I don’t know how to answer this seemingly benign questions. I mean, sure, to the drive through window lady I will give the standard “Fine, how are you?”. I’m not talking about that though. I am talking about getting asked this question by people that truly care and love me, wanting to know the answer. I am often at a loss. Here is the truth, I have no idea how I am, and no way to try and explain it. But I think I have found a way, and this post will be that.
Since my wonderfully kids moved in (almost 6 months ago now) life has been intense and varied. I have experienced more of a range and intensity of emotions than ever before. Now is no different. I wondering if this is a mom thing, or what, but there are no signs that it is going away, and I think I am ok with that. In any given day I can experience high highs and low lows, but all seem perfectly natural in the situation.
So, How am I?
Tired: My kids are not infants, so I must say that I am getting more sleep than a mom of newborns, but it doesn’t feel like it sometimes! My kids tend to have nightmares and get super scared in the nighttime. They all have night lights and I check on them regularly, but I would say at least 3 times a night (on a good night) I am woken up by kids. They seem to go in spurts, where one wakes me up 3 times in one night and then the next wakes me up the next night. If they had any forward thinking ability I would think that they planned this out, but alas, it is the luck of the draw I guess. Most of the time the kids come get me, tell me they are scared and asked to cuddle for a bit. We cuddle and then I send them back to their rooms. On the odd night, however things go very different from tantrums when they have to go back to their room, or just weirdness. Like last night when I woke up to the sound of fast running feet and crying in the hallway at 3am. I was so confused. I went to see what was going on and P was crying and running around the house looking for me (evidently he didn’t start looking for me in MY BED). This, combined with the fact that it takes me a while to fall asleep makes one tired mama. In addition to the night-time stuff recent behavior has made us concerned about safety when the kids are not closely monitored by an adult. This means that things like getting the dishes done, folding laundry, vacuuming doesn’t happen until the kids are in bed (ok, let’s be honest, it just doesn’t happen). My kids need my undivided attention in order to understand appropriate behaviors in a family. This will not be forever, but it is for now. Hence the camera’s in the house that I can monitor on my cell phone (to keep them safe when I am in the bathroom or something). 24/7 supervision is exhausting!
Content: I could not think of a better word for this, I know there must be one but I can’t think of it (see first emotion). Hearing the sound of children playing (MY children playing), putting all the kids to bed and knowing that this is their home, hearing “mom” even when yelled by all three at the same time in public, and children hugs and kisses fills me with unbelievable joy. I had waited so long for this, this amazingly wonderful broken hurt and healing family that to know that it is here forever seems almost unbelievable. But it is…FOREVER!
Sad: It is so hard, as a mother, to acknowledge and hear about the hurt that your children have gone through. To see the effects of it first hand and know how deeply wounded my wonderful and amazing kids are brings tears to me eyes. The detailed knowledge about how people that were supposed to love and take care of them, not only DIDN’T take care of them, but often hurt them. Most of all, knowing all this and not being able to take any of the hurt away from my kids breaks my heart. There is not a day that goes by that I do not notice the hurt. The way P runs away when the doorbell rings. The way S doesn’t believe anything we say is true. The way C wonders out loud if we really will sign the adoption papers. All of these things and many more fill my heart with hurt. I want to take away the hurt I see in my kids, yet I cannot. And somehow this hurts me even more. In a second I would take it all on me, without even thinking twice! To know that my kids lost people that were so important and to vaguely understand the difficult emotions they are going through makes me try to be more understanding of some of their behaviors.
Concerned: Daily I wonder what life will be like for me kids in 1, 5, 10, or even 20 years. What will they accomplish? How can we best help them to make the most of their God-given abilities? Will what they have gone through be a constant dark cloud over them? Is there any way we can begin to help them heal their wounds that we are not already doing? Will they grow up to be successful adults or will they caring on their birth family’s negative cycle? Will they date? Will they get good jobs? Will they trust Jesus? Will they know that they are loved? All of these concerns (some very basic and understandable and some unnecessary for me to think about right now) weigh heavily on my heart. I want what any parent wants, my kids to have a happy, healthy, and successful life in whatever ways they can. I just don’t know what they will look like for each of my kids. Going through early neglect and abuse can greatly impact good decision making, which I know. But I also know that we will do our best to show them healthy ways to live and interact (even if it seems intense at the time, i.e. 24/7 supervision) if that means they have a better chance.
Proud: My kids are working their little butts off to heal! They are digging into the hard stuff and really trying to understand and work through it. Therapy helps, but mostly I see it in our home life. Like when C announces that she has 3 moms and S cleans out her room and begins to throw out the trash (like crayon wrappers) that she could not let go of when she moved in or P using his words to ask for help instead of just crying and throwing things. Sure these moments of progress are sometimes few and far between, but they are there. My kids are trying to figure out this living in a family thing. This Joel and Katie are here forever thing. They are doing it. On top of that S is making progress in educational stuff and C and P are learning how to recognize letters and count (even add).
Careful: I’ll admit that sometimes I over-think things (cue the eye-rolls now), but this may serve me well with my children. There are things that I could say or do that, while not hurtful, are not beneficial to the relationship I have with them. I could yell when they make the same old mistake for the 15th time in a row (which I sometimes do, I’m not perfect), or refuse to answer the 450th question of the day or forget to answer them when they say “I Love you”. However, I try to always be mindful of how my actions, words, or lack there of affect the kids. Most kids would shrug off any of the above, but mine are on constant alert to the perceived fact that I don’t really love them or hate them or are going to send them away. They keep expecting it to happen so I need to be mindful of how I present myself to them.
Happy: This one is simple, it is awesome and joy-filling to have kids in the home. The kids are amazing and awesome and funny and well everything else which is fun. I get to see a whole new side of Joel and him and I parent together and he gets to see a new side of me. We are learning more about each other and what we need and trying to make sure that each of us gets the relaxing rest time we need. For example, last night the kids (really just P) woke me up a BUNCH and I was exhausted this morning. So Joel took the kids to church without me and I got to sleep in until 11:30am!!!! Then this afternoon while I played outside with the kids, Joel got some man-cave time to play video games. We try to make things like this work so neither of us get burnt out.
Silly: We do so many weird and crazy things here that it is pretty standard to feel like I’m a fool. Things like crazy dance parties, wrestling, hide and seek with not very good hiders (I have some HILARIOUS pictures of C trying to hide about 2 feet from where S is counting but I can’t post them!), and acting a fool.
Fun: This goes along the same lines with silly, but more things such as going for walks, watching the kids play with Sammy, rocking and listening to music, singing out little hearts out, other awesome things that punctuate our days together.
Questioning: What did you say? Are you mad/sad/happy/fill in the blank? What do you need? Are you hungry? What did you do? Why did you ____? I have NEVER asked so many questions before in my life. Nor have I ever been asked so many questions, some of which do not make any sense. We were at Kolh’s today and they have tile floors in places (very shiny tile floors) and the kids could see the reflection of the lights on the floor. C asked me why they would put lights in the floor. I actually answered without laughing (I am getting better at that!) I feel like sometimes I can’t speak in a declarative sentence to save my life! Maybe in 10 years or so that will change! LOL
This is just a short list (one I could do between C and P’s bedtime and S’s bedtime, but there are so many more, both good and bad. As you can see, it is super hard to answer the question “How are you?”. So if I take a while to formulate an answer, I’m not blowing you off or trying to come up with a lie. I am trying to figure out what to say, how much to share, and wait a minute…how AM I really?
PS – Sorry for all the big words in this post, I know it is more than usual. But with most of my day spent in Pre-K land, I sometimes need for emend myself that I am an adult!