Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Food for Thought


I just got off the phone with one of my brothers. He and I have a lot in common, as
we are both raising special needs kids that we adopted. He and his wife lovingly chose to open their hearts and home for their kids, and now are living a life that most cannot imagine. Unfortunately for me, I can.

My brother is experiencing what many would say is a very difficult time with his kids, mainly his 7 year old son. His kids are fraternal twins, a boy and a girl. They are both cute as can be, and full of love and life. Yet they, like my kids, suffered from a very traumatic entry into this world.

When my brother first called me tonight, he asked how I was.

I'm doing okay.

It was a flat out lie. I knew it, and he knew it. We quickly went into the topic at hand. He is struggling with the day to day challenges, and trauma, that goes along with raising children like ours. I give him a lot of credit. He is hanging in there. I also give my sister in law a lot of credit, as she is hanging in there as well. And as my brother said to me tonight, other people can admire, and respect, the choices we made to adopt and raise these kids, the reality is that they have no fucking clue what our daily life is all about.

At one point in the conversation my brother began sharing with me how the daily challenges affect their marriage, and how difficult it is to make time to deal with the relationship issues when there are already so many fires to put out. At one point I was trying to stress to him how important it is to give the relationship priority, even when it seems that the kids should come first. At one point he said he understood what I was talking about. At that point I stopped him, and sternly told him that he has no clue what I am talking about.

My tone through my brother for a loop. He didn't see it coming. But he immediately understood why I said it. I told him that although he has always been very supportive of me, and has always given me love and respect, he has no clue what my life is like anymore. I told him that all the people who love me think they know, but fortunately for them, they are clueless.

I then told my brother this. When you asked how I was doing, and I said I was okay, I was lying to you. When you asked how the kids were doing, and I said they were doing fine. I lied to you. When you hear strength in my voice, and you tell yourself that I seem to be doing well, you are lying to yourself.

I then found myself fighting back tears as I explained how important it is to work on your relationship. He could tell that my voice was quivering, but he seemed a bit uncomfortable with this. He then told me that even though he and his wife have had a much more difficult time parenting than they ever imagined, or that they have challenges within their relationship, he knows that he would not be the person he is today without his wife. He told me that it is because of her that he went on to college, and began his career. It is because of his wife that he has the self esteem that is present each day in his work. I stopped him, and asked him to please stop talking for a minute. I then said that there is one thing that he can do today, that can bring such new life into his relationship today, and that is to tell his wife of this revelation, not me.

Tears rolled down my face as I reminded him not to take life for granted. I explained that no matter how difficult his life is today, it will be difficult beyond his imagination, or beyond his worse fears, should he lose his wife. I explained that I didn't want that for him, and to please take my words to heart.

In the end my brother thanked me for giving him of my time, and for sharing what I did. Before hanging up he said, well, it is all food for thought.

My response was, then, feed yourself.


  1. Other people just don't understand. That's the whole truth of the matter. About a year ago, a friend told me that, although I didn't believe it, he thought that before I know it, I'll be in a new relationship. I was pretty annoyed about what he'd said as I thought, "How do you know how I'm feeling after all I've been through?" Just in the past couple of days, he mentioned this again and I replied the same thing I said last time this topic came up. "No effing way do I want to go through this again in this life." This time, he gets it as his wife is battling a rather complicated cancer. He admitted something like, "Boy, now I really get it."

    It's just a truth of these experiences and struggles, that we go through them alone and without anyone really understanding how it feels to be inside of these situations. It's not until it happens to you that you actually start to get it.

    I can't even pretend to know what it's like to be you, dealing with your family. My only insight into that world is that I used to do a lot of child care for parents of special needs kids - a deaf autistic girl, and some other similar situations. I would just be there for a day, or rarely, for a few days while they got a break. I can barely imagine what it was like for any of those parents on a continuous basis. I don't like to think of how most of them would have fared on their own without the support of their partner. Imo, it turns the situation into a whole different ball game -- one that comes with tremendous responsibility and very little opportunity for respite.

  2. other people can admire, and respect, the choices we made to adopt and raise these kids, the reality is that they have no fucking clue what our daily life is all about.

    Man, I get that (not about kids, of course). If I appear to be doing well - meeting any random individual's conception of what that means - then I am respected and admired for being so strong, for continuing to live, all that crap that means absolutely nothing. Admire and respect for what, exactly? That "ooh, look what they've done even with such adversity" song that irks me, and has from the very day this happened.

    It sounds like you delivered a powerful message, far more gracefully and directly than I am often able to do. When you strike a core in someone, especially when it was unexpected, those defenses go on up, but I bet he was at least kinder to his wife, if not ready to be so open and direct. Words like that - they're like targeted laser beam cut through the crap and say what is really going on medicine.

  3. Someone made a comment to me today about her difficulty with "the fifty-year old brain". I said, yes it certainly is add to that a dead husband and the resulting two years of insomnia. She got it for a minute...but then had to try to one-up me. Yep. Ok. I walk away now.