Thursday, September 5, 2019

Pressure

There's something I need to confess. Two things really.

First, this has been weighing heavily on me for awhile but it's time to publicly admit that I bought a running fanny pack and it's everything I thought it could be and more. I can only assume that at some point I will throw full caution to the wind and embrace it for all personal carrying needs. And that my 12 year-old will officially hide when he sees me in public.

Second, this kindergarten thing has got me feeling crazy, but not in the way I think many other mamas are feeling. I don't have any sappy or weepy needs to curl into a ball. I didn't stare out the window all morning or look at baby pictures or stalk the school playground to check in on him. 

I went on a long, exhausting, exhilarating run, the kind of run that clears your head and brings things into perfect clarity. 

About 10 minutes into it, I realized that I have been a perfect mess for the last week and I realized why: these past two years since my son started to have really significant trouble in school, since we had to pull him before he got expelled from preschool, the specialists, the therapists, the prayers, the tears, the rage, all this has led up to the moment of truth. 

Can he and will he be able to handle...scratch that, THRIVE, in Kindergarten? 

No parent wants his or her child to just get by. To be tolerated and then talked about behind closed doors of teacher meetings. No parent wants that child to be labeled or to have low expectations put on him. I have seen the people who expect the best from him and I have seen those who have diagnosed him on their own (without credentials to do so) and basically made us feel like failures as parents. I've met doctors who believe me and others who question my honesty. Those who want to medicate and those who want to heal- and yes, I've learned there is a HUGE difference. 

There is only so much that I can control about what happens to him. We had spent weeks leading up to this day: we had prepped him for goodbye, prepped him for getting on the bus, tried to get him to go to an event for rising kindergarteners to practice getting on the bus to no avail and he had finally, excitedly, woke up ready to do it. He was out waiting for it 20 minutes before it should have come wearing his adorable little kindergarten label and a huge smile.

It never came. 

When that bus didn't show up and my happy, excited, passionate child started to let disappointment and nerves creep in, I got angry. We had to change course. After ALL the prep and conversations, the bus wouldn't be taking him in after all. And for kids like my son, that one thing can literally be THE thing that undoes the day. That tanks the mood. That starts the tears or anxiety or defiance.  

My husband explained the change in situation to my sad boy and he willingly, miraculously got in the car. I watched them drive off to school with my heart in my throat. Not because "my little boy was heading off to kindergarten and wasn't he just a baby yesterday" but because of all the what-ifs. All the ways I still don't know if he is ready, if his teacher will be able to handle his challenges and get the best out of him. If he will rise to it the way I know he can. 

I watched the phone, waiting for it to ring. I paced. I snacked. I ran until I couldn't breathe. 

In truth, I put a ton of pressure on myself for his success today. 

Have I done everything I know to do? I think so. 
Is it probably everything that can be done? Nope.
Have I failed him along the way? Absolutely. 
Have I likely been unwittingly rude or snappy with a medical professional? You bet your patootie. 
Has the system been frustrating to navigate? Of course it has.
Do I have any control over how this day goes? Not at all.

And there's the rub. I have done my part. 

He made it to day one. We all did, with scars to show. 

And right now, as I know he is heading into his last hour and a half at school, I can't help but wonder how long this feeling will last. When will I be able to breathe? To rejoice in having at least made it to day one? Will there be a moment the scars start to fade a little? Or will there be a fresh battle to fight yet again? 

I can't answer these questions and I also can't spend all day asking them. Putting that much pressure on oneself is utterly exhausting, but I often don't know how to do life any differently. I really am trying, despite what it looks like. 

I am hoping he will walk off that bus this afternoon with his gorgeous grin and chatter away about all the good that happened today. 

And I'm hoping by the time he does, I'm ready to greet him with a smile of joy and hope and help him get ready for day two.  

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Why not?

I've honestly never given anything less thought.

One minute, I was dropping my youngest off to play with his grandparents, the next moment I was sipping coffee and knowing that something absolutely had to change.

In December, I wrote about being at the edge of myself. That years of extremely challenging parenting paired with a diagnosis of PMDD had left me a shell of myself. Sad. Exhausted. Purposeless. Isolated.

This morning was during that period of feeling lost. And as I sipped my coffee, I stared at a wall. I didn't read, I didn't pray or write. I didn't scroll mindlessly on social media pretending it fulfills a deep ache. I just stared...and then asked God "what next?"

I wish I could put the next few minutes into words...but I don't really know what happened. One minute I was on the verge of tears, of giving up and the next minute, I had pressed "submit" on an application to a college course to become an EMT.

Before I had really thought about it. Before I had called my husband. Before I had looked carefully at our life to see if it was possible.

I pressed submit.

Because, friends, it was SO clear that I needed to press submit.

A lot of people have asked me what led to me becoming an EMT at the age of 40.

And to be honest? I don't really know.

Something made me search EMT programs in that moment after I asked God that question. Something made me keep reading.
Something sparked a deep interest, the tiniest flicker of a brand new dream.

I knew literally nothing about emergency medicine.

But, I pressed submit.

I didn't call anyone, ask if I should go for it.

I pressed submit.

I am not generally rash or impulsive.

I pressed submit.

And when I did, something lifted. Some horrible, heavy weight of sadness shifted just the slightest bit.

And because I have arguably the most genuine and generous husband on the earth, he greeted my impulsive decision with nothing less than clear delight and determined support. We would make it work no matter what.

Seriously, he is the best one out there. No contest.

Within a day, I had been accepted to the college. Within another few days, I had been accepted to the actual program. I was transferring transcripts and signing up for a medical physical and scouring amazon for textbook deals and ordering a stethoscope and cargo pants. (Which I have to admit, I truly love and wish were still fashionable like they were when I was in high school.)

I was diving into hope.

Friends, that was just six months ago. Six months that ended up being filled with hard work and new friendships and a new, budding dream of loving people well on what could be the scariest day of their lives.

I truly loved it. Loved using my brain again. Loved learning something totally new and different. Loved it. Something I literally didn't think through for more than a few minutes.

So here I am, certified in-state and nationally, a smile on my face, with two interviews lined up next week for local ambulance corps.

Why did I become an EMT?

Well, all I can honestly say is "why not?"

Saturday, May 11, 2019

'Twas the Night Before Mother's Day

Four years ago I woke up to an email from the mother of two of my sons.

I don't honestly know how she wrote it. I don't honestly know how she got out of bed that day.

Less than 24 hours later she delivered her son. My youngest son.

And as I read that email, the tears dripped down my face.

I don't think it's possible for us adoptive parents to fully put into words the complicated emotions we deal with. The deep gratitude. The awe. The sadness over loss. The awareness of the fact that we actually can't possibly know what their first moms are feeling. Going through. Thinking on a day like Mother's Day.

But that day, she wrote to me a message of gratitude. She thanked me for always sending her updates about her son. For using the name she gave him. For the decision to welcome his brother into our family, as well. For sending her pictures and gifts. For always, always assuring her that we talk about her every day. That her pictures are on our walls. That she is, and forever will be, family.

But to be honest?

I could barely read it. To think of the challenges she was going through to have to make the kind of choices she did. To even attempt to imagine the loss she feels every day. To admire her courage but know she will never see it that way.

Well, Mother's Day has never quite been the same.

It's bittersweet.

Yes, my nuggets like to celebrate me. They make me sweet pictures at school with their handprints. They plant little flowers. They hug me and call me mama and let me smooch their sweet faces.

And far away, another woman misses them. She doesn't get the kisses or the gifts tomorrow. And as my boys celebrate me, she is the one on my mind. Her pain. Her loss. Her sacrifice.

As they grow older, they have more questions. More things I need to tell them that I can't quite put into words. Ways in which I will never be quite enough. (I am ok with that, by the way. I signed on for it. I know they will always be missing a piece of who they are. Adoption, at it's very foundation, starts with loss and trauma.)

So, on Mother's Day, I tread lightly. I thank my boys for loving me. For letting me be their mama. But I get a little quieter. A little more introspective. We don't go in for large celebrations. For their sakes, we celebrate, but if it were up to me, I think I would let the complicated day pass by without much fanfare.

Holding joy and despair tenderly, gratefully, tearfully together is no easy dance and us adoptive parents do it all year long.

Mother's Day, for me, at least, just brings that dance into painful focus.

To the woman who deserves more celebration than me but who will likely let the day pass her by as well, I love you. And I promise, although I do fail mightily, I am doing my very best to love these precious children we share.