Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Morning After

One of the most important things I have learned in my life as an adoptive parent is the necessity of letting go of some things. If you've been reading the last couple of days' posts you know that things in our family's life have been fraught with tension and disruption. It is difficult to find calm in the midst of one child's adolescent rebellion and another (adult) child's failure. There was a time in my life that I would hang on to those situations, rehearse in my mind over and over what I could have done differently, chastised myself for not being a better parent (after all, kids who have good parents don't try to sneak out of the house night after night, don't use alcohol or drugs, don't run away, don't break the law, ad nauseum), and tried to find ways to rescue my son or daughter. Eleven years of parenting have taught me the folly of caring more about a person than s/he cares about him/herself. I will continue to be connected with my children, offer them assistance as I can, but I will invest no more emotional energy in the situation than they are willing to invest.

Yesterday, for example, while I was still at work our son Mike appeared at our home, asking Claudia if he could use our basement to store his belongings, as he was being evicted from his apartment at 5:00 PM. His arrival at our home was no more than an hour before the 5:00 PM deadline. Claudia had him call me. "So, Dad, do you care if I bring my stuff from the apartment to keep at home?" "Where will you put it, Mike?" "In the basement." "And you realize that if you leave your stuff here there's the real possibility that someone is going to touch it?" "Oh. But do you care if I bring it over here?" "No, Mike, I don't care if you bring your stuff to the house, but I want you to understand that I'm not going to be able to protect it for you. You're taking the chance." "Yeah, OK. I'll just put it in the basement then. Thanks."

I can tell you exactly what is going to happen. Within days Mike will reappear, needing to find something that is his. He will go the basement, find things not exactly like he left them (or as he remembers leaving them) and he will begin the inquiry. "OK, who took my CD? Dominyk, did you take my CD? Ricardo, I know you took my CD." And then he will proceed to rummag through other's rooms and belongings in an attempt to find what he himself may never have brought in the first place. It is an irritating process, one with which we are well familiar, and so we will then tell him, "Mike you took the risk. We warned you about that." He will not remember, he will become frustrated, and we will have to ask him to leave our house, which he will do in a fit of anger and disgust.

But for now Mike is seemingly content as can be. He is no longer living in an apartment where he is "constantly being watched" (his impression) and where the landlord is trying to "get him in trouble." We don't know where he is staying, but he seems content, so I am not going to worry much more about that right now. I will let that go.

And then there's Salinda, whose multiple day rage has eventuated in a therapist's and doctor's appointment yesterday, and which seems to have resulted in a happier existence for her. And let me tell you, if she's happier we're all happier. She is now speaking civilly to us and her siblings, and there is a sense of calm that is present again. Perhaps it was the scare with the police visit, or the opportunity to make some progress with the therapist, or the mutual agreement to revising her list of consequences ... whatever it was, I will not try to make sense of how it all came about. I will let that go and simply be glad we are in a better place.

For an introspective perfectionist like myself, letting these kinds of things go does not come naturally. My tendency is to try to perfect, to prevent the "next time," to anticipate upcoming stress so as to stave it off. I have discovered, however, that my personality has to be directed in new ways if I am to survive the roller coaster ride of parenting.

It is the morning after a really bad few days. I have let go of many things, until next time arrives. And next time always arrives. But so does the morning after.

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