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     As an adoptive parent, I have to ask.... Is it OK to make my child wear a t-shirt that says, "I'm adopted. My parents apologize for your inconvenience"? If so, I will order them like underwear - one for every day of the week.
     I needed a shirt today as I looked at my ringing telephone. I always dread seeing the school's phone number on my caller ID. It's with hesitant breath that I ask the all-too familiar questions: "what did he do this time", "who do we need to apologize to now", and "do we need to have a conference". We've written all the "I'm sorry"s there are to write. There is not enough lead in all the world to fill the pencils to write on the pages the amount of sorry's that have needed to be said. We are, in fact, sorry'ed out.

     I'm sorry that he doesn't follow the rules.
     I'm sorry that he acts impulsively, despite the medicine, despite the therapy.
     I'm sorry that he lies to your face.
     I'm sorry that he manipulates.
     I'm sorry that he bullies your children.
     I'm sorry that he threatens to harm your students.
     I'm sorry that he pulls hair and pinches arms and trips passers-by for no apparent reason.
     I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'M SORRY, I'M SORRYI'm sorry.

     This is why I wish I had a shirt for him to wear. It would save me so many words and spare me so many disgusted looks. You know the looks. I know the looks. We've all given them to the parents of the screaming Walmart children and to the ones running amok through the library.  The looks that say, Why can't you control your child? What are you doing wrong?

     P.S. I ask myself those same questions every day.  And I have no answers.

     I'm truly sorry for his behaviors, but I didn't create this. His genes are chocked full of dysfunction and his past overflowing with abuse. In the 6 short years that he lived B.A. (Before Adoption), he witnessed more violence than most of us ever see in our entire lives. Not only did he experience Failure To Thrive due to gross neglect as an infant, he was shuffled from home to home and told repeatedly that he was not wanted. And when he wasn't being told outright that he was unwanted and unloved, he was shown through the actions of those who couldn't be bothered to care for him or train him. You don't have to be a genius to realize that you're not worth much to someone who can't even take a few moments to show you how to bathe or brush your teeth or how to count or say the ABCs.

     And anyone who is willing to use a belt on a kid's legs should be shot. Plain and simple.

     So when my kid shows happiness at your sadness, I'm sorry. And when he sends your child home from school in tears, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I know how terribly you must feel, because I feel it each and every day that I see that dreaded number on my phone. I want to hold your child and tell him/her that he doesn't mean it.... even though I fear that he might. I want to say that he'll never do it again.... even though I'm fairly certain that he will. And then I want to hold my child (after I scream and consequence and make him write the I'm Sorry's for the millionth time) and tell him that there's a better way.... even though it seems to do no good.
     Parents, teachers, peers - I need you to understand my child. But I don't need you to excuse his behavior. He was dealt a crappy hand for 6 years, but he cannot and will not become a victim of these circumstances. I don't need you to affirm him - he has parents for this. I don't need you to fix him - he has a therapist for that. Understand him, yes, and then hold him accountable for his actions. The last thing I want is to create a child/teen/adult that has grown to learn that he can play the "Adoption Card" with a few tears in order to avoid getting a detention or suspension or community service.
     But I don't want to break his spirit.... Listen. You have my permission to break whatever you need to break in order to show him that bad behavior will not be tolerated. Sometimes a will or a spirit need to be broken in order for a new one, an improved one, to be re-built.
     And re-build we will. Bricks of tears and prayers and love, mortar of therapy and meds, brick-layers of parents, grandparents, teachers, and forgiving classmates. And each time he self-destructs and crashes our efforts, we will build again. And when he finds himself in trouble for his actions and things look their worst, we will build again. And when I screw up as a parent and lash out because I just can't figure out what to do with him next, we will build again. We will keep building until the structure stands.
     In the meantime, accept our sincerest apologies and our grateful thank yous. We are trying. (T-shirts will be available shortly.)

 



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