Parenting

A Million Truths

Not long ago I faced a situation with one of the boys where it became necessary to divulge information about his mother.  I often have to try to ‘nice up’ certain things that aren’t very nice.  I never speak ill of her, despite the difficult relationship we had.  I try to present things in a way that ‘teach’ rather than slander.  There is not now, nor will there ever be a good reason to vilify his mother to him.

I’ve been chastised, here on my blog, for saying things that appeared ‘negative’ about his mom.  Taking ‘cheap shots’ at her.  I’ve re-read my words, and know my intent when I wrote them, and they were not presented nor were they meant as a ‘cheap shot.’  Long after I write them, they may be read by her son, and I try to be mindful of that and write compassionately and considerately.  It will be hard enough to have him learn things about his mother’s life as he grows.  I don’t ever want to be his enemy in terms of him having a ‘safe place’ to come to and express whatever he feels about what he learns, good or bad.

Yesterday he yelled at me for ‘lying to him’ about something regarding his mother.  He obviously remembers the talk we had not long ago, and when faced with something that contradicted what he was told, his interpretation of it was that he had been lied to, by me.  I told him that I didn’t lie to him, and I’m sorry he feels that I did, but what I told him was true.

As I get older, I learn (the hard way) that there is never really one ‘truth’ when it comes to people and the relationships we have with them.  There are a million truths.  They are all just as real and valid as anyone else’s.  I have my truths about my childhood, about my siblings, about my parents, about myself.  Some are pleasant, some are painful.  They are all just ‘my truths’.

My truth about her, about my relationship with her, is not easy to talk about, nor to put behind me. My relationship with her was nonexistent for many years until he came along. But once he was here, no matter what our past was, no matter how challenging it was to see her living the life she lead and the impact on all of us that tried for years to help her to no avail, no matter what was thrown at me, I kept taking it in, taking it on, and trying to rise above it. I never did it for me. I did it for him.  I did it because I loved him from the first moment I held him in my arms when he was just days old.  So many times I wanted to just walk away from it.  So many times I sat in a corner in a darkened room and put my head in my hands and cried and cursed and felt completely and utterly defeated and at a loss to know how to get through even that moment and go on. People I know asked me why I didn’t do just that…walk away.  The only answer I could come up with was that I would be walking away from him, and no matter what I wasn’t willing to do that.  I made a commitment to him….a lifelong commitment….to do whatever I could to protect him, to help him, and to be there for him, and that was something I wouldn’t walk away from, no matter how difficult things got.

And things were difficult. They were very difficult. There were nights I laid awake hour after hour more frightened than I’d ever been in my life; frightened because I could take care of myself but I couldn’t do anything about this fear, the fear for the safety of someone else. I couldn’t do anything but feel it, day in and day out, with no relief. There were times when my mind went to places darker than I ever knew existed there.  There were times, when I had to abide by the rules and regulations of state agencies and try to navigate and understand a very broken system, and when ‘the law’ worked against the best interests of an innocent child and I felt angry enough that I wanted to hit someone again and again until they felt as badly as I felt. There were moments when I knew, for the first time in my life, how anyone could ever consider taking a child and simply ‘disappearing’ with them.  There were moments when no matter what I learned in my life about right and wrong….no matter what ‘moral code’ I try to live by…I no longer cared.  I just wanted the fear and the hurt to stop, and let my mind contemplate all the ways I could possibly make that happen.

But I didn’t do any of them. I did what I was expected to do.  I buried the fear as deeply as I could and all the dark thoughts I had and just continued on day in and day out, scared and defeated and desperate.

That was my truth. That was what I felt and how I lived for five years.

No matter what, though; that was not his truth.

His truth about his mom was that he loved her and she loved him.  Some might say that’s all he ‘needs’ to know….but others, professionals I have spoken with, have said differently.  They agree that it’s important to separate my relationship with her, and my ‘truths’ about that relationship, from how I relate things to him about his mom and about her life.  I suppose in that respect it’s beneficial that I’m not a vindictive person.  I don’t want my truth to become his truth about her.  I don’t want him to ever lose sight of the fact that she loved him, and that he was the brightest light in her life…something she waited a very long time to have and to be. She fought to keep him, tooth and nail, no matter what the obstacles were. He was her reason for getting up in the morning and ‘going on’ up until the day she died.

His truth is that he has never known his biological father except for a few days several years ago when he got to meet him.  His truth is that no matter what his mom was his mom. His truth is that at age six he had to be sat down and told that his mom had died.  His truth is that he has only a few photos of her and only a few years of memories of her to last his entire lifetime. His truth is that he still doesn’t understand how this happened and why she left and can’t ever come back.  His truth is that he misses her, every moment of every day…whether he’s smiling and laughing and having more fun than he ever thought possible.  He still misses her, and always will.

There is a picture of the two of them in my living room.  I put it there when the time felt ‘right’ and that to see it would be more helpful than ‘harmful’ to him.  He may not think I notice how often he looks at it….how often he puts a small finger on the frame or the picture, and lets it linger there for just a moment, and the look that washes over his youthful face that says ‘No matter what I become or achieve in life, no matter what I ever have or earn or win…no matter what anyone ever hands to me…..I will always be missing you.’  He may not think I see this, but I do.

There is no one truth in any situation when it comes to our lives and our minds and our hearts. We all have our own truths. We all have a million truths about our own lives. We all have our memories and experiences that shape and form those truths for us, and no matter what anyone says most times we still cling to them and hold on for dear life until the day we stop breathing, because sometimes it’s the only thing we have, and we refuse to let go because someone else’s truth, perhaps not as nice as our own, may be more than we can handle.

My truth is just that: my truth. It’s about pain, and anger, and humiliation, and a thousand other negative emotions. But it’s mine, and mine alone.

His truth is something very different.  His truth is about love, about loss, and about finding a place in a world that has tossed him some tough curves pretty early on.  His truth is that he misses her.  His truth is that he loved her.

Who am I to contradict it?

 

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Parenting

The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Fathers Of Children With ADHD

Sometimes I forget that the person in my life the most adept at driving me crazy….is myself.

This is April vacation week for my kids. A whole week off from school.  I remember these days fondly as a child, when the days were footloose and fancy-free…..when I could wake up ‘whenever’…wear ‘whatever’….and there were far fewer restrictions or obligations than there were when school was in session.

My family didn’t plan elaborate vacations or excursions. My parents liked to go camping, but December, February, and April camping were, growing up in Maine, about as enticing a thought as erecting a sweat lodge in Tampa in July.  Therefore, I contented myself with exploring the woods behind my house, looking for pollywogs and other wildlife in the brook that trickled and meandered down behind the row of houses on my street, imagining I was fleeing hostile natives in the jungles of Peru, or running through the field across the street from where I grew up, singing ‘The hills are alive….with the sound of music’.

Yes, I really did that.

I looked, last week, for things I could do with the kids this week based upon some pretty easy to meet criteria:

-It had to be free (or in reality cost no more than the gas used to drive somewhere)

-It had to be relatively local

-It had to be somewhere ‘out of the ordinary’ so that every soccer mom and their brood was not standing in line for hours ahead of me waiting to get in.

I came up with a pretty decent list of destinations that would afford hiking easy trails, picnic lunches, and some historical sites of significance in the greater Boston area.  I patted myself on the back for my ingenuity and cleverness at finding wide-open spaces and boring old monuments where soccer moms feared to tread.  I eagerly awaited Monday morning’s arrival to awaken, dress my cherubs, pack up lunches, and begin our week-long itinerary. I had but one request for them…pick up your playroom and your bedroom before we go.  It had morphed into something akin to a tornado-stricken town in the midwest or a war-torn third world village, and really needed some attention.  This shouldn’t take, in my estimation, more than perhaps an hour for my cherubs to accomplish, and then the world, or at least that portion of it that lies within a ten mile radius of home, was their oyster!

And then reality came up to me and went toe-to-toe and slapped me straight in the kisser with an ‘OH NO I DON’T THINK SO!’

I suppose I forgot that sometimes asking my two to ‘work together’ is like putting a rabid skunk and a barking dog in a small cage and saying ‘Can’t we all just get along?’  I suppose I forgot that ‘cleaning up’ when you are seven and eight means ‘shove it under the bed or in a closet or just pile it up and say “I’m done!”‘ I suppose I forgot for a moment that an ‘hour long’ task, when you have an impaired attention span, or are prone to meltdowns over even slight provocations, then becomes a day and a half long chore instead.

I suppose I forgot, for a day, my own words in my last non-literary themed post about raising the children you have rather than the ones you want them to be.

Day one of vacation, despite my carefully and thoughtfully mapped out itinerary was a complete bust. I formulated a new plan to either remove toys from the house and start over with a blank slate, or leave the mess there, and bid a fond farewell to the upstairs in my house, pretending it didn’t exist any longer….that it was just a rumored, fabled Shangri-La never to be seen by my eyes.

I didn’t actually do either of these things.  Instead, I gassed up, hopped behind the wheel, turned the key in the ignition, and proceeded to drive myself crazy, and most likely my attention challenged children in the process.

I really need to work on being able to simply walk away from non essential things and realize that not everything happens in my time frame. I really need to work on being able to change direction more abruptly rather than entering into a downward spiral of frustration that ends with my face being screwed up into a replica of a cat’s butt, certain that there is steam pouring out of my ears and my face is redder than the ink in a bankrupt company’s accounting ledger.

Mea culpa.  I am a dad who keeps having to learn from my kids as much as I try to teach them.

Day two of vacation began essentially the same as day one.  Multiple trips up and down the stairs to tattle on one another, or inquire about why squirrels like to run along fences, or ask the time (despite the digital clock upstairs), and very little cleaning.  The dark stratus cloud of ADHD distraction hovered ever closer to my second story and threatened to drop a ‘metric f*ck ton’ (as my brother in law would say) of rain upon us all.

And then, lo and behold, a speck of light shone through, and something took hold of the children’s minds and whispered into their cerebral cortex and said, ‘Hey, this upstairs, the one your dad is pretending is no longer there, is kind of boring compared to the outside.  This mess on the floor? You can kick its butt in no time.  There are two rooms that need cleaning. There are two kids.  Maybe if we split up and do our own thing, we can actually get this done, and then have the rest of the day to have some fun! Seems like Dad was talking about having fun this week…..what’s the holdup? LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!’

I have, for the moment, stopped denying that my house has a second floor. I have proof that it exists now because I went up there and can actually SEE the floor.  My two kids have a sense of accomplishment that I have gushed over their efforts in achieving.  It’s not spotless….it likely won’t last…..but you know what? They did it. Before noon on day two.

So now….while they spend a little time playing baseball in the back yard so Daddy can blog a bit and then pack up a quick picnic lunch and take them to the Bunker Hill monument with North Point Park playground as a backup plan in case the monument is just not cool enough for them….the itinerary begins….at least for today.

The boys have earned some fun.

And Daddy has learned to take his itinerary and shove it….in the trash can.  He needs to raise the kids he has, not the ones he wants them to be….or tries to plan out activities for. I can’t say there can be no structure, but sometimes you just have to make up the structure on the fly.

The best laid plans of mice and fathers of children with ADHD….are sometimes the ones you just allow to happen.

 

 

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Reading

Drood, by Dan Simmons

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Another of my favorite reads from the past few years; Drood, by Dan Simmons.

Below is the review I posted on Amazon. This was one of those books that, despite it being a lengthy work, I wish it had gone on and on and on…..

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Having recently read ‘The Terror’ and having been completely WOWED by author Dan Simmons with that novel, I doubted that he could wow me any further…and I am happy to have been proven wrong.

‘Drood’, based upon the final years in the life of Charles Dickens; one of my favorite authors, as narrated by Wilkie Collins; one of my OTHER favorite authors, and weaving a story surrounding the (fictional) circumstances that led Dickens to begin his non-completed last novel, ‘The Mystery Of Edwin Drood’, is nothing short of spectacular.

Dickens, who appears here as an intelligent, capable, and engaging person as well as author, and Collins, while on Dickens’ short list of preferred conversational, travel, and holiday companions and contemporaries, are well-realized, well-drawn, and well-detailed characters. In presenting the final days of Dickens, while still riding a wave of literary success, and Collins writing what were to become his most well-known and remembered works, the personality, imagination, and quirks of both authors are eminently visible in the pastiche of the real men created by Dan Simmons. Dickens, who appears here as an intelligent, capable, and engaging person as well as author, is every bit as ‘private’ about his romantic entanglements and ‘exacting’ about his work and literary readings as he is purported to be. Collins, an author of lesser fame, comes across as a friend to Dickens, but also as a bit of a rival to the more successful of the two men, even if they frequently collaborated on ideas, and actual works, as is (factually) detailed in the book. While Wilkie Collins never quite reached the apex of popularity that Dickens did, he enjoys his own successes here with the publications of ‘The Woman In White’, ‘Armadale’, ‘The Moonstone’, and ‘Man and Wife’, all the while battling the rheumatic gout with the aide of large doses of opium (laudanum) and morphine….and suffering the reality-altering affects of those drugs.

To give a bit of the story here, (without giving too much away) Dickens; ever the prolific novelist and playwright, finds himself caught in a railway car accident that changes the last years of his life as he meets the inspiration for what is his final novel, the character of Drood. At once a shadowy, serpentine presence, this Drood is himself as much as mystery as the tale concocted by Dickens. Wilkie Collins is taken into Dickens’ confidence about the ‘creature’ and is drawn into a complex maze of dark rituals, nocturnal underworld wanderings, and the overindulgence of opium.

Author Simmons, on his website, talks about the lack of interest in ‘long’ novels any longer…which saddens a reader such as myself who eagerly anticipates finding novels of this length, quality, and complexity that are able to hold the interest of a reader for nearly 800 pages. Equal in length to many of the works of Dickens himself; this book, with discarded sub-plots and lesser characters a-plenty, is every bit as entertaining and enjoyable as any of Dickens’ novels that I have read.

Perhaps it’s my love of the works of Dickens and Collins in general. Perhaps it’s my love of a dark mysteries shrouded in Victoriana. Or perhaps it’s just because this is a crackerjack of a read….but ‘Drood’, the latest offering by Dan Simmons is, to me, the stuff that legendary novels are made of…perhaps this will be the ‘magnum opus’ of Mr. Simmons…or perhaps there is something even more wondrous to come in his future works…..either way, ‘Drood’ is an astonishing and eminently praise-worthy accomplishment for ‘the inimitable’ Mr. Simmons.

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Reading

The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle, or, Hamlet Retold

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Today while my kids were playing a computer game at the library, I browsed through their used books for sale section to see if anything of interest to me had landed on the shelves since my last visit. I’m always on the lookout for a good book, even if I don’t get to it for a while. This one caught my eye. I’ve already read this book, back in 2009.  It’s truly one of my favorite reads ever.  An excellent modern tale loosely based upon ‘Hamlet’. Below is the review I posted on amazon after reading the book a few years back. I still recommend this book to people to this day, even if you’re not a fan of Shakespeare and couldn’t care less who Hamlet is.  :0) ——————————————————————————————–  “You are time, you breathe time.”

Many times over the years I have found ‘re-imaginings’ and ‘re-interpretations’ of Shakespeare’s works…’1000 Acres’ follows the basic plot of King Lear; ’10 Things I Hate About You’ is a reworking/modernization of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, etc. Here, first time author David Wroblewski has taken ‘The Tragedy of Hamlet’ as the foundation for his debut novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

Wroblewski cleverly hints at where he found inspiration for his story – Characters ‘Claude’ and ‘Trudy’ are the modern day counterparts of ‘Claudius’ and ‘Gertrude’, Hamlet’s Uncle/Stepfather and Mother…the tale of betrayal, murder, and the desire for revenge…the visitation of ghosts upon the protagonist…all the traditional elements of the story are cleverly woven into Wroblewski’s plot.

However….this book is also very much its own ‘animal’ in the respect that it’s also a tale of mute boy who learns to express himself through his work in the family dog-breeding business. Edgar Sawtelle, though not able to communicate with spoken word, overcomes his ‘disability’ and learns to speak to the dogs without words and communicate to them commands and lessons as he helps to train them for sale. Those who know the basic premise of ‘Hamlet’ would not be spoiled by a more indepth review of this book.

Those not familiar with Hamlet, of course, would be missing out on some well-written and emotional scenes to know them ahead of time. Therefore, I won’t spoil the plot further. Suffice to say that while this book will always invite comparisons to Shakespeare’s tragedy, it is that and a lot more. A worthy read, even for those a bit daunted by the near 600 page length. The story of Edgar Sawtelle is well worth the read. Highly recommended.

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Parenting

Raise The Child You Have, Not The One You Want Them To Be

When you’re a parent, you learn some very cliched phrases as people attempt to give you advice on how to go about bringing up a happy, successful, thriving child.  Everyone has advice and they are very happy to offer it, solicited or not.  When you’re a parent, you learn to take it with a grain of salt…or perhaps a whole bucket of salt, depending on how persistent the person offering the advice is.

It seems important, at least to me, to also look for the ‘gems’ of advice you can find about raising kids and put them to good, practical use.   Even though you might feel inundated with other peoples’ thoughts on ‘how you should bring your kids up’, hopefully it doesn’t desensitize you to the good advice that is out there.

One of my favorite ‘sayings’ about parenting is ‘raise the child you have, not the one you want them to be’.  It’s some of the best advice I’ve ever heard, and something I keep repeating to myself over and over again with my two kids.

When I used to daydream, years ago, about being a dad, I pictured myself with a certain type of child. That’s not to say that I don’t necessarily have that with my kids, because I do, but not really in the way I pictured it.

My two boys can be both as alike as ‘twins’ and as different as night and day.  They are both very bright, funny, charming kids. They both have great vocabularies. One displays more prowess with physical feats; while the other displays more introspection and creativity.  One is very demonstrative of affection, the other is more guarded and reserved.  One can fall down and pick himself right back up again, while the other typically falls apart as a result of a minor tumble.  One needs to be the leader of the pack, the other is content with following someone else’s lead.  Night and Day.

As a parent, I don’t feel it’s my job to ‘change’ any of this.  One of my boys used to say that pink was his favorite color. A co-worker of mine asked me once if that ‘worried me’ about him. I asked why it would or should worry me? Pink is a color. There’s no such thing as ‘girl colors’ or ‘boy colors’, there are colors…and pink was his favorite. He was four at the time.  Why would I wish to impose a gender stereotype on him at that, or really any, age and take away something that gave him pleasure just to appease some misguided sense of ‘faulty masculinity’ when he’s four?

I was raised by a parent who has a hard time fathoming how she could raise three children ‘the same’ and yet have them all turn out so differently.  The answer is simple (though it still escapes her). We are all different people.  We all have our own filters and emotional processing systems that gather and interpret information and prompts us to react accordingly.   Even identical twins can respond differently to situations.  As a parent you can dispense all the ‘advice’ and ‘guidance’ you wish, but if you examine it, you are simply using the knowledge and learning you acquired in your upbringing and how you processed it and interpreted it to guide you. It’s not necessarily a conscious choice we make, it’s simply second nature.

All too often, it can also be overwhelmingly baffling as to why, if we as parents ‘ask for and expect’ something, we just don’t get it. It’s not just adherence to rules or schedules that I’m talking about, it’s beliefs, values, and behaviors.  Why do our children do things that are completely contrary to what we think, or teach them to do?

That answer, also, seems relatively simple. They are not us.  They are a product of us, either born from our creation or brought into our home via various methods, and of course they will absorb experiences as they go along, but we do, after all, have those experiences so much more ingrained in our personalities….we are veterans of our histories and upbringing. They are novices….absolute beginners.  We can take a lump of clay, metaphorically, and push and pinch it into any shape we desire.  There will always be outside forces and elements that will alter our creation.  They will also take the exposure they receive to those forces and elements and interpret their own beliefs from it, no matter what we try to instill in them.

One of the most cliched sayings I’ve heard over time is ‘children are like sponges’….they absorb so much……and while this is a true statement, even sponges eventually produce an output.  In order to truly understand your child, it’s seems, at least to me, as important to examine and try to understand that output, no matter how meticulous you think you are in what they have absorbed.

There are so many things you can choose for your child.  What they wear, what they eat, what they watch on t.v., what they read, etc. But in the end, you cannot choose who they are at their very core.  You may go into parenting determined that you are going to raise a doctor, or a lawyer, and in the end you wind up with an Indian Chief, no matter how hard you tried for the former.   I believe, and this is really just my belief; that it’s not my job as a parent to try to influence, goad, or cajole them into being anything other than the best Indian Chief they possibly can be, and be happy with that choice.

At times it’s hard to constantly change gears between the kids when they are being ‘night and day’…to know how to react and respond accordingly in a meaningful way based upon their personality. True, I’m the parent. I make the rules and set the standard. There are some regulations they do have to abide by.  But more importantly, it’s up to me, as their parent, to celebrate who they are and prompt them to be successful in life in whatever way works for them.

One day they’ll be living with their own rules and regulations.  One day they’ll find that no matter what I tried to teach them or convince them of over time, they feel differently than I do, or they took a different life-lesson than I intended to pass on to them.  They have a long adult life ahead of them.  They need to know that it’s okay to think differently than I did, or believe something other than I tried to teach them.  They also need to know how to be okay with that; with being someone other than I perhaps raised them to be.

They need to be okay with being themselves.

It’s up to me to show them how, by example, in raising the children I have….and letting them know that if they are happy, if they are okay with who they are, then that’s all I really ever want them to be.  The only children, and eventually adults, that I ‘want’ them to be is exactly who they are.

In the long run, we’ll all have won.

 

 

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Reading

The Key, by Simon Toyne – April 10th, 2014

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I am always on the lookout for a ‘series’ of books to follow, or at the very least a trilogy, and hopefully a good one.

My literary interests are the following:

1. Classics (Dickens, Dumas, Tolstoy, Wilkie Collins, Dostoevsky, etc.)

2. Good historical fiction (Sharon Kay Penman, Jack Whyte, Bernard Cornwell, and Ken Follett are top picks for me)

3. Well-written ‘dramedy’ (John Irving excels at this, as does Jack Kerouac)

4. Mysteries/thrillers that involve ancient relics, artifacts, and religion or Angels and even demons/spirits and ancient brotherhoods/organizations. (favorites are James Rollins, Steve Berry, and Raymond Khoury).

Right now I’m reading from category 4.

The book I’ve chosen is ‘The Key’ by Simon Toyne. It’s the second book in the ‘Ruin Triology’, following Sanctus, which I read a couple of years ago. The third and final part of the trilogy, The Tower, has also been released in the interim.  I’ve just now delved into ‘The Key’ and am now well into it. It picks up days after the end of the first book, and continues on the same tale about a mountain cathedral in Ruin, Turkey and the ‘mysterious’ secret that the monks inside are desperate to keep. Having read the first book, I know what that secret is, but won’t spoil it for anyone else.

The flap description is as follows:

Hunted. Hounded. Haunted. She is the most important person in the world. She is the key Journalist Liv Adamsen has escaped from the secretive Citadel in the ancient city of Ruin and now lies in isolation, staring at hospital walls as blank as her memory. Despite her inability to recall her past, something strange is stirring within her. She feels possessed by a sensation she can’t name and plagued by whispers only she can hear: “KuShiKaam,” the key. At the center of events that defy explanation and hunted by someone she believes is trying to kill her, Liv turns to the only person she can trust—a foundation worker named Gabriel Mann. Together they must elude capture and journey to the place where all life began. From New York to Rome to the deserts of the Middle East, worlds collide in a race to uncover a revelation dating from the creation of man in this electrifying follow-up to the international bestseller Sanctus.

Critics have called the author the ‘new Dan Brown’ – I have to say, having read three of Brown’s books, Simon Toyne is a FAR more capable writer. The story is more engaging, the characters more ‘real’ and well-developed, and the action better paced and better fleshed out.  If you like Dan Brown, I dare say you’ll LOVE Simon Toyne. Hopefully the remainder of this book and the third and final part of the trilogy live up to the expectation set by the first. If you haven’t read Sanctus yet, give it a try. I was not at all disappointed, and thus far have zero complaints about the sophomore novel in the story.

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Parenting

Speaking Of Adoption

When I was a boy I used to listen, often, to a song that I loved….Cat Stevens’ ‘Father And Son.’  It meant something different to me at the time than it does now.  I suppose that’s the natural progression of time and growing. Back then it meant, for me, things that were missing in my relationship with my own father.  We were never close. He made many choices I didn’t understand, and didn’t try to explain them to me, and I didn’t know the questions to ask to try to understand things better. He was quiet, unexpressive. I am, to a large degree, very similar. I keep trying to recall what that felt like to me as a child and not replicate it.

My dad and I get along fine now that I am in my forties and he in his eighties.  We’ve expressed things we needed to say to one another while there was still time, and said our sorrys to one another.  It’s never too late to heal, I think.  I’ve healed with my dad.  I know many of the answers that I wanted to know ‘back when’. The others, well….I suppose I’ve forgotten what the questions were in the first place, or they simply no longer matter to me.

I am the youngest of three. My brother and sister were both adopted before I came along.  My sister found out that she was adopted on a school bus on her way to kindergarten when another child saw her wave to our mother, and said ‘That’s not your real mother, you know…you’re adopted.’  She carried a great deal of hurt, anxiety, and pain about being adopted.  It was something she had a great many questions about, and something she didn’t get many answers for.  It was something that plagued her most of her life.

My mother only could or was willing to answer just so much for her when she was growing up.  I suppose after years of threats being made to ‘go find her real family’….my mother feared saying much at all. Eventually my sister found, a few years before her death, that she had four biological siblings.  She also found that her biological mother had passed away about eight years prior to that.  She never met her biological father.  She got ‘some’ closure about the circumstances of her birth and adoption, but not enough, really, to satisfy more than 40 years of questions.

I have an adopted son.  There’s really, when you look at our family construct, no way to get around him knowing that he didn’t ‘come to us in the usual way’….and I’ve never made any effort to downplay his adoption at all.  I’ve been as up-front (age appropriately) as I can about it, and about the things I know of his biological mother and other family members.  As he gets older the questions have far more depth, and I am certain this will continue. I do know the ‘why’ of him being placed for adoption.  When he’s old enough, I can tell him that.  I can’t guarantee it will ‘help’ him.  I only hope I’ve given him enough ‘strength’ in life, and belief in and love of himself to hear the answer at the time.

The other night he asked me if I ever fought with my brother, or with my sister, when I was a kid.  I told him that my brother and I didn’t really fight much when we were kids, even if we weren’t all that close, but that I did fight with my sister.  He asked if she was mad at me because she was adopted and I wasn’t.  He knows that I am, although the youngest, a biological child and my siblings were both adopted. He’s overheard something along these lines between grown ups being said.  I decided that, rather than delve into the psyche of my sister, it was better to talk about ‘him’, and try to answer some of his questions, and I asked him how he felt about being adopted.

‘Happy.’ he said.

‘Not sad about anything?’ I asked.

‘No. I think about my mom a lot, but my family loves me, so that makes me happy.’

‘Good. And yes, this family loves you, very much.’

‘Did my mom give me away?’

‘Nope, she realized that she couldn’t keep you safe or give you all the things you should have in life, like a good home, and food, and clothes, and toys.  A judge said that it was better for you to live with an adoptive family, so she could always be sure you were with someone who could do those things for you and give you the things you deserve….the things that every kid deserves.’

‘Good. I want to be safe and have a nice home to live in. I’m glad she did that for me.’

I told him how glad I was to hear that.  He’s asked me before if his mom loved him, and I’ve answered, honestly, that I have never met his mom and therefore cannot speak for her or how she feels, but that I know I love him…that this family loves him.  I’ve told him that when he’s a little older, if he wants to try to meet his mom, to find her, I’ll try to help him all I can.

I also told him, the other night, that if he ever does feel sad about it, he can come talk to me all he wants. I told him I know that as he gets older, he may have questions about his mom, or other people in his birth family, and as much as I am able to answer him, I will.  I also told him that no matter what he should never think that to talk about them or ask about them will make me upset or sad, because I know it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me, it’s just that he wants to know about them too, which is okay.

I know from growing up with someone who was adopted that there can be so many conflicted feelings that arise about being ‘unwanted’, about being ‘given up’…and in some cases why someone couldn’t conquer whatever demons they faced or circumstances they were in to take care of their child.  I know that you can try to do ‘things’ for your child to make them feel loved, or give them everything they ask for, or at the very least to show them the things they DO have, or DID have as a result of being adopted, and there’s always going to be an empty place there for some of them.

I listened to ‘Father and Son’ by Cat Stevens this afternoon again.  It’s what inspired me to write this post.  There’s so much to the words. It’s a ‘statement’ from the perspective of both, the father and the son. The lyrics are very poignant.

Father
It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to know.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy,
To be calm when you’ve found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you’ve got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.

Son
How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It’s always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

Father
It’s not time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to go through.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.
Son
All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them They know not me.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

I have, since I first encountered this song, gone from being the son to being the father.  I know that now it’s up to me to be the one who gives the answers instead of asking the questions. I am also an adoptive father.  I don’t, and can’t, know all the answers, but then again I don’t know all the questions my son might have, especially about being adopted. I can guess at many of them, I suppose. I’ve seen that side of what it’s like to be adopted.  I will never know what it ‘feels’ like.  Hopefully he can tell me that, at least from his perspective.

Childhood is such a challenging time. It’s like a constant assault of new information and experiences and feelings day after day.  People tell you where to go, what to do, what to eat, when to go to bed, when to get up, what to wear….everything.  There are a million questions you try to ask, and so often the answer is ‘just because’, or ‘because I said so.’  It doesn’t mean we aren’t listening, or don’t care. It means that sometimes adults just don’t know what the answer is.  We don’t know everything.  We try. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail.  I try, as much as I can, to recall what it felt like to hear a non-answer to my question when I was young, and not do the same with my kids.  Especially about my son’s adoption.  I’ve also seen what getting no answers can do to an adopted child.

One day, like the ‘son’ in the song above, he’ll have to go his own way…..he’ll have to take the information I can give him, and the help I can give him, and make his own decision about what he does with it.  I don’t know, then, what he will find.  Perhaps great happiness and comfort…..perhaps great sorrow.  I just don’t know.

I do know that I’ll be here waiting and either support it if it’s good, or help him try to understand it if it’s not.  No matter what he finds out about the family that he was born into and what becomes/became of them. They are part of him, and he is part of them, and nothing will ever change that.  It’s not up to me to try to change that, or ignore it, or sugarcoat it.  It’s up to me to love him, raise him, and teach him the skills to cope with whatever he does find out about his birth family.

That’s my job.

I’m his father.

 

 

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