September 23, 2013

I'm Not Stealing My Own Joy This Time Around

Years ago I went to see this therapist.  If you've been reading here since the beginning, you may remember this as the therapist that I went to see where I sweated through my spanx and then puked in the parking lot.  It was a super good time that day at therapy.

There was one thing that I took away from that session though.  As I was telling this therapist about how we unexpectedly had Sadie approximately six minutes after saying "I do" and how Noah screamed for the first two years of his life and how Miles was supposed to be a little baby when we adopted him and then he was really 2 years old with all kinds of issues she said to me, "Megan, it seems to me that you've never had a positive birth experience."

I had never thought about it before.  Every time we had a child or added a child into our family, I felt blindsided.  I internalized this as simply being my inability to cope well with change and being easily overwhelmed.  But the more years that have passed since that therapy session, the more that I realize how each time a child came into our family, my expectations and the realities never matched up- and that was something that I could change.

When Sadie was born I was young and stupid and broke.  And raising a child (even though she was an angel baby) was not a situation I expected myself to be in when I was 22.  Everyone else I knew was starting these exciting careers and taking weekend trips with their boyfriends and I was sitting at home with a baby stuck to my boob watching infomercials all night because we couldn't afford cable.  I don't even think that I was self aware enough then to realize that I was having an identity crisis.  But I just couldn't figure out what life was supposed to look like.

Then Noah came along.  We tried to get pregnant for a while and after having one baby already, I thought that I knew everything.  I thought that this baby was going to be just like the first and sleep and eat just like Sadie did and I would know just how to be the perfect mom this time around!  Boy, was I wrong!  No one told me that all kids are different and those schedules the books tell you to go by go right out the window when your child has special needs.

And then we decided to adopt a baby.  And sweet, tiny, little Miles that we had a referral picture for was supposed to be around 9 months old when I went to Africa to pick him up.  And then I got there and he had all of his teeth and he could run and he was so much older than I thought and I tried frantically to shift my mental picture of what life was supposed to be like and I just couldn't make my brain make the shift.  He had a whole lot of problems- emotionally and physically.  It seemed at the time like no one else's children who were coming home had the same kind of problems that Miles was having and to be honest, I felt jipped.  I felt like I was robbed of his infancy.  And I felt like I couldn't figure out how to grieve for that without seeming ungrateful that I had this beautiful little boy.

And looking back, I see how each time, my own expectations (of the situation and of myself) robbed me of so much joy during what was supposed to be a special time in each of my kids' lives.  It hurts to realized that you've robbed your own joy.

But this time?  This time I got a do over.  Maya Angelou once said, "When you know better, do better."  So when Scarlett joined our family I wasn't going to let myself steal my own joy with my unrealistic expectations of her or of myself or anyone else.  To be honest, I expected this child to do nothing.  To love no one.  To hate everything.  And to wreck everything.  I decided that instead of aiming high for how this was going to go, I wasn't going to aim at all.  In essence, I decided we were going to pee all over the wall with this one.

And much to my surprise, she has exceeded everything.  I took Scarlett to therapy last week and the therapist said, "We can totally just cut back to once a month.  I don't really even think you need me."  After having Miles in therapy twice a week for almost 18 months, taking a child who was much older and who has been through a disruption and needing therapy only once a month floored me.  Bonus.

She completes our family in some of the strangest ways.  After years of having no one in our house who liked the individual packs of Cool Ranch Doritos in the variety pack- those are Scarlett's very favorite ones.  The chips all come out even now.  Bonus.  I'm not sure that in my previous high expectation world that I lived in that I'd have even taken the time to recognize something so seemingly insignificant as who likes what chips.

And with this one I realized early on that there was no point in grieving that I missed out on her first steps, words, lost tooth, first day of school, yada, yada, yada.  I don't know why, but I felt completely okay with that.  Bonus.  I do grieve for the losses in her life- not for me, but for her this time.  With Miles, I got it all wrong.

With my other kids, I felt like I expected a fairy tale.  It took me four tries, but I think that I've finally realized that raising children is not a fairy tale.  It's hard work.  It's rough some days.  The kids don't always get along.  And sometimes you screw it up.  And some days you don't want to do it. But the little moments make it all worth it.  I think that so many times I missed those moments because in my head they were supposed to be bigger, grander, more profound.  And because of those expectations, I missed out on so much.  Always thinking about what was "supposed to be" stole the joy in what was.

***

Every single time that I have to correct Scarlett or remind her of a rule in our house I tell her the exact same thing:  Even when you make mistakes, I'm still going to love you and I'm still going to be your mom forever.  If nothing else I ever say to her gets through- I wanted it to be that.  I wanted her to start to understand permanence.  And then the other day, I mixed up the kids lunches at school.  I put the wrong sandwich in the wrong lunchbox.  After school she came up to me and told me about my mix up.  She grabbed my hand and looked me square in the eye and said, "It's okay that you messed up.  I still love you and you're still going to be my mom." She wanted to reassure me that she wasn't giving up on me.  Never in my wildest dreams is this how I expected this to go.

And in that very moment, I realized how very few of the other things that I've always put such high expectations on with my kids matter.  In setting myself up to fail and always feeling like I was doing it wrong and stealing my own joy in mothering my kids- I was robbing myself of these moments- the moments where they show you that they get it.  That they get what all those teachable moments are about.  This is what matters.

I think that I'm just thick in the skull or maybe I just have too much of my mother's stubbornness in me.  But it took a six year old child who has been through the unimaginable to make me realize that as long as they still love me and know that I love them, that the rest is just fluff.

I'm not an expert on anything but my own story.  There were so many times when I wanted to strip away all the crap and this finally feels like the time that I'm actually making it happen.  I'm not letting myself steal my own joy.  I expected nothing and got everything in return.  I'm not one to sugar coat things- as if you couldn't tell by all the freak outs I had when we adopted Miles and during our foster care experience.  So this just all feels like a bonus.  I know it's going to be hard.  But I can do hard things.  Instead of fighting them or wishing that the hard things don't exist, we are just working through them and coming out stronger.

I stopped putting pressure on myself and those around me to make things and relationships perfect and for once in my life let those relationships grow at their own pace and in their own way.  It's what I wish I had done when we adopted Miles and how I wish that I had been fostering sibling relationships all along. Surprising things happened when I stopped trying to control it all.  It happened as it was supposed to happen and that was better than what I could have mapped out for how this was all supposed to go.  As a recovering control freak, I know that I'll slip up and screw this all up again in the future and that's okay.  But this fourth time around?  It's finally my positive birth story and it is so wonderful -flaws and all.  


Scarlett and I spent the morning one day making little movies about how awesome she is so that she can watch them if she's feeling insecure.  Most of them were of her filming me talking about all of her good qualities. Then I turned the camera on her for a few seconds and this one blew me away.  

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September 19, 2013

MEET OUR DAUGHTER!

We would like to introduce you to OUR DAUGHTER!!!!  That's right, we've adopted again!

Meet Scarlett!!!!


We stand in awe of how amazing and loving this child is.  Scarlett is 6 and has joined our family from a disrupted adoption.  She is such an incredible little girl.  Scarlett has been living with us for a while already.  Lest you feel like we've pulled one over on you- we had to wait until certain consents and legal mumbo jumbo were all signed before we could make an announcement.  Believe me- I wanted to shout this news from the rooftops a LOOOOOONG time ago. 

Our kids are all adjusting so well.  We can say without a doubt that we are no longer honeymooning- however, we were made for this child.  Her needs and our strengths line up like magic.  And we are overjoyed at the privilege to parent and help heal this little miracle.   

Scarlett is dainty and girly.  She is so gentle in spirit and feels deeply.  She loves pop tarts, beans, jumping on the trampoline, playing with dolls and school.  She has the most adorable little accent as she has only been in the US for about 18 months. She likes horses and reading and snuggling.  And Miles.  Oh she loves Miles with reckless abandon.  I think that these two were always meant to be brother and sister.   They make each other so genuinely happy.  Every time I think of how they came from such brokeness- it wrecks me to watch them complete each other like they do.  

  My Congo Kids.  Kids.  Plural.  With an "s".  How did I get so lucky in this life?

And the fearsome foursome?  Ahh, there is love 87.3% of the time.  The rest of the time someone is touching someone else that doesn't want to be touched or taking someone's turn on the iPad without asking.  Such is life.  But seriously?  Are these not the most gorgeous children ever?  I know that I'm biased- but I don't think I could have genetically made cuter ones in a custom kid making lab.



While I've been relatively quiet on this blog lately for fear of spilling the biggest secret ever- our lives have been full.  Not necessarily busy- just full of getting to know one another and comforting and teaching and loving and growing and trying to instill a sense of self worth in our girl.  Disruptions are hard- for the child, for the first family, for the new family.  It is such an unfortunate part of adoption that is so misunderstood and judged.  We are just grateful that we are the vessel for a new beginning for this kiddo.

I just couldn't wait for you guys to share in our joy!  Sometimes when I think about this life that I get to live, I can't help but be overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for how God knit it all together.     

Here's the real peek into the last couple of months into our lives as a family of 6 and a glimpse into Scarlett's adorable personality.  Forgive the onslaught of pictures- this mama has been waiting a long time to brag!

Waiting with my mister to pick up Scarlett.  Our stomachs were in knots.  We only had about 12 hours notice on this one- yes, you read that right.  Making decisions on the fly is not our specialty!  But the leap of faith was SO WORTH IT!

 Meeting Scarlett for the first time. We watched "The Winx Club" on my phone most of the way home. I'm pretty sure she had no idea what to think.  Four days into it she came and asked if she could "whisper something" to me.  She said, "I like it for you to be my mom.  I think I would like it for to live here.  Okay?"  Bless it.

First family portrait


Lots and lots of playing.

Sixty piggies. 

Total diva ready to go swimming.

Having a daddy to play in the pool with is SO MUCH FUN!

A little pre-church snuggling.

Scarlett and Granny Sadie

It was pouring down rain.  I told the kids to grab and umbrella and go have fun.  "But mom!  You mean we get to play outside?  In the rain!?!?!"  She LOVED it!

We had only been in our new house about 5 minutes when Scarlett moved in.  There was still a lot of organizing and unpacking to do!  So many life changes all at once.  Never a dull moment.

Since we had pretty much no notice that Scarlett was coming, we were so blessed that my mom and stepdad came and put her bed together while we were picking her up.  And my friend Jennifer brought a doll house and a whole closet full of clothes.  And papaw Gary brought a bike.  Our family and friends truly came through with flying colors to help our girl have a cute room and feel welcomed!

Riding a bike for the first time ever!


Playing "Lion King"  She pins him every time.  

Breakfast before school.  They are not morning people.  At all.

"Mommy.  I'm gonna kiss you and you take our picture, okay?"

Another Terry kiddo gets introduced to the infamous gold dryer.  Scarlett had never had her hair fixed before. Tender headed does not even begin to describe it.

Thug life.

Sassy pants. She does not leave the house without being fully accessorized.

Kamron showing her the family photos and explaining how all of our crazy relatives are related.

Besties.


So... getting hair braided was not very fun.  But she was SOOOOO proud of her new look!

Sisters.  Scarlett idolizes Sadie.  It's something akin to hero worship.

Hulabaloo Tournament.


Family movie night.  Scarlett is crawled up in Sadie's lap.  This dynamic is such a good fit.  Sadie loves being the little mama.  And Scarlett craves being babied.  Win/Win.  Until they get on each other's "nerds"- then all bets are off.  

Sleeping beauty- with her books and a whole lot of nekkid baby dolls.

Getting posey before school.


Plaid shorts twins.

Girl's night.  Mud mask style.  We come in peace.

There are no words.

The boys felt neglected and had to join the fun.

Family trip to Mammoth Cave National Park.

Daddy bonding time playing Headbands.

Sitting on the porch with Papaw Gary and Kennethia.  Peeling vegetables and doing hair.  Welcome to the deep south y'all.

Entirely too adorable.


Partners in crime.  I'm dreading the teenage years and the shenanigans they are going to pull.

After school snack and homework time.  Quite a change from those non-morning people.


In addition to a new daughter, we have two new cats- Prissy Missy and Nia.

Brown eyes melt me.

First day of first grade.

Cousins!

Saturday morning chores.  This kid can sweep like a champ.

Playing in the sunshine.

The view of my lap in church on Sunday mornings.  Sermons evidently make 6 year olds super tired.


Football is becoming a nightly tradition.  Miles scores every time because no one in our family can outrun him.

Huddle.

Go Scarlett Go!


The day that Scarlett came home, Noah made this picture for me.  I think it sums it up better than anything ever could.  This picture is now framed and on our mantle.  It makes me smile every time I look at it and reminds me that God is good and faithful and has blessed us beyond anything we could ever deserve and has equipped us immensely for a time such as this.

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