I have struggled with this post for a long time. I didn't want to write it because it's very real and raw and honest and I'm worried people will judge me. I'm worried that my reality will cause someone to turn away from God's call on their life to adopt. But then I realized that people need to know this reality. They need to be equipped to answer God's vitally important call to foster and adopt. And maybe there are people like me out there who have felt alone in their struggles. Isolated. Judged. Alone. And maybe it will bless them to know that I'm in their village too...
Adoption is hard. I'm not really talking to the "I've had a child from birth that I've adopted" crowd, although parenting in any facet is not without its struggles. But you bond with a newborn easily. They are so dependent and you have the joy of watching them grow through all their phases. You bond. You bond. You BOND. I have an 18 month old in my village who I have had the joy and delight of knowing and bonding with since she was two days old.
No, where I'm going is this: imagine adopting a child who has spent their entire life being moved around from bio parents, to foster home, to bio parents, to foster home, to foster home, to foster home. All in four short years of life.Take everything you know about your biological children and flush it down the toilet. Take everything you know about children, period, and flush it down the toilet. And start from scratch. With a child who outwardly appears to be normal. Healthy even. Then take their biological age and divide it into fractions to get their emotional age, which may change on any given day. You know those questions that preschoolers ask? The "why" questions? The "can I" questions? Multiply that number by 10 and that's what I get on any given day. And then know that they don't even stop to give you a chance to respond to the question before they repeat it again. And again. And again. "Mommy can we listen to this song? Mommy can we listen to this song? Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy." All while you're buckling an 18 month old into the van.
I'm no good at math. Really I'm not. All I know is that when I start thinking about those odds I get a headache and start seeing sideways and lose my temper.
How do you teach rules and boundaries to two children that you have not had the ability to parent before now? You have no history with them. You don't know what they understand and what they don't. You only know your experience with your own biological children, and training them--especially during the preschool years--was an adventure in and of itself. What do you do when these new members of your village deliberately disobey you and smile about it? How do you overcome your fear when you catch them doing something completely inappropriate? When they regress in potty training? When they won't stop talking and it's 11pm?
Oh, and then add in the fact that you have become a mixed race village. You cannot go anywhere in public without being noticed because you are now a large family, a mixed race family, and you have three preschoolers--two of whom do not fully understand appropriate boundaries and rules. You get dirty looks from white and black people. You have people ask you, in front of your children, "Are they all yours?" You have people ask you in front of your children, "Why would you want to adopt children of another race?" You have people ask you in front of your children,"What are you putting on her hair? It looks dry," and this is after you have invested hours upon hours studying, reading, and purchasing high quality, all natural hair care products, but she decided to roll her head around on her carseat on the way to the store so it looks frizzy.
Despite the fact that my husband has worked the same schedule for the last two years, many people who know us seem to forget this: Daddywayne leaves to go to work at 2:30 in the afternoon and doesn't get home until 1am or later sometimes. So I do nighttime duty alone Monday through Friday. Five nights a week. Five. Nights. A. Week.
You feelin me?
With the questions and the fighting and the disobeying and the dinner and the 18 month old and the dogs and the big kids who are so helpful but try to parent and I worry that I'm putting too much on them. With the bathtime and the bedtime and the cleaning up and the laundry and the we-have-to-get-out-of-this-house-before-I-lose-it. With the doorbell ringing from the neighborhood kids which only adds to my responsibility.
Some days this ends in me barricading myself twice into the far reaches of the house where I go sit on the toilet and cry and pray while they pound on the door. Some days this means me putting my Jesus Culture station on Pandora and blaring it in the kitchen and focusing on those words while I cook dinner and wait tables and pour drinks and listen to whining about what's been fixed and "I want. I want. I want. Mommy!"
This is my village.
My precious husband who works so hard for our family, gets up with these villagers in the morning to let me rest a little while longer. He does breakfast and often lunch. He kicks me out of the house to go breathe. He loves me well. This village works because we are a team. I love that man with all my heart. You need to know that.
And not all days are the worst case scenario mentioned above. Some days are peace and joy and I lay in bed at the end of the day and I see Jesus. I see progress. I see fruit. I see more of these days lately then I see the former. But let me tell you: it has been HARD.
And I think this is really the crux of what I want to say: we are all very good at helping people in the moment. When we find out our friend is in the hospital, or just had a baby, or someone is sick, or just lost a loved one, we don't hesitate to start those CareCalendars. We set up prayer groups and we go visit with these friends and we donate time and money to bless them and care for them. As we should.
But can I tell you a little secret?
What these people really need is for you to remember they exist in about six weeks. Or two months. Or six months. They need you to call and ask how you can pray for them now. Ask them what they need now. Can you come and sit with the baby while they shower or nap or go to the grocery store? Do they need a date night? Are their medical bills piling up? How can you love them now? And they don't really need you to offer answers unless you are telling them something that really helped you when you went through the exact same situation. People don't want sympathy. They want empathy. They want you to sit in the ashes with them and let them know they aren't alone. That there will be beauty after this. That God's mercies are new every morning. That He is doing great things even in the midst of this hard stuff. And they desperately need you to pray. Often. With them. For them. And ask God for words of encouragement for them.
I'm telling you this because I have walked this road. Cancer showed me that people show up right after a diagnosis, but then a few months later when you're still going through the stuff no one knows what to say or do, so they disappear.
We were abundantly, ridiculously, over the top blessed when our friends and loved ones found out we were adopting. People brought meals and gave toys and money and it was redonkulous. Blessed redonkulousness.
But then a few weeks later I think everyone must have thought we were all in blessed bliss and we were really in blessed hell. We were literally walking through the fire and felt abandoned and alone. We felt like we were supposed to put on our happy, we're fine, so fine, everyone's fine faces when we were hanging on by our fingernails. We asked for this right? It's supposed to be newborn, baby bonding bliss with these two little boys who have had nothing but upheaval in their lives thus far. And if it wasn't all cupcakes and ice cream then we needed to suck it up because...we asked for it.
We haven't needed answers. (Unless pray tell, the answer giver has adopted older children and lived to tell about it. Those are surely the people we could use answers/input/prayer/encouragement from!)
We have needed people to just sit in the ashes with us and go..."God's got this. He's got you. It's going to be okay. It's going to be okay. And even when you stop believing it's going to be okay, I'm going to believe it and pray it for you."
All of this is changing me. And thank God because that is most definitely what makes any struggle worth while. I know He is molding me and shaking my junk and sin off. He's humbling me to my face and my tears and my carpet burn from crying out for His help, for His healing and restoration for our boys. For His protection of our big kids. For His making us a family, a real family. For Him to help us see each other as He sees us and love each other that way. This is SO much about me. I believe God has very intentionally brought our sweet babies to us, all in different ways. He his Healer and Restorer of these kids, but He is also fiercely committed to me looking like Him. Reflecting Him. Parenting like Him. Realizing I can't do jack squat on my own. That's my Jesus.
And this is my village. Welcome.
(I feel like I need to give Christie Erwin and Jen Hatmaker some electronic "thank yous" because they both enabled me to boldly conquer this post by recently posting about the reality of adoption.Thank you.)