Friday, September 8, 2017

My kryptonite

My daughter has officially started college.  She didn't go to California.  In fact, she didn't go to any of the bazillion places she was accepted that would have taken her far, far away.  She is going to college in our own backyard - The University of Dayton!  And, because we live so close, she is able to stay home - at least for a while longer.  I am savoring every second because I know it's going to end sooner than I want.



I never wanted children.  Honestly, I really don't like kids much.  I think they are loud and obnoxious, messy little creatures that even when well behaved are only mildly tolerable.  I just don't have the patience for what it takes to be around children and enjoy them.  I definitely never wanted one of my own.  Then I met my husband.  He ruined that for me.  You see, he can be loud and obnoxious but in a fun way.  A way that harnesses children into listening to him and behaving, but all while having fun and being silly. He has a slew of nieces and nephews that he was always around and basically helped raise so I got to see the "fatherly" side of him early on in our relationship.  He was a jungle gym to the kids.  They were always climbing on him, wrestling with him and playing tricks on him.  Being around children became fun.  Seeing him interact with kids was fun.  I began to realize that maybe having a child wouldn't be so bad after all, as long as he was their dad. 

When we decided to adopt our daughter I had fears that she wouldn't be enough like either one of us and she wouldn't quite mesh with us.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Even though she didn't join our family until she was 6 years old, I have always said that my husband and I couldn't have made a child more like us.  She's actually so much like my husband we have a running joke that she is actually his biological child. And even though she is Korean and we aren't, she still sort of resembles him with the same dark eyes and hair.  She was the perfect fit to complete our family.

Our daughter is brilliant, sarcastic, witty, observant and methodical; yet she is somehow very scatterbrained and naive at the same time.  I've never thought she was much like me in the sense that she doesn't like a neat and orderly room, she is very flippant about housework and chores, and she adheres to a routine which never allows any time for emergencies. She knew it took her seven minutes to get from our house to her job so she would allow herself seven minutes to get to work.  Never once figuring in possible traffic or car trouble.  This precise calculation of time continually drives me nuts about her! I have to factor in at least 2 bathroom stops just to go to the grocery!!

She's very much like my husband in the way she processes information about situations and people especially. She has the same mix of book smarts and street smarts that he does which is actually quite a rare combination. She knows within seconds if someone is a decent person or even slightly shady. She has a good sense of right and wrong and never wavers on what she feels is appropriate. She's stubborn and determined and never really wants to admit when she's wrong.  She's not emotional and rarely says "I'm sorry."  But you know she is because she offers up a tangible peace offering and a smart ass quip to make everything better.  Somehow it always does.  She gave us rocks and little notes when she was little.  She would offer pens and other trinkets from her bedroom as she got older.  Once she started working at KFC/TacoBell her apologies came in the form of restaurant leftovers and filling up the gas tank in the car.  Her affection doesn't come in the form of hugs and I love you's but in her actions and sentiment behind them.  She's complicated.  She's an enigma.

 
Both my husband and my daughter are much like Fonzie when it comes to saying they are wrong. 

So she fit in with us, but she was always just different.  She was a quiet and reserved child, never wanting to cause a scene or break the rules.  It always worried me that she was so uptight at such a young age when she should be carefree and relaxed.  I remember going the wrong way through the parking lot at her school when dropping her off one day.  It was accidental, but I tried to use the opportunity to show her that if you don't always adhere to such stringent rules life will go on and everything will be okay.  She got so mad at me and was totally mortified that someone might see us "not doing it right."  She is still quite rigid and definitely plays by the rules, but she has relaxed somewhat.  Except when my husband and I play with Nerf guns in the house and she gets mad and keeps the Nerf bullets and refuses to give them back.  Maybe it's because we shoot them at her.  Being two immature adults trying to parent a incessantly mature child is not normal or easy but it's our way of life.  And I hope somewhere along the line she has grown to realize that having fun and acting a little foolish once in awhile isn't always the worst thing you can do.

Grade school and middle school were super easy for her.  She never needed help with her work and she never had any trouble with her grades.  She never needed coaxed into doing her homework right after school and never got into any kind of trouble with late assignments or not turning work in.  She never wanted help with anything and never really asked for much assistance with any aspect of growing up.  She was always super self sufficient.  She basically parented herself.  I hated that because even though I never wanted kids, I had this idea of how it was going to be if I ever did.  I was going to be involved and the kid was going to need me.  Shower me with hugs and kisses and tell me how much they loved me and how wonderful of a mom I was.  Run up to me and throw their arms around me every day after school because they missed me and endlessly talk about every aspect of their day, their friends, and their life with me.  Share their thoughts and feelings and come to me with every problem because they knew my hugs would make everything better.  Yea, two things about that:  1) I was completely delusional.   2) That is definitely not my daughter.  She's not that kid.

High school caused her already semi-withdrawn self to retreat further.  She hardly came out of her room and never had much to say about anything.  We rarely heard about school projects or friends, even when we inquired.  She somehow made it seem like we were prying into the most private areas of her life and was never forthcoming with information.  She never really had trouble with her grades but there were many late nights when I would wake up and she would still be awake, studying or working on a project.  She never accepted offers of help and never admitted she might be overwhelmed, though I knew she was. It was difficult to watch and I often wondered if there would ever be a time when she would actually need me.  I just wanted her to admit she was struggling and needed my help.  But she never did.

Things didn't have to be so hard but she just wouldn't budge. If I can do something to make her or my husband's lives easier, I'll do it. My family lovingly refers to this as "micro-managing", but I call it being a good wife and mother.  I always tell them I will micro manage the hell out of some stuff if it makes your life easier.  Honestly though, I just want to be a good mom and with her not needing me I didn't think I was doing any good at all.  I thought I somehow had failed her and she was doing everything on her own because I was a horrible mother.  Our family didn't feel like a normal family because there was a weird disconnect.  We were all present but not.  And then she graduated.

Dena and Dad

Something happened about a week after her graduation.  She became the super needy child that I secretly always wished she would be.  She went from going days without speaking more than a couple words to me to, 'Mom, can you help me with this, Mom can we do this together, Mom can we go here together, Mom can you come here, Mom, Mom, Mom!' And when she wasn't wanting me she was wanting her Dad.  She wanted us.  She needed us.  Finally.

I got to help her schedule her classes for college, we got to help her pick up her books at the college bookstore, my husband designed and built her a new desk and we rearranged her room together, we have laughed and acted silly together, and we have had long family conversations about her plans and her future.  She is listening to our input about things (though probably not really taking any of it seriously, let's be honest, she's still a teenager!). When we ask her about her day she tells us the things she is doing and things that are happening with details - more than just "everything is fine" like before. We are finally a somewhat normally functioning family that doesn't feel so terribly disconnected anymore. 

I am relishing in the time we are spending together and trying to hold onto every single minute I can with her.  I went from never wanting to have kids to having a kid that I couldn't really do anything with because she was so fiercely independent to having a kid that I really don't want to ever leave.  I want all of her dreams to come true though and I know she has to leave for that to happen. She wants to study abroad in a year or two.  She will be going to college to further her education after these four years and I know it won't be so conveniently located.  She won't live at home forever and I'm not naive to that but it kills me to think about.  I never in a million years thought I would be experiencing this "empty nest" phenomenon.  I mean, I hate kids.  I thought I was going to be one of those parents who was literally pushing their kid out the door the day after graduation and getting on with my life, but the sadness of my child growing up hit me out of nowhere and it hit me hard.  I had no idea that a little Asian baby would become my kryptonite.
 
6 year old Asian baby = my kryptonite



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