Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Month Post Adoption

The first 6 months after a new child moves into a home can be very rough. My experience is the first 6 weeks are often the toughest and can make or break a placement. At least it seems that way in my home. Every parent is different and every placement is different but for me the first few weeks have seemed almost impossible. Then it slowly gets better.

Matt's adoption was no different at placement. He spent the first 3 days at my door crying "bye bye." He was 15 months old. As time passed, his case went through the courts and I worked with the social worker to try to reunite him with his birth mother. Matthew began to settle in and within 6 months he felt more like a forever member of the family. I still worked hard and the social worker worked even harder to reunite him but I began to believe he was here to stay. Matthew began to forget his previous home and would become confused if someone mentioned he had another mother out there. To the world I was his foster mother, to Matthew I was his mommy. There was nothing "foster" or temporary about it. Matthew was beginning to heal from the past trauma he had experienced. He still had some behavioral problems but they were far less severe than the first six months home and the emotional effects were beginning to fade.

When Matthew was almost 3 he told me to stop calling his birth mother "Mommy" because I was Mommy. End of story. Of course there was a lot going on behind the scenes that I will keep confidential out of respect to everyone involved but for Matthew he knew the truth. No matter what the courts or social workers or even I said, he only had one mommy. Yes there was another woman out there who is very special and deserves to be recognized as his birth mother but she was no longer "Mommy." It made me sad for her to hear Matthew say it but I also knew that I needed to recognize where Matthew was at. So I began to refer to her by her first name rather than Mommy so and so. And Matthew continued to heal.

Matthew has continued to grow and heal as he has gone through the foster care journey but he still wanted to have my family's last name and to be adopted. The past six months were really hard for him. He began to understand adoption and ask more questions about why he wasn't adopted. Then the big day came. I got the email that he was free for adoption and I could request a court date. I told Matthew that evening and his whole face lit up. He began telling people he was having "an adoption party."

Just over 4 weeks ago, Matthew and I went to court. In front of our family and previous social workers, the judge asked Matthew if he knew why he was there. Matt smiled and said, "For my adoption party!" The judge laughed and said that he was there for that. He said he had never heard it described that way but yes, it was a party. Matthew sat quietly through court. He seemed a little intimidated but he was taking it all in. When the judge told everyone Matthew's new legal name, Matthew smiled. Jacob and Matthew got new stuffed animals from the judge and the hearing ended. Matthew was now a legal member of the family he had been telling people he belonged to for a long time.

The past 4 weeks have been nothing short of inspirational and inspiring. Matthew had been doing really well. I had no concerns. I wasn't getting phone calls or complaints from day care or sitters. He was just as happy as ever. So I was really surprised by his behaviors after court. The first few days after court he wasn't feeling well and was stil trying to figure everything out. Then it suddenly clicked. His behaviors mellowed out even more and he just seems more content. He just appears to feel like he belongs. Sure he still acts out occassionally or gets jealous of Jacob but it's different. He just seems more secure.

Matthew loves to tell people his new name. His full name. He tells people where his middle name came from (it's my dad's). When people ask if he had a birthday recently (he turned 4 May 17) he says, "Yes and I had an adoption party!" The adoption was a much bigger deal to him than his birthday was.

The first 6 months of a placement are rough. I expected that. I didn't expect how much change the first month post adoption would bring for a child placed here for 2 years. It's been good change. Adoption was in his best interest. He is now a child here forever and yes, he now has only 1 mommy. He still has a birth mom who loves him a lot. We will continue to talk about her and recognize her but his dream is now true. He has an adoption day (we call family day) and he now has my last name.

Welcome to the family Matthew. It's been almost 3 years since I first met you and took you to my home. It's been over a year since you stated I was your only mommy. It's been 1 month since the judge made you a legal forever member of the family. It's been a long journey and one I would do all over again just to call you my son.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Soccer Surprise

I always knew I would be a sports mom but I never dreamed I would be a soccer mom. I love watching my children play sports but I always thought I would leave the coaching to the "other parent" preferably someone who could be a good male role model. That has all changed now.

The soccer season began in April. At the first game, the parents on Jacob's team quickly realized no one there was the coach. That means in the rec league world a parent would need to step up. I decided to give it a try for a game and see how it went. I loved it. 6 games later I have now volunteered to coach again next season. I really hope I am allowed to coach.

I have seen a variety of coaches on the field. Most of them great with the same attitude I have. Others have left me to raise my eyebrows. Sure I believe the children should be encouraged to play but I also remember that they are 5 and 6 years old. None of these children will most likely grow up to be the next professional soccer star. Some might decide to play high school or even college soccer and the rest will move on to other things as they grow older. At this time, the children are too young to predict which children will fall into what category.

My philosophy coaching is to allow all children equal playing time. If I see that my team is overpowering the other team, I will try to have some of my less skilled (usually younger) players play together to give a few more opportunities for the other team to catch up. If I see that my players are being overpowered, I try to make sure I always have one of my older players on the field with the younger ones and then cheer them on no matter how close they get to scoring the goal.

I also try to treat each child as an individual. There are some children who struggle just kicking the ball where they want to kick it or running and kicking at the same time. I cheer for those children anytime they kick the ball whether they kick where they intended to or not. Then there are the more skilled players who hear me most when they do score a goal or make a great play. I also try to make sure each child kicks the ball even if that means he or she kicks off or completes more corner and goal kicks than another player. My goal is for the kids to have fun and learn not to become pros.

Today I watched a coach scold a child for not running fast enough. He told another child if he didn't start kicking the ball harder he would have to sit out. My thought was that these are young children. If they need an extra break, give it to them. If they run a little slower because they are hot and tired, so be it. As long as they are having fun and learning the game, I don't care if they score a goal. This coach was frustrated that his kids weren't scoring against ours and stated "they don't have a chance." That annoyed me as well. Yes my kids were dominating but his kids were playing hard and having fun. There is a reason we don't keep score at this age. Because the score doesn't matter. What matters is that the children have fun, learn sportsmanship, get exercise and possibly learn some good life lessons (like how to be a good friend to everyone on and off the field) not that they score the winning goal.

Enough said. We now have 2 months until the next season. I am hoping to get to coach again. I officially volunteered and will attend the coach training sessions if I am invited and able to make them. Until then, it is time to enjoy the last few weeks of swimming lessons and concentrate on being a t-ball mom. From the sidelines this time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Why 4 Is Important

In our family, turning 4 is a very big deal. You get a new bike, a new car seat (if you weigh enough) and can chew gum. Matthew turns 4 in a little over a week. I gave him is new bike yesterday because I had time to get it and we won't be around much next weekend. He loves it. He rode it to the elementary school today for his soccer game and did a good job on it. He really likes having a "big bike" like his brother and be able to keep up with him a little bit better.