Friday, June 19, 2009

forever schmorever

Just a little note today to question a well-worn term in the adoptive community (generally EXTREMELY careful with their words) that makes me bristle. Yes, forever folks, I have to quesiton the use of the term Forever Family. It's not just that I don't like it, or that it doesn't resonate with me. Maybe it is because at one time I was pregnant unexpectedly and considered making an adoption plan and I know that if I had let go of my son, I still would have loved him FOREVER. I would still love him now.

This might get me thrown off the six adoption yahoo groups to which I belong, but I actually think it is unethical, in most cases, to use the term Forever Family. Here's the gist of it: I think my kids' first family was/is EVERY BIT of Forever as we are for them. I think they live on in my kids' hearts, and that to label me as Forever Mom would steal away something very important to every child: the knowledge that my first mom loved me and didn't stop loving me. Same with dad, and I don't really even care what kind of damage was done, whether there was abandonment, neglect or abuse. I think it is very important to make a distinction between the idea of love, the concept of commitment, and the assumption of every mommy or daddy's ability to choose to parent well.

I don't like creating a distincition between the birth family and the adoptive family. Every one in each of these families is integral in the life story of the child. To be whole, even someone who has been abused or neglected because of their parents' inability to parent well (for whatever reason) needs to get through all the stages of grief - the shock, the denial, the anger, the blame - and find that place called acceptance that acknowledges that even though mom and dad left (or died or hurt me), there is this link, a forever link, between that person's story and my story. I know, it might take a whole lifetime to get there in some cases, but in most cases of adoption, I think there is no way to justify cutting the birth parents out of the forever circle of the child's life.

In cases where the birth parents were not able to parent due to illness, death, or poverty, it seems cruel to me to count the adoptive family as Forever. It automatically begs the question: my first parents didn't ever plan to be forever mine? It sounds a little snobby to me, like the first family wasn't committed enough to you, but we are: we are forever. We are better. Ugh.

I think MAYBE it might be a good term to use with little kids (pre teenhood) who have been through several different foster placements. Maybe it is a good term to use with certain special needs kids. I can't say that it is never appropriate.

Here's the question I always feel when I hear someone talk about being a child's forever family: What if something awful happens, like both "forever" parents die in a car crash, or of cancer, or whatever. Not so forever. What if one parent just can't handle it all after a few years, has a breakdown, and leaves. Then the parent left gets married again after a few years. Do you introduce that new parent as the New Forever Parent? That old forever parent wasn't really truly forever, but this new one is?

Of course you think you'll be around forever, but how can you promise something you have no real control over?

I think only Universal Love is forever, only g-d by whatever name or namelessness, is forever. I want my language to teach my kids that no matter what, there is love, forever, but that all human beings are fragile and to be honored and loved each moment because you never know when loss will happen. It is one of the great lessons of grief, and I will not cover it over by naming myself Forever Mommy, no matter how infinate my love for my kids feels. And it feels pretty darn forever.

It's not that I'm not committed. It's just that I can't say I'm committed forever, because I don't have forever to be committed. I only have today. I'm committed for as long as I have this body, this heart, this mind. I'm committed for as long as Love lets me be here.

ps: This bright shining light is coming home soon!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Check it off

My niece wrote about being addicted to to-do lists. We are related. There is something about lists in our genes.

I am also a to-do addict. A do-do-do addict for short. I used to have three calendars. Just for personal stuff. Ridiculous.

Work is work. Of course I have a calendar there, and a post-it note list of what I am working on. Not too hard to keep track of. I am blessed with a job I don’t have to take home with me.

For home… which includes six kids, my husband who is Mister Present Moment, two dogs, one cat, church, singing, friends, the house, the yard, the car, and the bills – well, things are a bit more complex. Still, at 48, I have given up on keeping meticulous track of EVERYthing. I figure it is like theater and the show will go on - it must! - even if I’m not ready. Besides, priorities are always changing. Sick happens. And flooded basements. And a kid crying over his haircut. Yes, last weekend’s list was completely obliterated for the sake of ridding the house and its inhabitants of lice and their possible offspring.

So, now, I have one little calendar that fits in my little purse. Its cover is moleskin just because it makes me happy. It is 3.5" x 5.5" and each page is a week, with individual days on one side and just lines for notes on the other side. Not much space to let me cram in things I really don't have the time for. It keeps me honest. It helps me say no. My little moleskin book also sports a ribbon to mark where I am, and an attached elastic band to mark another place or just to keep it closed. I put all my appointments and the kids’ appointments and even Laird's important appointments in there, because he is not good with dates and reminding him of some big things is just one of the things I do for him because I love him. I write my to-do lists on the notes side, with phone numbers. Sometimes I have to go back through to find things. It's okay. If I can't fit things in my little calendar book, I give up on them and figure there is no real need. When I get them done, I cross them out, even if I have to go back eight pages to do so.

On the weekend, I make a paper list of things to do over the weekend and sit it on the table just in case other people in the house want to help get things done. I keep adding to the list as I go. It doesn't all get done, ever. I throw it out on Sunday night anyway. It’s life. Things don’t get done. So what. The really important things get done even if they aren’t on the list.

Sometimes, when I really want a sense of accomplishment, I just get out a blank piece of paper and do it backwards. I only write down what I have done right after I do it. Everything. Nap. Wash dishes. Anything I could remotely be proud of accomplishing. At the end of the day, I look at the list and smile.

Some weekends, I go hog wild and just do whatever I want without any list at all! It’s fun!!! I just get up, make breakfast, then look around for something to do. Oh, there is a basket of laundry. I will fold it. Now what? Make a cup of coffee, yippee! Now what? Call mom. Yeah! Now what? Go for a bike ride. Great idea! Those weekends are the very best days of all.