Parental compromising

It's 6 AM on a Saturday; I've been up for one hour. Nate has been up for three. J woke up at 3:00 asking if he could get up and play. When I conceded to the fact I wouldn't be sleeping any later, I stumbled into the kitchen to make my morning coffee nearly tripping on the dog who looked up at me as if to say, Remember when we slept until 8 on Saturdays?

Like any new parent, I catch myself mid-J's super tantrums reminiscing about the way things were BK (before kids). Sometimes, I'm sure other adoptive parents can relate, I slip up and think, This would be easier if it were my biological child...I know easier isn't the correct term; I know different would be a more applicable word. It's just hard to think this way when J does things that are completely antithetical to our own tendencies. Because I'm parenting a child who doesn't have my incredible genetic makeup (she says with sarcasm dripping from her lips) I find myself in compromising positions at times: things I never thought I'd do as a parent, I'm doing now as a parent.

Allow me to articulate.

J's been experiencing some difficulties at school. He is hyperactive and defiant. A lethal combination for any classroom. I've worked with kids long enough to know that sometimes kids don't choose to by hyperactive and defiant...sometimes it's a part of their make-up---whether biological or by the environment they're caretakers have created. Of course, kids need to be taught how to control their defiance and exercise it appropriately (there is a time and place for defiance!) as well as how to manage their hyperactivity--but teaching this to a five year old who has just warmed up to the idea of us being his forever-parents, is no easy task. Per his therapist's recommendation, I issue him clear rewards/consequences each day on the way to school. We discuss ways to deal with stressful situations and we each pray asking God to give us strength to make the right choices and to be a good friend. After a while, a reward and consequence ends up losing its impact forcing a parent to think of new ways to enforce good behavior in his/her brood. This particular morning, I was tired beyond belief and frustrated from one of J's super fun morning tantrums where he screams and cries and throws things for no apparent reason at 6:00 in the morning before I've had my morning coffee. At a loss for a new reward or consequence, "Buddy," I blurted, "if you have a good day today, we can have donuts tomorrow morning." I may as well have said, "Hey kid--have a good day, and I 'll hand you some sugar cubes to suck on." Fortunately (or unfortunately?), J did not earn the donuts that day.

Believing J's struggles are primarily biological, a psychiatrist has recommended we put little J on meds to help balance out this hyperactivity and defiance. Both Nate and I worry about meds. I've seen kids on meds turn into zombies with no personality. I've also seen meds take what seems like an unbearable kid and turn him into a pleasant child who is able to focus. I know some people need medications. I just don't want to jump to meds too soon. While we do research on different meds, we're conducting the Mountain Dew experiment with J. Doctors suggested this to my own parents who were exasperated at my hyperactivity as a child. Give a hyperactive child a high concentration of caffeine, and it will slow the kid down enough so they can focus more clearly. I'm not convinced this is a scientific experiment, and I cringe at the idea of giving a five year old soda (I don't even drink soda), but I will be pouring him a glass this morning and again in the afternoon.

I can see this compromising in two ways: I'm a failure parent who has given into pure bribery to reach her child, or I'm doing the best I can at meeting this kid where he's at. Frankly, it takes a lot of work to believe the second view. Being a foster-adoptive parent feels incredibly isolating. When J is around our friends and family, he is an absolute charmer. Of our support system, we are the only people who see him in his true form. Each day is a struggle to do what's right and fight the deprecating thoughts that lurk in the cobwebs...a battle every parent can relate to.


Adoption and the issues that come with it

Well the Medicaid debacle has been resolved! After resubmitting paperwork three different times, little guy was finally approved for Medicaid. Praise God...this is such a huge burden lifted from our shoulders. Because this was remedied, we were able to set an adoption date. J officially becomes a Helzer on March 6th. We've taken the whole day off and have invited our immediately family to join us in the courtroom as we make this thing official. We cannot wait to make that day special for J--one he will remember for the rest of his life.

As we prepare to make the adoption official, there have been some interesting things to think about come up. First, our adoption date was scheduled for the day of parent-teacher conferences. When I first talked with our immediate supervisor about it, I was told to "come when we could" to conferences. We politely explained that we would not be at conferences because it is J's special day, and family, of course, is our first priority. Our supervisors were okay with this, but they expected us to "make up" conferences some way. Initially, we were more than willing to "make up" conferences by meeting with parents that next day (a half work day for us). But the more I think about it, the more I realize how crazy this is. I realize that growing a family through adoption is not the same as growing a family "naturally," so maybe my comparisons are off base--but if I were to squeeze out a baby the day of conferences, I'm sure Nate and I wouldn't be required to make up the time to meet with parents. I'm almost certain we'd be told to take care of our family. Instead, we're expected to return the next day and do our jobs as if nothing has changed in our lives. A colleague asked if I would take maternity leave after our adoption. "Uh...probably not. J's in school; what would I even do?" I responded. I hadn't even thought of taking maternity leave until she asked me. I did some research this weekend and realized that we are allowed up to 30 days of leave for the adoption under FMLA. I thought about how nice it would be to take even two weeks off wrap up a few things--to make a scrapbook for J; to read about ADHD, parenting traumatized children, etc; to go through his stuff; to begin to clear our second bedroom to make way for another foster child or to have available to provide emergency respite; and honestly...to just let this sudden growth in our family sink in. J moved in with us three days before school started. We didn't have a nine month period to acclimate to the idea of having a child. Part of me feels silly for wanting to take this leave--part of me is afraid I'll have to justify this to people who will think it's ridiculous that I take the leave, to people who will probably never understand the difficulties of becoming a parent to a child who has been traumatized and is old enough to remember this trauma. There's also the reality that if I use more than my allotted leave time (10 sick days a year), I could be transferred to a new school. Because of my vocal chord problems, I've already used 5 sick days this year (more than I've had to use in my 5 1/2 years of teaching!). I only have 5 sick days left. I don't know what the likelihood is of the aforementioned transfer, but I'd hate for this to happen. For the first time in a few years, I enjoy where I'm at and the classes I'm teaching.

All this because we chose to adopt a child...I'm thrilled to be making J's adoption final, but I'm not thrilled to have these other issues clouding the joy.