Milestones and moving day

Yesterday I dropped my 19-year-old daughter off at college. She is beginning her freshman year. I was filled with mixed emotions, as I imagine many parents are at this milestone..but then again, I don’t imagine many parents have traveled the same journey that we have, over the last 5 years.

I may have mentioned before that it has been a bumpy ride.

When we brought her home from Africa…she was emotionally extremely young for her age. Both she and my son had only learned to eat with a spoon–it’s all they had been exposed to. I let that go for a couple of days…and then put only a fork and knife at their places at the table.

She was pissed.

She demanded her spoon.

I refused. I told her she had to learn to use the fork and knife, that she would be going to school in a couple of weeks, and that she would be expected to use them there. I knew that at 14… at 14 if she only used a spoon at school, well the teasing would be just cruel. So I was firm. She thought I was cruel. She begged my husband to cut up her food. He cut some up for a day…until I made him stop.

She would pout, and purse her lips and say NO!! and look away. She would throw herself on the floor and have tantrums.

She was 14. I was going through chemo.

At one point she looked at me, during one of our more heated “conversations,” and said “Well I guess you’re going to have to get used to me living here in my house now with my rules” or some such shit like that. You can probably predict what I thought–oh hell no you did not say that to me–I am sick as hell with chemo–I fought for SIX years to bring you here, and you treat me like THIS?? AND THIS IS MY DAMN HOUSE!!!!

But I took a breath…and said that this was MY house, and that we lived there TOGETHER and as such we would learn to live TOGETHER…

We are still trying to figure that out.

It would be a lot easier if she would let me in. At least a little bit.

She has come a long long long way since those early days on the kitchen floor, pouting (and for the record, when she did that, I stepped over her, and told her when she was done with her tantrum to come find me so we could discuss her complaint…). She is obstinate. This worries me.

A lot of things with her worry me.

I moved her in to her dorm room yesterday and helped set her up. We got her books… I did a final scan of the room, and carried out the boxes. I hugged her good-bye, wished her luck and said I would see her later. And I turned and walked away.

She needs to miss me now.

She needs to know that she actually does love me…that I am not this person she has created in her mind.

For five years she has been trying to build a wall between us. For five years I have been trying like hell to tear it down.

I spent last night worrying what she was doing, her first night alone…had I taught her enough….had I done the right thing letting her go…

She did not text me–she texted my husband earlier in the evening.

Eventually she will see, through all of her anger, pain, sorrow….through all of her bullshit…I have always been here.  Even as she pushed, punched, kicked me away…I still held on. Even if by a thread.

And that even now,  I still do.

Even as I let go…just a little bit.

Windows (or stairway) to Heaven…

I’m conflicted when it comes to matters of faith.

Please do not feel free to write and lecture me on this. It’s my journey, not yours.

I was raised basically agnostic/atheist by my crazy ass parents…who suddenly became “Christians” when I started dating a Jewish man..(there is a stand up routine here, I assure you..).

I want my children to have some sort of  faith, some sort of spiritual guidance…some sort of comfort in their darkest hours…something to fall back on. I know what the feeling of NO SECURITY does to a child/adult/person…and I want them to feel like there is something more. Until they can figure it out on their own.

My oldest daughter is fairly agnostic. I’m ok with that.  I’m not sure what my 19-year-old daughter believes…she’s at that age where she doesn’t know herself fully yet… My autistic son says the Hebrew Shema every night..

This leaves my youngest son. Not long ago we were driving and I remarked that the clouds and sun were making “windows to heaven” pattern (it’s entirely possible I’m calling this the wrong thing DUE TO MY LACK OF RELIGIOUS UPBRINGING. SIGH.) He was instantly all over this. Where?? he demanded loudly. I pointed it out…he saw the sunlight streaming down. He wanted to know what I meant. I explained that some people thought that when the sky looked like that, it meant that the doors or windows to heaven were open and you could look up or the souls there could look down.

Now whenever we see this heavenly formation, my son wants me to speed up, to get directly under, so he can peer up.  He wants to look up…and see who is up there.

So sweet.

I don’t have the heart to say what I think…that heaven isn’t this giant ass cloud in the sky….that I’m with Twain on this.

I let him have this. Why not.

He has too many nightmares from his time in Africa…too many memories… too much stuff already. He hung a dream catcher over his bed in an attempt to stop the bad dreams. It hasn’t worked-yet.

He will be twelve years old this week.

I worry that he isn’t reading enough. I worry that he will soon be a black male teenager in America. Don’t lecture me about race–I might have said the same things you would say…until I had African children. I worry about this and that–I worry all the time.

I don’t want him to worry like this.

So let him have his “windows to heaven.” Let him have some peace.

Let me worry for him. Let me take away his nightmares. Finally.

Peace and love.

Traverse, part two (or, Another person I wanted to collect…wait, that sounds creepy..)

I have to add another post about our trip to Traverse City. As many of you may know, two of my children are adopted from Sierra Leone. That’s in Africa…just in case you didn’t know.

That means they are black–just to be clear.

We went to lunch one day at a local eatery, called Don’s Drive In.  It’s painted bright pink, and inside the booth’s are sparkly red and silver–reminiscent of the 1950’s. They serve a pretty good burger and steak fries, and home-made shakes. The kids love this place. The children’s meals are served in paper pink Cadillac cars. What could be better???

The very cute young waitress, wearing a bright pink dress and white apron, approached our table and began chatting with us. She brought back our drinks and then asked where the kids were from, nodding her head towards my daughter and youngest son. It took me a half second to realize what she meant–my first answer was Detroit?? because, duh–I sometimes forget they aren’t really “from me..” I answered from Sierra Leone–Africa.

She said that she had been a foster child and was also adopted. She gave a big smile and walked back to look for our food. My youngest son, age 11 (he will be 12 in August) looked up and asked how she knew they were adopted. My daughter and I nearly fell on the floor laughing. Because, really. Two really white parents and giant 18-year-old autistic brother and then them.

When she came back to the table I told her, with a smile, that my son wondered how she knew they were adopted. She looked at him, and said that as an adopted child, you develop a sense as you get older and can just tell when another person is also adopted. And that being adopted is really cool, because you know you are really loved and that you are special.

She brought our food to our table and I asked her how old she was when she was adopted. She said she was put in foster care at age 5 and adopted at 12. I explained that we had to wait for six long years to bring the kids home, and they were 7 and 14 when we got them–and that they had been here almost five years now.

She was super nice and friendly and cute as a bug. I just wanted to squeeze her and bring her home with us. But I have a feeling her family would miss her.

She is a foster care success story.

I want to thank her for sharing her story and for telling my son that he was special. The family that raised her–the people who impacted her–BRAVO for doing such a great job. She seems to be a great girl.

I hope someday my own children can pay it forward in the same way.

You just never know who you’re going to meet.

The universe works that way. No chance meetings.

So keep yourself open to them.

Peace people. I hope you enjoy meeting me.