I just got a Facebook message from a friend of mine. It was a really sweet one, basically just saying “I want you to know that you’re a great mom and you’re doing so well…” I mean honestly – who doesn’t need/want something like that?
But the weird part is how much it kind of makes me feel nauseous. Why? Partly because I have NO FREAKING CLUE what I’m doing 90% of the time. Sadly that’s an improvement from where things were at when we met our kids in June and when they came home in August, when I had no clue what I was doing 100% of the time… but still. I’m mostly lost.
That and the sucky part is that I often notice that I have no clue what I’m doing but even when I am doing some (what I *think* is) decent parenting, I feel somewhat detached. Like I’m still at work and in my office and talking an employee through a conflict situation or coaching a manager through how to deal with a performance issue.
Side note: I know that this is my first post about our boys (whom I haven’t actually even introduced to you yet) but I’ll basically be re-creating this blog backwards and with backdated posts so really I’m jumping in here… so try to stick with me!!
Don’t get me wrong. I love those boys. Love them fiercely and passionately.
But honestly I also just choose to love them. Choose to be tied to them forever. Choose to deal with the tantrums and the ignoring and all the other fun stuff of kids from hard places going through adoption transition… and this is a kind of love which necessitates not feeling too much so that I don’t shut down with Ben tells me (in an off-the-cuff, casual tone) that he doesn’t love me and wants to go back to living with his foster parents.
I mean really – who needs to love from a place of emotions then? Nope. Not worth it. That’s when I choose to love him from a place of compassion. From a perspective of being a safe place to land and a safe place to rant.
I do not do it from a place of deep feelings of in-love-with-him.
And quite frankly it’s the day-to-day parenting which is exhausting. It’s the “he looked at my toy!!!” moments and the time (two days ago) when I had to explain that better bum wiping was required because someone wiped poop all over my jeans leg while sitting in my lap to get dressed.
That’s the stuff that just leaves me thinking “WTF?? Seriously???”
And nobody prepared me for this stuff. The AEP didn’t prepare me for how to deal with kids. My books and videos and websites didn’t help. Who tells you how to jump in and just “be” a parent to a child? If you’ve never been a parent before then how do you figure it out without muffing it up 90% of the time? And with kids who’ve had less-than-stellar parenting in their birth family homes, don’t they deserve some decent parenting?
I mean I’m the one with the stunned face when I realize that people bring in gift cards for school teachers at Christmas. Oops. Or who answers the question of whether or not my 6 and 7-year olds are old enough to chill in the car while I run into the ATM? I mean is that bad at this age? I have NO CLUE.
So while I very much appreciated that lovely note tonight (I needed it – it’s been a rough day), I also often question if it’s a sincere and objective commentary on how I’m doing at *actually parenting* after 5 months, or whether or not it’s one of those “My heart is just so warmed that you adopted – you’re a great mama!” comments, which are more of a feel-good for the writer and which don’t actually reflect any understanding of my sheer ineptitude. I read them and I appreciate the sentiment but often just feel like it highlights the fact that I’m not a good mama. I’m probably not completely flubbing it up for someone who’s been a parent for 5 months, but “good”? What is that? What does that look like? What’s my measuring stick for success here?
Most mothers of elementary-aged kids have a general guesstimate of what their kids will eat. That or how much they should be eating. Or what size shoes they wear.
One step at a time I guess.
Anyhow, I digress. I think I wish that someone would be specific for me, like “Hey – you did a great job of de-escalating Ben there!” or “Wow! Nice job of not freaking out after Robby wet his pull-up, sheets, duvet, pillow, and pee pad last night! Even after you stayed up super late to take him to the bathroom twice! Excellent job of being patient!”
Maybe one day. For now I’ll take the sentiment and appreciate the heart behind the words. And maybe one day someone will tell me and I’ll believe it. Or, if I ever get to be that blessed, one day my kids will tell me that.
Maybe one day.
This post really hit home with me. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it for days. First of all, you’ve described quite poignantly how I felt as a parent from day one. Like I’m pretending. Like everyone else knows what they’re doing better than me. Like every compliment someone gives me is just proof that I’m getting better at faking it, than actually knowing what I’m doing. That was with the kids I gave birth to and it did get better. Take that feeling and multiply it by a thousand – that’s how I felt when we adopted our son. Seriously. Like part of me was wondering when this strange babysitting job was going to be over, even though I was fiercely and entirely committed to being his Mom. It just didn’t feel natural for a long time.
Which I think is the best, hardest, most exhausting kind of parenting there is. So, all those efforts and fumbles and figuring it out… that IS you being such a good mom.
The good news is, after 1 1/2 years it’s finally a lot more instinctive/natural and less in my head.
Thank you for sharing this snapshot of your story!