What I Want You To Know About How I Am Ruining My Adoptive Son

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Christina.

"Do you need to go potty? Then GO to the bathroom RIGHT NOW! Don't just stand there holding yourself. Run as fast as you can. RUN!!! Get on the potty before it comes out. Go!!!!"

"I am frustrated with you. Can you see on Mommy's face that I am frustrated? I love you all the time, but I am frustrated right now. I don't think you are trying your best and that's what makes me upset. Because I am tired of cleaning up your dirty pants. Do you think Mommy likes to clean up pee-pee and poo-poo? You are a big boy and in charge of your own body and you are NOT trying your best. You are five years old and this is ridiculous. Your brother goes in the potty and he is only three. I am tired of this."

Ugh, I cringed as I typed out the above quotes- words that I blasted at my son this afternoon. It doesn't even matter if I said them in a sugary sweet tone (which I didn't) or if I really emphasized the one line of "I love you all the time" (which I tried to). Nothing in that rant feels like "I love you" to the one who is being lectured. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely all true. I am TIRED of it. Tired of still dealing with potty training stuff that he should have mastered years ago. I am tired of the smell, the clean up, the laundry, the nonchalant facial expressions he has about it all, the way he can play for hours in soiled pants and it not bother him, the continual rash he has from irritated wet skin. I am tiiiiiiirrrrrrreeeeeeed of it.

And I am frustrated.

But really, I think I am just scared.

I am scared that he's never going to feel at home and safe in our family and that his lack of potty training is just evidence of that. I'm scared that he will never feel like this is where he really belongs- that he will never feel just the same as all the other brothers. How many times has he cried while I explained AGAIN- you are not getting left out, you just have to wait your turn- or it is not your night to stay up late, it's not Thursday yet- or you will get presents too, it's not your birthday today. I'm scared that he will never attach. I'm scared that it's too late for him. And I don't know if you have read the sagas of adopted children who never attach, but it is heart wrenching...and scary.

He interprets everything as personal rejection.

But why wouldn't he? Not so long ago he was abused by the woman who definitely loved him, but didn't protect him from her anger. And then he got to be a pawn in a system where a judge made the rules, and most-times those rules protect but sometimes they cause more insecurity and give you more reasons not to trust. And the latter was definitely true for him. I like to think that eventually he got his happy ending out of it all by joining our family. I like to think he is right where he wants to be. I still remember the night I went to pick him up for good and he came running out of his mom's apartment screaming "Mommy, I get to live with you forever."

But I also know the reality. I know that when he came to live with us the first time, he was one of six boys under the age of seven. All we did that year as a family was survive. He was three years old with a one year old and newborn brother on his heels, and we were not in the position to baby three year olds. Looking back I know that's what he needed and probably still needs- someone to coddle him, to take care of him, to show him he can trust others. Seems pretty straight forward right? Just give him what he needs.

Except that I'm scared. When he was three, I was scared that if I baby-ed him all the time he wouldn't do anything for himself. Most kids his age where throwing tantrums and screaming "I do it!!" Not him. He would give a half-effort to putting on his own shoes and then cry because he couldn't do it. That didn't go over well in our house. I had too many other little ones that "legitimately" needed my help and he was perfectly capable. Now here we are two years later and the cycle continues. He wears pull-ups to Kindergarten and comes home with them soiled everyday. His victim mentality persists, I see hints of it in so many of his interactions. I fear that he is going to be someone who blames everyone else for his problems. I'm scared that he is going to resent us when he is older because he interprets reality through a tainted lens and feels like we don't love him the same as our bio boys or our other adopted boys (his bio brothers). I'm scared of the lifestyle he may turn to because of the baggage he will carry. And I'm scared of the chaos it will bring to our family.

And I can't control any of it...but I try to. I try to behavior manage and reward and punish and manipulate and re-direct and ignore. And apparently after reading my rant back from this afternoon, I even try to bully. I read once, "Show me a person who is controlling, and I will show you a person who is afraid." I am afraid. And I am parenting out of fear when I need to parent out of love.

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This is the birthday that never ends

My husband celebrated a birthday near the beginning of the month, that somehow, as Howerton birthday often do, extended into a week of revelry. 

On his actual birthday, we celebrated at a local restaurant with Mark's parents. Mark shares a birthday with his dad, and his sister-in-law, and my nephew. Big day in our family.

That evening we went out dancing with friends. We were sweaty and old and ridiculous and it was so. much. fun.

The next night, Mark convinced (begged) several of his friends to join him at his hot yoga studio. Over the past year, he has become a devotee at Core Power, and he is always trying to convert his friends. If this doesn't prove their love I don't know what does. 

One would think that might be enough in the way of birthday festivities, but every year we have a tradition of going to a resort in the desert with several of our friends for Mark's birthday, too. And we weren't about to forego it this year. (Nor would our kids ever let us.) So that weekend, we headed out.

It is ridiculously hot there in August, so we take lots of measure to keep cool. Some involving child labor.

DIY misters. You can pin that if you want.

We keep it pretty low-brow on this trip. Case in point: I had to pick my friend Heather up from the airport and due to an incident involving leaving my room key at the pool and just not caring, I picked her up wearing nothing but a wet bathing suit and a trucker hat. I think she was really impressed.

It's cool though. Five minutes in and I had her eating non-Paleo chips and drinking from a red solo cup.

We've been doing this trip for years with the same group of people, but this year we added some new friends to the mix. I was a bit apprehensive what it would be like . . . mixing real life friends with internet friends! But everyone clicked and we had a great time.

Every evening we took a stroll on the nearby golf course to watch the sunset and let the kids run around.

And do weird yoga moves.

We may have let them play in the sprinklers a bit, too.

There was also some golf, though I was not involved in this activity, because it involved waking up at the crack of dawn to beat the heat. No thank you. I choose sleep.

I managed to not wash my hair for four days, which in my book is the measure of a good vacation.

The day after we got back from Indio, we had tickets to see the play Once with many of the same friends. So we had them over for dinner beforehand.

At dinner, Mark thanked everyone for coming over for his birthday. And everyone rolled their eyes in unison.

Side note: Once the Musical? SO GOOD.

Finally, over a week later, my husband convinced me to go to hot yoga with him because there was a live band/drum circle during class. Soon after, he posted this on instagram:

So this post serves to declare: Mark Howerton, your birthday week is officially OVER.

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Friday Finds

1. Herschel Survey Kids Bag by Herschel Supply | Gilt
2. Black & White Chevron Zip-Up Jacket | Zulily 
3. Settlement Kids Bag by Herschel Supply | Gilt
4. Eggplant with California Figs and Leeks | GFreefoodie.com
5. Leopard genius slip-on shoe | Zulily 
6. Green Plate healthy Blueberry Pistachio Nubblers | greenplatefoods.com
7. Snackaby | products snack and sandwich lunch set
8. Chalkboard Balloon Kit | Anthropologie
9. Hoja Bracelet Set | Anthropologie 

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The form letter for unmet expectations

I have found myself in another crushingly busy season where every day I look at the tasks on my to-do list, look at the time I have allotted for completing said tasks, and then wallow in a pit of despair because I AM TYPE A AND THAT’S WHAT WE DO.   I am seriously so behind in every single area of life that I’ve decided to just make up a sort of multiple-choice form letter that I can email to people, highlighting the answers that are relevant to that particular person I have disappointed.  Here’s the first draft:

Dear everyone I know,
I am so sorry that I have
  • not returned your email
  • not called you back
  • not voxed you back
  • not facebook messaged you back
  • not met my writing deadline
  • not posted those grades
  • failed to show to our scheduled meeting
  • all of the above
Things are a little hectic right now, on account of the fact that
  • I have no childcare this summer
  • I have what amounts to a full-time job with no childcare
  • I have four kids
  • I've been traveling a lot
In addition, our schedule has been a bit topsy-turvy, what with
  • swim lessons
  • soccer camp
  • theater camp
  • engineering camp
  • VBS
Plus, this month has been especially busy as I’ve been
  • grading papers from a graduate-level summer intensive
  • catching up on posts I agreed to do three months ago
  • watching Bachelor in Paradise
  • digging myself out of an email wormhole that will probably never end
  • doing laundry
  • picking beach sand out of Jafta's afro
  • breaking up fighting children
Thanks in advance.  I will get right back to you as soon as
  • I’ve deleted enough emails that yours is finally at the top again
  • we see each other out and I am reminded of those commitments I forgot about
  • I pull an all-nighter to get things done
  • you message me on facebook, twitter, AND email simultaneously (the trifecta of shame)
  • when Karis enters kindergarten

How does that look so far?

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What I Want You To Know About Being The Stepmom

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Sarah McManus.

Repeat after me: Stepmom. Sarah is Maggie’s stepmom. You can do it!

For some reason, strangers have trouble with this sentence. When I pick up Mia (10) or Maggie (8) from one of their lessons, the lengths to which the Mommies will go to avoid saying this word is comical: “Oh, so you’re…you live with them…you’re Eric’s wife!” 

For a while, even my husband was soft-shoeing around the title. I know he honors me for my role in our family, and I think that made it even harder for him to use a title that has such a bad rap.
But you know what? I’m the stepmom, and I’m proud. 

These kids don’t look like me, they don’t eat like me, and they are very happy that my taste in music is unlikely to be genetic. But we have become and are becoming a family. When the little one tells me she loves me as I tuck her in at night, my heart sings, and when the oldest deigns to run an errand with me, I make “supahstah!” hands in my head. 

I’m not sorry to not be the mom. They resemble her in so many ways, and I love all of their ways. How could I deny the authorship of so many beautiful parts of their personality and appearance? I wish many things for my life, but they are separate from the reality of these children. Falling in love with stepkids is the same process as falling in love with a baby, and not dissimilar to falling in love with my husband: I see the hard things, but at the same time, I see them as they are: perfect. Sarcastic, funny, whiney, dirty-room-living, nerdy-tv-watching, singing, dancing, did I mention whiney, and perfect. 

Of course, it helps that their mother has been very generous and kind to me. That part of the story doesn’t seem to fit anyone’s narrative, either. When the other Mommies do warm up to me, the fishing for dirt on the assumed rivalry I have with the girls’ mom commences. I have to disappoint, again: my husband and his baby mama ain’t got no drama, and the likely outcome of the daily contact she and I have is gentle laughter and head-shaking at child shenanigans. 

I’m proud of the kids, I’m proud of our partnership with their mother, and I’m so, so proud to be with my husband. When we first started dating, we saw each other in the city where I lived at the time, enjoying his weekends without children. These days, living in the same town, I sometimes think I spend all of our weekends “off” finding the socks we lost in the laundry while the kids were here. But we’re partners, and he has brought me into this role so carefully and deliberately. Eric is a stellar parent, and I’m determined not to be the weak link in the Kid-Raisin’ chain. 

So yeah, I’m a step mom. Evil? Only sometimes. Ask my kids.

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