Saturday, June 5, 2010

Post #4: Apology Accepted

Sorry seems to be the hardest word.   After a tremendously trying couple of weeks which include lies like "I didn't lose my wallet, I was pocket picked." Or, "homework club was good, no I didn't go".  We had this interaction:

Tween:   "I didn't go to my 5th period class because my P.E. teacher let me cheer on the other kids in the finals of the cross-country race."
Me:  "So you ditched violin?"
Tween:  "I didn't ditch class, my P.E. teacher said it was ok to miss violin to cheer on the other racers."
Me:  "Did your music teacher know where you were?  Did she say it was ok?"
Tween:  "No"
Me:  "So you ditched 5th period--like I said."
Tween: [now screaming and pushing over furniture] "Ok, I ditched class - but don't say that word out loud again."
Me:  "Well I am going to contact your 5th period music teacher and let her know that you ditched class and you will lose privileges and have to deal with the consequences."
Tween:  [still screaming]  Ok, ok, ok, ok - just don't tell her that I "ditched"

Indulge me a bit, but even Pinocchio--the boy with the growing nose--ditched school.

In the original story, as he tells his lies his nose begins to grow until it is so long he cannot turn around in the room. The Turquoise Fairy explains to Pinocchio that it is his lies that are making his nose grow long, then calls in a flock of woodpeckers to chisel down his nose.  Perhaps a bit over dramatic for today's parenting.

OK - back to reality.  I wrote the email that I said I would.  I also shared with her how challenging things have been.  Not only did I get a reply the next day, but I WAS WRONG!  

He did not ditch class, he did all the things he said and she went on to tell me that he is good student and very responsible and responsive while in her class.  I asked her to please tell him that we communicated and that she cleared it up.  She did this, and offered him some extra info, she said, "your mother cares about you very much." 

So how do you make it up to your child, when they have been less than easy to deal with, when you were wrong?

Of course there was the apology.  It was heartfelt and I was an appropriately guilt-ridden mother who tattled on her son, only to be accusing him of something he didn't do.  How do you believe anything your child says when they have been lying so much that he sounds like a spokesperson from the Bush administration defending the war in Iraq. 

Yes, I looked into his eyes and said I was terribly sorry for not believing him, for not understanding what he was trying to say, and that I was touched by how his teacher describes him.

Here's the not so funny part  . . . I was exactly the same way as him.  I can see myself in this child and I am so embarrassed and frightened at the same time.  I want this go around to be different than my turn in middle school and it looks exactly the same.

This brings me to the age old adolescent question, "Who am I?"  For any teenager, this is a loaded question.  But for an adopted child, it is quite complicated.  If I felt disconnected and different in a biological family--what is my child going through in his trans-racial adoptive family that is changing on a daily basis?

I imagine that he has a huge open space in his chest.  It surrounds his heart and this gap has grown as he has.  It is like a planter with drainage holes.  There is no way to fill it up.  It will never stay full.  That space or hole is what I imagine he feels like.  Between adoption, biology, identity, and now adolescence--he's got to be pretty empty in there.

The Need to Connect With The Past

As adopted teens mature, they think more about how their lives would have been different if they had not been adopted or if they had been adopted by another family. They frequently wonder who they would have become under other circumstances. For them, the need to try on different personalities is particularly meaningful. In addition to all of the possibilities life holds, adoptees realize the possibilities that were lost.

I read this and thought of how my son may be feeling as he tries to navigate the teenage terrain and his adoption:

"For some adopted teenagers, the feelings of loss and abandonment cause them to think and want more information about their original families. Sometimes they are looking for more information about their medical history. Has anyone in their family had allergies? Heart disease? Cancer?"

One 15-year old who was adopted as a child commented, "It's impossible for someone who has not been adopted to understand the vacuum created by not knowing where you came from. No matter how much I read or talk to my parents about it I can't fully explain the emptiness I feel."