Some days parenting is effortless. The day just flows with ease and you make the mistake of thinking, “Boy, I’m pretty good at this parenting thing.” Beware! Don’t let those thoughts sit too long and whatever you do don’t say them out loud because that is when the wave of chaos and disaster will crash down upon you. I have learned the biggest mistake I can make in my parenting is thinking we have “crest the mountain and are now traveling down hill and the journey should be a breeze from here on out” because as soon as I think that another Everest rises up before me.
These last two weeks have been eye-opening to me. I really thought that signing the adoption decree would only solidify the relationships that had already been built. It was just a piece of paper, I thought, a legal declaration of the love and unity that we have spent the last year developing but that hasn’t been the case. For the older kids that paper meant it was supposed to become easier. They thought that adoption day was the finish line of the struggle. The adoption was finalized and so the conflict was supposed to disappear. For Toby the adoption decree represented freedom..freedom from someone looking over his shoulder..freedom to parent as he would naturally. I don’t know what I thought would change. I guess I thought that other than more flexibility with my schedule I really expected things to remain the same. For Tyler this adoption represented security. For a child that has moved 7 times in his life… first from his biological family, then through a series of foster families who asked for his removal due to him being “uncontrollable,” to the foster family that he was with for 2 1/2 years and was told was his forever family, to our home ..he struggled from the beginning with believing that this was his forever home. Signing that decree confirmed it and brought about the security that he has longed for. That security has manifest itself in his behavior these past two weeks…
He is more affectionate than ever. He hugs and kisses on everyone more..especially Toby and the girls. He is also more disobedient than ever before. It has been an interesting couple of weeks as I have tried to wrap my brain around this contradiction in behaviors. It is like living with a pregnant woman..only he is a lot faster :). One minute he is loving and affectionate and the next minute he is angry and crying. I know that these are both good things. They both are manifestations of the same truth..he is feeling secure. Secure enough to love without fearing we will be gone tomorrow and break his heart again. Secure enough to show the ugly side of his emotions and know that we will still love him. I know that is what we have witnessed these past two weeks. I know this is all good..really good..but that doesn’t mean it is easy or that my reactions are always correct…which is why I now come with a warning label.
Let me explain. Friday was a catch up sort of day. With school looming just over the horizon I have felt a push to accomplish some of the cleaning/organizing tasks I had planned for summer. One of those jobs was to organize the schoolroom, pack away last years books, toss dried up glue, wipe down bookshelves, etc. As we worked together in the schoolroom Tyler came across a lighter and brought it to me. My hands were full of books so I told him to hold onto it until my hands were free. He patiently held it for about a minute and then with great concern in his voice said, “Momma, please take it. It really wants me to play with it!” 🙂 I took the lighter and dropped it down my shirt because my hand were full and I had no pockets. We continued to clean and organize until it was time to get Tyler ready for football practice.
As we were gathering up his football gear the phone rang. I answered it and was greeted with an enthusiastic hello. The woman calling introduced herself as the adoptive mom of one of Tyler’s biological siblings. I had given my contact information to our social worker months ago to pass on to the other adoptive families of Tyler’s siblings with the hope that we could get the kids together. Gail, one of the moms, got the call that day with my information and called me as soon as she hung up with the social worker. We had a wonderful visit and talked about getting the kids together soon. Tyler hasn’t seen that brother for 2 1/2 years. When I hung up the phone I shared the good news with Tyler. As soon as I told him I could see that the idea of seeing his brother brought about mixed emotions.
It was time to head to football so I told him to start heading to the car. It was then that all chaos broke loose. Toby was working late and Tyler informed me that he wasn’t going without Daddy. I told him that skipping wasn’t an option. He then threw down the gauntlet in the only way a six-year-old can..he stuck his hands to the side of his face, stuck out his tongue, waved his football padded bottom back and forth and taunted, “You can’t make me go if you can’t catch me!” With that he was off. I, in desperation, began yelling out all sorts of ineffective threats. As I followed him around the yard, knowing very well I didn’t stand a chance of catching him, I watched time pass on my watch and the time for practice pass by. After an hour of this he made the tactical mistake of passing between me and the car and getting trapped. A rookie mistake if I ever saw one. I grabbed him and he proceeded to play every dirty move he knew..shin kicking, hair pulling, arm biting..so I did the only thing I could think of to cool off his temper. I walked to the pool and dropped him in..football pads and all. He made a nice big splash and so while he floated in the pool shouting at me I walked to my room to change my wet shirt. As I removed my shirt the lighter from earlier in the day fell onto the bathroom floor. I looked up and in the mirror I saw my warning label. Right there, stuck to the center of my chest, was a small piece of paper that read,
“Warning: explosive. Keep away from children.”
Well, I just had to laugh at God’s sense of humor. Perhaps we should all come with warning labels… “Caution: Emotionally unstable,” “Beware: Biting tongue,” “Danger: Crumbling trust.” We all have our struggles. There are days that it all comes so easily and then there are those days when it is just hard…when we realize that we can’t do it on our own..that we are only human and we should come with warning labels and we need divine assistance. After I was done laughing at God’s sense of humor I prayed. I prayed for endurance.. emotional, physical, mental and spiritual endurance..because my journey with Tyler isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon. It is a lifelong journey and like a marathon there will be times when we will be coasting..when the sun is out and the breeze is cool and the path is smooth but there will be times when it is a steep uphill climb in a hurricane. Having an adoption decree doesn’t change that. I signed up for this run and I will finish it, but more importantly I will enjoy the scenery as I travel, because isn’t that what it is ultimately about..finding joy in the journey.
The next morning I awoke to little fingers tapping me on my back. As I rolled over I was greeted by a jack-o-lantern smile and a good morning kiss. As Tyler threw his arms around my neck and squeezed he said, “I love you Momma,” and I felt God wink. 🙂