My First True Parenting Meme
I have spent the majority of my adult professional life working with children, so I've always thought that I really knew how to take care of and raise children. Even when my husband and I adopted our first child, I thought I really knew what I was doing. Haha, RIGHT!
Emma became our daughter when she was about 6 months old. Prior to that she had been living with her mother and father, both very young but good people, and not quite ready for the challenges of parenthood at 18 years of age. Our families decided together that adoption was the best option for Emma, so we adopted her. Emma has a fantastic relationship with her birth father and his family, mostly because his family is MY family, too! She has met her birth mother many times, but life circumstances have not made many visits possible. Hopefully that will change with time. Emma has three half siblings and maintaining contact with her sisters is vital. She needs to know her sisters and their families.
When my daughter was about three years old, I noticed something was a bit different about her. Not a bad thing, but just different. She refused to recite the alphabet, name her colors, shapes or letters, and pretty much refused to play any games unless things were on her terms. I remember purchasing a preschool workbook, all excited about working with her, and then having her completely ignore me when I was trying to get her to do the work. I knew she knew how to do the work, but she flat out refused! I was so angry and frustrated that I completely gave up and decided we would never be that mother-daughter team who worked together on projects--it just wasn't going to happen. Even at her preschool, a recurring theme surrounding my daughter was her resistance to showing her knowledge. She would rattle off colors, shapes and letters all the time, but when asked, nope, not gonna happen. She also struggled with focusing on tasks. The child seemed to be in hyper mode all the time and could not focus on simple tasks without being completely distracted. We had her tested by a psychiatrist and surprise, surprise, she had Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, clinical depression and general anxiety. Ugh. Who wants that for their child? No one, that's who. Meds and therapy. Again, who wants that for their child?
So, because we believed an alternative school would be the best bet, so places her in a charter school. While I absolutely loved the idea of alternative education (it was such a great community of caring, helpful and supportive people--people I love to this day,) it was a toxic situation for our daughter. After several years of scratching our heads with frustration, we removed her from the alternative environment and into a traditional elementary school. She just wasn't learning at a rate that other children her age were, and we were concerned that maybe she had a learning disability. The alternative school reassured us that she did not but they didn't offer any suggestions for helping her really learn. At 4th grade, she could barely read, math was nearly impossible and simple concepts were extremely challenging for her. Within four days of traditional public school attendance, the special ed coordinator called to refer Emma for testing. I was so happy I could hardly sit still.
Testing revealed that Emma was dyslexic and had no true comprehension of sequential order. According to her special ed team, this was a pretty standard diagnosis. The ADHD/ODD plays into this quite a bit, more than I can possibly put into words. Know that it's a challenge and our whole family and friends play important roles in managing and accepting her behaviors. I said accepting. Huge point there. Emma's behavior isn't due to poor parenting, she isn't spoiled and she isn't mean, her brain works differently and she has her own way of processing and comprehending information. What might seem like a simple task to some is extremely challenging for my child. She'll be okay, I know that much. She is an amazing human being--quirky as heck--but so unique and beautiful, inside and out. I'm excited to watch her grow up but I'm scared at the same time. Aren't we all, though?
Most of the time, I really don't know what I'm doing. I have four children living in my house, and each one is completely different. It feels like each one is from their own planet with their own language, norms, thoughts and feelings. The love I have for each of them is powerful. It's truly, madly, deeply crazy love that only a mother can comprehend. I gave birth to two of them, but blood isn't a factor for me at all. I don't need science or biology to make me feel like a mother, I need those kids, all of them, every day of my life, I need them. I can't imagine life without them, I don't want to even think of a day when I can't kiss their sweet cheeks or put my arms around them and tell them how much I love them.
I hope they know how much they are cherished, appreciated and adored. They are my heart and soul forever
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