And I quote:
“And after fourteen years of foster care, Johnny was getting all As and Bs in school, happily helping around the house, had checking and savings accounts, and looking for his first job – all within just a few months of being adopted into a family. ”
Johnny, I’ve written a version of this success story a hundred times since you’ve moved in. And it’s been true on single every single occasion that I’ve written it. Your progress is front and center, it’s unbelievable actually, and I have to remind myself that you are the same kid who didn’t know how to order off a menu a year ago, slept in his shoes, and got so anxious in Target that it was pretty common for us to ditch a full cart in the middle of an aisle and leave. Remind yourself of this, of how far you’ve come. Remind yourself often.
But it’s not always true, this “yay for family” story. We both know this. Sometimes we can’t even see true from that happy, happy, joy, joy side of this story, but you read my blog and you watch my Facebook feed so I’m pretty damn careful to only post the feel-good stuff. You told me it’s starting to feel a little like lying. I get that.
We’re not quite the family who posts hugging vacation pictures taglined #blessed when, in reality, the dude is cheating, the wife buys Adderall from the baby sitter, and the pyro kids flame shit up in the alley, but I hear you. This has, so far, been a very rose-colored display of what adoption from foster care can look like.
You asked me to start writing about the other parts, the also-true parts. I was just waiting for you to ask.
You and I are doing remarkably well, considering. Let’s reiterate that. But we’ve had some pretty tense moments over here, no question. We’ve had some threatening moments and some dangerous moments and some moments where we have both wondered if we were under the influence of crazy sauce when we signed up for this.
Walls have been punched, furniture thrown, property destroyed. You’ve gotten in my face, I’ve gotten in yours. Some teens have posters hanging in their rooms, we opted for a safety plan. Most of the time the plan works, but sometimes it doesn’t. In those times, I’ve called the police, you’ve called your therapist, we’ve had crisis teams visit, and my ex is on call to come over at a moment’s notice. I think you’ve gone inpatient three times since moving in. I say “I think” because I’m actually losing track. That’s how fast things shift over here.
To quote the Coldplay song (but the cover by Aimee Mann, please), “Nobody said it was easy.” Can I get an ahhhhhh-men?
While recognizing over and over, one hundred times over, how much you’ve accomplished and grown, and to pat my own back here, how much I’ve learned, I’m with you. It’s time to own that this can be hard. Really, really ALL CAPS HARD. For both of us.
I adopted a behavioral teenage boy out of foster care on the eve of his eighteenth birthday. This is, hands down, the most insane thing I have ever done. (And I once moved to California with two friends, changed my name to Cricket and worked at a K-Mart.) And for you, it would have been soooo much easier for you to age out of the system, go back to old habits and have complete and utter freedom doing it. Instead, here you are with me and a little brother who has more issues than National Geographic, trying to navigate a family life that is foreign and weird and that sometimes you really, truly hate.
Nobody said it was easy. (Literally, nobody, and I talked to a hella lot of people.) But here’s our common ground – you and I chose this. We both had much easier options, and yet, we chose this, the hardest option of them all. We are the same type of crazy, Johnny. We are willing to go big and risk it all because we don’t hang well with the regret that comes from knowingly passing up an opportunity to do what we feel, what we know, is right. The easy roads are not for people like us.
Adopting you was right. Taking a chance on a family was right.
I am pleased as punch that I can be a little more transparent about this whole adoption thing, Johnny. Nobody said it was easy and it sure as hell isn’t. But it’s right – and that’s so much better than easy.
Your Crazy Mom
p.s. Silver lining: you’ve gotten really good at repairing the wall. But maybe stick with the punching bag for the sake of your hand. Thanks. oxox.
Rebecca Masterson is a writer, speaker, and an advocate for children. For more from Rebecca, follow her on Instagram. Or sign up for her newsletter.