Monthly Archives: August 2012

Back to School, Part 1

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While going back to school is probably routine for most parents of 9-year-olds, I couldn’t be more excited or nervous about DJ starting school. Every fall for the last ten or so years, I’ve dreamed about my child’s first day and all of the back-to-school preparations. As usual in the world of parenting–adoptive or not–things aren’t going exactly how I had envisioned them once upon a time.

First, DJ will be starting 4th grade, not pre-school or kindergarten. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that part of me is jealous of all those moms sending their kids off to their “real” first day of school. One of the hardest parts about being an adoptive parent of an older child is that you’ve already missed so many important “firsts” in your child’s life. Nonetheless, I’m fairly confident that I’ll be just as proud as any parent when the bus pulls up on  Thursday morning.

Second, school shopping with a 9-year-old boy was not the warm-and-fuzzy experience that I was expecting. Go figure, huh? Turns out that DJ would rather be checking out the Legos in the Toys Department (like most other 9-year-old boys) than helping me pick out new clothes. In fact, I had to promise him ice cream in order to get him to try on exactly five pairs of pants, none of which fit him, of course.

Fortunately, DJ brought a lot of clothes with him and has two aunts who have been very generous  in sharing clothes outgrown by my nephews so our failure to buy new clothes really isn’t a problem. At least not for DJ. I, on the other hand, am a different story.

While I pride myself on being a fairly non-materialistic person, I was actually sad that DJ didn’t want a bunch of new clothes for school. I think most of my angst, however, was more about growing up in a large family where money was always pretty stressful than conspicuous consumption. Now as an adult who is financially stable, I struggle with the desire to want to give my child more than what I had and yet raise them to be a responsible consumer. Or put less graciously, I don’t want a child who is spoiled rotten.

Nonetheless, I managed to cover my disappointment and resigned myself to just buying a couple of shirts, including a retro Star Wars t-shirt that I’m secretly hoping he chooses to wear on the first day of school. Okay, I also splurged on a $30 Pittsburgh Steelers hoodie even though he absolutely didn’t need it. What can I say?

Then we moved on to the highly-anticipated (at least for me) school supply portion of the shopping trip. Thankfully, DJ was much more willing to shop for pencils and folders than shirts and pants. His predilection for being indecisive, however, meant that we spent an inordinate amount of time debating mechanical pencils vs. #2 pencils, Clone Wars folders vs. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and on and on. I wouldn’t have minded, but the poor kid agonized over every purchase. He didn’t say it out loud, but I could tell that he was worried about having the “right” kind of everything for his new school and the possibility of appearing “baby-ish.”

Finally, I never expected to be so emotional about DJ starting school. I teared up just talking to his school principal on the phone out of sheer joy! I also feel an overwhelming sense of relief that he’ll (hopefully!) make friends–something that he’s refused to even try to do all summer–and won’t have to rely on me as his primary playmate.

Warning: blatant self promotion

At the same time though, I’m a little worried that I’ll be really lonely once he’s gone. After waiting so long for a child, I’m reluctant to give him up, even if it is for school. I keep telling myself though that it will be great to get back to more of a pre-kid routine, including my freelance editing work and spending hours in coffee shops as well as the really mundane like uninterrupted time in the bathroom.

So that’s where we stand with T-minus 36 hours before DJ’s first day of school in Pittsburgh. Hopefully I’ll have a post up in a couple of days with how the first day actually went! In the meantime, feel free to write in the comments about how you imagined your child’s first day of school and whether or not it actually turned out that way.

A Day at the Museum

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To be perfectly honest, it was closer to 1 hour & 29 minutes, but that’s still pretty good for the boy who has been telling me for weeks that he doesn’t want to go to the Carnegie Natural History Museum. I’ll admit though that I took him to Bruegger’s for bagels this morning to soften him up, and after several rounds of no’s he finally agreed to go. (For those of you who were really paying attention at the beginning, there were concerns about him being sensitive to gluten, but so far the only allergies that still seem to be significant are peanuts & pork.)

Although DJ vehemently hates getting his picture taken–so much for the photo album that I bought to keep pictures of all of our family firsts–I managed to get a few shots. His favorite exhibit, by far, was the minerals & gems, which was one of my favorites as a kid.

Polar World at the Carnegie Natural History Museum

DJ’s unwillingness to try things has definitely been one of our biggest challenges. And like so many things, it’s hard to discern when his reluctance is your run-of-the-mill 9-year-old behavior or something deeper or most likely a bit of both. I’m sure that I’m not the first mom to say this, but if I hear “Boring!” or “I don’t want to” one more time, I might lose my mind.

But as I keep reminding myself, I always knew that parenthood would be one of the most difficult things that I’ve ever attempted to do.

When you go through the adoption process for an older child, you are asked many times & in many different ways what kind of child are you willing to accept. I’m sure for every couple some questions are obvious, even idiotic. For us, accepting a child of any race was a no-brainer. We also knew that there was a strong likelihood that our adopted child would be born of parents who abused drugs and alcohol, possibly while pregnant.

And then there were the difficult and disturbing questions that remind prospective parents yet again how much these waiting children have already endured in their short lives. Are you willing to accept a child who has been physically or sexually abused? A child with a terminal illness? A child of rape/incest? A child who starts fires or smears feces or abuses animals?

After years of filling out these types of forms and attending classes for foster/adoptive parents, I feel like we had a fairly realistic picture of the types of issues and challenges that our adoptive child might be bringing to our family.

So while we’ve probably had more than our fair share of “bad days” and hours-long tantrums in the last two months, I’m choosing to focus on the incredible job that DJ has been doing as he adjusts to his new life with us. The times that he said “yes” to something new, like going to the museum today, or told us that he loves us “the mostest.”

And when I think that I can’t take him choosing to play video games over going for a walk on a beautiful summer day like I imagine all of the “good” moms & kids are doing, I’m going to remind myself that my boy is trying his best, and I love him exactly as he is right now.

A Very Good Day

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Morning:

  • Rise & shine at a very reasonable 8:30 (for the kid who claims to want to sleep in until noon) and no fussing over his morning shower
  • Bagels at Bruegger’s; reading Lego Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary and Parents magazine (I’ll let you guess who was reading what)
  • Visit to the Squirrel Hill library

Afternoon:

  • Trip to Target; lots of excitement over new Lego Star Wars sets. Plus, I worked up enough courage to allow DJ to stay in the Toys dept. for a couple of minutes on his own while I did some grocery shopping
  • No complaints from DJ about his reduced screen time, and he even put WWE 12 on mute while I was trying to do some work!
  • First time that I’ve seen DJ drink more than one glass of water in a day thanks to his new water bottle–why do things always taste better to kids when it comes in a bottle?

Evening:

  • Yummy dinner of lemon chicken, fried red cabbage, and rice (DJ still had his regular Kraft Mac & Cheese, but at least he tried the chicken & didn’t say anything looked gross which was a nice improvement)
  • Fireman’s Fair in Castle Shannon with Uncle N & the cousins–one of the summertime rituals of my adolescence that I was excited to share with DJ for the first time. Rides, games, Slurpees, & funnel cake…what’s not to love? Really wish that I had some pics to share, but guess who HATES getting his picture taken 😦
  • Started the 2nd Diary of a Wimpy Kid book for story time
  • DJ falling asleep to his book-on-CD, Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
  • Laying in bed writing this post and listening to John watch Arrested Development