This is the text of the words that I shared on September 6, 2008, Christopher’s 18th birthday, at the dedication of the playground at the Tallahassee Campus of the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.
I decided that I would take this opportunity to share with you a little insight to Christopher and I as a family. I got this idea from my Family Counseling class where my first assignment is to do a Family History/Analysis Paper. Using the outline that is provided for this assignment, let me tell you about our family ~ it was a great 13 years!
Family Structure – Household(s) composition, roles, hierarchies, family rules, etc.
Of course, as you know, our family is comprised of just Christopher and I. There was not dad, which baffled a lot of his classmates in early elementary school. When kids pushed the issue, Christopher, hiding his frustration with their ignorance, simply explained that his mom adopted him and she is single. It was like “Duh”
For the most part, the roles were clearly defined. I was the mom and he was to do what I told him to do (or so I thought).
When we was young and he didn’t respond to something that I told him to do, I would say, ‘and the answer is . .” to which he was to say, “yes ma’am.” There was a point in time where I would try to get him to say, “what is yes ma’am”, but he didn’t really “get it.” By the time that he got it, there was no way that he would do it!
Our relationship evolved considerably as he got into his teens, as you might can imagine. It became particularly challenging for me when he grew to over 6 feet tall! I had to be courageous in parenting as I knew that he could certainly “take me” if it came to that!
Our family had few rules, but the one that we most enjoyed was how to vacation. We had some great vacations. I soon learned that vacations were about the memory, not the experience. I can remember that I had to make him go out and look at “Old Faithful”. We got better at vacations as I began to embrace the reality that nobody did nothing better than us!
Life Events and Family Functioning – Impact of life transitions, major events, and/or traumas
I am thankful to say that beyond the trauma of Christopher’s life before his adoption, we experienced few traumas. We were around others who did and I am so proud of Christopher’s response to the hurt that other’s experienced.
Lynn and Elaine “from across the street” could tell you several stories about the heart, but I’ll share one that most amazed me.
I was out of town and the head of the Immanuel Baptist Day Care was retiring. I knew that one of the speakers was going to tell Christopher’s story as evidence of how Miss Edna loved the children. I had asked Christopher to go. He faithful reported to me that he had, in fact, gone and Ms. Fagan saw him. He seemed to act as if he needed a witness so I just assumed that he had shown up and made a quick exit. I later learned Christopher not only showed up, but he had dressed for the occasion and actually when up to Miss Edna expressing his love and appreciation. I hear that it was the first thing that Miss Edna commented about as she reflected on the evening!
Relational Patterns – Triangles, coalitions, alliances, communication patterns, boundaries etc.
The interesting thing about a single parent family of an only child is that it is hard to have relational triangles. I can remember times, however when I wished that there was a dad in the house that would say, “You will not talk to your mother that way”, but I have had many people tell me that it really wouldn’t have helped! I think that this really reflected a communication pattern that I let develop.
I wanted Christopher to be able to express himself and boy did he. Sometimes we went over the boundary, but generally he was soon remorseful and was willing and able to express that.
During any difficult time (and there were many), I think Christopher always knew that I was his greatest ally even if I didn’t feel compelled to relieve him of the consequences.
Ethnic and Cultural Environment – Messages about ethnicity, culture, heritage
It always kind of bothered Christopher that he didn’t know his ethnic heritage. Somewhere along the line, he decided that he was Italian. I never saw it, but how could I argue. Maybe it was as simple as the fact that he loved Italian food!
Sexuality and Gender Identity – Messages about sexuality, gender roles, etc.
Christopher was all boy from the first day I met him. The first time that he came to my house, I was surprised to see him outside. Then I realized that he had found the Doggie Door!
To see my garage, you can see a plethora of car parts strewn about. He thought he could fix anything. He did, at times, get in over his head. I can remember driving across Tallahassee for a new a new exhaust system for the truck. Christopher had taken a saws-all to it and later realized that he had taken it off past the catalytic converter which is a no-no.
He also had some of the more “typical” male characteristics. For example, he never like the way that I cut the front yard. Similarly, I am very good mechanically, but you’d never known it by the way Christopher would talk about me. I did find it handy when he was determined to be “the man” when there were bugs or critters to be dealt with; Now I call Daniel!
This day is all about celebrating who Christopher was and what he meant to us. I have and will continue to learn from him and for that I am truly thankful!