The other day, I found a folded piece of paper on my desk. I opened it up and found this:
I literally put my head down and started to cry. My son Anthony had written it. I could see how hard he worked to form the words "I am adopted" and I knew he had dictated "I have an awesome family" because he probably ran out of time and that made me sad, but it also gave me hope. His message was clear! He liked us!!! Despite all the tussles and struggles and challenges and disciplining we all go through together everyday, He LIKED US!!!
Many of you know that my husband and I have three children, 10, 9 and 8 and that my middle child Anthony, aka Dennis the Menace, is not our biological child. As if raising children isn't challenging enough - when you have an Anthony in the mix - woohoo!!!! Don't get me wrong, I love him very much. He's endearing and charming and funny and cute as hell and essentially I call him the mayor of the Emerald City because he can charm everyone and anyone like nobody's business. He is also defiant, street-smart, impulsive, hyper, has a quick temper and is very challenging practically every minute of his day. (Ask any of his teachers!)
Anthony came to us at 8 months old when I was 7 months pregnant with my daughter Brooke. Our son Michael was 2. He had a rough start in life which contributes to his academic and behavioral challenges as well as his personality "quirks". I must admit, this hasn't been an easy 8 years and certainly the course of our lives has been changed dramatically. He requires a great deal of patience, discipline and advocacy. Of course what child doesn't, but I think we're on extra overload with "Dennis"! And yeah - I do understand why some wild animals eat their young!
Our days are typically longer and more challenging than we ever expected and the litmus test of that is when "Dennis" is away for the weekend at his aunt's house and we are getting a bit of respite. There is a discernable energy shift in the house. It's quiet. It's peaceful. (His brother and sister actually miss the chaos!!) It's CLEAN!!! No one is yelling. Everyone is smiling. We can plan activities that we can't do with Anthony (He has a tendency to get over-stimulated and act out.) Broken parts aren't all over the house! You get the picture...
We are often discouraged and surely question our ability, often and regularly, to parent such a child. But, NOW, amongst all the rubble and chaos of this unexpected life with our Anthony, when my spirit feels crushed, I will remember finding that folded piece of paper on my desk that day. I will recall how it broke my heart to see his struggle in black and white. But more importantly, I will relive that moment of bittersweet joy. We have good moments and we have tough ones and yeah - they do make 'em cute so you don't...well, you can finish that thought! But through it all, even though we don't have the instruction manual, maybe what we are doing with this child is ok afterall.