Stop Photoshopping Your Personality

Four+ days in a cabin with 10 adults and 7 children has taught me many things: don’t put your cup of water down without marking it as yours; be cautious of trying to use the bathroom during a game of hide-and-seek; and if you play your cards right, you can avoid doing any dishes without anyone realizing.

But mostly I’ve learned something about personalities.

My four siblings and I discussed our lives over an unprecedented lunch by ourselves (read 0 of our 7 children were present…whhhhaat?).   We talked about growing up and the ramifications of our parents gradually throwing assorted rules and limitations overboard (to keep their sanity afloat, I assume).  I insisted on singing along to “Wagon Wheel”, on my short list of acceptable country songs.  (I know.  I clearly don’t belong in the south.)  We wondered collectively, for the love of squirrels, why our restaurant table needed a giant tv screen, and my brother coached me on his theology of tipping.

We also talked about our differences.   Apparently we differ in how we communicate, where we draw our moral lines, how we raise our children, and how we choose to caffeinate.  Between us, we have hundreds of variations in perspective, process, and personality.

Personality differences sound so beautiful in theory, because on paper our combined uniqueness is supposed to add color and dimension to the world around us.  You’ve heard what they say: We’re better together; we need each other; there’s beauty in diversity!

Pullllease.  Try telling me all that rainbow, sunshine mumbo jumbo after throwing a bunch of different personalities into a cabin for a few days and shaking them up.

The obnoxiously loud kid up at the crack of dawn is clearly no good for his sleep-loving mom or the poor guy on the couch by the kitchen.  The one whose idea of adventure is an obscure coffee shop or thrift store mixes like oil and water with the other who’d rather be kayaking.  The worriers and people pleasers clash with the self-confident and matter-of-fact.  Oh it was a wonderful vacation…but I’m just saying…our uniqueness didn’t always look a whole lot like a painting by Picasso.

And I re-realized this week (no, I’m not stuttering…I just relearn things a lot), that I’m constantly wanting to photoshop my personality.  Maybe nip and tuck my random anxieties or give my emotions the equivalent of a nose-job.  At least I’d prefer to soften the edges of my personality so I could blend in with the person nearest me and be really liked by everyone 24/7.

But my personality isn’t the kind that hides my emotions well, so one fateful evening smack in the middle of the chaos of bedtime, I leaked a little personality all over the family dinner table.

My dad had brought an ample supply of old family pictures to peruse together while we reminisced about the memories they evoked.  He began sorting pictures in preparation, and the family members who didn’t have to put kids to bed yet were sitting around the table laughing over a few loose photos.

Not pictured: My Mom who is the picture-taking personality.

I wanted to be totally cool with that arrangement. I wanted to be Miss Go-with-the-flow.  I wanted to not care at all that they seemed to be starting without me.  Pff…I wanted to act like I totally didn’t mind if I was missing the beginning of an epic, monumental, family activity enterprise that was three years in the making.  I wanted to not be the person who used dramatic words like “monumental” and “enterprise” to describe a simple family moment.

But I am that person.

So I flipped out a little on everyone and told them to wait because -hello!- some of us are trying to adult here and get the kids to bed.  And my temperature was probably elevated and I was making zero eye contact with anyone and exited my melodramatic stage feeling just as angry at myself as at anyone else.

Why did I care so much? Why wasn’t I born with the emotional evenness of a manatee?

Photo Credit: Ben Brandt (pixabay.com)

Why did I have a hyper-active sense of being left out?  And why couldn’t I just keep it together so everyone at least thought that I was the amazing personality chameleon that conveniently matched the color and mood of those in the room at any given moment?

The problem is, I wanted to take all the parts of my personality that test well in public and divorce them from the equally “me” parts that are a little less presentable.  Keep my outgoing nature and my love of new people; keep my creativity and my whimsy; keep the crazy big dreams and quirky fashion.  But for God’s sake leave out my neediness and irrationality; my emotional highs and lows; my tendency to not always follow through on crazy dreams; and the insecurities that lie under the surface.

But it’s just not possible to itemize my personality and extract the unwanted.  Each of us is a mixed bag, and the parts of us that seem easy to love wouldn’t exist without the parts of us that don’t seem quite normal or easy.

But there’s power and freedom in owning who we are…all of it.  

It’s not that we don’t have room to grow, or places to improve.  Accepting our personality isn’t the same as making excuses for poor choices or hurtful actions.

But if I hadn’t been trying so hard to stifle who I was, ironically my freak out moment over a pile of family pictures would have looked more like a calm dialogue than a panicked outburst.  If I had accepted who I was, I would have given others the chance to accept me too…and to make room for my personality just as I make room for theirs.

Owning who we are and letting others see our true selves is so brave.  It means others are going to be irritated by us sometimes.  It means we’re not always going to mesh with everyone all the time.  It means we won’t make everyone happy.

Well that’s a relief…because frankly, no one else makes me perfectly happy either.  Seriously.  If we’re all so different, obviously we’re going to get on each other’s nerves sometimes.  We can spend our lives trying to photoshop ourselves so people like us more, but it’s exhausting and it’s really just not working.  In fact, it’s making things worse.

We really do compliment each other but not always in the ways we’d think.  Our differences stretch and grow and balance and teach us how love truly covers over it all.  And our collaboration of personalities might be messy at times, but there’s a lot more beauty in our authenticity than in pretense.

So whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, emotional or level, irrational or practical, dreamer or planner, coffee lover or hater, assertive or compliant…you simply are you.

You DO add color to the canvas that is the world.  And yes, your personality might also leak all over someone’s kitchen table one day in a not so pretty way.  And that’s really OK.

So I dare us both to start living like it’s OK.  (Because it sounds like a lot more fun.)

 

 

 

 

Recipe for a Rocky Road Trip

Are you planning a leisurely road trip with spontaneous stops at places like the world’s largest flea market or that java-shop-turned-glorified-monument that’s actually shaped like of a coffee pot?  Are you hoping to go solo or possibly with one or two of your best sane friends?  If you’re betting on a smooth trip where the greatest obstacle is deciding between “Kansas” and “Styx” on your road trip playlist, well…this blog isn’t for you.

But if you’re planning on going on a trip of 4+ hours of inherent chaos with children in tow…then this recipe just might hit the spot.  Enjoy!

RECIPE FOR A ROCKY ROAD TRIP:

  • 1 minivan (may substitute with any vehicle meeting legal seat requirements for all passengers)
  • 3 Children with Assorted Bladder Control (Note that decreasing or increasing number of children will alter recipe.  This depends on altitude, sugar consumption, age and child temperament.  Sometimes one child= chaos of 3 children, but we recommend multiple children for peak back seat arguments.)
  • 1 Supportive But Reluctant Spouse/Extra Adult (Preferably someone who did not grow up with many road trips and who worries about really practical things.)
  • Assorted Bags and Food (Increase or Decrease Luggage/food in proportion to number of children.  May substitute paper towel for Norwex cloth.)
  • 1 Overly Enthusiastic Pit Stop Planner Stuck in Denial (It’s best if this person loves road trips, overestimates children’s ability to sleep in hotels and not break things in quaint stores, and has unrealistic expectations of spouse’s conversation capacity.)
  • A 15 Hour Drive (For best results, don’t decrease hours)

Take first ingredient and place children, reluctant spouse, luggage/food and overly optimistic planner inside.  Be sure to whip all carefully packed luggage and food items for several hours until items are disheveled, disorganized, and (for best results) strewn over inside of van. 

When adding multiple children, be sure to wear hot pads as friction is likely to occur.

Slowly add final ingredient, over 1-3 days.  It doesn’t matter how fast or slowly you stir in hours…every option will result in parental exhaustion.

Add pit stops to taste, but be aware this will increase your overall trip hours.

Congratulations!  You’ve just followed a recipe for Rocky Road Trip!  Enjoy!


Stay tuned as I chronicle my family’s epic Rocky Road Trip to visit my sibs in Alabama!  More chaos to come. 🙂  

 

Putting Our Needs in the Mailbox

Who knew a game of pick up sticks could prop open a stubborn window into my son’s world, releasing the beautiful breeze of his soul?

My middle child and I had been going to counseling for a few months for a behavior issue that my husband and I felt ill-prepared to handle alone.  In the end, I found that counseling changed my parenting and perspective more than my son, but the resulting confidence has helped me immensely.

Though he sometimes fought our counseling visits, my seven year old’s favorite part was playing games with me.  We’d snicker over role-playing, and his infectious laugh filled the room when we tried to create a story together, each adding one ridiculous sentence at a time.

The counselor pointed out that part of what he craved was simply time with his mom, and the games provided that opportunity.  But she also had a knack for turning games into tools to shape us and help my son to talk more.

One of his favorite games during counseling was pick up sticks.  Despite my beating him the first time, he was hooked to play again.  The second time we played, the counselor asked each of us to share some important part of our life every time we picked up a stick successfully.  It could be something that made us happy, sad, afraid or angry…but we couldn’t keep playing until we shared.

How precious to know the joys and even fears of his seven years of life, the things that he counts as important.  And how wonderful that he was enjoying the game just as much as I was.

In fact, he enjoyed it so much that after the first time we played, I ordered him his own set on Amazon for his upcoming birthday.  When the package arrived, I tore into the yellow bubble wrap to reveal the anticipated toy.

But once past the shrink wrap, I uncovered an unexpected flaw within the small box: the wooden sticks were covered in some kind of mold or mildew!

Disappointed, I decided to return the sticks and get new ones.  So I printed the return label off amazon and promptly…delayed mailing the package for weeks.  Ahem.  I forgot…or I got lazy…or we had the stomach bug.  You know.  The usual excuses.

The point is, I ended up mailing that package of pick up sticks much later than I planned, on a Tuesday….the day of my son’s last counseling appointment.

That day at counseling we played pick up sticks again while my son shared pieces of his heart.  As my son cleaned up the pile of sticks so we could leave, the counselor looked at him warmly and said, “Those are yours to keep.  That’s my parting gift to you.”

My son could not have been happier with that little pile of used wooden sticks- it was an absolute treasure to him.

And it ended up being an unexpected treasure for me as well.

As I contemplated the events later, I felt God impressing on me the symbolism of me putting the old sticks in the mailbox the very same day that my son received a set as a gift.  It was as though God was reminding me that when I let go of my needs and surrender them to Him, only then can He provide for me in His delightful way.

Which brings me to three questions for myself and for anyone of you who has burdens or needs weighing your soul.

1: What needs do you need to put in the “mailbox” today and give to God?

dh_creative pixabay.com

What stresses, needs or worries are you trying to hold onto or fix on your own that you need to release to God?  Is it work? Your children?  Your finances?  Your dreams? Your marriage or relationships?

Today I’m going to a doctor’s visit that stresses me…I need to put that in.  We have new financial twists in our road ahead…I could stand to drop that in the box.  I’m trying to finish a book and need clarity of next steps…maybe I need to mail that out too.

Those burdens aren’t doing me any good sitting in a package that I won’t let go of.

2: What is keeping you from putting your needs in God’s hands?

As I mentioned, it took me a very long time to put that small package of pick up sticks in the mail when it could have happened immediately.  Putting that package in the box was a small thing, but it required a specific action from me.

In the same way, we sometimes hold onto our needs much longer than we need to, with one excuse or another.  We’re afraid to give up control, we’re afraid God won’t answer as we want, or maybe it hasn’t even occurred to us yet to ask God for help.  Maybe we think we’ve given it to God, but we find that we keep taking that package out of the mailbox because what if something happens to it in transit?  Trusting God seems simple…but it really does require us to act.  And that action is a daily, even an hourly thing.

3. What does it mean for you to accept God’s provision instead of yours?

For starters, we all know that giving our needs to God doesn’t always mean that the answer will show up in our hands at the end of the day like my son’s pick up sticks.  God’s ways are not our ways, His timing isn’t always obvious to us, and His provisions sometimes don’t look the way we’d expect.

I was expecting to order a brand new game for my son with my money and have it show up in our mailbox.  Instead we got a used set from a surprising source.

In the same way, God’s answers may not always come in the timing or manner we expect.  But if we give our needs to God and ask Him to help us see His provisions, we may be surprised by all the ways He’s already showing up.  He longs to give us good things and for us to trust Him as a child trusts their parents.

I hope you’ll stick a stamp on something you’re holding onto today and set it free…and if you do, please share with the rest of us what you let go of or how God provides for you as you wait.

 

 

 

New Year Family Time Fail

You know those moments when everything is going perfectly and then it all falls apart in slow motion?  The second before your toddler elbows his milk off the edge of the table.  The instant before you say that snarky comment that sets your spouse on defense.  The insane laughter just before your boys accidentally head butt each other while playing superheroes.

Yeah….ummm…this particular family time wasn’t one of those moments.  Oh it ended in full-on fall-apart chaos, don’t get me wrong.  But instead of starting with shiny promise, it was ugly and doomed from the beginning.

I’ve been trying to be more intentional with my kids about real family time.  Not just the family moments where we’re all facing the same direction towards the nearest screen, but where we’re all facing each other.  You know. Like they did in the old days.

We’re trying to turn a new leaf where I actually make dinner (I know…I’ve shocked even myself), and we all eat together whenever possible.  I even bought little conversation cards from the thrift store to get us talking, and I’m trying to focus more on the deeper life conversations, including prayer and talking about God.  (Always interesting with a three year old.)

So last night, with the New Year right around the corner, I thought I’d create a cute little family moment where we shared some of our hopes and prayers for 2018 based on this cute little free printable I found from JellyTelly!  It was the recipe for a perfect happy moment like this picture:

How easy could it be?  What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, how about everything?  (I think I need to stop using “cute” and “little” in reference to family moments.)

First, let’s talk timing.  I decided to call everyone to the table while my poor husband was trying to pull together a meal for the kids because I was clearly shirking my previous commitment to cooking.  So he was only half there, and my kids were hungry.  (Note to self: never do anything important when the kids are hungry.  I should have picked up on the “Jaws” music looming in the background.)

I asked the big kids to bring a notebook which lead to a disagreement because I didn’t make the three year old bring one because the blessed child can’t write.  (By the way, does anyone know how to say “let’s be reasonable?” in 7-year old boy language?)

Then there was the part where I tried to explain in a calm, positive voice why we were sitting down together and what my plan was, which would have gone better if the children were listening and if I’d stayed calm and positive.

When we finally started sharing our hopes and prayers for the New Year, I sighed an internal sigh as my daughter shared that she hoped we all had good birthdays…and Christmas…and Easter…and New Years…and Mother’s Day…etc.  OK…so she wasn’t exactly pouring out her soul.  But at least she was participating.

My 7 year old apparently had zero hopes or prayers for 2018.  Nada.  Nothing. Zip.  Big dreamer, that one.

My almost 4 year old was more interested in finding all the ways to bang or smash his new toy than in whatever gibberish I wound up saying in my repeated attempts to coral the family into a unified, vision-sharing, team.  Someone should have gotten me a megaphone for Christmas.

The family moment finally ended when my husband put the 4 year old in time out and I finally stopped waiting for my middle son to miraculously access his joyful cooperative side.

Epic family fail.

Or was it?

We did learn to sit and share, even if it wasn’t even on the fringes of cute.  Good things don’t come easy, and sometimes the fruit of our intentions starts with tiny seeds that we plant in faith.

But as our pastors shared today, we have to be bold, give up our fear, and be focused.  Basically…we have to know what we ultimately want, be intentional about pursuing it, and persevere even when chasing that vision gets hard (whether that’s because of an illness, setback, or a child throwing a toy at your head.)

So this new year I’m sure I’m going to fail at something.  I’m not going to make a meal every night, and I’m going to lose my temper with the kids despite my best efforts.  I’m not going to be perfect and some days I’m not going to see the fruit of my efforts.  But I don’t want that to keep me from trying, from planting seeds anyway, and from persevering into what I know God wants me to do.

My theme for this year is simply to persevere in God’s promises.

What are your hopes and prayers for this year?  Consider yourself a part of my messy kitchen table discussion and share what you want to be intentional about pursuing this year?  Where can you lead yourself or your family deeper into what really matters?  What seeds do you want to plant in 2018?

 

Is Love Biased? (On loving adopted & bio kids- PLUS!-how siblings reacted to adoption)

Can you love adopted and biological children the same?

Maybe it’s a question people are afraid to ask, but the curiosity lingers.  It’s human to fear what we’re not certain of… and it’s not really a selfish fear.  The last thing we want is to adopt a child only to discover that we can’t give them all the love they deserve.

But as someone who has had children through birth and adoption, I’ve found that love doesn’t know how to be partial and it certainly isn’t weighted more deeply by flesh and blood.

Adoption, like birth, is a path to parenthood and doesn’t dictate our capacity to love.  As I go through my normal day, I’m rarely thinking about the fact that my youngest is adopted.  When I’m scolding kids for sneaking candy, reading books and chasing kids at the park, or apple picking together… I don’t compartmentalize my kids or have stronger feelings of joy, pride, irritation, or protection over one than another.There are certainly differences between adoptive and biological children: I can’t go hunting for pieces of myself or my husband in our adopted son.  (Although honestly, sometimes that’s freeing because he gets to be himself- nobody can try to claim every piece of him!)  I also can’t parent him expecting him to be “just like me” or “just like his father”.  I may have a learning curve when trying to approach his unique personality and traits since I can’t chalk it up to a hand-me-down traits.  Though at the same time, I can’t assume parenting my bio kids is easier just because we have genetic similarities.

All three of my kids have wildly different personalities and annoyingly varied responses to discipline.  In fact, recently we’ve gotten professional counseling to help better parent one of our biological kids because even with shared DNA we don’t always have all the tools or wisdom to know what each child needs.  I parent each child slightly differently, but my ability to love each is the same.

Here’s what I know about my adopted son:

  • When he had trouble breathing during bad congestion, my mama heart was ready to take him to the ER, no questions asked.
  • When he paints pictures at school I’m so happy to make room for them on the fridge.
  • When he’s sad or left out my heart is sad with him (unless he’s sad because I made him return the tic-tacs he sneaked from my bag.)
  • When he needs extra help with speech, I gladly advocate for him and find him the support he needs.
  • When I tuck him in at night and he says “I lud you”, my heart melts all over again every time.
  • When I look into his little face I’m so grateful that he’s mine, perhaps in a more profound way than even with my biological children.  This doesn’t mean I love him more, but that I’m more keenly aware of the unmerited grace that brought him to us.
  • I’m fiercely protective and proud of him.
  • I post adorable pictures of him perhaps to an obnoxious degree on social media.

Love isn’t measured by DNA or birth.  Love is what pulls us out of bed to feed a baby in the middle of the night when we have no energy at all; love is something we give with no other prerequisite or merit than “you’re mine”; love cooks and cleans and wipes smudges off cheeks and then does it again the next day; love comforts and disciplines and calls someone higher into who they’re meant to be; love isn’t manufactured and it isn’t always a warm fuzzy feeling; but love is what calls you to bring a life into your home even before you ever see their face or feel their heartbeat or know their name.

If fear of being able to love an adopted child is the biggest thing holding you back, I’d suggest you do a quick inventory of all the people you love who aren’t flesh and blood related to you.  I imagine your spouse is on that list, and perhaps a few close friends and beyond.  I know the love we have for children feels like a whole different category, but our hearts are designed to make room for love beyond logic, beyond biology.  I really believe that if you take that step of faith towards adoption you’ll find your heart has no trouble wrapping itself completely around a little life, even if your mind feels a little unsure at first.

If you have your own story of adoption or making room to love, I’d enjoy hearing your story!!  Share below in the comments or on my facebook page!  And speaking of friend’s stories, below you’ll find a few stories of how parents and siblings of adopted children learned to make room in their homes for a sweet new child:

Sibling Adoption Stories From Friends…

Terry: International Adoption- Korea D was not very happy about giletting a sibling. He liked being an only child. He was 4 ½. We took him to our Agency visits so he would learn about E as we did. He seemed ok with it. His personality was completely different than E’s. We let him know that these are things we did while waiting for him to join our family.

Becky: (Foster-to-Adopt) We always talked about [adoption] as if it were a normal part of life. So when the time came for it the kids had been thinking about it and excited for it for awhile. They had written the new baby notes and bought little gifts in anticipation for the babies arrival. It all happened so fast that my son came off the bus one day and walked into the house and we said … come meet your new baby sister. He felt like he had just won the lottery too!

Pamela: (International Adoption- Ethiopia) Since we already had 5 biological children we asked the eldest their opinion on adopting first. At Christmas we made the announcement to the rest of the children. We were careful to not upset birth order. In the first couple years of bringing 2 new children into the home we worked very hard to give the 2 kids closest in age more attention since it was big adjustment.

Carrye: (Foster-to-Adopt) Yes, I’m sneaking one last thought in here: When we were preparing to bring our son home, we prayed almost nightly with our kids for a new baby.  Even as we were learning to wait on God, our kids were learning a similar lesson.  Since our son was an emergency placement and we brought him home so quickly, the end result was a whirlwind for us and our kids.  Our daughter cried at first because she “wanted a sister!” but quickly came to love her new brother.  A beautiful side-effect of bringing our children into our adoption story is that now it’s part of their “normal”.  When my daughter talks about having kids, she always mentions that she plans to adopt too.


Parting Thought: I don’t want to gloss over the ache of infertility or the deep fear that adopting a child might feel like a “less perfect” way to grow a family.  If that is your story, my heart breaks for you and the last thing I want to do is invalidate you or your very real struggle.  If you’re wrestling over guilt in choosing adoption after infertility, I’d refer you to this post titled “Second Best or Second Choice?” and hope it encourages you.

I’m Thankful for Friends Who Talk Adoption

“You know your Mom’s not your real mom,” he quipped casually.

My heart nearly tripped as the words rounded the corner from the room where my older kids were playing with a friend.

“You’re adopted,” he continued. “Your mom’s not your real mom.”

We’re not adopted,” my daughter countered, “just our brother.”

I cried from outside the door.  I couldn’t speak in the moment, but deep inside I planned out a whole Mama bear list of things to talk to my big kids about later.  I was grateful the comment had no power to threaten their identity, but equally panicked over the reality that those same words might knock my then peanut-of-a-boy over one day.

We’ve always been honest with him about his story precisely so he can own his beginnings and identity.  It’s part of who he is, the messy and the miracle, the painful and the prayed-for.  He is just starting to understand that his story is different from his big siblings.  Most recently he’s started understanding that babies grow inside their Mommies.  He got upset one day when I was telling him about the mom he grew inside of, insisting he’d grown in me instead.  Even though I don’t want him to hurt, I also don’t want to cover the hard parts of his story to protect him, because it will just delay the wound.

But I want him to know at the same time that he is absolutely ours and fiercely loved.  And I wanted my big kids to know to know the same: that I was just as much their brother’s mom as theirs.  No doubt ever.  After their friend left, I told them they should stand up for their brother if they ever heard kids say something like that.  Ever.  It was an important reminder to them and to me to be prepared.

Yet my heart ached over the million imaginary ways my little son might feel out of place, hurt, or unloved because someone else didn’t understand his story.

Still, their friend’s tone had been matter-of-fact, not malicious.  He wasn’t taunting; I believe he was just processing in his own child-like way something that was foreign to him.  So though I was broken by the conversation, I was also thankful to my friend for even trying to explain adoption to her son.  It’s not easy.

What a bizarre cocktail of emotions erupted from one moment.  Welcome to the world of adoption.

People always seem to have something to say, don’t they?  Even under everyday scenarios, someone will be there to tell you to put another layer of clothes on your kid or ask you why you haven’t started your baby on solid foods yet.  Maybe as humans we can’t help ourselves.

But whenever your story is a little bit off the beaten path, people tend to say things that range from comical to extremely hurtful because they just don’t know enough about your story.  Certainly there are some who are just hurtful- who don’t want to even listen.  But I believe most people don’t intend to hurt- they just haven’t had enough experience with adoption so it’s like a foreign language to them, and they need to learn a few common phrases to help them on their journey.

Once a friend of mine was going through a hard situation that I’d never experienced.  I ended up looking up stories and comments from people online who had similar circumstances.  I was so grateful because I’m sure I would have said something absolutely hurtful without meaning to if I hadn’t tried to understand.

And today if YOU are reading this post as we head into Thanksgiving, you’re taking a step towards understanding adoption and I’m so thankful for you.  WE’RE thankful for you, because my friends have some of their own hard and hurtful stories as well.  I hope you’ll listen and learn a little bit about what it’s like to adopt and some simple well-meaning phrases that don’t come across the way you might think.  Some stories are painful to hear, but in sharing maybe we find healing.

Yes adoption is a many-layered wonder of loss and love.  Not all stories are easy or simple to share.  But I’m hoping that as we bring it into the open and talk more, our adopted children will grow up being confident of who they are, without fear that their story is wrong because it’s different.

(Maybe we’re doing OK because our kid so far has no shortage of confidence in being himself.)


Friends Share Their Adoption Stories…

*What people said to them that made them uncomfortable, and how they talk about adoption with their own kids.*

Pamela: (International Adoption- Ethiopia) People often talk romantically about adoption and how “lucky” our kids are to be in our family. I am always uncomfortable with that talk because it seems to gloss over all the loss the children have experienced in their short lives.
Also, I get annoyed when people think that threats of punishment or consequences will be effective on kids from trauma… they have lost their culture, language, birth family, and anything familiar; what could you take from them that is more valuable than those? My children are much more motivated by knowing you love and care about them as a person.

Since our children were older and of different race it is obvious that were adopted. I have always been comfortable telling their adoption story. I believe that when I keep silent the children might get the idea I am ashamed or uncomfortable with their life story. I even spoke to their school about adoption in 2nd grade so their friends could learn their story. Our children did nothing wrong to deserve their difficult start and I want then to hear that message over and over.

Terry: (International Adoption- Korea)  A Hispanic woman made Chinese eyes asking if daddy was Chinese, Other questions, “is he black”, “what is he”, and he has “horse hair”; “chinky chinky chinaman- go back to where you came from” from 5th graders to my Kindergartener on the bus to/from school. Also great was my mom asking for me to give him back so I could get a white one…… lovely.

We celebrate anniversaries – no gifts.. We would show the movie “here comes D” or “E’s arrival” which led to their stories. Dad and I got married and started [a family]…Because we wanted children to fill out our family, we brought you into the family. You joined us on this day, so it’s your anniversary of becoming part of [our] family! The kids, especially E, really enjoyed their videos. They heard pet names used by the adoption staff and could see who was there not only when at the airport, but later at our home.

Caroline: (Foster-to-Adopt)  When I first brought her home somebody asked me, “Where did you get that?” …uh… I’m going to chalk it up to social awkwardness?

I do really appreciate when parents are willing to take the time to explain adoption to their children. My cousins got a book about adoption from the library and read it with their children, and it really helped them to understand that our daughter belonged to our family.

I plan to be open and honest about it [her adoption story], and always allow her to ask questions and talk about it. We will show her pictures and tell her about her birth mom and about how we met her and brought her home, and about her adoption day. We will read books to her that explain adoption at an age-appropriate level.

Lisa: (Private US Adoption) I think for some people it has been hard for them to understand having a semi open relationship with the birth mother. They see it as once you adopt that’s it so why are we having any relations with the birth mother. This has been hard to explain and for them to understand.

Becky: (Foster-to-Adopt) “Why would anyone want to give her up.” This is not true, her mom wanted her very badly but was very sick with addiction and could not provide the care she needed.

I haven’t shared much yet because she is still very little. I do have a shadow box of her outfit she came to us in and some cards sent. I will be open and honest and tell her what is appropriate when she asks.

 

 

 

Missing My Son’s Mom: An Adoption Confession

Psst…for those who are new, it’s a November Adoption Celebration Month on my blog!  Have you ever wondered or worried if you’d be able to handle a relationship with an adopted child’s birth parent?  Find courage in reading my personal story and the perspective of my friends at the end of the post!  Thanks for stopping in! 


It’s irrational to expect to meet an intimate stranger at a retail store- but welcome to my irrational imagination. I scanned the Babies “R” Us for any sign of what I believed her face must look like. Why on earth would she be here of all places? You don’t have to convince me I’m crazy. I’ve never actually met her. To be honest, I don’t even have a picture and I don’t know where she lives. But I know her name. And I know I see pieces of her in my now three year old son…because the woman I’m looking for gave birth to him.

Photo Credit: Mysticsartdesign (pixabay.com)

We have friends for whom the decision to adopt seemed quick and calculated. Our desire was always there, but we meandered and poked and investigated quite a bit before deciding to pursue a child through the foster care system. By the time we jumped in we had two young biological children, but my heart longed for another baby. After six months of licensing and home study, and seven months of waiting (a story for another time) we got a miracle phone call and our lives swelled to make room for a three day old infant with no name.

My husband found metered parking by a snow bank near the hospital in the dead of winter, me with grungy hair and a gloriously bewildered heart. We met some social workers in the lobby, then down a hall, up an elevator, wrong floor, elevator down, and stopped. That final antiseptic clean hallway we conquered is still etched in my memory. There was a small conference style room at the end on the right where we were told to wait. Wait. Wait for a little boy with a total of zero shared DNA that we’d only known about for 72 hrs.

The door opened, and they wheeled in a tiny baby with a nose that melted my heart (I’m so serious) in a slightly oversized Christmas outfit, even though the holiday was well over. Now what? With my biological children, people asked in the hospital if they could hold my baby. But this was foreign territory; a baby not from my own body. I found myself asking someone else permission to pick up that precious almost-mine child. Seven something pounds doesn’t do true justice to the weight of the miracle I held in my hands that day.

Our first family picture the night we brought our foster (soon to be adopted!) son home.

As beautiful as that hospital moment was and remains to me, it owns an untold sadness as well. Though we often want to view adoption through the celebratory lens of love that grafts a new limb on a family tree, it’s not natural for a limb to need a new tree in the first place. As I heard at an adoption group early on, no adoption story comes about without loss first. That hospital may be last place my son ever encounters his biological mom, the one who brought him into this world and carries a family history I know so little about. I had no idea how painful it would be to own just tiny scraps of the story that rightfully belongs to my son.

Initially we had some limited contact with our son’s biological brothers, and though we haven’t had the chance to see them lately, I’m beyond grateful for those moments. They’ve each been able to hold him as a baby, and one brother even passed our baby’s picture along to his biological mom. Briefly we thought a window might be opening up to meet her, but she never reached back out. I don’t judge her for it; her life is full of it’s own grief and loss, that I’ll never be able to know or erase.

Why was I so afraid of contact with the birthparents when we first started our adoption journey? In my insecurity, I couldn’t imagine trying to maintain a relationship with a woman who, in my mind, had a stronger claim to my child than I did. How agonizing might that be? But by the time we were waiting for a child, I knew in my heart that I would make room for that possibility because it would be in my child’s best interest. We would adopt not just this child, but his story as well.

I never dreamed of the pain on the other side of the coin. I never conceieved we simply wouldn’t know his mom or dad at all. In all my rosy adoption dreams, not one included me frantically searching the internet, or the aisles of a random Babies “R” Us, for a strange, precious face. I’ve dreamed of his mom and long to be able to look into her face and see my son’s eyes, or cheeks, or (bless me) his nose. I can only offer him his resemblance to his biological brothers as we have their pictures and I share them when I tell him his birth story. This is his thread-bare history-the bits and pieces of his pre-story melted into the story of how he filled our lives with joy. But I long to give him more.

Oh I know there’d be a distinct pain in the knowing, in the seeing. Maybe it would be much harder than I imagine, trying to let my son grow up knowing two moms. Would he face a more personal rejection? Would he struggle to make his two worlds fit together? I can’t speak into that because it’s not our story. But for those who have always thought like I did that it would be better not to muddle through an open adoption, communicating with your child’s biological parents, I can only say there’s a deep loss to not knowing them as well.

When we send our children off to school for the first time or to camp perhaps, we often feel we’re somehow missing a piece of who they are by not being with them. We eagerly anticipate asking them how their day was, who they played with, if anything bad happened, so we can fill in the gaps we missed. Because our child’s story is part of our story and we want to own all of it. The same is true of my adopted child: somehow I feel I’ve missed a piece of who he is by not being there to access and know the roots of his life that are invisibly intertwined with mine. There are questions I can’t ask or answer: Where did he get his whimsy and love for dance? Is his extroverted self a carbon copy of his dad? Did that smile get passed down from a great-grandfather? And those are just the tip of the iceberg. In the end, I’m simply left with swiss cheese pieces of his heritage.

Maybe one day we’ll learn a bit more about his biological mom and reconnect our son with the thread of his past that remains. In the meantime, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop wondering where she is and trying to find her face in even the least likely places. Whether I meet her or not, she’ll always be part of our story.

 


 

Thoughts on Birth-parents from other Adoptive families…

Caroline’s Story: (foster-adoption) “Our daughter’s birth mother visited her several times when she was very young.  It was important to me that I always treated her with kindness and compassion. I wanted to make sure I respected her dignity and I hoped that she would see that her baby was being taken care of by a safe and loving family.” 

 Lisa’s Story: (Private US adoption) “We have a semi open adoption with G-‘s birth mother.  From day one we decided we wanted G- to know her story.  Once she turned 3 and could kind of understand things we started mentioning her birth mother as her ‘tummy’ mommy and that she couldn’t care for G- the way [my husband] and I could so we adopted her.  We would read adoption books to her and still do to this day. She seems to get it…as much as a 4 year old can.  We also have made it a point to meet with her birth mother once a year and we send her pictures every month.  We want G- to know her story and if in the future she wants a relationship with her birth mother that door has already been opened for her. 

Becky’s Story: (foster-adoption) “We met her [birth mom] a few times and agreed to send a few emails a year.  She has not responded to them since the first one.  We are open to emails and letters but not interested in visits.  We might be when F- is older and has a better understanding of the entire situation.

Pamela’s Story: (Sibling Adoption from Ethiopia): “Since it is an international adoption distance hinders relationship with birthparents/family. We worked with another agency program to locate birth family and send letters and photos of children. We intend to travel back to Ethiopia in a couple years to reconnect with birth family. We describe our family as a blended family so that the children maintain their connection to birth family within our family.”

TERMS DEFINED:

Closed adoption: An adoption in which the adoptive parents do not maintain any kind of relationship with the birth parents through visits or correspondence.  This was once a very common kind of adoption, sometimes with parents never telling their child about their adoption at all.  But studies are showing more benefits to open or semi-open adoptions, though they aren’t always possible.

Semi-Open and Open adoption: Adoptive and birth families maintain some form of ongoing contact.  This could mean the adoptive family sends emails or pictures to the biological parent(s).  It could even mean occasional visits.  In private adoptions, an agency usually helps coordinate the parameters for ongoing contact.  Semi-open adoption involves non-identifying contact (bio family doesn’t have access to adoptive families last name, address, etc.)- but correspondence (and even visits- see Lisa’s Story) can occur.

In foster-adoption, prior to adoption, the state will decide the amount of contact the biological parent has.  The biological parent is given specific goals to reach in order to be reunified, and visits are often a part of that.  The state may also require that the foster-child visit with his or her biological siblings.  Post adoption, the adoptive families can decide what amount of contact with the biological family is safe or healthy or their child.

Dear Husband, [Insert Sappy Title Here]

Dear Husband,

I don’t know how to start this letter.  I thought about using some sappy music line about you lift me up to soar or fly or generally be airborne.  Like one of the lines from this song:

Except I know that’s not exactly your music preference, and I didn’t actually realize till just now that she’s singing to her sister, not a man.  Oops.  Moving on…

Even though it’s not our anniversary or Valentine’s day or some super romantic day like Superbowl Sunday, I’ve been thinking about you a lot.  I’ve been thinking about the ways you constantly give.  How you clearly don’t keep track of whose turn it is to pick a movie on date night, since by my count I’ve picked the last 38 out of 40.  How after I talked to my mom on the phone that one day and had the sudden urge to plan a trip and cart the kids hundreds of miles to see them, you asked, “When would you want to go?”, instead of “Why would we spend money on that?”  How you give me the gift of your honesty when I need to be sharpened or I’m being selfish. (Not to say that happens frequently, or anything.  Ahem.)  How when I get a little too excited after watching a romantic comedy, you humor me by dancing across our sexy toy strewn living room floor.

I watch you give yourself to the kids too, when it’s not always convenient or easy.  You read and play video games and sit on the floor to play and they know your love is faithful and ever-present.  They are so excited for you to return home each night- and if you ever think you’re not enough, I hope their excited little faces make you think twice.

But what I’m most grateful for today is the way you’ve loved me in my growing up.  In my still becoming who I am.  In my figuring my stuff out.  Man, we were babies when we got married.  At 21 how could I possibly have known all that would happen?  That I’d be diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.  That we’d end up adopting.  That it would take me till I was nearly 30 to realize and own my crazy God dreams.

Don’t you dare say it, we’re both aware that most of who I am is crazy.

Thank you for loving me not just for who I was when we met, but for loving me right into now.  For loving who I may become.  For loving me through a chronic condition that is difficult and sometimes makes me play the victim.  For loving me when I’ve made selfish choices seeking to find myself, and for supporting me when I finally found a passion that I couldn’t seem to breath without.  Thank you for loving me in all the messes and “middles” of the story when I’ve bitten off more than I could chew and ran crying to you to talk me off a ledge and encourage me to get back out there.

Thank you for listening and listening and more listening.  And for those precious words of wisdom that you somehow seem to store up for just the right moment.  And for making me laugh, because no one can do that quite like you.  (Which is saying something because you’ve got some tough competition with my sister.)

And it goes without saying, but thank you for every single dish you’ve ever washed, because nothing says, “I love you” like a clean dish.  Or a coffee.  Eh, it’s a toss up.

Anyway, in a world where it’s easier to take than give and to criticize than encourage, I just want to say thank you for choosing to give and encourage.  You’re my wind and my joy and my better half and all that jazz.  I’m probably missing something super corny but important, so hopefully this picture just summarizes all my sentiments.

Photo Credit: Angela Yuriko Smith (Pixabay.com)

I love you.

Your-Crazier-by-the-day Wife

Dear Husband, I Can Explain…

Husband of mine, when you get home you may have a few minor questions for me.  You know, mostly revolving around when and why the sanity left our home.

While I’m not able to fully answer that without a lawyer present, I can at least explain a few of your areas of concern.

For starters…the smell.  If you’re picking up on some briny floral with a vague hint of greasy garage you’re right on track.

You know how I went to our son’s classroom and saw how his teacher used those great essential oils?  I thought I’d try to recreate that calm atmosphere at home by using some soothing lavender in our diffuser.  You know, to keep everyone from losing their sanity.

Except lavender is a liar and doesn’t actually have the solutions to all my problems.

See…shortly after the kids got home from school I followed our sneaky three year old down the stairs and discovered an oily liquid all over the place.  After a brief interrogation, our little man procured a bottle of WD-40 which I can’t imagine how he found. (Side bar- I’m thinking we may need to reevaluate our basement shelving now that we have curious ninja boys.)

So it turns out the calming lavender wasn’t really a match for oil-aggeddon and the irritability and minor panic that followed.  There was a lot of hand washing and label reading and, fair warning, I wouldn’t look in the trash can if I were you.  Although- bright spot- your exercise machine glides like a charm now.  I wish I could tell you which boy to thank for that.

BUT, when I punished our son for lying about his involvement in the oil escapade, I may have caused a teeeeensy emotional landslide.  Which leads me to the situation with the van.  (Don’t look now.) Apparently losing TV and computer privileges for today warranted him packing up the house and plotting a trip to visit Nana and Papa in Alabama. 

I hugged him goodbye and took pictures of the kids because it was sort of funny for awhile.  Except the six year old was dead serious and had a rather robust packing list. 

And eventually I had to wrestle him out of the van and tell him why it wasn’t plausible for him to actually drive hundreds of miles today and return home for school Monday.

Which brings me to that last smell…while I was trying to get God knows what out of the fridge to scrounge them up a dinner to lure them home before they started hitch-hiking down to Dixie, I had some small kerfuffle.  Don’t ask me how I did it, but the short story is that the fridge shelf slid and I lost control of a pickle jar with a poorly secured lid.  (Don’t say a word- we both know I’m the too-lose-lid culprit but we’ll not discuss it again.) 

As with the oil, the lavender was fairly intimidated by the pickle stench.  I may need to give it some self confidence lessons.

So to recap: don’t go in the basement, if you see green on the floor it’s pickle juice not pee, I’m looking into some stronger lavender essential oils…and we might need to plan an actual trip to Alabama to talk the kids off the ledge.

Also, can I go out in the morning?  Possibly?  I could even take just one child…preferably a compliant one who’s in a good mood and hasn’t touched anything with pickles lately.

Thanks and I love you.

~Your pickle splattered Wife

 

 

 

Immature Mom Moment?

My counselor asked me once why I always feel behind.  Oh gracious, I could write a book about that.

But it all starts with intending to wake up before my children, and snoozing in just a few extra peaceful minutes only to find one of them waking me up instead.  (A kid at 6am is harder to ignore than an alarm at 5:45 apparently.)

This morning my usual three year old culprit greeted me and I had to shush him and whisk him down the stairs before he woke up the other two angelic sleeping children. (And “angelic” is a word we seldom use in this house.)

Then I sat down to have my “quiet time” where I read a chapter of a book or some chapters in my Bible or pray (or for the love of all things sugar-free be ALONE).  But I find myself feeling guilty that while I’m trying to have a calm conversation with God I have to keep yelling at a mischievous child.  I think God gets it but its awkward.

Finally my little guy wore me down, as usual, and I invited him to join my “quiet time” if he could, in fact, be quiet.  Bless his heart.  He lowered his voice to a toddler whisper, but the kid never stopped talking. Asking me questions.  Wanting me to see what he was working on.

Death glare.  “Child…you will learn what quiet means if it is the only legacy I pass on to you.”

Finally my older daughter came in and I gave up my not-so-quiet endeavor to look something up on the computer for her.  Next thing I knew, I looked over and my preschooler was wielding his scissors and must have been bored with paper because he was now intent on trying to cut my new blue shirt.

I mom panicked into over-reacting umm….just a smidge we’ll say.  My poor son was surprised and hurt by how quickly I over-scolded him. 

I shooed my daughter out of the room and told her to get dressed, I plucked my crying three year old up and put him in time-out with yet another firm reminder that “we ONLY cut paper” (which his little brain will file away in the same place he puts my rules about not coloring on the wall).

Then in anger I called out passive aggressively to no one in particular (but specifically my husband) something about having to handle all the things myself just because I’m “mom”.  (Translation: obviously we are in crisis mode and if my tirade and a crying child didn’t get you down here…I’m going to lay out an additional suuuuper subtle hint for you.)

Then I sat down for a brief moment, probably to stew in irritability even though my shirt didn’t actually get cut after all.  And suddenly it occurred to me…my husband had kissed me goodbye a good 15 minutes ago and left for work already.  He clearly had no idea of the shirt and scissors kerfuffle and thankfully he also missed my immature mom moment of taking my frustration out on him.

I’m actually relieved because the minute I realized he wasn’t there I saw my Mom meltdown for what it was- that kind of embarrassing time when my kids witnessed me yelling at literally no one because of a blue shirt.  I had made a mistake but since he wasn’t there I got to take it back and start over.  (How often does that happen?)

Whew.  With any luck he won’t even read this blog and he’ll be none the wiser. 😉

Now my big kids are at school and my son has been sneaking his own lunch while I type.  But I think its worth it to take a minute to cheer you up with my immaturity.


 

What about you?  Any embarrassing or slightly over-reacting moments from your parenting career?  Feel free to share- sometimes being able to laugh at ourselves brings us a little perspective on our frustrations for today.