Continued from Part 1
Get lost on purpose.
Sure, candy company. This is a great idea.
Let me disconnect my GPS, toss my phone and just start driving.
Forget about picking up the kids from school or assisting clients or happy greetings from me and the four-leggeds when Hubby arrives home.
Sometimes I do get lost, but not on purpose.
I have no maps in my head. I’ve tried. TRIED. Again, I blame books. From childhood through my early twenties is buried in books. Blessed with an iron stomach, trips to the grocery store or dentist were escapes to islands of treasure or conversations with diminutive females. (See what I did there?)
On annual expeditions up winding routes through mountains to see the glorious autumn red, gold and purple leaves, my mother called out every thirty seconds, “PUT YOUR BOOK DOWN!” Nothing deterred me from a good read.
Unfortunately, this also precluded me from the company of my slightly-more-motion-sensitive sibling, six years my junior, who paid attention to the road and could find his way home when he was approximately thirty months.
I still have trouble remembering…is it right? Or left?
Hubby still laughs at me for getting mixed up in the woods behind our house. In my defense, I couldn’t see anything but trees.
I traipsed out to give him something, then turned to head back to the house. He stopped me, then asked our (then seven and nine year old) children, “Which way is the house?” They pointed. Not the direction I’d started walking.
Do you need me to embarrass myself further? You get the point. I have no sense of direction. Getting lost on purpose would not be difficult.
But if I were to lose myself (especially—as so many times during our first 24 months with wild hyenas—when I feel the urge to do so), how would disappearing help? I submit to you that it would NOT.
“Getting lost,” whether a literal or figurative disappearance, is not the answer.
I can say this with unequivocal, earnest passion because for about a year, I followed this bitter chocolate advice. I buried myself, my dreams, my emotions, my yearnings. So worried that I would attach too deeply to these insanely wild creatures, only to be torn from them, I distanced myself. I got lost. On purpose.
I became an automatMom, going through the motions. On the surface, I appeared as happy as every other adoptive mom of kids with behavioral needs. We all smile in public.
Side note: Speaking of smiling in public, I just read about a couple who adopted a sibling group of five, then added a bio child. Their story is similar to our own (plus four kids) and when I read the upbeat, sappy parental commentary, I couldn’t hold back the sardonic laughter. Either 1. they’re putting on a front for the media, 2. they’re still in the honeymoon stage and the kids are doing everything they can to not screw up, or 3. (for all their sakes, I hope this is the case) it’s really a fairytale story. If it’s either of the first two, and you know them, feel free to direct them here. I can at least let them know survival is possible.
Reality slapped me the day our son hugged me on his own (this is big) and I didn’t react. I hugged him back, of course, but on the inside…no spark of maternal warmth. Looking back, I can see that Hubby and I were both pushed to our limit and exhausted. If I could go back to give “pre-adoptive us” some advice, it would be this: FIND RESPITE. USE IT.
We weren’t aware of many resources available to us (and were too overwhelmed and spent to look for them).
The day he hugged me, I realized I’d been holding back on our kids. Being lost—to myself and to them.
For the record, leaving to “find yourself” is ridiculous. The best way to find yourself, if you notice that you’re lost? Take time in your situation to measure your reactions, your thoughts, your interactions. Decide what you want “found” to look like…and then work toward those goals one step, one moment at a time.
I am no longer lost to my children—and I do not EVER intend to get lost on purpose.
Stay present. On purpose.
You want advice?
Enjoy the chocolate. Recycle the wrapper.
Or, if you prefer, track down a vintage Esmerelda machine. Be careful though…it’s been twenty years. That”tall, dark stranger” might be stooped, wrinkled and bald by now.
I’ll just stick with chocolate.
I’ve learned not to listen to my chocolate.
I don’t know if your chocolate presumes to advise you on daily matters, but mine does so with the dogged intensity of a foil-wrapped yenta.
Admonitions and exhortations, bagged and available for purchase in your local supermarket. Or at least, in mine.
Some of these gems put me in mind of the suspect guidance provided by the chintzy gypsy machine in our local arcade back in the late 80’s. “Esmerelda” bullied all the pre-teens into feeding quarters into her slots on our way to the PacMan and Centipede consoles.
She never delivered on her promises, unless her “tall dark stranger will bring money to your universe” prediction referred to the leering, greasy-haired arcade attendant. He replaced quarters eaten by Galaga, so…I guess that counts.
Dove, I appreciate your attempt to bring moments of peace and happiness to my existence. (And with that new Salted Caramel line, you may claim absolute triumph.) However, it’s time to either
- find new writers or
- stop presuming what’s best for my life.
Because, let’s be serious. If I followed most of the wrappers’ advice, my life would be in shambles. (Also, if I followed most rappers’ advice…but that’s a homonym for another day.)
Let’s pause to consider a few of these nuggets.
Keep the promises you make to yourself.
Right. On the surface, sounds like a great plan. This, of course, depends upon the flavor of your declaration.
During a recent conversation with myself regarding a child who shall remain nameless, I didst covenant with mineself that if such shenanigans as were occurring should perdure, said urchin’s nether regions would soon benefit from the application of velocity plus acceleration plus mass (also known as The Swatter).
Before you string me up and send me to Child Protective Services, please note that The Swatter is a plastic toy paddle that bends in half. It is a noisemaker.
AND, getting back to the point, although I promised myself that a swat was in order if crazypants did not cease and desist singing opera past bedtime, no paddle made appearance.
BECAUSE I DID NOT LISTEN TO MY CHOCOLATE.
If I listened to my chocolate, all manner of horrible promises might be kept. “If that kid doesn’t quiet down, I’ll…” “If they don’t stop throwing spaghetti at each other, I’ll…” “If my child trips the principal one…more…time…I’ll…”
Okay, that last one never happened. Thank goodness.
The assistant principal did tackle the five-year-old hyena to prevent yet another school-building escape, but he did not trip her.
A plethora of threatening parental promises stream from our consciousness all day.
Don’t give me that look; I know I’m not the only one. We don’t mean to keep them; it’s almost a habit. A tactic to manage the stress.
I like this better:
No one should keep all their promises.
Especially when you work with hyenas.
Indulge in dark.
Yes, the intent is convincing me to buy more chocolate. I get that. But let’s think about this one for a moment.
My kiddos love night-lights.
When I’m ready to sleep, I much prefer darkness. Even as a child, the only time I wanted light at night was to read Little House on the Prairie and Narnia under the covers.
Books are the reason I spent four years in braces; all that time spent reading with a flashlight between my teeth so I could use both hands to hold the book. These new-fangled headlamps available in the DIY store…my eight-year-old self would have cut off a big toe to get one of those. Probably even my own big toe.
For sleeping, I love dark. Flashing lights from a computer or cell phone drive me nuts; I have to cover them with a sweatshirt or other article of clothing dropped bedside (because yes, I do that).
Sometimes even a light outside my room is too much. At my aunt’s house, we leave the bathroom light shining in case of mid-night emergencies. The glossy wood floor reflects the light under the door and casts more light than you’d expect. I sleep with a pillow over my face to block the glow.
Following choc-advice, I could flip the light switch and sleep in blessed pitch.
And then, after sunup, I’d have to clean a bedside puddle because one of the kids couldn’t navigate through the blackness.
Keep your light shining.
How about this one?
Do what feels right.
Parent or not, I’m sure you’ve experienced that moment in which you think, “I really can’t live through another moment of _______________.”
Of course, we can and do live through it, but we don’t feel that we can.
Think of the last time you experienced the end of your wits. The frayed rope of nerves unwinding just a bit more…
- you lose your job
- he/she/they cheat (on a game, on a test, on you)
- that child sasses you ONE. MORE. TIME.
- he pushes
- she yells
- baby’s still wailing and you’ve changed and fed and burped and rocked
- they scream and bicker and fight
- your eye begins to twitch
In that moment, be honest—what do you FEEL like doing? Scream, yell, slap, hit, walk away, self-medicate, drown (yourself…others…all of the above) in alcohol or bad behaviors or the bathtub.
This advice, excuse my French, is CRAP.
We must not do what feels right.
We must do what we know to be right.
And especially when our nerves are jangled and unraveled.
The last one is my favorite.