Wednesday, August 10, 2016

In which I try and not step on any toes...

There's one particular phenomenon, in the land of many adoption related phenomenons, especially when you have children who have a different skin tone than you.  It USUALLY comes from very well meaning individuals who are just curious about your diverse looking tribe and in my case a very large diverse looking tribe.  These scenarios sometimes look a little something like this.  I stroll (read clamor) into our sweet little lakeside park for lunch (offered FREE during the summer) and trailing  behind me is my gaggle of delightful brown children.  We are obviously not biologically connected in any way, shape or form.  Even my lightest skinned kiddo is leaps and bounds too dark to warrant me being married to a black man and ending any curious questioning or assumptions.  We are a family made entirely by adoption and at this point everyone knows it.  To clarify, this actually doesn't bother me at all and truthfully I don't notice almost 80% of the time.  It's the life and path God chose for us and that He chose for our kids so at this juncture it's pretty normal for ME.  One of the many things I love about our community is the amount of adoptive families we have around us, even white parents who have adopted black children which is amazing!  I love that my kids have peers in their life who at some point could be a sounding board for struggles and a really really beautiful relationship of understanding what pain and loss in this heartbreaking form feels like.

"Where did they come from?"
"Are they all siblings?"
"Did you GET them when they were older?"
"You did a really great thing by bringing them home to your family."
"How did you find them?"

These very pointed and personal questions have been asked of me in front of my kids, in fact almost all of these happened during one agonizingly long conversation with a woman at the park who is also an adoptive mother.  Was I mad at her?  No.  Was I surprised at her candor after only having met me two minutes before?  Yes.  I left the park that day with the most curious feelings of are these questions really accepted and deemed appropriate in the adoptive community?  I am all about resources and support and laying my crap bare but that's ME, that's my crap, I get to decide when and how to share it.  If that's with a perfect stranger, go for it.  But I'm talking about their stories.  Their sad and painful stories full of deep pain and loss and so much confusion.  Their stories that are littered with abuse, neglect, abandonment, exposure, mistreatment, mistrust, fear, inadequacy and the list goes on.  Would you like it if someone told your story to a stranger?  If they didn't ask your permission to share it and maybe even got some of the details wrong?  I think sometimes our community of adoptive families wants so badly to be forthright and helpful and transparent but we're missing the mark in a large way.  Our kids, especially foster kids, are stripped of any kind of privacy once they come into care.  They have multiple workers who know their story.  They have advocates who know their story.  They have public records of court documents a mere google search away.  Sometimes they have multiple foster families who know their story and nothing is sacred anymore.  I agree that information sharing is necessary in our social services system but the amount of turn around is so immense that it just becomes a runaway train.  I don't believe that this can be helped within the bounds of child protective services but can it not be helped among the families harboring these sweet hurting souls?  It's important that you understand the tone of what I'm writing is not angry.  It's desperate.  I am desperate for discretion.  I am desperate for protecting what little they have left.  I am desperate for us to come together and learn how to share the struggle without sharing THE struggle.  To step away from the little listening ears and ask advice about a particular situation.  I have failed at this multiple times and I think that's what really struck me that day at the park.  I'm just as guilty for answering those questions in great detail as she is for asking them.  How can I politely respond while protecting their privacy?  I'm known to be outspoken, sarcastic, and have facial expressions that pretty much sum up entirely what I'm feeling inside.  It's both a blessing and a curse (leaning more towards 80% blessing and 20% curse).

Hear me out on this guys.  Just because you have an adopted/foster child does not give you carte blanche to ask deeply personal questions to a stranger.  I think we know when we see each other, we've got each others backs.  We know what THIS is like.  We don't need to rehash we just need to be discreet, something that THEY don't get to be too often when they have a white mother.  The reality is they aren't just hearing these things from adults, they are also hearing these things from their peers.  Twice this week I had a child come up and ask if they were adopted, once with my daughter and once in front of my other children.  Different is good yes?  Different can sometimes make people rethink what is expected.  It can make white mommies with black babies look less conspicuous.  Different can open up conversations about families and how God decided to bring them all together just like seeing other mom's with babies in their tummies.  We talk about adoption in our house openly.  We talk about how God did this exact same thing for us when He sent his Son as the ultimate sacrifice, we are adopted into His family.  We don't shy away from discussing the concept of adoption or being adopted because it is the life we live.  Let's do each other a favor, let's agree to find our close few and share the gory details.  That's what friends are for.  That's what community is for.  Let's cry and laugh and lament with our close few.  Let's celebrate the moments they call you "mom", when you see the look of relief on their face after returning HOME from a long trip, when they take ownership, when they give in to what they always hoped to feel again...connected.  Loved.  Treasured.

To answer her questions:

Missouri & Florida.
Varying ages.
Thanks.  (I got nothing on this one.  I never know what to say so I have to answer quickly before my facial expressions take over)
The internet.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

In which I prefer her...

Probably ten times in the last month I have sat down at my computer and thought about diving into discussing the world of attachment.  Yet every time I start to write I get so overwhelmed with how huge that concept is and how many bunny trails there are not to mention how literally every families make up and path is so different than the next.  I want to be honest but I don't want to scare or offend (usually).  I want to help but I don't want some to think if my suggestions don't work then there's something "wrong" with them.  So I'm going to try to figure out the delicate and perhaps impossible formula needed to accomplish helping....wait are you ready for it....ME.  If what I share helps someone other than myself and my family well then, that's a bonus.  PRESSURE GONE!
Moving forward to what's on my heart today.

The truth is, I prefer her.  I prefer my first girl over any of my other four right now.   She brings me comfort, just looking at her even from a room away.  Her smile, her laugh, just her being her makes me FEEL so much love towards her.  SHE is familiar.  The truth about attachment is that it's basically torture for someone like me who is wildly impatient and prefers instant gratification.  We brought our first girl home to us when she was four months old and even though it was an adjustment of life in general I was dealing in new mom world with a little human that didn't talk yet and hadn't the slightest clue she would never live with her birth mom again.  Her not knowing offered me a three to four year buffer of preparation for harder conversations.  We built a foundation of trust together so when the sadness of these upcoming conversations took place I could hold her and feel it alongside her.  It seems weird to say it but this was the "ideal" situation even though a child losing their parent(s) is never the "ideal" situation.

Here's one of the icky parts of attachment...coming to terms with the fact that you prefer one child over another and trying not to feel guilt with that feeling.  Sure there are moments when the others can make me laugh, or make me proud, or lean into to me for a hug and a kiss or a word of encouragement but I don't feel the same feels towards them right now.  I'm getting there with some and I'm still very much working on it with others.  This is hard.  This causes me to cry many tears.  This causes me to be on high alert with intentionality, and you want to know how often I fail at that?  Every day, multiple times a day.  Ya'll I'm doing this new relationship building thing x4 while trying to maintain what I have spent five years building with another.  More times than I care to admit I try to do life on my own without calling on my Savior to lead the way.  All of my efforts and best attempts to create relationships, parent these children well, help with homework, run them here and there are never going to take root until I realize that I am not even in control of one single ounce of the outcome.  The other day my Father lead me to this in a devotional I was reading..."Good morning, Lord.  I lift up my voice in desperate need of your mercy right now--this day!  My only option is You.  My life is a wilderness without you."  The sooner I make this prayer my habit daily the sooner the pressure of motherhood won't have as big of an impact on me.  The sooner I make this prayer my habit daily and employ the insane truth behind these words the better my efforts will be towards building relationships with my new four.  Will I fail?  Of course.  But my Savior and my God proves to me time and time again in His Word that He prefers flawed people over people pretending to be perfect any day of the week.  This is a concept I can get behind.

To my new four...some day we'll all fit together in this house and we'll all learn trust and healing just the way God planned it for us.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

In which we find what works, for the moment....

My personality is such that the idea of ambiguity is utter nonsense to me.  Why wonder when you can just ask the question and get the answer?  At times this does not bode well for mine and Tyler's relationship because homeboy likes to wallow in the land of ambiguity like its his day job.  SO I'm not saying my way is the right way,  I'm just way SEEMS to be the right way.  ;)  When we brought the Fantastic Four home to us I realized very quickly that there was power in an answer but even more power in permission to feel a certain way.  Call out those feelings of sadness and loss, put it out there so others can feel it with you, for our oldest boy this helped him so much.  He remembers life with his birth mom, he remembers life with all of his foster placements, and now he remembers life with us.  In this world of adopting out of foster care there is not a single thing you can say or do that will speed up what only TIME can provide.  Time together, getting to know each other, living life together can only happen 24 hours at a time and when you've missed out on the first three to eight years of someone's life this can be a hard pill to swallow at times.  I remember very clearly a time with our oldest, he had just finished having a fairly huge meltdown.  To the average person this meltdown would have come out of nowhere, not a single playback in your mind could point towards one particular clarifying moment that caused such a reaction.  These meltdowns usually ended with him sobbing while sitting on mine or Tyler's lap and then...the REAL reason would be revealed.  And this time there was hesitation on his part, "I really miss my mom."  I realized then and there that this little broken soul needed permission to miss the very woman who carried him in her belly for nine months at the age of 15.  He needed permission to to verbalize the loss of a connection with a woman who quite frankly did not want to fight for him and his siblings (this is not information he is aware of yet).  He needed permission to say those words and not have me tell him "that's ridiculous", "I'm your mom now", "your'e never going to see her again anyway", "just get over it". I gave him that permission and the look on his face was something I will never ever forget.  He was relieved.  Guys, I'm telling you right now when I choose WHAT I want to share on this platform it is a very teeny glimpse into the amount of hurt and disappointment that my first boy has endured in his nine short years.  When I share with you mine and Tyler's responses it is a very teeny glimpse into the two of us actually doing and saying the right thing at the right time compared to the other hundred times we do it and say it wrong.  It is not by our might and our power that we prevail against what the devil had hoped for in our new children's lives.  It is the power of the Holy Spirit in us that breaks down those walls of our very own sin and allows us to communicate in ways that are beyond our immediate control.  There is so much power in how HE loves us by showing up in something like clarity of thought.  When we sit there and watch a little boy exhibit behavior that frightens his siblings and hurts our feelings there is nothing inside of me that would immediately want to choose to draw him in, but the beauty of the God we serve and the God we love is that He will ALWAYS choose to draw us in.  He will ALWAYS choose to step into that mess arms wide open, ready to take the hit.
Last night Tyler and I gave our son permission to believe in himself.  To believe that he is capable of great things.  To believe that those horrible words his previous foster mom told him about himself are absolutely not true.  We challenged him to understand what sorry actually means and why it's important to the people he loves to admit when he's wrong and to follow that admission up with a sincere apology.  We continued an ongoing conversation about respecting authority and how seeing the value in that is better than living a life where he thinks he shouldn't have to answer to anybody.  Our prayer for him from the very beginning is that his healing would be swift, not for our benefit but for his and that yes God is in complete control but there's still a responsibility he holds to make the right choice.  
Last night, through all of our tears at our kitchen table we gave him permission to believe that he can be different and that different is wonderful and that this world is better because he is in it.  We gave him permission to mess up and make mistakes but that sorry and trying to do differently the next time  is where it really counts.  Last night, we made progress in our loss of time.  I'm not naive enough to think I won't get another phone call from the teacher or that he won't be disrespectful but I have to believe that because God chose him as His very own that there will be progress.  There will be real change and that it has nothing to do with me, what a relief.  Oh how He loves us.

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