Sunday, October 28, 2012

Setting the Bar

I was traveling for business last week, and while I was gone I got a lot of reading done. Reread Adopting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck and Beyond Logic, Consequences and Control which, judging by the footnotes, was written directly in response to Keck, and both of them read like Manuals for Parents who are Fragile, Controlling, Needy Dips. BLCC walks the reader through an example of a mother who says that conversations with her daughter like this one had taken all the joy out of parenting:
Mother: So, how was your first day back at school?
Daughter: Fine
Mother (teeth on edge, tries again): On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you say it was?
Daughter: It was a B+
Mother: Why are you always so stubborn?
But now, by using the techniques taught in the book, that mother has learned to get the hell over herself already.

The parenting book that hands down I liked best was How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen & Listen so Your Kids Will Talk, which basically I read as "your kids are not automatons who have to be happy all the time or suppress their disappointment and anger and frustrations. Set boundaries about the way you expect them - and everybody - to treat you, teach them to set boundaries by respecting them, teach them to solve problems for themselves by backing off and leaving them to work things out on their own, help them use creative and physical outlets to work out their big feelings, and acknowledge and validate their small ones." There are techniques for doing this, like "describe what you see" and "grant wishes in fantasy," but basically the book is about offering kids a little respect.

I plan on re-reading How to Listen very soon, because unfortunately, while I was reading it the first time, I was switching between it and Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and I think I may have gotten the two of them mixed up a little, like: if your child says "I want to overthrow Bavaria," you can avoid a tantrum by granting the wish in fantasy - and the bigger the better!
Kid (pouting): I want to take over Bavaria!
Parent: What would you do with Bavaria?
Kid: I'd use it as a stepping stone to dismantle the Weimar Republic.
Parent: Wow, if you had control of the Weimar Republic, you could use that to dissolve the Federalist system in Germany!
Kid: I could! I could unite all of Germany!
Parent: Wow! All of Germany!
Kid: I could take over Austria!
Parent: And the Sudetenland!
Kid: And the rest of Czechoslovakia!
Parent: And Poland!
Kid: And Russia!
Parent: Today, Bavaria, tomorrow the world!
Kid: Thanks, Dad. I guess I don't need to take over Bavaria, I'm just going to go play with my stormtroopers for four years.
Parenting! I haz it!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

About that oncoming train...

The closer I get to an event, the more anxious I get for it to arrive. And who doesn't experience this? Does a bride lose interest in the wedding as it approaches? Does a new job lose its lustre the week before orientation? Are children ever as wound up with anticipation about Christmas in September as they are on Christmas Eve? (when Christmas transforms from a season of wonders and delight into an endurance event, a triathalon of cooking, shopping and decorating, Christmas Eve becomes the first moment in a month in which a person can sit and breathe, knowing that if it isn't done already, it's not going to happen, but that is not the point here, and I ask, dear reader, for you to remember back to a simpler, happier time, when you were nine years old, wearing footie pajamas, and Christmas was a magical, wondrous time, all thanks to somebody else doing all the freakin' work).

As our homestudy nears its completion, it is natural for our feelings of anticipation to heighten, but when you are adopting, when you are going through the home study process, the important thing to remember is: nothing about you is normal, natural, or right.

Expectant biological parents may refer to their incipient offspring unit by any terminology they please, and everyone coos and sighs over how cute their pet name is (my favorite name, given by friends to their incoming infant: Particle). We have been thinking and talking to each other and friends for months about our approaching adoption, wouldn't it be weird if we didn't have a name we've given to the Kiddo? And there it is, he is The Kiddo. It's an expression of affection, endearment, not specific to any age, gender, or personality trait. And apparently, it's wrong.

Says the therapist: "this is not 'the kid' you're talking about, this is your child." "My child" is, by the way, the only acceptable nomenclature - "my son" is right out. If I say "I don't know him yet, I don't know who he is, what his history is, what he's like, what I'll love best about him, what he'll like about me, or even if he'll ever feel anything toward me but hostility, but he's my son and it is painful to me to think of him going through this holiday season not knowing that there's a real couple out there who wants him and wants him to come home, even if he doesn't fully believe that somebody wanting him is possible" - and that's close to a quote - the reaction is "why do you say 'son?' Would you be unable to accept a daughter?"

So why do we say son? I am a working mother, B is a stay-at-home father, and over 80% of children in foster care have experienced sexual abuse - often while in foster care, at the hands of other children. I trust B implicitly, but would a girl, of any age, who has been abused by men, be well served by being alone with a man for several hours a day? Neither does it seem fair to B, to either put him at risk of a false accusation or to subject him to being the primary caregiver for a child whose anxiety is exacerbated by his presence. Instead, we focus on the positives, that we have a great male role model who could be of great benefit to a boy who has been without one. Says the therapist: "when you explain it that way it's clear that there's logical thought behind it, but when you just refer to your child as your son, it can make people concerned." John Cullum can holler It's a Boy and then turn on a dime when his granddaughter is born and it's endearing; adoptive parents, don't think you can be like normal parents and that will be ok, because you can't and it won't.

The acceptable adoptive parent fully realizes the future relationship that he or she may be denied by a third party before it ever happens, fully engaging with the unknown child, not as a person but as a role. That is, the adoptive parent must envision having a child but not knowing a person; the adoptive parent is fully disengaged from any anticipation of the qualities their child might have, only what behaviors he or she will engage in. Adoptive parents are expected to be like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, knowing nothing about the children they will be caring for except that there are seven of them. Also, instead of meeting the children the day after she's told about them, in this musical, Julie Andrews goes through a six month screening and training montage (even Rocky had a montage!) in which she is expected to remain incurious about and detached from the children she was told about in scene 1.

Do biological parents get tut-tutted if they let slip that they vacillate from day to day between excitement and unsurety about the big event looming in their lives? If they express a hope that infant arrives before this holiday or that anniversary, does this excite criticism? My youngest brother was born one day after what would have been our great-grandfather's 100th birthday. If the standards applied to adoptive parents were applied to biological ones, My father's thought before the birth that it would be nice if Danny arrived on the actual day would raise concern among professionals, as possibly foretokening an inability to bond with his son, should he not measure up to his parent's ideals.

Maybe it's just this particular therapist. When we talked about our feelings about fertility and our lack thereof, I was emphatic that not only do I not endow fertility with feelings of self-worth, I conciously refuse to do so, dating back to long before we had any idea that infertility would be an issue. I explained that, to me, life is full of paths and producing offspring is just one of those paths, one that not everybody chooses, that my choice to adopt is not one that I see as a second choice to biological parenthood, but as an exciting life's work in its own right, that, even if creating a new child is as important, valuable or meaningful as opening a new life to an underappreciated child, that biological parenthood cannot help but be more ordinary, more commonplace, less interesting, less exciting than the path that we are on. I told her that, as I see it now, had we become biological parents, it would have been a hindrance to pursuing something that I now see as my life's mission. Says the therapist (with urgency): "but you can see how other people wouldn't feel that way?" Thinks me: "so the f--- what?"

My G-d, does she want us to conform. She's not in any insurance network and doesn't file claims herself. When I called to set up the initial appointment she was very concerned about whether our insurance would cover our sessions. I told her since she's out of network, the coverage would be minimal and since it's for an assessment, not for therapy, unlikely that they'll cover it at all, but even if that's the case, it doesn't really matter, since she's the person the agency told us to see to get assessed and cleared for adoption and we consider this to be simply one of the costs of the process. This bothered her. She was reluctant to book the appointment without me checking with the insurance company first. And then, at our first session, she wanted to go over it again. Yesterday she seemed to finally give up on the insurance and move on to parking - she had sent an email that said that parking was available in the lot across the street, but come into the building and check with the doorman about which spaces in the lot are ok and which ones aren't... so we just did on the street parking a block away and enjoyed the walk. This was apparently not acceptable. Unsolicited: "Where did you park?" I just found a space up the street. "Because you know, they ticket here if you aren't careful." Yes, I know, I went to the university two blocks east of here and I lived for seven years in an apartment about a mile west. "You don't care if you get a ticket?" I parked a block west of here, where you don't need a permit. "But there's a lot across the street." Yes, I saw that, I decided to park a block away and walk. I'd been driving for an hour and I knew that I'd be sitting in here for an hour and I felt like stretching my legs. "On your way out, check with the doorman about which spaces in the lot you can use next time."

B expresses that as a result of his childhood, he is hypervigilant about physical threats, and that's not his most attractive or engaging quality now, but it's quirky and interesting and when the zombie apocalypse finally gets off its butt and shows up, we'll all be grateful that B has an office stocked with gas masks and geiger counters (both kinds!) Whatever, he's very aware of physicality and works out a lot because he wants to feel strong. Says the therapist: "is a thirteen year old boy right for you? He might get aggressive." Says B: "I'm 220 pounds and an ex-Army Ranger." Says me: "so, in her world, risk awareness increases the risk? It's like, if somebody told her that he's a very cautious driver and always comes to a complete stop at intersections, she'd ask, if he thinks that driving isn't completely safe, why he ever takes the highway?"

I engage life with a sense of humor and an appreciation for the absurd. When people behave offensively or intrusively, I tend give my inner Dorothy Parker a little more rein, redirecting instead of confronting the offensive party. Says the therapist: "your sense of humor can be off-putting. Try to stop, reflect, and control yourself before you make those remarks." I remark on the general efficacy of unsolicited advice. Says the therapist: "that's the sort of thing you should stop saying."

I HATE this process, where everything is torn apart, second guessed, judged, where we live for months in anticipation, not being sure if, in the end, we will be found acceptable by this agency as prospective adoptive parents. We are living a year in limbo. Says the therapist: "you seem anxious and very keyed into what you think are delays, but six months really isn't very long to be waiting. I'm concerned that this child will introduce stress that will cause you to experience anxiety." The snappy comeback I didn't deliver would have made her happy that it was not delivered, if she knew it existed in the first place, which she couldn't because she'd told me to keep it to myself. I think I'm making progress.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What a long, strange road it's been...

We got the house and... waited. B just wasn't quite there yet. Earlier this year, I offered him that we could do one more round of fertility treatments if afterwards we could get moving on the adoption. That was this spring, we started the home study process again in late May and we had a home visit. Everything is in order, we can't tell that there's anything left outstanding, and... it should be another month or so and then we'll have final approval. I'm really hoping for placement by Christmas.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Hi to the small group of everybody who is following this blog.  There's some to catch you up on.

First of all, our first foray into adoption fizzled.  I found out that it wasn't going anywhere when I overheard The Husband talking to a friend and saying "things are going so good right now, I don't want to change anything."  Which was, needless to say, aggravating, but whutcanudo?  So that was in the spring of 2011, I waited a year and we talked about it again, and I offered that we could go for another round of infertility treatments, but at the end of those, if we weren't pregnant, I wanted his promise that we'd go ahead with the adoption.

So, this past May was all kinds of fun.  My body reacted to the Clomid with pregnancy symptoms and for a little while we thought that we might actually be pregnant, but the stick never turned blue.  The doc ran some blood tests and came back with a diagnosis of Low Ovarian Reserve, said the words "egg donor" and that was the end of that.  We are now off to the races on getting ready for a kiddo.

We're getting back on track, and that's great.  I didn't write in the interval because a hundred posts about "I want a kid but B is scared so we're not going to get a kid and boy am I pissed" isn't really either enlightening or therapeutic.

Our second home visit is a little over a week away.  The house is a wreck.  We're putting a new floor in upstairs, replacing the carpeting with bamboo one room at a time.  We've decked out the kiddo's room (formerly the guest room).  It used to be furnished with a boxspring and mattress that rested on the floor, a folding chair beside it as an end table, and a hand-me-down IKEA dresser.  The dresser's still in there, but now we've added a real bedframe, a matching end table, and a bookcase.  When I came home with the bookcase, B made a comment about that room now being the best furnished room in the house.

In other news, shopping clearance furniture at World Market, you find some fabulous deals.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Adendum to Murphy's Law

The day after your family and friends get together and help you move that &($^%&** piano that you promised them they would never have to move again, you will receive no less than 10 inquiries regarding your advertisement of a Free Piano.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

OMG houses are expensive

Went to Lowe's over the lunch break. Then went into shock when I saw the bill...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Everything Old is New Again

I love my new house. I especially like that it's mine.

But night before last, I was talking to B and said "you know what? It's official. There isn't a single light fixture in this house that I don't want to replace."

"Even the dining room chandelier that's held up with a piece of rope?"

"Nope, not my style. I do like the rope though."

B feels the same way about the plumbing fixtures. All the plumbing fixtures. The diverter valves in all the showers are blown - when you try to take a shower, you get a trickle out of the shower and a deafening waterfall out of the tub faucet. B has replaced one of the faucets so far, the other two showers are still on our Lowe's list. But that still leaves the faucets, the toilet seats... the sink stopper in the upstairs hall bathroom broke last night and when I tried to close it, it stayed closed. B fixed it, for now at least. One more thing on the Lowe's list.

I tried putting something away on a shelf in the kitchen and discovered when the shelf wobbled crazily and deposited its load back on the counter. Lowe's list.

It's a twenty year old house and we knew what we were getting when we made the offer. And I don't mean to suggest that we bought a fixer, we just bought a twenty year old house that has never been updated in any way. And we did this on purpose, we chose this over new construction that we could have chosen all the finishing for. We did this not (only) to save money, but because we relish the chance to make it our own by making these changes ourselves, one at a time.

This weekend, I tried to put a huge cutting board away in a cabinet that was perfect - narrow & tall - for holding large cutting boards and cookie sheets. When I tried to put it in though, I discovered that the cabinet also had a shelf in the back of it. B + 1 hammer + 5 minutes = perfection. The cutting board is snug now in its new home with the cookie sheets.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Entendez-vous dans les Campagnes?

We closed on Bastille day. It's fitting in its way. I had visions in the morning of us emerging from our apartment into the sunlight, rubbing our eyes, and marching down the street toward liberation. At which point I remembered that glorious, inspirational demeanor of the actual head of the original parade out of the Bastille was a man who had been imprisoned there because he was under the delusion that he was Julius Ceasar. In all the excitement of the people rising and creating a grand republic, they lined up to parade behind a would-be tyrant. It really ruined the metaphor, but what the heck.

There was much driving back and forth yesterday, and there was outright panic from Holly. After six weeks of slowly growing anxiety, yesterday morning it really came to a head. She started the day by making a break for it out the door, and nothing would calm her down except letting her get in the car. She's been running and roughhousing with Minnie since we got to the house yesterday, and burned some of the frantic crazy off in the process, but it's going to be a while before she's convinced and settles in. She slept between us last night (which is very unusual), ending up this morning jammed in between the pillows, curled up at both our heads.

We had a last minute of comedy. The keys to the deadbolts for the back doors had never been available while the house was being shown, and our agent tried to track them down for us yesterday. She sent me the email trail at the end of it because it was so unbelievable - the sellers are saying that in the ten years they owned the house they never had keys for the back doors, both of which open to the deck.

(Before you say "you want to rekey anyway" - yes, we know that. But if the door is deadbolted shut, to rekey it you either have to drill out the lock or take the door off its hinges before you can remove the old lock (if it was easy to remove a locked deadbolt there wouldn't be much point in having one in the first place). We're at the point of laughing about all this though - it's all no end of crazy).

When we went to bed last night, B was talking about how great it was to know what he's going to do the next day, and to know that there's so much that needs doing and that he knows how to do, and he was awake and dressed before 8 this morning. I am loving this house owning thing.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Puppy Pics

The pic of Minnie holding the monkey is from her first night with us. The one with her playing with Holly is more recent - you can see all the packing going on in the background.

Puppy pics have been requested. This is Minnie between 6 and 7 weeks. She's... substantially larger now.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

I really couldn't bear to look at this blog over the past year. It's been an agonizing holding pattern. Looking at the date on the last entry, I realize that it's almost exactly a year to the day after I wrote that that we finally made an offer on a house. And today, we got the notice that we're clear to close! We sign the papers on Tuesday afternoon and start picking up where we left off.

Has it been a lost year? Yes and no. I've had a lot going on at work, and work has been going very well for me, but I don't think that would have been materially different if things had gone smoothly a year ago. It's made a vast deal of difference, for the better, in B's life though. He's progressed a lot with how to deal with stress and how to recognize and cope with his co-dependent tendencies that I don't think would have been as easy if he was trying to parent. During this last year, he actually stated a preference as though it was no big deal. Which was a very big deal.

We got a much better deal on the house we ended up with than we could have on the house we had initially wanted. And we got a fantastic deal on the loan. Financially, this was a very good delay.

Balance that against the guilt from knowing that some kid, somewhere out there, spent an extra year waiting for a forever family. I'm able to be rational about it now, but I suspect that when some kid becomes my kid there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth. On the inside.

B has asked for a little time to get settled in before we start the home study, and I can't say no. My youngest brother is getting married at the end of September and we'll have a full house for the week of the wedding, plus we've volunteered to host the rehearsal dinner/backyard barbecue, and B has said that as soon as the wedding is done and behind us that he's good to go to start moving on getting kids home, but he thinks it's a bad idea to compound the stress. And he's right, but I hate to admit it.

That's the drama-light version of this past year. We waited around and worked a lot, then we got a house. The end.

Oh, and there's a new puppy. And she's adorable.