When my husband and I were in our late twenties we decided to start our family. We went through two physically and emotionally painful miscarriages before accepting that the usual path to parenthood was blocked for us. For us, that meant adoption was the path to parenthood.
The path of adoption is not an easy one. There are a ridiculous number of hoops you have to jump through to adopt a baby (and for serious and good reasons). When you are in your late twenties with a good marriage, college degrees, good jobs, and a nice home, it can feel a bit odd to have to prove yourself worthy of a child just because your body won’t cooperate with you. Meanwhile, the sixteen year old with no degree, no job, and no stable home takes her baby home. Is this fair? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. It is what it is.
We wanted a child. Specifically, we wanted a beautiful little boy named Bogdan whose picture stole our hearts. So when the adoption agency said read these books and attend these classes, we did. When the adoption agency said, fill out these papers on every personal aspect of your life and have each notarized, we did. When the adoption agency said pay these fees, we did. When the adoption agency said buy X number of cartons of cigarettes and other items to give as gifts to officials in Romania, we did. We jumped through a lot of hoops without question because Bogdan was waiting at the end. He was worth it.
Now that sweet baby is a teen. He may be about to learn the hard way that his refusal to jump through hoops will cost him a prize he holds dear. He is a very smart kid. Learning comes very easily to him so he has never had to work too hard to get good grades. This has been a bone of contention between parents and son for nearly all his academic career. Early on we told him that we value hard work. If we see him studying and working on homework we will accept any grades he brings home without comment. If he chooses not to accept our help with homework and studying, then straight A’s are expected.
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At the beginning of this semester, our son was informed that he needed straight A’s this semester if he wants to play soccer in the fall. Whoo boy. The reaction to that announcement was (and continues to be) not pretty. I feel like I am in the middle of a high stakes game of chicken. It is starting to look like our son won’t be playing soccer in the fall. Our son has two Bs. He has been refusing to do any studying with us in the evenings because our “rules are ridiculous and my grades are good enough.”
Our rules may be ridiculous. And to many his grades may very well be good enough. But we want him to do and be the best he can. We want him to know that some things in life just are what they are and complaining about them won’t help. We want him to know what it feels like to be behind and work your tail off to cross the finish line. We want him to learn that a few hoops are nothing to sweat if the outcome is something--- or someone--- you cherish.
These are things we know. These are things he needs to know. Sometimes we can learn things through the stories, advice, and guidance of others. Sometimes we learn things by falling flat and painfully on our face. Either way, we learn. This is a choice he will make for himself.
And on the sidelines his father and I watch, occasionally coaxing, occasionally begging, and always hoping. The hoops of life may seem ridiculous, but more times than not they were put there for good reason. And here is another fact: jumping through hoops always makes you appreciate the something—or someone—that waits at the end of the race.