It has been a long time since I posted on this blog. So much has happened! Fortunately, my middle-aged brain has forgotten some of the drama.
I’ve started to write several times. The problem is that as my children get older, I am more aware that this “material” belongs to them too. And I don’t want to cross the line of embarrassing my kids. To make this point clearer, I will share a few of the “topics” we’ve covered and are covering these days: an unplanned teenage pregnancy, dropping out of school, and a miscarriage; a rocky public school experience resulting in a failed class and anxiety/stress related symptoms; friends drinking on a school-sponsored trip and the dilemma of whether to report or preserve the friendships; bad behavior with boys and siblings pointing the finger of blame at each other; tears over not receiving an award at graduation from elementary school – my son’s first experience of feeling “ordinary.”
Some of this aforementioned material appears on Facebook. So, perhaps, I should be able to use it. But, the truth is, I’m not sure most of it OUGHT to be on Facebook. My teenagers are making their own decisions and living with the consequences.
As I consider these recent dramas, I ask myself: Is this typical teenage/tween behavior or is it somehow related to adoption? The answer, I suspect, is BOTH. When one lives with open adoption as we do, it’s easier to make connections to behavior or attributes of our children’s biological relatives. This helps in sorting out what might be a “natural” response to a particular set of circumstances. On the other hand, aren’t all teenagers – in some sense – CRAZY?
I’ve decided to play it safe as I segue back into writing about my family. I will talk about something joyous – my older son’s graduation from high school.
This is my darling baby.
And this is a picture of K.J. now…
Isn’t he handsome?
He has come so far in so many ways. Here is part of what he said in his senior speech:
“I was a freshman at Druid Hills High School. I didn’t have any close friends, and my teachers didn’t know me. I tried to fit in, but I was unhappy. My parents noticed and arranged for me to visit this school. I came to visit Academe for a day. I came nervous and with an attitude of: ‘it’s a small school. There’s no way it can be good.’ In the main lesson I was in, I had the most fun I’ve ever had at a school – even though I was with people I’d never met. I left thinking: ‘Academe is the place I want to go to school.’…
“The smaller classes helped me learn and everyone wanted to learn. That doesn’t mean it was always easy. You see, I’d developed the habit of hiding in bigger schools. If I didn’t like an assignment or it seemed too hard, I wouldn’t do it and hope it wasn’t noticed. But I couldn’t get away with that at AO…
“Yes, Academe is a small school. But what I’ve learned is that at a small school, each one of us is important. We can’t all be the BEST at everything. But what Academe of the Oaks has taught me is that each of us can be the BEST at our own lives. And even when I go off to West Georgia in the fall – to a much bigger school – I’ll take that lesson with me. I can be the BEST me wherever I go.”
K.J. also spoke at our church on Youth Sunday. He acknowledged that he is, by nature, a follower, not a leader. But being a follower is okay. He said, in part…
“Following has its perks. You don’t have to compete to be in charge. People choose you to be on their team because they know you won’t take over. And you don’t have to make all the important decisions. The leaders do that.
“I’m not sure I would have chosen to be in youth choir or the youth group for seven years. I’m not sure I would have played Glenn basketball or gone on retreats or mission trips if my parents or friends hadn’t encouraged me to or told me I had to. But I did go. And the thing is, because I went along, I had some pretty amazing experiences…
“In the youth group, I was appreciated for who I am. It has been a safe place for me to try new things. And if you know me, you know I do NOT like doing new things. I like staying in my comfort zone.
“I think everyone needs a place where they can be who they are without judgment. Glenn Youth has been that place for me.”
There was also an event at the church called Senior Banquet in which the seniors are surprised by a special guest. Sherry – who has known K.J. all his life and who became his babysitter when he was six weeks old so I could go back to work running an adoption agency – was his.
There is also a slideshow of each senior, and the parents get to make speeches about their child. John’s speech was humorous and focused on building projects with K.J. My speech included this story:
“Now, to be fair, I will admit that K.J. and I have had our difficulties in the past. Being a shy and anxious kid with undiagnosed ADD as a young child, K.J. coped by lying, being sneaky, and outright avoiding the things he didn’t want to do or that made him uncomfortable. We both struggled and had a lot to learn.
“As I was preparing to speak tonight, I read through some old emails to spark my remembering. I read about a time when K.J. was 5 and had spent the afternoon playing in the snow with some friends down the street. Because he was too shy to ask them where their bathroom was, he had peed his pants, then sat on their furniture, then came home and put on his pajamas without mentioning the accident. When I learned about this, I lost it, dragged him out of bed to bathe, yelled at him about lying to all of us, and (with John’s help) devised a punishment. But after a few minutes, I regained my composure and went back into the bathroom to apologize and dry him off. I wrote:
K.J. re-dressed for bed. I went back to his bedroom to say goodnight. This time I said, “I think I need a punishment too for hurting you. What do you think it should be?”
K.J. said, “I don’t know.”
I said, “Oh, come on. What do you think would be a good punishment for me? I did something wrong. Don’t you want to punish me?”
“No,” he said.
“Why?” I asked. With tears in his eyes, he reached over and put his arms around my neck, murmuring, “Because I love you.”
“And that, my friends, is still the way K.J. deals with my less-than-perfect parenting. I chose the James Taylor song “How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You” for the slideshow because it FITS K.J. There’s the line: “you were better to me than I was to myself” that brings tears to my eyes because it is so true about my relationship with K.J. And I believe it is true about K.J.’s relationships with so many others. K.J. sees through our imperfections with LOVE. And that is the second thing I wanted to say about my son. Some of his friends – some of his family members – don’t appreciate what a gift this is.”
Perhaps, the most tender moment in all of these graduation related events came during K.J.’s graduation speech at school when she acknowledged his birthmother. He said:
“And I want to thank my family. I truly couldn’t have made it without the love and support of my family. Today, I have representatives from both parts of my extended family here. Tina Miller-Primus – my birth mother – and my brothers Colton, Austin, and Zachary are here from Nebraska. [K.J. then asked them to stand so that everyone could see them.]
“Sixteen years ago, I went to Tina’s graduation and now she’s here at mine.”
Tina was crying and the whole audience was moved.
Here is K.J. at Tina’s graduation.
And here are Tina, the boys, and a few of the Falcos spending time sightseeing in Atlanta this May.
It’s a beautiful thing to be able to share these special moments in our kids’ lives with their original families. I need to stop and breathe this in because life doesn’t always work out this well. Open relationships in adoption don’t always work out this well. They have their ups and downs just like any relationship with family. But, in my opinion, the ups are worth struggling through the downs.
In a movie about the Sudanese Lost Boys that I recently watched, an African proverb was quoted that applies here:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”