Waiting For That Perfect Ending

I have been waiting for that perfect ending in order to finish the adoption book that I started so many years ago. Things haven't turned out exactly as I'd planned and so I have waited. Currently, my sons are still finishing up college, with Malcolm having just over 30 credits and Mychael having sixteen credits to complete before earning their bachelor's degrees. In my mind, I have always viewed earning these degrees as the end goal. In retrospect, I'm not exactly sure why I thought a college degree would be the ultimate sign of success. Can I say they have been successful despite not having their degrees in hand?

Since graduating from high school, my sons have had many accomplishments along the way, accomplishments that I likely overlooked because they were intermixed with struggle. My kids were set up from day one to struggle, so why didn't I anticipate that they would, in fact, struggle? And if I wanted normal, I should have chosen the boring route, the path of the weaker ones--the biological ones :) I think it's harder for adoptive families to have setbacks because we are expected to fail and so we always feel like we have something to prove. I have never wanted people to know when my children struggle because I assume that they will think, "Yeah, we knew you couldn't make it." As a result, I always try to act as though everything is always wonderful. I'm not allowed to be upset because if I am, then I'll have admitted that they were right.

I have a few non-adoptive friends that I know see adoptive families as being just as legitimate as biological families, and as such, I feel safe confiding in them. Sometimes when I'm really stressed, I'll complain about something and they will say, "Are you kidding? I feel like that with my kids, and I gave birth to them!" I know my love for my children is as real any parents' love for their children. However, it feels good to know that it's okay to have times when I feel doubt, regret or frustration. You mean all parents sometimes fantasize about what life would have been like had they not had kids? Are you telling me that all parents have moments when they wish they could quit? Wait, and you can have all these feelings while simultaneously loving your children more than anything in the world? What? If it's hard for biological parents to admit this without feeling guilty, then it's next to impossible for adoptive parents.

Sometimes I get so tired of fighting against stereotypes and prejudices in order to just be viewed as a regular old family. Some days I just want to hate my role and not feel as though I'm letting down an entire population of people in doing so. I'm sick of always having to be better than normal just because society can't seem to wrap themselves around this notion that sharing superficial things like pigment, history and even DNA is not a pre-requisite to unconditional love and commitment. Imagine that, normal people, we adoptive families love, sacrifice and remain committed when confronted with "normal" family challenges even though we don't all necessarily look the same! Aren't we cosmopolitan!

Recently, I was talking to Malcolm about the fact that he is allowed to take steps in life at the pace in which he feels most comfortable. While he didn't necessarily take the exact route I would have taken, we haven't exactly had the same early experiences. And wasn't I the one advocating that my children be allowed to have control in their lives? Shouldn't I be okay with the fact that they are exercising their right to call the shots on their terms? Only recently have I humbly realized that this also includes me not getting to call the shots. It's hard to be a young person trying to establish oneself in the adult world. My role is to support my sons' efforts to do this effectively.

So why does the perfect ending mean that at age 22, they would have already graduated from college and be working in the post-graduate workforce? I think the answer to that has a lot more to do with me than it does with them. While I might always feel like we have something to prove to the society, my sons just want to be allowed to be themselves and to be accepted 100% for the choices that they make, even if they don't necessarily coincide with what everyone else thinks they should be doing. If I remember correctly, I'm pretty sure I felt the same way when I was their ages. Hmm, this all sounds so familiar, so normal. I guess I'm still learning, and whether I like it or not, they are still teaching.