Thursday, January 07, 2010

It's About The Peers You Pick

We have several children who have a habit of choosing peers and situations where they can always be the best of the group by doing very little. They have consistently hung around kids who are "beneath" them socially so that they can be the smartest, or the cutest, or the coolest without having to try. If you can stay sober and all your friends are drunk, you're above them. If you have two parents and a house and the friends you hang out with don't, then you are the coolest of the bunch. If you can manage to get Cs or Ds while all your friends are flunking then you're doing great compared to them.

It frustrates me because I think that some of them could compete in any crowd. They are smart, handsome, beautiful -- could be the best if they chose to -- but THEY don't believe that. And so they can't.

But I realized this morning that we adoptive parents do the same thing in a way (please hear me out). We often start our journey as adoptive parents with a group of friends who all fit nicely into society. Some of us are fortunate to be smack dab in the middle of middle class and while we are not wealthy by any means, we can "keep up with the Jones'" if we choose. We are educated, intelligent, employed, often homeowners who have done OK for ourselves. And then we adopt challenging kids.

All the sudden we are thrown into our own league entirely. Immediately we discover that we can no longer keep up. Our kids won't be able to compete, and thus we as a family will not be like everyone else. Honor role bumper stickers and shirts full of boy scout badges are completely out of reach. Instead we are concerned with things like keeping other family members safe, protecting our important items and certainly any of our cash from thieves, and getting services or the right psychotropic medications for our children.

So what do we do? We find our peer group. We find people whose lives are like ours. We read each others blogs and we look for support wherever we can get it. And inwardly we find ourselves chuckling, "Wow. And least my day wasn't THAT bad." We feel fortunate in comparison to some of our new friends and a week where the police don't come becomes a thing to brag about in our new circle. We have found a place where we can feel comfortable because even though our former friends believe we COULD be good parents if we tried hard enough, we know that isn't what it's about and that we can't.

Lately I have reconnected with a few old friends that I met years ago who have adopted tough kids. I was thinking the other day that compared to almost everyone we met at the beginning of our journey, our lives are turning out easier than most of theirs. It's not because we are better people or because we did things right and they didn't, or even because of our faith because most of them share ours -- it's just the luck of the draw, the way things have gone. MIke and Kari have lives about equal to ours and we hang out for an evening and they go home thinking "Wow, I'm glad we aren't them" and we watch them walk out the door and think, "Wow, I'm glad we aren't them" and it works out well for us.

We do have some "normal friends" who are very patient and put up with us and understand our predicament and don't expect us to measure up, but for the most part we just hang out with those who have lives like us. And so maybe I should be a little more patient with my teenagers choice of friends. It could very well be that I've chosen mine the same way they choose theirs.


Angela :-) said...

Wow. You put my thoughts into words. I've been thinking alot lately about how I'm drifting away from some of my formerly close friends because of that and wondering what, if anything, I can or will do about it. The problem is, I haven't found any real-life friends in "the same boat" to replace them with, just online friends so far.

Angela :-)

Lulu McCabe said...

Thank you for writing this! We are just beginning the process of foster/adopting a nearly-16 year old boy with whom we did weekend visits for six months. I just noticed that we're drifting away from some of our old friends, who either regard what we're doing as a noble experiment (not!) or flat out insane. They offer "advice" about college prep and competetive sports and we look at them and think "Are you serious? This week we're hoping he won't be arrested and if that happens, it will be a good week." Phew. You restored my sense of sanity.

Lisa said...

I just noticed today during a conversation with my sis-in-law (whom I talk to about 3x/yr) that I use the phrase, "My particular kids" when referring to MY difficult adopted children - alot. I can't just say, "our kids" or "kids like ours" - she has 3 completely normal, neruo-typical children. I used to be her when my oldest 4 were younger (bio) and I really miss it. You're right, I felt completely out of sorts when my younger, adopted kids started getting older and it was very obvious that they were not improving academically and socially? forget about it, these are not kids who are very competitive or team players in any way - you are very lucky you have kids who do well in wrestling, soccer, etc - I used to have that and I never realized how much I enjoyed it when we were in the midst of it - but it's gone. How do you tell someone you just found out that your 16 yo daughter has been sneaking around to see a boy when all of their daughters are open and honest (as far as you know?). If I had a dollar for every time I've heard, "You just need to lay down the law" HA!! If I had a dollar for every time I did and they ignored it I'd be rich.

My kids are so...hard on things - furniture, clothing, walls, doors, etc. I have a feeling they'll all be gone and we'll be sitting here in an empty, falling apart house with no money to fix everything, trying to reclaim "normal".

Claudia said...

Lisa -- I am listening to Dominyk have a complete meltdown, kicking his walls in as I read your comment.

WE used to envision the same thing -- before we realized that some of our kids may not ever leave.

Mom of 7 said...

So true, Claudia! You wrote everything I feel and think, but don't have the skills to write!