Monthly Archives: April 2012

DJ the Great

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Not sure if folks noticed that I ended my last post with a bit of a cliffhanger, but I had a great talk with DJ’s caseworker last week and got some very fun updates. First & most important, there’s a very good possibility that we’ll be able to go out to Oregon and bring him home in time for him to finish the school year in Pittsburgh! While I know logically speaking that there’s not much difference between him coming in May vs. June, but it feels like a HUGE difference.

You’d think after so many years of waiting that I’d really be more patient, but I was so excited about the prospect of meeting him a few weeks earlier that I started tearing up during the phone call. Which is kind-of funny because I promised our awesome adoption coordinator that I was not going to cry during this meeting since I completely burst into tears the last time that I saw her to pick up Dominick’s photo album. Oh well, as anyone who has seen me watch a Hallmark commercial can attest, I probably shouldn’t make promises about not crying.

Second, and I don’t want to say equally important necessarily, but DJ’s caseworker told us that his new favorite football team after looking at our family photo album is the Steelers. And his current foster family–who is being really amazing in terms of helping him with the transition–bought him his first Steelers shirt. As you might’ve guessed, more tears followed. I know, I know, I’m crazy, but if you’re from Pittsburgh then you totally understand. And if you’re not, you should move here and find out 🙂 (FYI: if anyone from the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau happens to be reading this, I’m very available for hire!)

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In other news on the home front, I’m still reading Sherrie Eldridge’s great book, Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew and am continuously impressed by how insightful it is. One thing, in particular, has stood out to me and I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last few days. According to Eldridge, one of the mistakes that many adoptive parents fall into is trying to overemphasize the similarities between their adoptive child and his/her new adopted family. For example, telling the child that they looks like their adoptive parents. Or what I’ve been doing lately which is really focusing on how DJ’s interests are very similar to John or my siblings or my nieces and nephews. While I think that is definitely a good thing to make your adoptive child feel like a part of their new family, Eldridge makes the important point that overemphasizing the similarities between DJ and our biological family comes at the risk of undervaluing the wonderful differences that Dominick is bringing to our family. She uses the example of grafting a fruit tree (p. 5) to describe how parents should view their adoptive children:

A grafted tree. Magnificent to behold. One of a kind. Contrary to nature. Luxuriant leaves and intricate rootes. Loaded with horticultural challenges for a gardener, but ultimately yielding a tree with unparalleled beauty. The adopted child. Magnificent to behold. One of a kind. Biological features often contrary to yours. Intricate roots that need to be healed. Loaded with behavioral challenges for parents, but ultimately yielding a life of unparalleled beauty.

While I’m so excited to find out all of the ways that DJ will fit into our biological family–whether its through his love of Legos or Star Wars or Diary of a Wimpy Kid or skateboarding–I’m even more excited about the differences that he’ll bring. It might be his creativity or his Hispanic heritage or even a love for professional basketball but whatever it is,  it will be uniquely DJ, and it will be great!

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Preparing for Parenthood

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In preparing for DJs’ arrival, I’ve been oscillating between feeling like I have a hundred things to do and I have nothing that I can do but wait. And I guess, in honesty, it’s a bit of both. At first, there was such a flurry of activity, both mental and physical:

  • Spreading the news and all of the joy & gratitude that came along with it
  • Discussing plans for the long-awaited “baby” shower that I was starting to doubt I would ever experience
  • Wrapping my head around the fact that we were finally coming to the end of our long journey towards parenthood
  • Buying favorite books from my childhood like Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic and Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to share with DJ
  • Picking out bedroom furniture for “my son’s” room
  • Investigating pediatricians who specialize in working with adoptive children, especially kids with attachment issues that Dominick most certainly will struggle with
  • Starting this blog
  • Calling the hip environmental charter school that you can see from our front porch about enrollment…unfortunately, there’s a long waiting list, even for fourth grade, but it was still thrilling to have a reason to call after all of these years of living across the street

Along with so many other lucky kids, this was my first introduction to the wonderful world of poetry.

But right now, there’s a bit of a lull which has left me plenty of time to ponder becoming a new parent at 38 to

Who didn’t want a dog after reading about Henry Huggins & Ribsy?

a 9-year-old with a complicated and painful past. Let me say up front that I’m incredibly confident in our decision to become adoptive parents and know deep down in my bones that the universe has led us to DJ. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have fears about being the very best parents possible. That’s normal, right?

So what does a professor do when she’s unsure? Yep, she reads. Right now, I’m reading this really good book that I would recommend to other adoptive parents: Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge. And wouldn’t you know two of my top fears are among the first addressed in the book?

The very first thing that I’m supposed to know is that my child has suffered a profound loss and (here’s the tricky part for me) I’m not supposed to feel responsible. It probably sounds obvious, but to anyone who knows me, you’ll know that I struggle a lot with guilt. And I know a part of me will always yearn for the ability to travel back in time and protect DJ from all of the hardships he’s faced in his young life. The tricky part, I guess, is accepting that Doc Brown’s flux capacitor is still only relegated to the movies and deal with the fact that I’m doing everything that I possibly can to care for him now and for the rest of my life.

Another early section of the book discusses how children’s anger about the past will probably be directed at their adoptive parents. My brain tells me this is totally to be expected and that I will be prepared for his eventual lashing out at us. But my heart asks what am I going to do the first time that he says that he hates me? Or that he wishes that he could go back to live with a former foster family? Or his birth mom? I can only pray and trust that I’ll be strong enough to know that his words aren’t really about me and be able to respond with love and kindness.

So just some thoughts about my own fears & anxieties. What are some things that you fear/feared about raising a school-age child?

Last but not least, I talked to DJ’s caseworker today so expect another new post soon with happy updates!

What Comes Next

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To our great surprise, John and I found out last week that DJ was told about us and that we’ll be coming out to Oregon to adopt him! We thought that the case worker was going to wait until all of the paperwork was taken care of–that’s still several weeks away–but I guess she felt confident enough to share with him. She also showed him our picture album, but he’s not ready to talk to us on the phone yet.

I can only imagine what a scary and exciting time this must be for him. I just wish that I could be there to tell him that everything’s going to be okay. That someday he’s going to love all of the great people who are about to come into his life and that he’s going to have a mom and dad that are going to keep him safe and love him forever.

It’s hard not to feel a little frustrated about the extra challenges of an interstate adoption, especially from one side of the country to the other. But the long adoption process has taught me so much about faith and patience that I’m just going to have to continue to rely on those lessons.

Since so many of you have been asking, the tentative plan is that we’ll fly out after DJ’s school year ends (I’m selfishly hoping that it is early June and not late June, but we have no idea) and spend about a week in Oregon. We’ll probably spend the first day visiting with him and his foster family then work up to spending time with just him and then eventually he’ll spend the night with us in our hotel.

On some absurd level, the whole situation reminds me of meeting my college roommate for the first time. Here is this person, this total stranger, who I’m going to be living with for the next ten months. They will be privy to all of my personal habits and idiosyncrasies; they will become an intimate part of my everyday life. Of course in this case, we’re hoping it’s closer to the next ten years, not ten months, but you get the point. I’m also hoping that Dominick doesn’t show up with a poster of a unicorn standing underneath a rainbow that he’ll insist upon hanging up in his room. But if he does, I’ll just grin and bear it…again.

Sorry for the short post, but I’ll try to make up for it by posting a little sooner next time. In the meantime, if folks have any specific questions about the adoption process up to this point or even funny stories about meeting their college roommates, feel free to share in the comments! A big thanks to all of you who have been reading along and sharing our journey.