Tag Archives: fear

The Worst Feeling in the World

Most people who’ve spent time as the Responsible-Adult-in-Charge-of Keeping-Beloved-Child-Alive-and-Accounted-For will eventually feel this feeling, even if only for a few seconds. Of all the ups and downs of childcare, this is the worst.

Worse than answering the same question, breaking up the same fight or issuing the same clear direction for the 9,837th time. That day.

Worse than labour and delivery.

Worse than endless government paperwork.

Worse even than cleaning up after a violent stomach flu, one that explodes on both ends.

2219056224It is that moment of sheer, undiluted panic, when you turn around and your child is Gone. Out of sight. Missing.

Your entire body is on high alert. Stomach in your throat. Heart pounding. Adrenaline pumping. Your brain instantly replays every single missing child crime show you’ve ever watched. For a moment you look around and call their name and try to stay calm. Then any sense of dignity or propriety is discarded as you frantically search and come up empty. Your entire being narrows to this single task… Find. My Baby. Now.

Usually, this dissipates quickly. You turn around and there they are… right behind you. Around the corner. Under the bench. Playing with a friend. You heave a sigh of relief, chuckle at your overreaction and carry on.

But we all know, not every story has a happy ending. So the panic is genuine. Every time.

Today at soccer camp my son’s coach turned around to help the other kids. Just 30 seconds to untangle the parachute. And when she glanced up, he was gone.

One of my favourite things about our church’s soccer camp is the huge number of dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers who run it. Practically everyone between the ages of 11 and 85 pitches in, in some way or another. There are hundreds of kids at camp, but there are hundreds of leaders too. It’s well-organized and safety conscious.

Everyone in the area dropped what they were doing when S went missing. Instant search party, right in the middle of camp. With so many adults all around, it seemed amazing that anyone could slip through. How did such a little guy get past everyone unnoticed?

Just last week I met with our social worker and filled out a Needs Assessment for our boy. We put an extremely high mark for “Safety Concerns.” He is fast, agile, impulsive and has absolutely no sense of danger.

The week before that, I met with his new preschool teachers to discuss his needs for the fall. He is bright and engaging and loves a group setting, but he needs CONSTANT supervision. I must have said it a dozen times, “You can’t take your eyes off him, not even for 30 seconds.”

This is our biggest worry: That our rough and tumble explorer will come to harm. Child-proofing can only do so much. He has super-human determination and a flair for creative problem-solving.

We have child locks on the doors. A fenced and double latched yard. A puppy “backpack” that is actually a leash. A one-on-one helper for Sunday School. “Watch the boy” is on the task list for any family outing.

“CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” is our motto.

Today… I was his coach at soccer camp.

So here’s me, still a little shaken after a heart stopping 10 minutes of drama. He had ducked down in the ditch right beside us to play in the rocks. He was close by and safe all along. But it’s a 10 minutes I’ll never forget.

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Losing My Cool

Turns out, I’m not as cool in real life as I am in theory.

I’m talking about the kind of cool that stays calm and collected in the face of a challenge. The serene, unflappable cool that takes life as it comes and assumes that God is in control and everything is going to work out.

If you’ve read this blog before, I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise.

But it’s caught me off guard this week. You see, I was sure I knew how I felt about my son’s birth family. I was adamant that they are an important part of my child’s life and therefore, important to me. I was compassionate about their struggles and their losses. I was encouraged by every indication they gave of love and interest in S. I was cautiously optimistic about openness and a continuing relationship with them; regular updates, pictures, and biannual meetings on neutral ground did not seem much to ask. I was secure enough and mature enough to face their angst and anger without taking it personally.

Until we actually set the time for the meeting. Suddenly my high-minded ideals seem naive and impossible. Though my mind continues to believe the truth of it, my heart revolts. I am sad. I am threatened. I am afraid. And I am, inexplicably, angry.

This week I will finally meet the mother of my son.

That sentence doesn’t even make sense. It is unnatural and strange. I share this incredibly intimate bond with a woman I have never met. I know heartbreaking details of her most difficult struggles. I know as much about her medical history as any doctor. And her child is now my child.

She carried him in her body. She felt his first kicks. Her voice was one of the first sounds his ears heard. She held him in the NICU. But she was young and broken and overwhelmed. She could not be what he needed.

Unlike many adoptions nowadays, she did not choose us. Nor did she choose adoption for her child, though she agreed not to fight the ministry on it. So far.

Our adoption is not finalized yet.

After 6 months in our custody, the government will apply to make it permanent (this takes another 2-3 months). It is extremely unlikely that anything should threaten this, but not impossible. Someone could petition the court to overturn the placement. Someone could try to take our boy.

Friends of ours recently lost the child they are desperate to adopt, abruptly taken and returned to his birth mom. Their grief and very real concern about his safety is palpable. Legal or not, he is their son. And they are devastated.

My cool, rational brain recognizes that this is not a realistic worry for us. But my heart isn’t always rational. And I won’t breathe easy until we hold the final papers in our hands.

Birth family is not our enemy.

This is the family that brought our beautiful boy into the world. They gave him a name. They dreamed dreams for him.

We have a plastic-covered book of pictures which we call “Everyone Loves S.” The first page is a picture of our family, the next section contains pictures of foster family and the last pages are pictures of Birth Mommy and brothers and grandparents. As we look through it with him, we name each face and tell him “Nana loves S, Poppa loves S… Everyone loves S.”

It’s true. They really do. As best they can. And we know enough of their story to understand where things have fallen apart for them. They are not evil, heartless villains, just flesh and blood people who are in over their heads.

And some part of me is glad, because now I have the son I wanted so badly. This competitive streak is alarming. I examine their shortcomings and am reassured that we can do a better job as parents. Mine! I see their dark hair and eyes, noticing that S looks more like my children than theirs. Mine! And I know it is ridiculous to be this petty and insecure, but he is mine, mine, mine…

I guess I’m not as mature and confident as I thought.

But I can play it cool.

I will let my mind and not my heart guide me. I will set aside my fear and insecurity. I will keep mama bear in check. I will protect, but not attack. I will pray when I want to obsess and forgive when I want to judge and trust when I am overwhelmed.

Adoption has enough losses already. This week we will try to build something positive and redeem some connection with his past. Because that is what my son deserves.

So here’s me, and I know it’s not a competition. I read “Percival the Plain Little Cattepillar” 7 times a day. I catch him when he leaps off the monkey bars. I wipe his nose and change his diaper. I teach him to sign “please” when he wants ANOTHER handful of blueberries. I rock him to sleep every night. I’m his Mom.


The Myth of Us and Them

I watched a documentary about the Amish last night. It reminded me of drives to St. Jacob’s for the farmer’s market and Amish bakery. Sour Northern Spy apples. Giant sugar cookie pigs. Sweet buns and fresh bread. The quaint characters we craned our necks to see as we zipped past in modern convenience. But most of all, it reminded me of me.

The program explored this strange subculture, both good and bad. The ones who left. The ones who stayed. Neither ones the villains. Both the victims, in their own way.

The customs. The secrets. The lines drawn in the sand. Tradition. Conviction. Fear.

And it all sounded so familiar. Not only from family stories of our strict Brethren sect, but from my life here and now. Because we draw lines in the sand too. In different places, but they are still there.

This is something I wrote a few months ago. It is a little different. I usually keep the rambly “poetic” pieces securely hidden in journal pages, but I’m running low on time and energy, and feeling a bit brave today.

How do we separate “us” and “them”?

We try to wrap our skinny arms around it, digging in our nails, gritting our teeth. So we can throw it down and beat it into submission.

We’re the church, we’re big on submission. Not the doing, but the saying.

White knuckled and wide-eyed. You can almost smell the fear. In whispered rumors and wild innuendo… cause that sort of thing is contagious, you know? We have to keep that shit, excuse me, sin out. We cannot let them win.

So we create our own. Our own music. Our own slang. Even our own breath mints.

But we are them.

And they are us.

No matter what brand of candy we chew.

Culture was never the problem. Creating a new one won’t save us. Bullying “them” pleasantly, with our kind intentions, until “we”, happily deluded, feel safe.

But we are them.

And we are as full of shit as anyone.

And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else.

Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God.

What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.

Romans 3: 20 (MSG)

So here’s me, and yes, I used the word “shit.” If that’s all you can think about, then you probably missed the point anyway.

And I’m not kidding about the breath mints. “Testa-mints” – has anyone tried them? They’re like Certs, with a righteous after taste.


The First Day of School

After 17 years out of the classroom I returned to school as a “Mature” student this January (they keep insisting that I’m mature, and I’m not going to tell them any different). It was equal parts terrifying and exciting. It sure has given me a better understanding for what my children went through when they started at a new school after years of homeschooling. Of course, I was lurking the parking lot, so it’s not like they were really alone.

Today my Life Writing professor returned this piece I wrote at the beginning of the year. As I look back on how I felt it seems a bit silly, but fears often are. It doesn’t make them any less real.

My First Day of School

I hemmed and hawed. Red, black, blue… heck, I even have purple. How are they doing it these days? It’s the computer age now, perhaps the entire argument is moot? Do they even use ink pens in University?

As all the boys and girls come to class with their laptops, netbooks and iPads, I will sit at the back of the room clutching a handful of ballpoint pens and all the courage I can muster in my sweaty hands. Is a look-of-sheer-panic “in” or “out” this season? I’ll need to see what Teen Vogue has to say on the subject.

It’s been 17 years since I’ve been in the classroom as anything other than the guest speaker or class Mom. I’m not sure what to expect and that terrifies me. Usually I’m the one doling out comfort and reassurance, lectures about “Behaviour I Expect” and advice on how to make new friends.

Who’s going to hold my hand on the first day of school?

So here’s me, months later and a veteran student. Turns out my friend Beth was in my classes. I tried to get her to hold my hand, but she insists on taking notes. I made new friends along the way. They didn’t hold my hand either, but I’m okay with that now. 


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