what is normal?

Obviously what we consider “normal” behavior in young children encompasses a wide range of behaviors and personalities. I guess I’m struggling with how to know when to seek professional opinions regarding my daughter’s level of energy and defiance. She has very good days and moments, but not nearly as many as she has difficult ones. I have zero concern about her developmental milestones (she’s scoring near perfect on the Ages & Stages, even in communication where she was behind just slightly) and her intelligence. I’m more concerned with her level of aggression toward me and toward her peers and how it may affect her ability to interact safely and productively with classmates at school, and prevent her from forming age-appropriate friendships and a sense of belonging in her peer group. After that, I am a bit concerned with her struggle to stop moving at full speed. Impulsive, yes, but her energy level from wake up to sleep is off the charts. As she gets older, more and more people, including teachers and those who are around children her age in a professional setting every day, are commenting on the fact that she is super high energy, demanding, and strong-willed. To this end, she is testing the limits I set as she should be doing at this age, but she tests them, all of them, all the time. Sun up to sundown she is testing a limit or breaking a rule just to see how I’ll react.

I don’t work with young children, but from what I see socially it doesn’t seem like her age mates are acting like this to the degree that M is. Naturally, I worry that I am doing something totally wrong. Is there something I’m missing? Some strategy that would help calm the defiance down even a little?

I’m totally open to just about anything EXCEPT punishment/reward systems, or medications. I had a cousin with pretty severe ADHD who did require medications for a time (he’s the first doctor in our family now, very proud of him) but this doesn’t look like that to me. I’m also not willing to label her anything while she may just be a more intense version of a normal two-year-old, acting as a two-year-old should just with more persistence than the average kid. However, there has been a lot of research on alternatives to medication for ADHD and hyperactivity that could be helpful, like diet changes, essential oils, and so on. I’m interested in any of that!

All that being said, I’m going to make an appointment for her at our wonderful health system’s child-parent relation clinic for an evaluation. They are very progressive and can provide me with resources and support geared for parents of 1 to 6 year-olds. They work with foster/adopt children quite often, which could also be beneficial, as well as helping parents who are struggling. Maybe they will tell me she’s fine and I’m worrying too much (I hope they do, in fact) but my insurance would at least cover a conversation with them, and I could really, really use some feedback and support.

it’s officially “no”

I was completely surprised yesterday when I got a voicemail from a relative placement social worker from Hermanito’s county of birth. She wanted to know if I wanted him… I am on the other side of the USA, a rather large country, and I don’t want to compete with local relatives or foster parents, because an interstate placement can easily take a year or more. I can’t bear the thought of taking him from a foster family at that point! Of course, his grandparents are still in play, but, surprise! They don’t speak any English, they speak Cambodian. So staying in touch will be challenging. I hope very much that they are fine, upstanding people and the baby can be raised in his Cambodian culture with access to contact with his father. His father, by the way, has been participating in visitation, but Cindy has not *sigh*.

I am thinking that Cindy has completely given up. Her attempts to “try” and participate in ordered services or visitations have been less and less with each kid. I am heartbroken for her, I am furious on behalf of her children, I am saddened by the life she’s lived and her inability to rise above it. I don’t know if I would have risen very far above it either, in similar circumstances.

Part of me really wished he had been born here, and I could raise M with one of her siblings. That didn’t happen, though, and I’ve been trying my hardest to keep in contact. Honestly, I love this kid. I may never be his mom, but I’m his sister’s mom, and I waited for his birth and have worried and cared about him since I first new of his existence. I hope his foster parents will contact me and share a little of his life with me, I really do.

I guess his name should be changed from “Hermanito” to  “Pa-oan Proh” (little brother in Cambodian).

court docket frustration

In my county it’s very easy to look up a court case if you know the child’s last name (at least, whatever last name foster care has for them, which can be something totally random). You go to the court site, click on the docket look-up, enter the name, and get a list of past and future court dates and what they’re for (pre-trial, trial, etc).

Now I’m trying to do this (what I thought was easy) search for Hermanito’s case, and the county has a very specific search engine. I tried both his mother and father’s legal last names, and the time frame from his birth until present. Nothing. It’s supposed to be under probate, right? Although I also tried family court.

Is it possible nothing is scheduled yet??? Isn’t something at least supposed to be scheduled upon removal of the child? I forget what it’s called, but both Moose and M had one for the judge to officially order them into care?

I made the call

I called the county in which I presume Hermanito was born and taken into care, and since they can’t confirm that or give me any info whatsoever, I just had them write down everything I knew: his birth date, both of his parents full names, my name, my relationship to him, my phone number, and my email. Hopefully this info makes its way to his caseworker, and the caseworker can give it to whoever ends up with him. They can contact me and we can keep in touch… I hope.

he’s in foster care

Just got the news from M’s aunt K that Hermanito is in foster care and his paternal grandparents are hoping to get him. I don’t know anything about them or their chances, I just know I feel heartbroken. Cindy wrote an email to aunt K that was just so full of despair and heartbreak that it made me weep. Say what you will about her life choices, but she relives this nightmare over and over and it’s literally killing her.

And I ache for Hermanito, a little baby now going through the terrible trauma of being separated from all he’s ever known. Fuck, it’s all so miserable. I want this kid to be ok like I want my daughter to be ok. I love him and really don’t know him, but he’s family. Any family of M’s is family of mine.

I’ll see if somehow, someway I can pass my info on to some caseworker. All I have is the name of the county and Cindy’s name, but I’m sure they’ve worked with less. I just want to try to keep in touch, like I do with M’s other siblings.

is she or isn’t she?

M’s other mom’s facebook has been awash with status updates about her coming back to our state. Supposedly this is happening this coming weekend. She isn’t answering my texts, though, and the phone for M’s aunt is not in service right now.

Thoughts swirling in my head:
1) OMG! Finally get to meet M’s first mom!
2) OMG! M finally gets to see her other mom again!
3) Nervous and excited to maybe meet soon
4) Baby #6 could be born in my county!
5) Could get to go see Hermanito in the hospital when he’s born!
6) Could ask for emergency kinship placement for Hermanito if he’s removed…
7) She may not come out here at all.
8) Repeat 1-8!

On not celebrating Gotcha Day

Most parents reminisce about the day they met their child outside of the belly with labor or hospital stories, but for those of us who adopted and who are somewhat conscientious, our memories of this day are bittersweet. Two years ago today I rushed home from work to meet a CPS worker who had in her possession a 9-lb beautiful 5-week 5-day old baby girl. And on this day that child would suffer one of the, if not THE, biggest losses and traumas of her life. And I would gain the biggest gift of mine.

A paradox like that is not one to be glossed over lightly. Even though it was the day I met the most important person in my life, it was the day that the person I love most in the world lost everything and everyone she knew. It was also the day that the family she was born to, especially her mother, suffered a huge tragedy.

It’s not exactly something that should be celebrated. We have her birthday and we have adoption day. But this day? This day is more a day of observance and recognition of the primal wound that results from the disruption of the deepest physiological and biological bond our species is created to have. It is a day to remind us that life changes suddenly, unexpectedly, and even tragically, and for those of us who are lucky, sometimes something wonderful follows on its heels.

Wherever she may be tonight, I think of my daughter’s other mother and offer up my hopes that she is safe and finding comfort in a world that has not been kind to her very often.

something most parents take for granted

For most foster and many adopted parents are missing one huge thing from their children’s lives that other parents take for granted: newborn or early childhood photos. Even though M came to me at 5 weeks old, she very quickly lost that newborn look. I am so excited that someone from her first family has copies of her earliest photos. Thanks to her grandpa, I finally get to see them, too! These are true treasures to me, each one I uncover is priceless.

Brand new baby M!
Brand new baby M!
With her sister A, two years ago!
With her sister A, two years ago!
Cute and squishy newborn
Cute and squishy newborn

how open adoption is like foster parenting

Every time I mention to someone that I take M to visit her sister, or text her other mom to ask her how she is, or share pics of M doing whatever she’s doing lately on a facebook page for her first family to see, someone always has to say, “wow! That’s so big of you! You have such a big heart!”

Every single foster parent in the world I’ve met or heard of or who blogs has complained more than once that people never stop saying something like this to them: “Oh my god! You are a bigger person than me. I could never do that! You are an angel. You are a saint. The kids are so lucky to have you.”

Adoptive parents, whether out of foster care or not, which of you doesn’t cringe when you hear, “oh my, little Johnny/Janie is so lucky to have been taken in by you!”?

Look, people (not my readers, probably, but all the people who mean well but make these ignorant and obnoxious statements), when you get married, you make someone a part of your family, right? Do you deserve a medal for giving your mother-in-law a ride to the doctor? Showing up to your in-laws’ get-togethers with your spouse? Buying birthday presents for your sisters or brothers-in-law’s kids? No! You aren’t a saint for doing any of these family things because, by way of marriage, you are family. You didn’t choose them, not directly, and they sometimes annoy you, or piss you off, or just confuse you with their habits or ways of doing things. You did choose to get married (or partner with) your significant other, and they all come with.

Adoption is a lot like that. You choose to be a parent, and you choose adoption as the way to do it. Then you choose to commit to a certain child, and be their family, unconditionally, forever, no matter how hard it is or what kind of person the kid ends up being or how many truly awful things you might have to put yourself through to get this child to adulthood in one piece. Unlike having biological children the old-fashioned way, you chose a different (not lesser, not better) way, and it came with some added responsibilities. Like making an effort to maintain a reasonable and affable relationship with the other folks in that child’s life who love her.

It’s really not the easiest thing in the world to spend some of my free time with people I hardly know, with whom I have little in common, in somewhat awkward (for me) social situations. It’s also not easy to explain to my friends, family, coworkers, whoever why I know it’s so important to do so. But I do know, because ask yourself how you would feel if at age 16 you found out you had siblings and cousins living just down the road, and your own mother never took you to see them? That you were invited to their birthday parties and family gatherings but your mom didn’t try to get you there? That you are almost an adult and could have shared some of your childhood with your blood relatives but will now never even know what that’s like? You’d be 16 and pissed. Then you’d be 26 and pissed.

The right thing to do is to allow my daughter the opportunity to have relationships with as many people who love her as possible. People who care about her, worry about her, hope that she’s happy and successful. People who feel a bond of kinship with her, no matter where she lives or what she does or who she becomes in life… these are people who are family, regardless of (but sometimes also because of) DNA. And she has a right to know her family, if it’s safe and possible to do so, from the beginning.

I’m her mom, one of her moms. It’s my duty and my wonderful obligation to give her every opportunity in life that I can. It’s my privilege to be able to facilitate the bonds she should have with everyone who loves her, biological or adopted or friends. It makes me happy. I want my daughter to be as whole as possible, and while she may have many wounds over adoption and what happened with her birth mom and dad, not knowing her siblings and cousins and all of her aunts uncles and grandparents doesn’t have to be one of those wounds.

It doesn’t make me a saint. It makes me a mom. Her mom.

what will happen to “Hermanito”?

I posted a pic of “Hermanito”, M’s baby-brother-on-the-way, that Cindy sent to me a few days ago. I often find myself wondering where he will end up, who his forever family will be. He is due in July, and his father is native Mexican just like M’s, so I know they will look alike. I find myself thinking that there would be no more perfect sibling situation for M than a biological sibling who is adopted and is her “real” brother in every way… both biologically and being raised together. To give her that link between both of her worlds would be really be the biggest and best thing I could ever do for her.

So when the baby is due, either he’ll be born on the other side of the country where Cindy is now, or she’ll come home to deliver (as she did with M). If he’s born in that state and/or removed from her in that state, I will try to get contact info but will not pursue placement (unless a case worker directly asks me and the current foster family has not had him a long time).

If the baby is born in my state and removed, I hope I will find out right away so that I can make calls and try for kinship placement. I would have to be emergently licensed and the licenser at my agency said I couldn’t be. But I think that she’s wrong. I would go directly through DHS if this was the case. I don’t think my agency wants me to have two kids because my house is so small. When the state came for my inspection, however, they said it was not if I used the (enclosed, heated) porch as a room (it’s M’s play room and my mom’s office right now), and it was ok to use for that. Also, I’m pretty sure you can have an infant up to age 2 in your own room, in a crib or bassinet. So I wouldn’t even need to use the porch for the baby until he was two.

So I think it’s extremely unlikely that M’s bio mom will come back to have the baby, but hey, she did for M. The chances of this all happening is slim, but if it does? Maybe it was meant to be. At least for a short time? Since bio dad is known, he may come into play at some point. But in the meantime? Yeah, this is M’s brother. If he’s in my state and in care, he should be with us!

And yeah, having an infant while in school will totally suck. The timing is not great. I can’t afford two in daycare, so only M would go to daycare. But you know what? Babies are easy. My mom is awesome, she loves little babies, she’ll keep him at home. It’s the toddler who is the difficult one!!!