss over all the loss the children have experienced in their short lives.
Also, I get annoyed when people think that threats of punishment or consequences will be effective on kids from trauma… they have lost their culture, language, birth family, and anything familiar; what could you take from them that is more valuable than those? My children are much more motivated by knowing you love and care about them as a person.

Since our children were older and of different race it is obvious that were adopted. I have always been comfortable telling their adoption story. I believe that when I keep silent the children might get the idea I am ashamed or uncomfortable with their life story. I even spoke to their school about adoption in 2nd grade so their friends could learn their story. Our children did nothing wrong to deserve their difficult start and I want then to hear that message over and over.

Terry: (International Adoption- Korea)  A Hispanic woman made Chinese eyes asking if daddy was Chinese, Other questions, “is he black”, “what is he”, and he has “horse hair”; “chinky chinky chinaman- go back to where you came from” from 5th graders to my Kindergartener on the bus to/from school. Also great was my mom asking for me to give him back so I could get a white one…… lovely.

We celebrate anniversaries – no gifts.. We would show the movie “here comes D” or “E’s arrival” which led to their stories. Dad and I got married and started [a family]…Because we wanted children to fill out our family, we brought you into the family. You joined us on this day, so it’s your anniversary of becoming part of [our] family! The kids, especially E, really enjoyed their videos. They heard pet names used by the adoption staff and could see who was there not only when at the airport, but later at our home.

Caroline: (Foster-to-Adopt)  When I first brought her home somebody asked me, “Where did you get that?” …uh… I’m going to chalk it up to social awkwardness?

I do really appreciate when parents are willing to take the time to explain adoption to their children. My cousins got a book about adoption from the library and read it with their children, and it really helped them to understand that our daughter belonged to our family.

I plan to be open and honest about it [her adoption story], and always allow her to ask questions and talk about it. We will show her pictures and tell her about her birth mom and about how we met her and brought her home, and about her adoption day. We will read books to her that explain adoption at an age-appropriate level.

Lisa: (Private US Adoption) I think for some people it has been hard for them to understand having a semi open relationship with the birth mother. They see it as once you adopt that’s it so why are we having any relations with the birth mother. This has been hard to explain and for them to understand.

Briana: (Foster-to-Adopt) “Why would anyone want to give her up.” This is not true, her mom wanted her very badly but was very sick with addiction and could not provide the care she needed.

I haven’t shared much yet because she is still very little. I do have a shadow box of her outfit she came to us in and some cards sent. I will be open and honest and tell her what is appropriate when she asks.

 

 

 

Missing My Son’s Mom: An Adoption Confession

Psst…for those who are new, it’s a November Adoption Celebration Month on my blog!  Have you ever wondered or worried if you’d be able to handle a relationship with an adopted child’s birth parent?  Find courage in reading my personal story and the perspective of my friends at the end of the post!  Thanks for stopping in! 


It’s irrational to expect to meet an intimate stranger at a retail store- but welcome to my irrational imagination. I scanned the Babies “R” Us for any sign of what I believed her face must look like. Why on earth would she be here of all places? You don’t have to convince me I’m crazy. I’ve never actually met her. To be honest, I don’t even have a picture and I don’t know where she lives. But I know her name. And I know I see pieces of her in my now three year old son…because the woman I’m looking for gave birth to him.

Photo Credit: Mysticsartdesign (pixabay.com)

We have friends for whom the decision to adopt seemed quick and calculated. Our desire was always there, but we meandered and poked and investigated quite a bit before deciding to pursue a child through the foster care system. By the time we jumped in we had two young biological children, but my heart longed for another baby. After six months of licensing and home study, and seven months of waiting (a story for another time) we got a miracle phone call and our lives swelled to make room for a three day old infant with no name.

My husband found metered parking by a snow bank near the hospital in the dead of winter, me with grungy hair and a gloriously bewildered heart. We met some social workers in the lobby, then down a hall, up an elevator, wrong floor, elevator down, and stopped. That final antiseptic clean hallway we conquered is still etched in my memory. There was a small conference style room at the end on the right where we were told to wait. Wait. Wait for a little boy with a total of zero shared DNA that we’d only known about for 72 hrs.

The door opened, and they wheeled in a tiny baby with a nose that melted my heart (I’m so serious) in a slightly oversized Christmas outfit, even though the holiday was well over. Now what? With my biological children, people asked in the hospital if they could hold my baby. But this was foreign territory; a baby not from my own body. I found myself asking someone else permission to pick up that precious almost-mine child. Seven something pounds doesn’t do true justice to the weight of the miracle I held in my hands that day.

Our first family picture the night we brought our foster (soon to be adopted!) son home.

As beautiful as that hospital moment was and remains to me, it owns an untold sadness as well. Though we often want to view adoption through the celebratory lens of love that grafts a new limb on a family tree, it’s not natural for a limb to need a new tree in the first place. As I heard at an adoption group early on, no adoption story comes about without loss first. That hospital may be last place my son ever encounters his biological mom, the one who brought him into this world and carries a family history I know so little about. I had no idea how painful it would be to own just tiny scraps of the story that rightfully belongs to my son.

Initially we had some limited contact with our son’s biological brothers, and though we haven’t had the chance to see them lately, I’m beyond grateful for those moments. They’ve each been able to hold him as a baby, and one brother even passed our baby’s picture along to his biological mom. Briefly we thought a window might be opening up to meet her, but she never reached back out. I don’t judge her for it; her life is full of it’s own grief and loss, that I’ll never be able to know or erase.

Why was I so afraid of contact with the birthparents when we first started our adoption journey? In my insecurity, I couldn’t imagine trying to maintain a relationship with a woman who, in my mind, had a stronger claim to my child than I did. How agonizing might that be? But by the time we were waiting for a child, I knew in my heart that I would make room for that possibility because it would be in my child’s best interest. We would adopt not just this child, but his story as well.

I never dreamed of the pain on the other side of the coin. I never conceieved we simply wouldn’t know his mom or dad at all. In all my rosy adoption dreams, not one included me frantically searching the internet, or the aisles of a random Babies “R” Us, for a strange, precious face. I’ve dreamed of his mom and long to be able to look into her face and see my son’s eyes, or cheeks, or (bless me) his nose. I can only offer him his resemblance to his biological brothers as we have their pictures and I share them when I tell him his birth story. This is his thread-bare history-the bits and pieces of his pre-story melted into the story of how he filled our lives with joy. But I long to give him more.

Oh I know there’d be a distinct pain in the knowing, in the seeing. Maybe it would be much harder than I imagine, trying to let my son grow up knowing two moms. Would he face a more personal rejection? Would he struggle to make his two worlds fit together? I can’t speak into that because it’s not our story. But for those who have always thought like I did that it would be better not to muddle through an open adoption, communicating with your child’s biological parents, I can only say there’s a deep loss to not knowing them as well.

When we send our children off to school for the first time or to camp perhaps, we often feel we’re somehow missing a piece of who they are by not being with them. We eagerly anticipate asking them how their day was, who they played with, if anything bad happened, so we can fill in the gaps we missed. Because our child’s story is part of our story and we want to own all of it. The same is true of my adopted child: somehow I feel I’ve missed a piece of who he is by not being there to access and know the roots of his life that are invisibly intertwined with mine. There are questions I can’t ask or answer: Where did he get his whimsy and love for dance? Is his extroverted self a carbon copy of his dad? Did that smile get passed down from a great-grandfather? And those are just the tip of the iceberg. In the end, I’m simply left with swiss cheese pieces of his heritage.

Maybe one day we’ll learn a bit more about his biological mom and reconnect our son with the thread of his past that remains. In the meantime, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop wondering where she is and trying to find her face in even the least likely places. Whether I meet her or not, she’ll always be part of our story.

 


 

Thoughts on Birth-parents from other Adoptive families…

Caroline’s Story: (foster-adoption) “Our daughter’s birth mother visited her several times when she was very young.  It was important to me that I always treated her with kindness and compassion. I wanted to make sure I respected her dignity and I hoped that she would see that her baby was being taken care of by a safe and loving family.” 

 Lisa’s Story: (Private US adoption) “We have a semi open adoption with G-‘s birth mother.  From day one we decided we wanted G- to know her story.  Once she turned 3 and could kind of understand things we started mentioning her birth mother as her ‘tummy’ mommy and that she couldn’t care for G- the way [my husband] and I could so we adopted her.  We would read adoption books to her and still do to this day. She seems to get it…as much as a 4 year old can.  We also have made it a point to meet with her birth mother once a year and we send her pictures every month.  We want G- to know her story and if in the future she wants a relationship with her birth mother that door has already been opened for her. 

Briana’s Story: (foster-adoption) “We met her [birth mom] a few times and agreed to send a few emails a year.  She has not responded to them since the first one.  We are open to emails and letters but not interested in visits.  We might be when F- is older and has a better understanding of the entire situation.

Pamela’s Story: (Sibling Adoption from Ethiopia): “Since it is an international adoption distance hinders relationship with birthparents/family. We worked with another agency program to locate birth family and send letters and photos of children. We intend to travel back to Ethiopia in a couple years to reconnect with birth family. We describe our family as a blended family so that the children maintain their connection to birth family within our family.”

TERMS DEFINED:

Closed adoption: An adoption in which the adoptive parents do not maintain any kind of relationship with the birth parents through visits or correspondence.  This was once a very common kind of adoption, sometimes with parents never telling their child about their adoption at all.  But studies are showing more benefits to open or semi-open adoptions, though they aren’t always possible.

Semi-Open and Open adoption: Adoptive and birth families maintain some form of ongoing contact.  This could mean the adoptive family sends emails or pictures to the biological parent(s).  It could even mean occasional visits.  In private adoptions, an agency usually helps coordinate the parameters for ongoing contact.  Semi-open adoption involves non-identifying contact (bio family doesn’t have access to adoptive families last name, address, etc.)- but correspondence (and even visits- see Lisa’s Story) can occur.

In foster-adoption, prior to adoption, the state will decide the amount of contact the biological parent has.  The biological parent is given specific goals to reach in order to be reunified, and visits are often a part of that.  The state may also require that the foster-child visit with his or her biological siblings.  Post adoption, the adoptive families can decide what amount of contact with the biological family is safe or healthy or their child.

Dear Husband, [Insert Sappy Title Here]

Dear Husband,

I don’t know how to start this letter.  I thought about using some sappy music line about you lift me up to soar or fly or generally be airborne.  Like one of the lines from this song:

Except I know that’s not exactly your music preference, and I didn’t actually realize till just now that she’s singing to her sister, not a man.  Oops.  Moving on…

Even though it’s not our anniversary or Valentine’s day or some super romantic day like Superbowl Sunday, I’ve been thinking about you a lot.  I’ve been thinking about the ways you constantly give.  How you clearly don’t keep track of whose turn it is to pick a movie on date night, since by my count I’ve picked the last 38 out of 40.  How after I talked to my mom on the phone that one day and had the sudden urge to plan a trip and cart the kids hundreds of miles to see them, you asked, “When would you want to go?”, instead of “Why would we spend money on that?”  How you give me the gift of your honesty when I need to be sharpened or I’m being selfish. (Not to say that happens frequently, or anything.  Ahem.)  How when I get a little too excited after watching a romantic comedy, you humor me by dancing across our sexy toy strewn living room floor.

I watch you give yourself to the kids too, when it’s not always convenient or easy.  You read and play video games and sit on the floor to play and they know your love is faithful and ever-present.  They are so excited for you to return home each night- and if you ever think you’re not enough, I hope their excited little faces make you think twice.

But what I’m most grateful for today is the way you’ve loved me in my growing up.  In my still becoming who I am.  In my figuring my stuff out.  Man, we were babies when we got married.  At 21 how could I possibly have known all that would happen?  That I’d be diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.  That we’d end up adopting.  That it would take me till I was nearly 30 to realize and own my crazy God dreams.

Don’t you dare say it, we’re both aware that most of who I am is crazy.

Thank you for loving me not just for who I was when we met, but for loving me right into now.  For loving who I may become.  For loving me through a chronic condition that is difficult and sometimes makes me play the victim.  For loving me when I’ve made selfish choices seeking to find myself, and for supporting me when I finally found a passion that I couldn’t seem to breath without.  Thank you for loving me in all the messes and “middles” of the story when I’ve bitten off more than I could chew and ran crying to you to talk me off a ledge and encourage me to get back out there.

Thank you for listening and listening and more listening.  And for those precious words of wisdom that you somehow seem to store up for just the right moment.  And for making me laugh, because no one can do that quite like you.  (Which is saying something because you’ve got some tough competition with my sister.)

And it goes without saying, but thank you for every single dish you’ve ever washed, because nothing says, “I love you” like a clean dish.  Or a coffee.  Eh, it’s a toss up.

Anyway, in a world where it’s easier to take than give and to criticize than encourage, I just want to say thank you for choosing to give and encourage.  You’re my wind and my joy and my better half and all that jazz.  I’m probably missing something super corny but important, so hopefully this picture just summarizes all my sentiments.

Photo Credit: Angela Yuriko Smith (Pixabay.com)

I love you.

Your-Crazier-by-the-day Wife

Dear Husband, I Can Explain…

Husband of mine, when you get home you may have a few minor questions for me.  You know, mostly revolving around when and why the sanity left our home.

While I’m not able to fully answer that without a lawyer present, I can at least explain a few of your areas of concern.

For starters…the smell.  If you’re picking up on some briny floral with a vague hint of greasy garage you’re right on track.

You know how I went to our son’s classroom and saw how his teacher used those great essential oils?  I thought I’d try to recreate that calm atmosphere at home by using some soothing lavender in our diffuser.  You know, to keep everyone from losing their sanity.

Except lavender is a liar and doesn’t actually have the solutions to all my problems.

See…shortly after the kids got home from school I followed our sneaky three year old down the stairs and discovered an oily liquid all over the place.  After a brief interrogation, our little man procured a bottle of WD-40 which I can’t imagine how he found. (Side bar- I’m thinking we may need to reevaluate our basement shelving now that we have curious ninja boys.)

So it turns out the calming lavender wasn’t really a match for oil-aggeddon and the irritability and minor panic that followed.  There was a lot of hand washing and label reading and, fair warning, I wouldn’t look in the trash can if I were you.  Although- bright spot- your exercise machine glides like a charm now.  I wish I could tell you which boy to thank for that.

BUT, when I punished our son for lying about his involvement in the oil escapade, I may have caused a teeeeensy emotional landslide.  Which leads me to the situation with the van.  (Don’t look now.) Apparently losing TV and computer privileges for today warranted him packing up the house and plotting a trip to visit Nana and Papa in Alabama. 

I hugged him goodbye and took pictures of the kids because it was sort of funny for awhile.  Except the six year old was dead serious and had a rather robust packing list. 

And eventually I had to wrestle him out of the van and tell him why it wasn’t plausible for him to actually drive hundreds of miles today and return home for school Monday.

Which brings me to that last smell…while I was trying to get God knows what out of the fridge to scrounge them up a dinner to lure them home before they started hitch-hiking down to Dixie, I had some small kerfuffle.  Don’t ask me how I did it, but the short story is that the fridge shelf slid and I lost control of a pickle jar with a poorly secured lid.  (Don’t say a word- we both know I’m the too-lose-lid culprit but we’ll not discuss it again.) 

As with the oil, the lavender was fairly intimidated by the pickle stench.  I may need to give it some self confidence lessons.

So to recap: don’t go in the basement, if you see green on the floor it’s pickle juice not pee, I’m looking into some stronger lavender essential oils…and we might need to plan an actual trip to Alabama to talk the kids off the ledge.

Also, can I go out in the morning?  Possibly?  I could even take just one child…preferably a compliant one who’s in a good mood and hasn’t touched anything with pickles lately.

Thanks and I love you.

~Your pickle splattered Wife

 

 

 

Immature Mom Moment?

My counselor asked me once why I always feel behind.  Oh gracious, I could write a book about that.

But it all starts with intending to wake up before my children, and snoozing in just a few extra peaceful minutes only to find one of them waking me up instead.  (A kid at 6am is harder to ignore than an alarm at 5:45 apparently.)

This morning my usual three year old culprit greeted me and I had to shush him and whisk him down the stairs before he woke up the other two angelic sleeping children. (And “angelic” is a word we seldom use in this house.)

Then I sat down to have my “quiet time” where I read a chapter of a book or some chapters in my Bible or pray (or for the love of all things sugar-free be ALONE).  But I find myself feeling guilty that while I’m trying to have a calm conversation with God I have to keep yelling at a mischievous child.  I think God gets it but its awkward.

Finally my little guy wore me down, as usual, and I invited him to join my “quiet time” if he could, in fact, be quiet.  Bless his heart.  He lowered his voice to a toddler whisper, but the kid never stopped talking. Asking me questions.  Wanting me to see what he was working on.

Death glare.  “Child…you will learn what quiet means if it is the only legacy I pass on to you.”

Finally my older daughter came in and I gave up my not-so-quiet endeavor to look something up on the computer for her.  Next thing I knew, I looked over and my preschooler was wielding his scissors and must have been bored with paper because he was now intent on trying to cut my new blue shirt.

I mom panicked into over-reacting umm….just a smidge we’ll say.  My poor son was surprised and hurt by how quickly I over-scolded him. 

I shooed my daughter out of the room and told her to get dressed, I plucked my crying three year old up and put him in time-out with yet another firm reminder that “we ONLY cut paper” (which his little brain will file away in the same place he puts my rules about not coloring on the wall).

Then in anger I called out passive aggressively to no one in particular (but specifically my husband) something about having to handle all the things myself just because I’m “mom”.  (Translation: obviously we are in crisis mode and if my tirade and a crying child didn’t get you down here…I’m going to lay out an additional suuuuper subtle hint for you.)

Then I sat down for a brief moment, probably to stew in irritability even though my shirt didn’t actually get cut after all.  And suddenly it occurred to me…my husband had kissed me goodbye a good 15 minutes ago and left for work already.  He clearly had no idea of the shirt and scissors kerfuffle and thankfully he also missed my immature mom moment of taking my frustration out on him.

I’m actually relieved because the minute I realized he wasn’t there I saw my Mom meltdown for what it was- that kind of embarrassing time when my kids witnessed me yelling at literally no one because of a blue shirt.  I had made a mistake but since he wasn’t there I got to take it back and start over.  (How often does that happen?)

Whew.  With any luck he won’t even read this blog and he’ll be none the wiser. 😉

Now my big kids are at school and my son has been sneaking his own lunch while I type.  But I think its worth it to take a minute to cheer you up with my immaturity.


 

What about you?  Any embarrassing or slightly over-reacting moments from your parenting career?  Feel free to share- sometimes being able to laugh at ourselves brings us a little perspective on our frustrations for today.

Wanted: Failing Moms

I stifled my suffocating emotions as I cuddled the boy I’d reduced to frightened tears only moments before.  It didn’t matter that he had pushed all my buttons.  It didn’t matter that he’d angrily pulled the dresser drawers onto his bed and had plastered the floor with his crumpled clothes.  It didn’t matter that I’d started out as calm-super-mom patiently asking him to make things right.

He pushed.  And he pushed some more.  And I lost it.

Not in the “Christian” way.  Not in the “Oh Honey, we all make mistakes sometimes” way.  In the way that leaves you questioning why God would for a minute trust YOU as a mother.  What kind of mom could not just misplace her temper but lose it like a lego stuck in the van seat.

And for a whole night all I could think was that I wanted two things: one impossible and the other nearly so.  I wanted to rewind and undo my monster moment with my son more than anything.  And I desperately hoped in the basement of my soul that there was even one other Mom who had struggled with anger like I had.  Just one other mom like me that looked sweet and put together in church or the school pick up line but couldn’t always keep her stuff glued when push came to shove.

I scrambled through my list of friends, but fear has a way of isolating our worst broken places from the very people who could help us walk through it.  Sympathize with us.  Cry with us while we trudge slowly towards a better way to love.  And while I knew none of my friends were “perfect moms”, were there any that wouldn’t just listen to my bad mom confession, but silently nod their head and give me a look that said, “You’re not alone”?

Suddenly, I no longer cared whether I “looked bad” to other moms- I was overwhelmingly afraid of my capacity to BE a bad mom.  Not all the time.  Not most of the time maybe.  But in that broken moment when I didn’t have a blessed excuse to stand on for my actions.

So often the church and even school mom circles feels a little like that scene from “Mean Girls”

when Lyndsay Lohan (Cady) first gets invited with the “mean girl” clique to Rachel McAdams’ (Regina’s) home.  Cady looks on, confused, as the three other gorgeous girls take turns looking in the mirror and lamenting over their physical “flaws”.  One girl laments that her “pores are huge” and another decries that her “nailbeds suck”.  They’ve made it a ritual to feel better about themselves by each sharing some superficial shortcoming with the others.  But their bond is as shallow as their confessions.

In the same way, we’re willing to share what we consider our kind-of-bad stuff.  The way we’re hopelessly late because God didn’t bless us with an internal clock.  The way we indulge in a little too much coffee, but doesn’t everyone?  Even the cute little mistakes we make as moms like accidentally driving our kids to school on a national holiday or caving and letting the three year old help himself to a gazillion church doughnuts.  (Yes, I’ve done both.)

But when and where do we talk about the gritty stuff?  The real “bad mom” stuff?  The “I’m pretty sure I’m raising a murderer” stuff.  The “I cried myself to sleep over my mistake” stuff.  The mom fails that go beyond the superficial bad of dessert for breakfast or lying about the whereabouts of their toy when you know good and well you gave it to goodwill.

And while I’m not proud of myself, I figure the conversation has to start somewhere.  So here it is:

I’m not always a good mom.  I’m not always an OK mom, even.  Sometimes I screw up so bad I don’t want to tell any of you about it.  Sometimes I’m afraid if people only really knew… (and I’m afraid to finish that sentence.)

This isn’t a cry for accolades- I really am not looking for someone to tell me “I’m sure you aren’t as bad as you think, Sweetie.”

I want someone who will look me in the eye and tell me that I did screw up.  And then hug me and tell me that they’ve been there too.  Maybe not the same way.  But that parenthood has broken them in ways they’re afraid to tell anyone about too.  That they’re afraid sometimes of their own capacity to squish and scar the little lives they’ve been entrusted with. That some “bad mom” moments can’t be laughed away over coffee or numbed away over wine, but spill out in hot guilty tears in a pillow and linger long after the offense is over.

To any moms who feel this way: you. are. not. alone.  I see you and feel for you.  And while you may have made a mistake that isn’t “cute” or excusable- you are human.  And maybe you need to take a step to work towards change.  I know I do.  But don’t forget that your love for your child is so much stronger than that moment of brokenness.  Don’t for a second give up completely.  And whatever you do, don’t hide the shame away- because shame has a way of magnifying itself in secret and maybe our healing begins in pulling back the curtain to our vulnerable moments and letting someone see our real flaws.

So I’m putting out the application to you.. “Wanted: Failing Moms”.  Your brokenness is not too big for this space.  And if you need to vent publicly or through a private message, I’m more than willing to listen.  And I have a feeling we’re not as alone as we think.

Three Ships to Neptune (Vaca Day 5)

Hi Again CT,

Miss us yet?  It’s been five days, not that you’re counting or anything.  Virginia decided today that we’d hung out together enough for her to be vulnerable and really be herself…so we got a scorcher.We might brave the beach later.  You know, at midnight or something when we its really too dangerous to swim, but we won’t succumb to heat-induced irritability syndrome.  (And I’m probably the most susceptible to that particular ailment.)

So instead, we took to the sea more figuratively…by checking out a nearby coffee roastery called “Three Ships“.  (Its named after the 3 ships of the Virginia Company of London that set sail in 1606 and landed here at modern day Virginia Beach.)

I’ll be honest…we didn’t all love it.  My middle child felt it was a necessary place to come unglued and take an undying oath to be miserable.  (And apparently the breathtaking smells of java and comfort food were offensive to his untrained nose.) So he and his dad checked out the hip umbrellas outside.Inside, the other kids happily ordered their iced “kid cappuccinos” (an actual coffee-free item on the menu),

And then we all sat and slurped our ice beverages, because when in Rome…And to my Avocado on Brioche, may I just say in a bad paraphrase…(Sorry in advance, Carly Rae) “Hey…I know we just became acquainted, and this is absolutely insane…but I’d love to give you my digits…so…you know, give me a ring sometime, perhaps.” 

Once my husband pried me away from coffee heaven, we headed to my son’s vision of a perfect outing: a trip to see the statue of Neptune at Neptune’s Park.  Because what could a 6 year old boy love more than checking out an oversized muscular hero awkwardly clutching a sea turtle.But although King Tritan here perked up my boys, my wave crashing daughter apparently does not do so well in heat without water.  So we stopped for a quick pick-me-up at a candy shop where we found this random squid…and such delectably unique treats as this…And do you know what my kids first choices were????  Jelly beans and a ring pop.  Pure and generic sugar over high-quality chocolate novelty.  Where did we go wrong as parents??  Anyway, that irrational candy decision making must have been exhausting, because two out of three fell fast asleep on the way back to our beach house.  And a 66.6% napping ratio is about as likely as finding a winning lottery ticket in a dolphin’s mouth.  And that rare miracle, friends, is how vacation is supposed to be done.  Until tomorrow…

Calm, cool and coffeed up…Carrye

 

Son of a Beach (9 Problems With Paradise: Vaca Day 4)

Don’t judge me CT….I love the ocean- really I do.  But there are just a few minor issues I have with paradise.  So I made a quick list:1. Rental coffee cups. (The one of the left.) For some reason, most of the lake-house or cottage rentals I’ve been in are stocked with coffee cups the size of thimbles.  I know we’re on vacation and everyone should be perky and happy but for. the. love.  I have three good pint-sized reasons to require heavy amounts of java regardless of the situation.  The mini-cup is “cute” in an itty bitty baby romper kind of way (aww…) but cute isn’t going to keep me awake.  So my husband picked me up a slightly larger model to try on for size.  And yes.  It is making me Awesome.

2: Beach crabs.  OK, they’re actually pretty cool and probably don’t belong on this list.  But this morning when I woke up early to catch some sunrise and read and I noticed all these little holes in the sand.Next thing  I know, I’m catching sneaky ghost crab movement out of the corner of my eye and a bunch of these little guys prairie dogging out, flinging sand.Not creepy all by itself…but I definitely got a little bit of that Hitchcock’s The Birds vibe from the whole thing.  Or maybe that scene from Jurassic Park when the tiny dinosaurs nibble that guy to his death.

3: STUPID ICE CREAM TRUCK!!!!  OK, does anyone else feel like ice cream trucks are the last legally acceptable form of child-stalking?  They started showing up at my kids’ school earlier this summer and my kids are well-aware that I’m not forking over the money.  The whole world can be at peace and then that irritating carnival music starts filtering in, hazy at first, and the kids melt faster than the ice-cream.  There’s a truck seriously patrolling our block and I’m afraid I’m going to forever have gorgeous beach scenes (like the one below from this morning) eerily tangled up with some creepy version of “It’s a Small World”.  Not cool.4: Shaving.  People, if you don’t know by now, I’m pretty low-maintenance in the beautification department.  I air-dry my hair and my shower schedule is more based around whether I wake up in time than on cleanliness.  (Now you know my shame.)  Anyway…who has time to stay beach shaved all the time?  I see all these apparently “normal” people who seem quite capable of smooth-leg upkeep…not this girl.  Hence my swim shorts and stubble-forgiving flowy bathing suit top.  Moving on before I say too much.

5: Billiards.  No, I’m not condemning billiards, you’ll have to watch Music Man for that.  I’m just saying I don’t play often…in fact, virtually only on vacation at this point. 

So when I played pool with my 6 year old today I had a whole bunch of ugly false starts.  Bad. I finally and proudly hit a ball in a pocket (kind of the idea) and that jerk of an 8-ball followed suit and fell in too.  Then my husband came to watch us and got a front row seat to my embarrassment.  Painful.

6: Photo ops.  I have a little issue with expectations.  I’m sure eventually these expectations are going to create an extensive money-making opportunity for some therapist out there.  And one of my expectations of vacations is that we document with photos. I don’t expect perfect pictures- I don’t need my kids to be matching or smudge free.  But it would be nice if everyone were looking, or heck even just angled slightly towards the camera.  And maybe if every pose wasn’t a growl or a karate chop move.  I don’t know.  Just saying. 7: Diabetes + Beach = LAME.  I won’t go into the whole dramatic sob-story of all my diabetes related fears, but let’s just say it complicates beaching.  You have to bring all this medical junk with you, and somehow I feel like I’m a bathing suit model for a hospital.  Maybe if I stuck a bow on my pump.  Eh. That and everyone and their mother is eating ice cream in front of me.  (Obviously not from the truck.)  And sometimes you just really want to gorge yourself on ice cream, but I can’t.  So I drink coffee instead.  Which only perpetuates issue #1.  8: Sand. You can really only tell your kids to “not throw sand” so many times. And its not even entirely their fault because the wind is a sneaky wingman and doesn’t leave a lot of safe places for shaking out beach toys.  But the eyes, children, for the love of all things sweet, watch out for the eyes!

9: ACDC.  Not the band, actually, I just made up a new acronym.  Air Conditioning Death Chill.  You know that amazing feeling you get when you walk out of the sweltering heat into the cool oasis bliss of an air-conditioned room?  And then, five minutes of AC later, you feel the need to check your children for frost-bite?  The back and forth hot to cold is just confusing. I packed for the beach weather, just not for the AC.

Well.  That’s all for now.  Wishing you peaceful, balmy weather as wonderful as ours here.  And maybe a little less sand?

~Carrye

Beach Blitz Breakdown (Vaca Day 3)

Hey CT…

Short post today- this Mom is tired.  I thought I’d break down the way my 3 kids have tackled this beach thing.   Youngest to Oldest, here goes:

My 3 year old:

This normally fearless kid has always been highly suspicious of water.  No lie, he treated the bath like a torture chamber for the first 2 years of his life.  So the waves are a bit more than his constitution can handle; any time they knock him over he runs away to the safety of the beach blankets, deeply offended.  Still, he won’t admit defeat- plucky kid that he is- he prefers to chase the waves out like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, only to turn back around squealing when the waves go on the offensive.  This is pretty much his zone, right here… I think that might be a karate chop move…or he’s being batman.

My 6 Year Old…This kid is all laid-back goof.  The first day we were out in the waves, he laugh-screamed every time a wave broke over him, as though each one were a hysterical practical joke.  He has no clue that he’s not really catching the waves with his board, nor is he aware that he’s way overdressed for the ocean.  The kid is blissfully and happily himself. Beach hair and all. 

Last, there’s my newly 8 year old, who suddenly seems much older than that.  This. girl. is. a. wave. warrior.  From the moment she went out, she was playing for keeps.  She mastered catching baby waves with her board and she’s undaunted by setbacks.  The girl has been repeatedly tossed under, knocked over, and left gasping for air coughing up sea water with hair askew.  She somehow played rough enough with the waves to end up with a head-full of sand. (??!!) 

But she never quits.  The same girl who would rather play indoors than encounter a bee was clearly born for the beach.

Other than hitting the sand, I’ve been seriously wracking up bad-mom points with the amount of TV they’re watching…although its hard when there’s a tv in their room.…and I may lose face with some of you for letting the following nailpolish moment happen….

But all in all…we’re having a great time.  And I’m soaking up these smiles.

(Which reminds me, my husband bought me a new toothbrush today!! Better than flowers.)

Here’s to another fun day tomorrow,

Your high-volume-haired friend,Carrye

P.S.  Taking a break from “Gray Faith” study this week….will return with another video next Monday!!

Mom Vacation Confessions (Day 2)

Hello Again CT,

I really should have mentioned where we were headed in my last update.  Oops.  Mom details.  As I write this now, we’ve arrived at our destination: Virginia Beach!

Our morning in the hotel was basically…

The Good: The waffle machine worked!!  Free unlimited eggs and breakfast sausage are always a win.  My children even adored the awkwardly frozen-fruit. 

The bad: I had to choose between “bold” and “gourmet” hotel coffee.  What does that even mean?  Can’t I have a bold gourmet without having to mix the two?  Then, my 3 year old gagged on a partially frozen hardboiled egg, and my husband was exiled to a neighboring breakfast table because nothing about hotels is made for a family with more than 2 kids.

The ugly:  Kids don’t readily absorb concepts like “someone is sleeping in the room next door” or “you can’t run up the hotel stairs alone”.  So we spent a large amount of time chasing and whisper-shouting at them, which culminated in me completely snapping at my son in a way that, really any way you spin it, I sound like a jerk.  But if he tells you I used a bad word, that word was “punk”… which was just so accurate a descriptor at the time that my mouth forgot to filter it. 

Moving on.

After refueling, I started looking for a Starbucks. I kid you not, it seemed we passed one every 20 miles in NJ, but upon crossing the state line, there was a sudden Starbucks dearth.  To my credit, I did not find it necessary to drive 20 minutes out of our way for coffee.

Not-so-much-to-my-credit, I researched coffee roasteries on our route and found an amazing one in a quaint little town where

I briefly lost sight of our end destination.  This was one of those little hipster corners just into Virginia with artsy brick buildings and lights rigged up fancy in the trees.  (Notice the fake flowers tied on the branches.)

And my sudden desire to traipse whimsically with the kids to some cute eatery clashed severely with my husband’s desire to actually get to our destination.

In the end, we nixed the eatery but I did get my coffee, which was too amazing to describe in language appropriate to use around the children. After this, we briefly stopped for essentials at a Food Lion store.  I picked up many things, but most importantly…a new toothbrush. I tried to get a picture of my kids holding souvenir shirts that we never planned to actually buy.  I’ll let you be the judge of whether that photo op succeeded. 

Aaaand as we made PB&J for them in the store parking lot, I realized that we maybe shouldn’t use plastic spoons for the peanut butter anymore.OH…then my husband learned something new about me.  I don’t think I have many phobias, but apparently underwater tunnels is one of them.  And if you’ve never crossed the Bay Bridge Tunnel (we called it a “brunnel”)…well…its a whole lot of bridge and tunnel that doesn’t seem terribly attached to….what’s the word I’m looking for?…right, LAND.  We started to cross and I began firing questions uncomfortably: How long is this? How on earth do they do maintenance on this thing? How would they know if something was wrong? Look at those concrete columns!  They look crooked!  (My husband assured me they were supposed to be crooked and that they clearly have the money to pay for repairs with the $15 they charge/car to cross.  But please, you don’t have to explain that to me, you have to convince my phobia… ahem.  See below.)

If the bridge weren’t bad enough, we then had to drive straight down into the bowels of the bay, while my 6 year old rattled off how bad it would be if the water got into the tunnel and all the cars got flooded and sharks attacked us.  (Thanks kid.)

And just when we got to the lowest point of the tunnel my GPS creepily said, “Lost Satellite reception” and I told my husband that this is like a location right out of an apocalyptic film.  And I’m pretty sure right over there is where the meteor hits the water and launches a wave that sends a barge crashing into the tunnel where we all meet our ruin.  So I don’t know if the light at the end of the tunnel is a good thing or if we’ve all died.

Thankfully, our kids made it over the brunnel because upon arriving at our vacation home with family,  they are head-over-heels in love with the beach (more on that tomorrow.)

But for now, I need to use my husband’s tooth brush again before bed because I accidentally flipping threw out that new toothbrush I bought and it absorbed some unidentifiable brown liquid.  For. the. love.

Till tomorrow…

Still-Not-so-fresh-and-minty, Carrye