(*Watch me perform this piece in the 2014 Listen To Your Mother show)
We didn’t set out to have five kids. We had a girl, we had a boy, we had a vasectomy. Then we had a foster baby boy and adopted him. Then his birth mother had another boy that we fostered and adopted and then a girl that we also fostered and adopted.
“You know you can say no,” my friend said when she found out about the baby girl. “I know. But I can’t,” I replied. “Yeah, I knew you’d say that.”
But does that automatically make us really good people? Or does that just make us . . . suckers? Aren’t we actually just baby whores or, maybe more accurately, gluttons for punishment?
Because here’s something I realized after I had a four-year break between infants: there’s a lot about babies that really sucks. And the novelty of being woken up multiple times per night wears off just a little bit quicker with each kid.
When I was home with my first baby I remember putting some laundry away while she napped nearby in her cradle. I remember thinking to myself, “Isn’t it so silly how some new parents will check to see that their infant is still breathing? Ha ha. Ha. Well. I mean. She is right there, it couldn’t hurt to just check…”
When the fifth infant came along, it was more, “Where’s the baby? Oh the two year old is watching her? Cool.”
When we’re out in public, we get a lot of looks. We get a lot of questions (like, “are you a school group?” No, but if you want to give me a group discount I’ll take it.) We get a lot of “you sure have your hands full!” from well-meaning passersby, which I alternately interpret as either “better you than me, sister” or “get this pack of wild animals out of my establishment pronto.”
I know that one family with five kids is excessive by today’s standards and I’ve learned that racially mixed families like ours are referred to in the adoption community as “conspicuous families.” (Though I initially kept messing up and referring to us as an “IN-conspicuous family” and would then picture us out in public with those ridiculous black plastic glasses with the fake noses and mustaches attached. I still think it’d be a good look for us.) So I expected the stares, the questions and comments. I didn’t expect the accolades. Things people have actually said to us:
“Oh you are so, so good.”
“THE ADOPTED ONES ARE BIOLOGICAL SIBLINGS? I love you.”
“You’re a saint.”
“Your family doesn’t need to pay the yearly fee. You’re God’s angels on earth.” (Fine, I don’t mind the no fee thing.)
“You guys are such amazing parents.”
I just can’t understand why people think we’re so good all the time? Seriously, they seem to think we have more patience because we have more kids. Ha! It actually goes the other way around, people. When your fifth toddler is applying nail polish to her eyelashes when she’s supposed to be going to sleep (true story), it doesn’t have an iota of the charm it had when your first toddler did it. (Of course my first toddler never dreamed of doing anything so naughty. I think it’s safe to say that therefore it’s partially her fault I said yes to four more.)
Being calm in public doesn’t mean we don’t lose our shit at home. Of course we do. We’re human. Kids push buttons. I’m sure you’ve seen all the self-deprecating parenting rants online that I have, confessing the mistakes made by parents on a daily basis. I read one recently in which a mother insisted she is a worse parent than you, dear reader, because she…has…eaten…a Cheerio…off of the floor.
Fucking amateurs. I ate cereal off the ground before I had kids.
But none of these kinds of transgressions add up to being a bad parent, they add up to being a real parent. Real parents sometimes curse when they shouldn’t or punish before getting the facts straight. Real parents might, for example, tell their 3 and 4 year olds, “What green stuff under the cheese?? Oh that? That’s just pizza sugar.”
And me, I’m a real parent. That’s what I’m here to tell you. Just because they didn’t all spring out of my loin doesn’t mean I don’t fuck up. Just because three of my kids started out in the foster care system doesn’t mean I’m some kind of holy person. If you stop by one day and see me baking or reading or sewing with my kids, go ahead and tell me I’m a good mom. If you notice me at the park actually running and playing with my crew, go ahead and pay me a compliment.
But if you just notice in passing how many of us there are and how many shades we come in, don’t glorify me just for that. I promise you: adoptive parents are assholes, too. Just like the rest of you.
This totally made my day :) You gave me a good laugh - and made me feel a lot better about the crumb count under my dining room table right now, the f-bomb I accidentally dropped in the Walmart last week (with all three kids in tow) and the fact that I've adapted the five second rule to include not only the floor, but the length of time the dog's lips have been on it.ReplyDelete
Oh Kelly- that so totally made my day. I think the five second rule should absolutely include dog lips. And sibling's mouths.Delete
Right? We need to start some kind of new five second rule...The five seconds and five other creature's lips rules??Delete
"the length of time the dog's lips have been on it"...omg now you gave me a good laugh today too! Thanks!ReplyDelete
I'm not sure where I laughed harder: the pizza sugar (brilliant by the way) or the nail polish on the eyelashes (ouch)! xxooReplyDelete
Personally I'm still not ready to laugh about the nail polish on the eyelashes yet! Little stinker.ReplyDelete
LOVED this post, which is so humorously written! Maybe you are not a saint, but for you to multi-task between five kids and this awesome writing - you are Superwoman!!ReplyDelete
Oh, years ago, 2 year old Nina drew all over 1 year old Lenny's face with my lipstick - he developed an allergic reaction and I found his artistically rendered face covered in hives. Hope your little one's eyelashes are still intact :)
Still intact. She looked ridiculous for a few days until it wore off and I felt like I had to explain it to her teachers because the nail polish that ended up on her skin under her eyes sort of looked like bruises. So she looked like a toddler with two black eyes and fancy pink lashes.ReplyDelete
I kind of adore you. :)ReplyDelete
Why thank you codychrome.Delete
Glad you enjoyed Jasmine!Delete
All of this is so true. And hilarious. I would like to see my trans-racial, blended, adoptive family in those fake nose glasses too. Give people a reason to look at us! :)ReplyDelete
It's good to know I have other families ready to jump on the fake nose glass trend with us ;)Delete
Funny, so true, and my do we have a lot to learn!ReplyDelete
I am adopted. Giggle.ReplyDelete
Oh SO good! I love this times a million. Thank you for bringing me here. YOU SO GET ME.ReplyDelete
Beth, we were meant to find each other!ReplyDelete
but your kids never discovered that panti-liners make fun stickers - on the front steps. or baptized their stuffed animals...in a bucket... in their bedroomReplyDelete
I just stumbled across this post as it linked from Beth Woosley's "Five Kids" site... and it's awesome.ReplyDelete
As a new father of five siblings (all in the past year) through Foster Care... I'll admit that I'm in a bit of a struggle over, well, everything: that I'm not selfless enough to parent; that I don't play with them enough; that we are not actively pursuing a relationship with the birth mother (yet?)... all along with the other 'normal' stuff that parents do (like looking at the three loads of laundry waiting for me despite the fact that I seem to have done three loads of laundry just three days ago).
Anyway, thanks for the laugh... and for writing a blog that can help me reconnect with the fact that I may have things that I aspire to, but I'm doing okay for now.
Kevin thanks for taking the time to write, I'm glad you got a chuckle out of it. I do write quite a bit about our fost/adoption experiences so I hope you'll follow me on facebook! https://www.facebook.com/SisterSerendipDelete
I'm sorry it took me so long to get over here -- thanks for stopping by my FB page. This is awesome. Truly awesome.ReplyDelete
And I swear I'm not just blowing sunshine up your ass because you adopted a bunch of kids...
This is the second time I've read this, and is just as awesome as the first time! Ha ha.ReplyDelete
Ha Ha Ha - or the F bomb my newest dropped WHILE revealing to her 2nd grade class that Santa was a F****N fake because not one kid in her Chinese Orphanage ever got a present no matter how good they were.. OH, btw - did I mention my kids are in CATHOLIC SCHOOL??? Yea, no saints here whatsoever!! LOLReplyDelete
I love your blog post! We have 7 kids...bio and foster adoption. We also in the middle of international special needs adoption for number 8. We get the saint comments all the time....we aren't.....in fact we are pretty lame. There are many days that they have girl scouts cookies for breakfast and mismatched socks LOL. We yell and we swear.....but we love our kids. Big families rock!ReplyDelete
Not me, I am all rainbows and pink fluffy cupcakes ALL the time. :-PReplyDelete
ok, now I am back for a reality based comment ;) ... Yes, what you said resonates completely. I have one child, adopted internationally.... I have made all the mistakes, said wrong things, caught her doing things and wondered how that just happened, etc. I appreciate your honesty, and it gives me and many others validation, which is always a good thing. Thank you!ReplyDelete
My cousin's youngest started out foster. I don't know if you're as great a parent as she is, but I can tell you you're hilarious.ReplyDelete
You saved my day! My partner an I just finalized our 5th adoption on the 22 ofNovember. People ask us all the time why we do it. The story used to be because we had extra resources and skills to take care of older kids. After the past 2 days at home with the kidsI have decided it must be that we are.completely insane. My beautiful five year old daughter has recognized the insanity and decided to push my over the edge. Used toilet paper in the shower? ? WTH?ReplyDelete
This is terrific! We haven't adopted, "just" foster, and the "saint" comment just puts unnecessary pressure on me. Ask me how much I yell when my bio 18 yr old won't wake. the. eff. up.ReplyDelete
Saint? Not so much