Sunday, November 3, 2013

No matter what

One Saturday night a few years ago, my little girl and I snuggled up together to watch the movie, "Despicable Me."

Because of our busy lives and bustling schedules back then (even before the MIL came to stay), we hadn't been able to go to the theater to see it, so we had to wait until it came on On Demand.

Ready with our popcorn and sodas and all the lights turned off to make it look like we were at the movies, Lora Leigh and I were enjoying the movie about an evil genius who plots to steal a giant ray gun to shrink the moon so he can steal it. And to further along his plot, he decides he needs some cute young children to penetrate his adversary's lair. So, he heads on over to the local orphanage to get him some.

Eventually Dr. Evil accomplishes his goal of obtaining the weapon. But then, no longer in need of his adorable little orphans, he takes them back to the orphanage and the mean old woman who runs it.

And at this point, my adorable, impressionable, ultra-sensitive and oh-so-perceptive adopted  daughter became hysterical.

"He's bringing them back?" she screamed. I mean she literally, screamed. "He can't take them back!"

I quickly paused the movie and wrapped her in my arms as she cried -- sobbed -- hysterically, her heart broken for the little characters.  I tried to soothe her as best I could, and assured her that he was likely, probably (hopefully?) going to have a change of heart and keep the girls he "borrowed."

"No. He can't take them back," I told her.

No. You can't.

As much as you might joke about it or think about it or maybe even wish it sometimes in those moments of despair, you can't take them back. Not when they're crying and hungry at 2 a.m. Not when they explode a diaper right after you've handed your cherub to the Sheriff to hold. Not when they draw on your walls with lipstick. Not when they dump a milkshake in your car. Not when they refuse to eat anything but macaroni and cheese. Not when you find a stack of paper plates and empty soda bottles under their bed. Not when they borrow your favorite necklace and break it. Not when they look you in the eye and lie about not having homework. Not when you think they're lying to you. Not when they puke on you or shit on you. Not when they embarrass you in the grocery store. And not when they grow up and do something so stupid you want to strangle them.

In case you don't know, my stepkid is one of the coaches involved in the recent high school football cheating scandal in Louisiana. He admitted his involvement, he told the truth, and he is suffering the consequences. He is embarrassed, mortified and truly apologetic. His parents are duly disappointed and mortified too.

But what are you gonna do?

You can't just give them back. Your kids are your kids, whether they sprung from your loins or from someone else's. Whether they had you in labor for an hour or 26. Whether they came to you or were sent to you. Whether they look like you or your spouse or your mother-in-law or the mailman. Whether they're smart or funny or cranky or mean or not much fun to be around. Whether they talk too much or not at all. Whether they're weak or strong.

Because parenthood is a privilege. Motherhood is a honor. And you are lucky if you get the chance to do it. Not everyone gets to. Believe me. And some have to work harder than others to achieve it. Believe me.

I may not have been lucky enough to conceive my own biological child, but I am lucky enough. Through fate or fortune or God's will,  I was allowed to parent this most extraordinary child who is the light of my life -- a smart, funny, sarcastic, exasperating, annoying, sharp-tongued, brutally honest tweenager who can draw beautiful pictures, sing like an angel (but won't because it makes me cry), write better than me, and devour cases of macaroni and cheese in a week's time.

Through my fortunate marriage, I also inherited two step children. I have had the privilege of watching them grow up into beautiful, fine young adults. My stepson, the jock, followed his father's footsteps and is a wonderful, bright teacher and coach who specializes in special education. He teaches mild-to-moderate challenged children history and horticulture. He and his students have planted and tend to a large vegetable garden on campus where they grow and harvest a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables. He also is a bright young coach whose players look up to him.

I have shared parenting duties with his father and with his mother. I was invited to sit beside her at his wedding. And, at the reception, his mother danced the first half of the Mother-Groom dance, then oh-so-graciously yielded to me so I could have a turn.

And two years ago he faced a darkness harder than this when his baby girl, Parker, was stillborn. Last year he and his wife became parents to another baby girl, Robi, and he is a doting dad.

My stepdaughter is a beautiful, smart, witty young woman. She spent two years working as a photographer at DisneyWorld and now is carving her niche in the hotel and tourism industry in New Orleans. An extremely talented photographer, she and her boyfriend also have formed their own photography business. On the same day her brother made national headlines, she received a fabulous job offer with a huge bump in salary.

But as fabulous as my children are, none of them is perfect.

Neither am I. I'm a human parent. And parenthood is hard. It's messy, it's ugly, it's dirty, it's stressful, it's painful, it's demanding, it's not always fun and we all -- all -- will make mistakes while doing it. It doesn't make us bad people, just imperfect ones. And your kids will be imperfect too. But when you had them -- or in my case, got her -- you are promising to love them no matter what, no matter what mistakes they make. There is a reason adoption folks call it a "Forever Family."

You can't give them back. Ever.




3 comments:

  1. Ya'll are all so lucky to have each other Lori. Sometimes the temptation to take the easy road in life takes you to a place that stops you in your tracks. Just turn around, go back to the start and take the road with the most obstacles to get to your destination and learn from it. I'm sure that the embarrassment is probably the hardest consequence of the whole situation. But with the support of his family, he'll be a better man for it.

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  2. Thank you for your kind words. I just wanted the world to know that we stand behind him, no matter what. You take the good, you have to take the not-so-good as well.

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