How Dare You Exist…Do You See Me?

The parameters of my motherhood right now are strung out between two equal and opposite poles: How Dare You Exist? and Do You See Me?

It ain’t pretty, folks. We are DEEP in the gap of all the middle school developmental stages, along with some early childhood ones that were missed along the way. They overlap and undercut each other like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s like living in a psychological suspense novel with two unreliable narrators.

How Dare You Exist? is one I remember from my own childhood days. It’s part of the process of individuation, where kids figure out who they are by being emphatically not you. I remember looking at my mother at this stage and seeing nothing but laundry, cooking, and dishes. I couldn’t figure out how she got out of bed in the morning, she must be so bored! I mean, why didn’t she get a LIFE?

Oh, how THOSE chickens have come home to roost.

There are days where the snotty comments are so fast & furious, I have to go upstairs just to think up new consequences to dole out. I actually have to remove myself from their presence so I can catch up, before they say NEW snarky things. Right now #1 Cherub is due for a day of running ALL the boring errands RIGHT BY MY SIDE, while #2 Cherub hasn’t been allowed condiments on her food for the better part of a week.  And let me tell you, by the time Friday rolls around? I have CAUGHT A VISION for just how sparkly clean this WHOLE HOUSE will be when they’re done scrubbing every corner. On their knees. With their tooth brushes.

(Okay not really. One kid will clean the bathroom and the other will clean the fridge. With normal rags and some Scrubbing Bubbles. But IN MY HEAD? It’s knees & toothbrushes.)

Guys, this is SUPER FUN.

To be honest, I don’t care all that much that they hate me a bit. That’s pretty normal. But you know how every parent has their thing that MUST be instilled in their kids? For me, it’s respectful behavior. I don’t care if the kids are academic all-stars, but their report card had better have the “A pleasure to have in class” column checked off for every class. And that needs to be shown at home, too.

The good news is that as much as the kids sometimes loathe me, their new Dad likes me a lot! And they like their new Dad. So there’s a limit to how far the nasty I-hate-you-ness can go before the tallest member of the family intervenes to suggest that they’re being little jerks and should adjust their attitudes if they don’t want Mom toss their underwear into the backyard and revert to her pre-cherub meal rotation of nothing but chicken, rice, Cheerios, and baloney sandwiches.

Potential adoptive Moms: get super-sure in the knowledge that YOU like YOU before you dive into this. Because there may be some long afternoons when you’re the only one in the house who feels that way :)

On the flip side, we’re shoulder-deep in the existential question, Do You See Me? The kids need to know that I am aware of them ALL THE TIME. This is, I think, more adoption related than the traditional developmental stuff. This is sorting out questions of Will the adults take care of me? Do I matter? Do I even exist if no one is paying attention? So from the minute they open the car door at school pickup, they are checking in:

Did you hear me slam the door? Did you see me almost catch my finger in the window? Did you notice that my feet smell bad from gym class today? Did you see that I had my healthy snack before my unhealthy snack? Did you see that I put extra cheese on the chips? Were you wondering why I used a yellow hair elastic instead of the pink one I used yesterday? Did you see me slam into the couch (after landing six inches away from me)? Did you hear me yelling plays as we played football outside? Did you see me making mud art on the street with my bike?

From 2:15 until bedtime.

I have become excellent at being present and predictable for these hours. At responding to the 17th of 193 check ins with (almost) equal certainty & enthusiasm. I am coming to terms with the fact that no quality writing/blogging/sermon prep/thinking will ever get done during these hours, so I need to suck it up and learn to like board games, make-your-own-ice-cream projects, and leading my kids in workout time at the Y.

I don’t naturally like any of these things, so pray for me.

The good news in all of this is that the kids are incredible PEOPLE. That’s the part I love about parenting: seeing them become who they are, hearing their unique perspective on things, watching them handle a situation with ease that would have baffled them just a few weeks ago. I love transformation and growth, which makes adoption an incredible thing to be part of because it’s a bigger, messier, more jazz-hands-y process than even the usual cyclone of human development.

That’s probably the best title for this season of our life as a new family: we’re in the cyclone of human development.

Fortunately, this has been happening for centuries without parents ever getting it anything close to “right.” I’m trusting in that.

One other happy note: Remember the “Children Waiting for Adoption” photo binder I told you about in the Road to Adoption #9? Our church is getting a copy of that book!!! I am so excited about this, I could cry. From now on, Greenhouse Mission Vineyard will be one of the places were people can learn about children waiting to be placed in families. It’s a much more extensive collection than the online listing, and somehow the 3-D ness of it makes the whole thing more tangible and real.  The pastor who coordinates faith-based initiatives for MARE is coming on Sunday to deliver it, at which time I will try to stop hugging the binder for long enough for others to check it out :)