Today

Today he argued with me about mustard. The conversation went a little something like this:

Tariku: “Mom, you’re putting mustard on that?!? You don’t like mustard!”

Me: “Yes I do, honey, I’ve always liked mustard.”

Tariku: “No you don’t, you didn’t before, I remember that you didn’t like mustard.”

Me: “Tariku, I promise, I have liked mustard since before you were born.”

Tariku: “No, I’m positive, you didn’t like it before.”

and on and on for MINUTES. Minutes, people.

It’s been like this for about 2 weeks, which is to say the length of time in which the kids have been released into the wild on summer break. And most days I can let it roll off my back but some days he argues with me about my never liking mustard and on those days I want to call for a do over.

Because I get it. All of his disrespect, all of his angst, all of his constant arguing is always with me. Moms. They are an integral part in my Tariku’s story. Not just me, of course, but of his first mama who he reportedly looks and acts just like. When I think of her, I always think of him. Smile for days, bright eyes, playful and funny but mostly serious and determined.

And I have to believe there are times when he is interacting with me but thinking about her. I’m sure our upturned eyes when he says something funny or wise and our creased forehead when he’s on our every last nerve is vaguely similar. I can’t imagine the pain it causes him sometimes to see her in me or to look at me and be scared not because of what I’m saying or doing but because I remind him of her-of loss and heartbreak.

So on other days, days when it’s not about mustard-obviously, I’m sympathetic. I get it. Changing schedules means anything can happen. It’s why since the time he learned English he asks me what we are doing for the day and then if the car goes off course asks a million follow up questions to make sure we are doing exactly what I had said we were doing. Because of the day when he was told they were going one place and then instead went to an orphanage. That’s why he gets effed up when his scheduled gets effed up.

And I. Get. It.

But it’s fekkin exhausting some days. Some days I look at him and I can see in him the battered and tattered soul that must be looking back from my eyes too. Like two people hanging on to a tree in the middle of a windstorm. We want the same things: to be loved by each other, by other people and for God’s sake we want to love ourselves. Maybe one of those happens first, maybe they happen together-who the hell knows. But here we are, on the damn tree again. Clutching hands and searching for eye contact. A nod that we’re in it together but come hell or high water we will end up together too. Perhaps a little worse for wear but together just the same.

Some days, not days in which we argue about mustard-obviously, we do end up quite literally together. He’ll let me snuggle up to him on his bed. He’s never super relaxed, my Tariku, when I’m snuggling him but ever so closely I creep until he lets me throw an arm around him, sometimes even a leg. “I love you, you know that?” He smiles, nods his head. “No, I mean I seriously love you. Like sometimes I clench my jaw so tightly because if I don’t then I’ll squeeze you to death with all of the love I have for you. It’s too big for my body. My whole body can’t take it, so my big jaw takes it for me.” Laughs, nods. “Ok, just so you know, no matter what-it’s true.” And then as I get up to leave and my back is turned.

“I love you mommy, so much.”

Redemption.

So bloody, sweat and tear strained we retreat to our corners. Me thinking about how mind numbingly frustrating loving another human can be sometimes and him thinking about how I stayed. I freaking stayed.

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couch on the corner

I wrote on Facebook tonight, “I have the weirdest compulsion to pick up every curbside ‘free to a good home’ couch I see, regardless of it’s state of disrepair. I never do, but without fail I think, ‘I could find a good home for that feces-laden couch.'” And it’s true, I think that every time.

I think it’s because I’ve felt like that couch before. I’ve felt like garbage, like I’ve messed up enough I deserve no better than the trash heap. I’ve been there. And even though it’s a couch and, as such, incapable of feelings I just get this crazy notion that I need to let the couch know it’s worth something. No matter what (visible feces, completely fractured structure) there’s a home out there for that couch.

Welcome to my psychosis.

The hardest thing about Miss A was that I needed to see redemption in her story. Her story was such that there was no obvious place of redemption if she returned back with her birth family. And so I put it on me (much like the couch) to find that redemption for her, or to be that redemption for her.

Sometimes I forget that I’m not responsible for anyone’s redemption. Sometimes I forget that price has been paid so many years ago on a cross.

Thank God it’s not on me, because I’m human and I make real shitty mistakes. If redemption were up to me there would literally be no hope, it feels good just admitting that.

That said, I can’t seem to find that line between being the hands and feet of God and trying to be God. The latter I can do on my very best days, the former I fail every. single. time.

Perhaps that’s what foster care was for me. (I should mention we are taking a break for an undetermined amount of time. The kids have asked us to, we know it’s best not to enter into that again for everyone’s sanity.) And when I take a good, hard look at myself in the mirror I know it was wrong to assume I could take on that too.

But I don’t know, it keeps me up at night the beautiful and terrible of the world (as Jody would say).

I am a constant work in progress, as you can easily see. My latest “thing to work on” is believing in the redemption even when it’s not clearly visible. Because I know even in my very lowest times, when I saw no hope and no peace-redemption found me. And it had so little to do with my actions.

But a work in progress means taking one step forward and two steps back. And so-if you live in the Quad City area and are in need of a couch, I have a few in mind for you.