Yesterday Marc and I were asked to be guest speakers at the Youth Correctional Center, otherwise known as juvenile jail. We were asked to speak about our family, it's ethnic diversity and the culture of adoption. The population of the youth center is hovering around 70 kids ages 11-20 which includes both boys and girls.
The education director is our friend and she too is an adoptive mom. She wanted to speak to the fact that families are formed in different ways and no two families look alike. We sat down for an hour before our appointed lecture time and compared notes and made a rough game plan of shared speaking. I also wanted to address some of the issues we have dealt with in our various adoptions which includes one of our kids having been prenatally exposed to substances, one of our kids having been born with Syphyllis and the issue we prepared for but did not have to deal with, RAD.
As the kids began to file into the room, I saw a wide array of behaviors and attitudes. I saw some kids that looked very young and very scared. I saw some kids that I thought for sure wouldn't blink an eye to put a knife in my back. There were a few black kids, a large group of native american kids and quite a few white kids. Something happened to me that has not happened before......I got nervous thinking about what I was going to say. I never get nervous in a public speaking forum and yet, I felt my stomach flip-flop and my head get woozy. I panicked thinking about the things I was going to say and felt a fear that what I might say in regards to substance abuse during pregnancy and RAD would touch some of those kids on a VERY personal level. I knew some had been prenatally exposed to chemicals and it contributed to their placement in YCC and I knew a vast majority of them exhibit profound RADish behavior. I looked into their eyes and choked. I gasped for air silently and realized that these kids were going to hear my words and see their own stories woven into our experiences.
I began by telling our beautiful, loving experience of Madison's adoption beginning with being matched with Angela and loving her as much as Madison. I also addressed the reality that for as joyous as Marc and I were, we also knew it involved loss and sorrow for the birthmom, and in the case of Richnightder and Jerome, themselves too. Adoption is a double-edged sword; indescribable joy and indescribable sorrow. We discussed our other adoption stories and shared some things we had never done before. This is where my fear, panic, lump-in-the-throat moment came in.
How could I share the anger I feel at one of my kids' birthmom for her selfish choice of having used substances during her pregnancy that makes my kids life hard. Not just hard for him, but hard for us as his parents, hard for his siblings and hard for anyone that loves him. I know how hard he works to overcome his inabilities, how hard he works to hide his differences and how hard he works to blend with his peers. I see his struggles to grasp simple social cues, his struggles to get simple math memorization. And I despise his birthmom for burdening him with these avoidable issues. It was those words I tip-toed around yesterday, but to tell those kids how hard my kids life is with his prenatal exposures I damn near cried because I was looking at a sea of eyes that reflected prenatal exposures and the burdens they carried that contributed to their incarceration.
After our 'talk' several young girls came up to us to talk. One girl who's face told the story even before she told me how her mom drank when she was pregnant and how she's stupid now. I wanted to take her home, but my logical thinking kicked in and realized she would bring a whole boat load of problems caused by years of neglect and self-defeating behaviors. I told her I thought if she was as beautiful inside as she was on the outside, she could use her golden heart and heal the wounds and reach for the stars. Another girl told me she was being adopted and that her little brother was already adopted. All I could say to her was to not wreck the opportunity with behaviors motivated by fear. Pure and simple, these girls looked scared.
One kid in the audience seemed to really listen to us and thanked us for sharing our stories. He also stated during Q and A time that he wished they all had parents like us. In a way I wished they did too. Not that were perfect by a LOOOOOOOOONNNNNGGGGGGG shot, but we do give a damn about our kids and will die trying to give them the best we can. I left there wondering what these kids futures will be. How different would their futures be if they had been born into families that created safe, secure, nurturing evironments for them?
Yesterday was a tough day for me. I have resolved to try to volunteer at the YCC. I don't kid myself to think that I alone can make a differnce, but I want one or two of the YCC kids to know I care.