Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Tomorrow, my little girl starts preschool - again.  Her first attempt last year went quite poorly.  We've spent this time preparing as best we can and assembling resources for her.  She will now attend a different preschool with full supports.  Tomorrow she will be with a very familiar therapist who I hope will make the transition as smooth for her as possible. 

She's enrolled in  her preschool's summer program.  The only real reason for this is to give her maximum practice time for the fall, when the school year officially begins.  Preschool isn't a mandate in my state, but with Chelsea's various social delays (among others) it's really not a question whether we should send her or not.  We must.  She must learn to interact with peers instead of pushing them away.  She must learn to use her ever-growing speech abilities in public.  She must learn that the world is not always a predictable place, and manage those challenges with as much grace as she can.  Transitions occur in the real world, as do academic demands and structure.  We can't really recreate those environments at home, and for a child with her diagnosis, these are critical skills that she can't master anywhere else.

As a person looking objectively, I know this.

As her mom, I worry for her and pray that we have done our job better this time, giving her the very best chance to taste success at school. 

While some parents rejoice at the precious hours of alone time, where it's easy to do laundry and run out for a quick jaunt the store, that won't be me.  Instead, I will sit, probably working on my classes and worry until it's time to pick her up.  I will pray that I don't arrive to a hysterical mess of a child who cried for the three hours she was away from me.  She needs to learn independence and self-regulation.  It would be a hell of a lot easier to just keep her home and cross our fingers that she "gets it" by the time kindergarten starts.  But that wouldn't be prudent.

As I reach the midpoint to my latest semester, I am again reminded of just how little time I have remaining until I achieve my bachelor's degree.  The adoption of our future son doesn't (thankfully) put me earning that degree in too much jeopardy, but I wish we had travel dates.  We are still waiting for them, and likely won't know them until next week, at best. 

The point of earning my bachelor's degree was really nothing more than finishing what I had started years ago.  I was a child who grew up believing I would have a degree, and I never bothered to finish.  Too little dedication, too much distraction.  As I grew older, I became more frustrated with myself.  I'd always wanted the degree - would I ever get it? 

In December of 2009, I sat my husband down and explained that, while I  understood his MBA was important, my bachelor's degree had been placed on the backburner for too long.  I wanted it, and I was ready to get it.  I started college again in January of 2010 and haven't taken a semester off since. 

My original major was pyschology, because I have always had an interest in this subject matter.  I wasn't terribly concerned about marketability, knowing that psych majors typically need at least a master's degree before they can be taken seriously. I wanted to take something that I loved.  (Being involved in adoption, and reading what I read, I'm so glad I have the background that I do.  It is really eye opening.)  I chose psychology and not long after, thought about a minor. I considered law seriously, thinking someday I would go to law school, but ultimately was interested in Human Services (social work) because I loved the practicality of the electives I had already taken.

As I progressed, I realized that Social Work was more rewarding to me than psychology.  I found myself looking forward to my social work classes and finding fewer psych classes that interested me.  After some soul searching, I decided to switch and become a social work major and use psych as my minor.  That change didn't impact my credits or my timeline.  The only sadness I now feel is that I didn't choose a school that offered an official BSW.  By the time I realized what I wanted, it was too late to change without pushing my degree plan back at least another year. 

With less than a year remaining in my degree program, I am forced to ask myself:  What now?

When I began my degree, I didn't know my daughter would have special needs.  I didn't realize the advocacy role I would have to play for her.  We were not adopting at that time.  I didn't realize some of the passions that I now have for fighting social injustice and championing the causes of those less fortunate.  I just wanted my bachelor's degree, and that's what I set out to achieve.  I knew I would work hard, and I have. 

I also didn't realize that I would make Dean's List (twice), earn a place in my college's honor society, and be eligible to apply for a scholarship.  I've done well - better than I believed.  I'll graduate with honors from my school.  I may get Summa, but certainly Magna Cum Laude, and I'm proud. 

As I learn about graduate schools, I know my education will not hold me back.  There is not a program in the country that I am not academically qualified to apply to.  Period.  I  know that.  My grades are stellar. I currently have a 3.87 GPA and a 4.0 in both my major AND minor.  (3 B's.  THREE LOUSY B's.  One in a history class, one in Biology, and one in Math.) I have done well in choosing my electives and foundational courses. 

In short, academically speaking, I could go anywhere I wanted - money aside, of course. 

But do I want graduate school?  Do I want to be an MSW? 

More importantly, what can I do with my overall application package to strengthen it?  One area of critical need is volunteer opportuntities.  In order to get into a terrific program, I need more than a great GPA.  I need a background suggestive of a person who is competent and reasonably experienced with social services, and I don't have that. 

If I just had my daughter, and assuming she transitioned well into school, I would be in a position to volunteer at least 6 hours per week while she was at preschool.  If she was still able to function, I might be able to get her a longer day at her current preschool on some days so I could work. 

I don't just have my daughter to think of, however.  I have a future little boy who is on target to become part of our family - a little boy whose needs are not really known and who may require so much of my time that I won't be able to focus on applications to grad school, let alone actual attendance.  In order to be a prepared and proper mother to him, I have to ensure that he has the maximum possible amount of our time so that we can accurately assess his needs and see what challenges he presents medically and emotionally in our family.  He will not be able to join his sister at her preschool for some time; perhaps never.  I will be very busy advocating for his very specialized needs as a non-native English speaker, a child with medical concerns, and a child who will likely face attachment and assimiliation issues. 

Graduate school will likely have to wait if I want to present the strongest possible application.

If was able, however, I think I would pursue a CASA volunteer position (CASA = Court Appointed Special Advocate) for children. I would also consider volunteering at a pregnancy crisis shelter as an advocate to pregnant women in crisis.  If I had any time left, I'd throw a few hours to a well known local social service agency who equips disadvantaged children with basic school supplies.  The theme, naturally, is children, because I fundamentally believe that children are the innocent victims of choices made by others who are in power over them.  And I believe the price so many of them pay for mistakes not of their choosing are harmful for life. 

Someone abandoned my future son because they felt it was culturally appropriate to do so.  I'm fairly confident that his birthmother didn't realize the place she was leaving him.  It was simply the local orphanage and I'm also sure his birthmother wasn't educated at all on how to care for her son (from a fifth pregnancy) who was born too early and with issues.  There was little stigma and it was considered "the right thing to do" so she left him.  I don't know and I can't speculate how that must have felt for her.  I don't know what she thinks now or what she wishes might have happened.  Given the village she is reportedly from, I'm fairly confident she lives in poverty.  I'm even pretty sure that some of the reasons for her poverty, or her family's poverty, are not necessarily her fault.  I don't know what cards she's been dealt or what choices she realistically had or has available to her to improve her life, assuming she has not already done so. 

But even if her choices were limited (at best) she had them.  And he did not.  He was a tiny child, who had no voice and no choice.  He could not ask to live with his grandmother or grandfather.  He could not protest his placement.  He was an innocent child whose only "crime" was being born to a mother who did not feel she could care for him and a family that apparently did not (or could not) step forward.  To me, that is the height of social injustice.  Even bad choices are choices, but this child - just like so many others - had no choice at all. 

We can never restore some of his choices, but we can enrich his life so that he has more choices available to him as he grows.  We can empower him to be the best person he is able to be so that the injustice that happened to him as an infant is as reduced as possible.  What sort of a child might he have been had he lived with a stable, loving, financially secure family?  It is the same sort of process that a social worker uses for foster children.  Foster children, whether temporarily or permanently, cannot live with their birth families.  In that way, they have forever lost something.  But part of the foster care placement process is to help the child ultimately develop as fruitful of a future as possible with a functional family who can empower them to be the best people they can be. 

I am really just thinking aloud; about my daughter, about my future son, and about all that it means for our family. 

And, at this precise moment, I cannot tell you how I long to meet him and know this little boy.  We are still waiting.  Please pray for us as we wait.

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