Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mean Stepmom!

Let's face it.  As an adoptive parent, foster parent, stepparent, and/or non-birth guardian, we all probably braced ourselves for the day when our child/children blurted out the words, "You're not my real mom!"  A year ago, thinking about those words being spoken to me, I probably would have cringed and been filled with self-doubt.  When and in what context will I first hear them, was a question I held in my heart for months.  Because we adopted an 11-year-old, I knew at some point those words would be directed straight at me, like an arrow shot from a bow, in response to an emotional event in our home, such as serving pizza for dinner.  "You're not my real mom...my real mom would NEVER serve pizza for dinner!"  (For those who have adopted extremely picky eaters into their home, you know what I mean!)  Honestly, I thought the first time I heard those words I would be devastated.  Perhaps, it is that extreme sleep deprivation has been a unsuspecting gift during our transitional year as a family because when Sporty first got around to letting me know in no uncertain terms, "I am not his real mom. His real mom is dead", I cannot even recall the situation that prompted his outburst.  My guess is that is was a carryover from something that happened earlier that day involving either food or me making him take a coat to school.  Perhaps it was about me making him go over his science lesson?  I honestly do not recall.  However, the situations that make Sporty unravel unlike anything I have ever seen either involve food, jackets, and/or homework.  Heaven help us if we have a day when jackets need to be worn, we have science or social studies homework (his most difficult subjects due to the fact that they are English language intensive), and we are having pizza for dinner.  I will definitely not be his real mom on that day!  However, this buffoonery lets me know that his emotional outbursts, few as they may be, have nothing to do with pizza or a winter coat, but rather normal stubborn tendencies of adolescents and also a symptom of the grief he carries and is trying to wade through.  

Grief can and has presented itself in various forms in our home.   From crying to protesting, from testing the boundaries to needing to be held and consoled and everything in between.   Throw in pre-adolescent hormones and at times we have a volcano waiting to explode. I constantly reassure him that God has amazing plans for his life and that we are family regardless of any circumstance.  We are proud of him and so, so thankful that God chose us to be his parents.  There is nothing he can say or do to change that.  I am thankful that in all this mess, Sporty trusts me and looks to me for consolation and reassurance.  I have had to step up to the plate and be the mom parenting a hurt and healing child, regardless of how I feel at any given moment.  Thankfully, God has protected my heart.  I don't ever remember asking him to do so, but he knew better than I.  When Sporty jabs, I simply dip and dodge.  I know that once he calms down and stops huffing and puffing, he will emerge from his room and apologize.  He always does.  Then, I get to demonstrate unconditional love by once again assuring him that no circumstance will change our family.  I do expect him to act appropriately, respect his parents, treat others with kindness, and develop good study habits;  those standards will not change, but my love for him is constant.  

Just recently, Sporty has started writing notes that say, "Mean Stepmom" on them when he is upset with me.  I didn't want him to see me laughing, so I let it slide and moved on.  I was thinking, "Stepmom?  Well, the term is not accurate but I am happy that you are picking up on the subtleties of the English language. Kudos!"  Just yesterday when I made him do the unthinkable, write out his science facts two times each, he launched three paper airplanes down the stairs, each saying, "Mean Stepmom, Not Nice Mom!"  I called him down, looked at the proud expression on his face displaying that he surely just let me have it, and calmly explained to him that I am not, in fact, his step mom and that he is unclear on what he is saying.  His half smiled faded and he stomped back to his room, defeated, where I am sure he opened his dictionary or thesaurus and found a more appropriate term to hurl at me next go-round.  

For those of us loving and raising a hurt child or a child whose background lends itself to more challenges in parenting and therefore more challenges in the overall dynamics of the family, it is not easy.  If not intentionally prayerful and careful in our thought patters, it could be easy to become disheartened and even resentful.  I will not let myself go there!  There is not a one size fits all solution and so we must all do the best that we can.  Sometimes, it is so hard to see the progress that is being made each day.  Only in hindsight can I look back over the past year and clearly see how far we have come from the starting point.  A child with little to no comprehension of the English language, is now receiving "A's" and "B's", playing in a super competitive travel soccer league, excelling with his clarinet, and extremely bonded and loving with every member of his family.  A child who had to walk away from everything he has every known or loved, leaving behind memories and a broken past, now prances in and of our home, kissing me and excitedly sharing stories about his first sleepover party and science project ideas.  When he seems angry or resentful and acts on those feelings, I simply validate his feelings (try to give him constructive ways to deal with the emotions) and let him know that I know it is hard and we will work through this mess together, because that is what families do.  

Honestly, I am writing this post for two reasons.  First, it is kind of a pep talk as we prepare to bring another older child into our home.  Earlier this month, we accepted a referral for a beautiful 11-year-old girl.  Once again, we are wandering into uncharted waters with nothing but faith, sweat, and the promise of our family to hold onto.  And you know what?  I think that is how God wants it.  He tells us that his strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) and those are no longer empty words, but our very lifeline.  Second, I wrote this with the hope of encouraging others who have welcomed or plan to welcome older children into their home.  I think sometimes we feel as if others have cracked the code or as Sara wrote in her blog, "drew the lucky card."  I would bet the house that 100% of us feel, at least some of the time, that we have little to nothing figured out and that everyone else is certainly doing a better job.  The point is that while our messes may look slightly different, we all drew the same card.  The card that takes us out of our boats and onto the water.  And truthfully, it really is a lucky card.  We stepped forward and said yes to God for care for the fatherless.  We said yes to the uncertainties that came along with it.  We said yes to the ups, downs, and everything in between.  While the past year has been the most challenging of my life, there is not another hand I wish to have been dealt.  

So, whether I am having a good mom day or a bad mom day, whether Sporty decided that I am his real mom that day or the mean stepmom, whether we have succeeded in accomplishing whatever task we set out to or failed miserably, there is one truth that will never change.  God will never leave us (John 14:18).  I am thankful for the hand we have been given and praise him for trusting us to be obedient.  A few weeks ago, as I was putting Sassy to bed and attempted to leave her bedroom she frantically called out to me: "Mommy!"  I said, "Yes, Sassy?"  To which she replied, "I will never leave you".  Those words, coming from our two-year-old spoke Jesus' truth straight to my heart. He will never us.  
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