A Decade of Love {ten things i want my 10-yr-old son to know}

This is it.  This is one of the big ones.  You turned ten, and my heart just can’t believe it.  It’s been a decade since my eyes first caught sight of you; a decade of all sorts of emotions.  We’ve laughed.  We’ve cried.  We’ve raged.  We’ve said sorry.  We’ve loved.

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In eight years, the world will say that you are no longer my baby.  You will be an adult, responsible for yourself, and I can barely stand the thought of it.  Even when I look at you now, I see that curly, blonde haired cutie with chocolate eyes looking back at me.

I remember your first steps and the first time you stacked blocks.  You would hold your hands up to me and say, “Hold you.  Hold you.” and I just caved in every time.  I also remember when you would dress up like a Ninja, put on a Transformer mask, and jump on your Big Wheel.  You were going to save the world.  I believed you could.  I have the drawings and love letters from you.  I will always cherish them.

I remember our laughter when you would belt out one of your sweet songs you made up with your bright orange ukulele.  You had a silly way of turning life into a melody.  And, you were quite good at it…

 

Son, it has been a decade since tears stained my pillow as I cried out to God.  It has been a decade since I mourned receiving someone else’s baby shower announcement, and since I stared longingly at a mother and baby with hopeful wishes that one day, my turn would come.  It has also been a decade since my heart left my body and walked around in the form of a little one; in you.

It has been a beautiful ten years.  I want you to know that life is not going to be easy.  It was never designed to be, but here are ten things I want you to carry with you through the days that God will bless us all with your presence.

  1. Your worth is never measured by the size of your house, the car you drive, your academic success, or how many trophies are on display.  You know how we say, “It isn’t the size of the home that matters, it’s the amount of love in it that does”?  Well, that saying is not just about houses.  It is also about life.  Don’t ever forget that.
  2. Never forget that while you have challenges, other people do as well.  Remember this when you are with others who seem to be difficult.  Think about it when you come across a stranger that is different from you.  Stay kind.  That is one thing you will never regret.
  3. If you fail at something, try again.  The biggest lessons you will learn in life often come from failure.  Don’t give up on your goals, relationships, or talents.  Keep exploring and remember that failure absolutely rises up your character.
  4. Take care of your body.  I’m not talking eat your vegetables, drink water, and all that kind of stuff (although, that is important).  I mean rest when you need to.  Don’t burn yourself out.  Stay away from drugs and other things that will deteriorate you.  You only have this one life on Earth.  Give your health every chance it has to move you along and to capture all that you can in the vast world.
  5. Don’t measure moments in how much beauty you think they have.  Instead, remember that beauty also involves those raw, honest, knees-to-the-ground kind of moments.  This may not make sense to you now, but one day it will.  The most beautiful experiences in life often come from seemingly painful experiences.
  6. Learn to walk away when you need to.  In other words, don’t get caught up in someone else’s mistakes.  Good friends will not lead you down destructive paths.  You will know you have a good friend when that person accepts you for exactly who you are at any given moment.  In return, be that same kind of friend to someone else.
  7. Laugh.  Laugh until you pee your pants.  Laugh until you just can’t take it anymore.  Find others who make you laugh.  Laughter feeds the soul and it nourishes relationships.  Find joy in odd things; things that you find funny.  Keep making up those quirky jokes you tell.  Don’t be afraid to let the world hear your laughter.  It is perfect.
  8. When you can give, do so.  Receiving is nice, but giving is so much better.  The Bible tells us this.  Giving keeps us grounded and in return, we get the blessing of knowing that we are helping others.  Giving does not always mean material gifts.   These things are nice, but giving yourself, holding the hand of someone who seems like an untouchable, sharing a smile, and encouraging someone are all incredibly powerful ways to give.
  9. Stand up for yourself and others.  Even when it doesn’t seem like the cool thing to do or what the crowd expects, do it and don’t be afraid.  Don’t ever walk away from a situation thinking, “I could have done more to help.”  If you can help, do it and don’t make any apologies about it.
  10. Never forget that there is nothing you can ever do that will make us love you any less.  We will not always agree with your choices.  We may even get quite upset and distraught over something that you’ve done, but son, we will always love you.  The love we have for you is forever stuck right into our hearts.  It is engrained into the very fiber of our beings.  You will learn this once you become a parent.

A decade of life has come and gone; a decade of firsts, thrills, do-overs, and lots of learning.  It has moved quickly and if I could, I would go back and do it all over again.  All of it.

Faith has brought us through it and faith will carry us on.  God weaved our family out of brokenness, but there is nothing broken about us.  We are exactly who we are supposed to be.  YOU are exactly who you are supposed to be, and you are precious.  You are incredible.  Thank you, son, for this past decade of love.

What a treasure it has been.

 

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(Photo credit:  Freedom Photography http://www.freedom-photography.com/)

 

 

 

Tips for Navigating the Child Welfare System {Adoption.com Article}

For new foster parents, getting involved with the child welfare system can be quite overwhelming.  There are meetings, court hearings, visits, rules, and all a ton of paperwork.  There is also the deep desire to meet the kids where they are at and help them heal.

I recently wrote an article for Adoption.com regarding tips a new foster parent can do to navigate the system. Click on this link to view it:  Tips to Navigate the Child Welfare System

I hope you find this helpful!  Does anyone have other tips that a new foster parent will find useful?  If so, I’d love to hear them!

Blessings,

Caroline

 

 

Don’t Ever Forget That {words for parents of special needs kids}

Oh, boy.  There is nothing like being at a busy and popular outdoors store (aka: the “big” Bass Pro Shop) and dealing with a very defiant, loud, and just plain out-of-control four-year-old.  Wowza.  Directives were given.  Choices were offered.  Still yet, the force was quite strong with this one, today.  Because I am the parent and he is the child, I gave him one last warning, “If you do not hold my hand and stay with me, you and I will have to go to the van.”  And, boom.  He’s off.  Throwing a major, cataclysmic style of meltdown for all of the outdoorsy, fishing fanatics to see.

I swiftly, yet gently picked the floppy body of my child up off the ground, maneuvered him in a way that protected the both of us, grabbed the keys from my husband, and headed off to the seemingly non-ending walk to our van.  The ENTIRE time, my child was screaming.  Now listen.  His screams were not just a “typical” scream.  Oh, no.  It was something animalistic that surely came from the depths of the dwelling place of Hades.

His body stiffened.  I nearly dropped him.  He somehow managed to get himself to the ground, and then magically became limp and without strength to stand up on his own two feet.  I picked him up off of the ground, carried him like a basket, watched for the flailing arms and legs, and we meandered our way through that gigantic maze of dead animals and camouflage.

As we walked, or better yet, I walked while wrestling what seemed like an alligator, people just stopped and stared.  They parted the way (just like Moses parting the Red Sea…sort of) so that I could get through.  Sometimes, a few older people chuckled.  Others made eye-contact with me with the “Girl, we feel your pain” kind of solidarity (AND I LOVE THOSE PEOPLE), but then were many that gave me a look of disdain.  I mean, how in the world would any decent parent have a child that acts like that?!   Right?  Yeah, right.

Alas, we made it to the van.  I opened the door, he threw himself on the ground.  I got his car seat all ready for his delivery, he stiffened his body.  I peered around to see a church van of folks staring and watching our little game of cat and mouse.  I finally got him in the van, shut his door, jumped in on my side, and locked it.

With a bit of snarkiness, I posted on my personal Facebook page a status that included wild animal sounds not being a new sound effect of Bass Pro Shops, having a walk of shame out of the store, and Jesus coming back, but then I sat back in my seat as he started to soften a bit, and I held back tears.

Some might say that this behavior is quite typical of a preschooler.  I suspect it is. However, and I’m going to be extremely candid about this, my husband and I deal with these type of behaviors on a daily basis, and we manage the best we can.  All of our children experienced trauma in the womb.  It is as if they not only absorbed the choices their birth mothers made, they also absorbed the chaos around them.  There is something to be said about that.

People have said to me, “At least you got them as babies.”  ‘Tis true.  We are very blessed to receive our children as infants, but that does not mean, nor ever will mean, that we do not experience daily struggles with our children.  This is the thing that only parents of children with invisible special needs can understand.

When others see my children, they see bright, cute, outgoing, athletic and friendly kids.  What they don’t see is the day-to-day parenting energy that is expelled in order to pull this off.  They don’t see our neurology appointments, clinical assessments, and a medication regimen that we have to attend to.  They don’t hear our discussions with people in the helping profession or attend the various training on managing trauma and behavioral issues that we’ve attended.

They don’t know the late-night, in bed, talks between my husband and I about how we can handle a behavior, or what we should or should not do to maintain.  They don’t know the time spent advocating for our kids.  They don’t hear our prayers for protection, wisdom, and healing.  They don’t understand just how exhausted we are at the end of the day.  And, they do not know our worries for our children’s futures.

But..let me tell you, friend.  There is this mighty thing called faith, and it encompasses us.  It envelops us and surrounds us with the will to get up each day and try to do better.  We know, with every pore in our bodies, that our children are exactly where God needed them to be…with us.

My husband and I realized a few weeks ago that we are parenting special needs kids.  Of course, we’ve known this for years, but we finally spoke it out loud.  We finally gave ourselves permission to call it what it is, and to not be happy and “okay” with life all of the time.

For others who are parenting kids with special needs, I just want to say that you are a special kind of parent.  You deal with issues that a lot of families will never face.  You understand with full attention what it is like to parent a child whose walk on the Earth is laden with challenges.  Your energy and time spent researching, advocating, listening, crying, and praying is time well worth spent.  Don’t ever forget that.

Tomorrow is a new day.  Cover yourself with the belief and hope that we are making a significant difference in the lives of our kids.  We are not perfect.  We have to discipline differently.  We have to choose to ignore the things that would drive other parents crazy.  We have to carry ourselves in a manner that does not show just how much we are struggling.  And, we should be proud of this.

It takes a lot, a tremendous amount, to parent children with special needs.  Don’t be shy to ask for help.  Don’t be embarrassed to admit that you struggle.  After all, we are simply parents whose lives are a mission field for children who desperately need us.

Don’t ever forget that.

 

 

Be Kind {a note to students for this school year}

(Author’s note:  For many of us, our kids are starting the beginning of a new school year.  With a new year comes excitement mixed in with a bit of dread (especially when it comes to early wake-up times and homework).  This post is for all of the younglings (K-12th grade) who are beginning this new year of learning.)

Hey, Kids!  Good luck during this school year.  I hope you have a remarkable year of learning and friendship.  Give it you best!  Can I ask you something?  If you could do one thing that could change the world for better this year, would you consider it?  Well, here it is…

BE KIND. 

That kid that dresses a little out-of-style or in clothing that looks worn out, well he may be working a job after school to help put food on the table.

That girl who seems to shy away from groups or other social events, well she may be dealing with the emotional fallout of a parental divorce.

That little girl who seems to be a bit odd, well she may be carrying a dark secret about what is happening to her in the hours of the night when you are getting a restful sleep.

That boy who walks with a limp, well he may have overcome great odds to survive.

My mom used to say to me, “Kill them with kindness.”  I’ll admit that I failed time and again to do so, and there were plenty of opportunities to show kindness that I ignored.  The truth is that we really do not know what is going on in someone’s life until we listen, learn, and understand.  More than this, though, is the responsibility to be empathetic.  Yes, it is a responsibility, and you never know when you will need someone to be empathetic to you.

As a young person, you will make plenty of mistakes.  That is okay.  Mistakes are a way of learning how to navigate this crazy thing we call life.  You will have regrets.  You will wish for a do-over, but let me tell you, the one thing you will never regret is choosing kindness.

You never know…that kid with worn out clothing may end up being the best friend you ever had.  The girl who seems to shy away from groups could become the one person who shows you kindness when dealing with a hardship.  The little girl who seems a bit odd could be the very person who comes to your defense when you need it, and the boy who walks with a limp just might become one of our greatest leaders.

Lots of things come and go.  Fashion, music, popularity, etc all seem to sway with the tide, and they are not permanent.  Do you want to know what will make a permanent mark on one’s life?

Kindness.

Kindness doesn’t sway.  It doesn’t fade out or become unpopular.  It sticks with you, and it sticks to those you choose to be kind to.  Kindness matters.

Kiddos,  I challenge you to be the generation that is known for kindness.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?!  I think so.  After all, we adults can learn so much from you.

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we are PARENTS {my response to Al Trautwig’s Tweet}

18m6oyDid you hear about NBC commentator Al Trautwig’s tweet regarding Simone Biles’ family? If not, here it is:

“They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” (Al Trautwig via Twitter)

Soon after, he received tongue-lashings from others about this very offensive statement, and a #FireTrautwig campaign has started.  He has since deleted the tweet, and has apologized,

“I regret that I wasn’t more clear in my wording on the air,” he said in a statement emailed by NBC Sports. “I compounded the error on Twitter, which I quickly corrected. To set the record straight, Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents.” (USA Today)

More clear?  Sorry, I don’t buy it.  The fact that Mr. Trautwig took the time to capitalize the letters of the word “not” speaks of great intentionality with his words.  Even though the tweet has been deleted, the impact of it has lingered.  You just can’t flippantly say something like that and expect it to just go away.  Words, whether kind or full of ignorance, always have a way of causing a visceral reaction with people.

Now, I know that some might say the adoptive community is just too sensitive.  We don’t like to use the word “real” when it comes to defining biological family.  We don’t enjoy hearing others ask, “Where did you get him from?” or “Aren’t you worried she will look for her real parents?”  We don’t appreciate any of these types of comments or questions, but we understand fully that education and awareness are greatly needed in the area of adoption.

Perhaps, we (adoptive community) are too sensitive at times.  We like to use a certain verbiage on our terms, but get defensive when others do.  We strive to be viewed as a “normal” family and want to be seen as not differing from others, even though we all know that adoption is different and the way our families were woven together are as diverse as the terrains we all come from.  I understand that we can be (at times) a little snobbish about who we are.  We all know the in’s and out’s of what it is to parent a child not born to us.  We are incredibly good at making things seem rosy all of the time, yet we know there are moments that are just ugly.

Sensitive?  Maybe.  Strong and persistent?  ABSOLUTELY.  Al Trautwig’s tweet was offensive.  In just a few words, he completely diminished what it is to be a parent through adoption.  I literally lifted out of my chair when I read them.  I recalled the moment my son was told that I was not his “real” mother.  After reading the tweet, my mind went to my children.  How heartbreaking it would be for them to read something like that.

To even suggest that Simone’s parents are NOT her parents is exactly the opposite that all families formed through adoption strive to be.

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word parent is this:

  1. 1a:  one that begets or brings forth offspring

  2. b :  a person who brings up and cares for another

  3. 2a:  an animal or plant that is regarded in relation to its offspringb:  the material or source from which something is derivedc:  a group from which another arises and to which it usually remains subsidiary <a parentcompany>  (Merriam-Webster)

Am I not a parent when I’m wiping away tears from my sad child?  Am I not a parent when I’m paying for the various activities my children are involved in?  How about when I’m advocating on behalf of my child at school, or doctor’s office, or in a social group, or when I come to the defense of my child?  Am I not a parent when I feed, nurture, and take care of my child’s daily needs?  Am I not a parent when I invest in my child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual growth?

After all, who else would be doing this?

Adoption may be different, but it is very much PARENTING.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, and it sure shouldn’t take a tweet from an ignorant sports commentator to diminish it.

Adoptive families have nothing to be ashamed of.  We are all explorers in the landscape of children who needed a family.  Let’s leave the definitions of parenthood up to those of us who are doing it, and let’s give children, who have been adopted, the right to call us what they want.

By all definitions and standards, we are parents.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

World Changers {for my daughter and yours}

20160804_155418I spent yesterday with my daughter. We had a “Girl’s Day”. We ate, shopped, laughed, and we hit the salon. Sometime this week, my daughter heard that the store called Justice is THE place to shop if you are a girl. I would like to thank whoever told her this. Okay, not really.

She begged me over and over again to take her there. She went from begging to dropping subtle hints like: “When we go to the mall and look through Justice…” You get the point. So, I caved. We headed to the mall and straight to the store. I’m pretty sure my wallet screamed with a hint of agony the minute I crossed that glitter and glam-infused threshold.

As my daughter looked at bras and make-up (you know…because she is SEVEN), I took a peek at some shirts to get her for the start of the school year. The shirts were all about girl power, being strong, being brave, being world changers, etc.

While I was looking at them, the audio in the store was playing interviews with girls saying the very things that their shirts had on them. I listened as a little girl said, “I’m going to change the world.” Others recounted being themselves and unique and strong and not letting anything keep them reaching their goals. (BRILLIANT marketing, by the way).

This is super embarrassing to admit, but I had a bit of a “moment” in that store surrounded by all that is great about being a girl. I even teared up. Seriously. I was the crazy lady shedding a few tears in Justice.

Now, this is not meant to be political. It is not meant to be for one candidate versus the other or any of that nonsense. I’m completely fine with people exercising their right to vote for who they believe best represents their concerns and values. I may be taking a risk to even post this, but I’ve always strived to be authentic in my expression of feelings, and honestly, this is not even about who I think anyone should vote for.

Yesterday, that little feminist piece of my heart swelled up with pride. Being with my strong-willed, opinionated, and creative daughter, reading the messages of hope and confidence splattered across those shirts, and listening to girls declare their sense of self, all reminded me of just how far women have come. It hit me that we have a presidential candidate (USA) who is female. She might end up being our first woman president. She might not. Agree with her or not, this is historic for us women.

Regardless if she wins or loses, I think or at least hope that we can and will remind ourselves of the value that we all have. We are daughters of purpose. Nothing should stand in our way.

For my daughter and for yours, I teared up a bit in that money-grabbing store called Justice, and my tears were not about how much it was going to cost me to shop there. My tears were ones of solidarity, pride, and hope for my daughter and all daughters around the world.

Let’s not forget that. Let’s continue to be strong, to be caregivers, to be boo-boo handlers, to be entrepreneurs, to be CEO’s, to be worship leaders, and…

to be world changers.

Children Are Worth It

 

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Photo Credit:  Freedom Photography

 

I just can’t even tell you how much I love these kids. There are not enough words in my somewhat limited vocabulary that express how rich, deep, authentic and pure my love is for them. They came into my life without expectations. I didn’t care what race or gender they were, or what their histories consisted of. No expectations, just hopeful anticipation.

It took me a while (like twenty-five years since the age that barrenness interrupted my life) to hold a baby and feel that smothering, warm and wonderful feeling of motherhood. Sure, I was a foster mother. Sure, my first baby could have left. Oh, but that feeling…that moment when your soul is completely eclipsed by a love that has not been felt before.

There are moments when I forget that huge mountain of barrenness that once blocked my path. In my frustrations with busyness, struggles with strong-willed children, and just plumb tiredness, I forget how far and how hard the uphill walk was to motherhood.

But…when I look at my children now, I can declare,

“That mountain was thrown into the sea!

That mountain crumbled!

That mountain is no more.

That mountain has been conquered, and praise God for that!”

Honestly, I do not miss the mountain, but I appreciate it. I recognize that barrenness caused immense pain. I fully understand that illness created physical, emotional, and spiritual angst. I know the body is far more vulnerable than the soul.

Infertility and barrenness are hard. Adoption and foster parenting are hard. Raising kids with extra needs is hard. However, all of the “hardness” of it melts away when you realize that your children (however they come to you) are meant to be yours. Don’t give up, friends.

Children are worth it.

 

Kids These Days (or so, they say)

A few months ago, I listened as a gentleman of a different and older generation say, “I feel sorry for those of you raising kids in today’s world.”  His words, although meant to be sympathetic, sort of frustrated me a bit.  I keep seeing on social media and hearing through conversations that children these days are just “doomed”.  They are spoiled.  They want immediate action.  They are not being raised “right”…whatever that means.

Essentially, there is no hope for the younger generation…or so, they say.

Last week, I was a guest speaker at a local Vacation Bible School.  I spoke to around 200+ children from ages four to thirteen.  My topic was about what they can do to help foster children in their communities.  The four-year-old’s through Kindergarten ages just did not quite understand what I was talking about, so we decided it would be more fun to sing songs.  Besides, that’s way more fun, anyway!  Right?  After we were done, this little sweet-pea of a girl around the age of four came up to me and said, “We can give books to babies who don’t have them.”  Oh, be still, my heart.

The eighth-grade boys…well…yeah.  Let’s just say I’m SO looking forward to my son being in the eighth grade.  NOT.  Major kudos to those of you who teach this age group!  Don’t get me wrong.  They were respectful, but you know…a little “too cool for school”.

The first through seventh graders were listening with intent.  When asked what they could do to help out children in foster care, they offered, “Help find them a home”, “Invite them to church”, “Tell them about Jesus”, “Give them a Bible”, and “Be nice and be their friend.”  Children as young as the first grade were suggesting these things.

Afterward, I thought about the words of the older gentleman and his worries for those of us raising kids in today’s society.  I also thought about the different editorial posts floating around Facebook and other social media forums that suggest that children of today do not have a chance.  Call me an idealist, but I disagree.

Sure, life is vastly different that it was in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.  I was a young girl in the 70’s, in Junior High and High School in the 80’s, and a college student in the early 90’s (which, by the way, was awesome).  Life is different now than it was during these time periods, but you know what is not different?

LOVE.

FRIENDSHIP.

GENEROSITY.

COURAGE.

COMPASSION.

CURIOSITY.

OPPORTUNITIES TO MESS UP.

OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE IT RIGHT.

EMPATHY.

THE NEED TO CONNECT.

THE DESIRE TO DO GOOD.

Just a few days ago, my daughter told me that for one of her birthdays she wants to ask people to give gifts to homeless children and families, instead of her.  Let that soak in a bit.

If my little sampling of children from Vacation Bible School and my daughter’s expression of what she wants to do are a reflection of “kids these days”, then I dare say, they are going to be just fine.  So, please stop saying that children growing up in today’s society are doomed.

Quit judging us parents.  We are doing the best we can (just like you were when you were raising kids).  I am raising three children in today’s society.  They struggle with various issues, but let me say, THEY ARE GOOD CHILDREN.  They might misbehave from time to time, but they know right from wrong, and they have hearts that desire to seek friendship and to help others.

For the love of children, please stop thinking that all kids are just spoiled or misbehaved or don’t care about their fellow-man.  I mean, come on.  IF they are this way, then really, who should we be blaming?

If you think today’s generation of children is not going to turn out okay, what are you doing to help?  Can I offer you a few suggestions?

  • Help a young family that is struggling.
  • Tutor kids at the local school.
  • Teach a Sunday school class.
  • Volunteer at the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club.
  • Work with at-risk kids.
  • Invite the neighborhood kids and parents over for dinner.
  • Donate gift cards and other items to families in need.
  • Love on that single mama doing the best she can.
  • Encourage that daddy who is working two jobs to make the bills and put food on the table.
  • Become a reading buddy to sick children in the hospital.
  • Pray for families, children, and the world.

I can go on and on, but I suspect that you get the point.  Or, at least I hope you do.

Please, stop saying that kids these days are not measuring up to what you think they should be.  I, for one, refuse to believe this.  If you spend any amount of quality time with a young child, I dare say, you will be amazed.  They are not doomed.  They are just beginning to sprout their wings into this vast world.  They are learning about the world around them. Sure, there are things they face and deal with that we may not have as children, but still, the world has a lot of beauty in it.  Let’s make sure we show this to them.

Our young generation will be the next teachers, parents, doctors, pastors, political leaders, chefs, scientists, explorers, artists, engineers, and caregivers.

For my children and for yours, 

or the teenage boy who helps his disabled mother raise his younger siblings,

or the child who sells lemonade on her street to raise money for others,

or the young person who visits the elderly lady down the street because she is lonely,

or the boy who sticks up to the bully at school….

why would you think they are simply not adding up or are “doomed”?  

After all, children are our future…

Give that a thought.

 

 

 

Home Is Where Your Story Begins (sort of)

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“Home is where your story begins…”

This is the sign that is hanging on a wall covered by the artwork of my children. I’ve had it since our oldest was a baby.  Today, my daughter looked at the wall, and said, “That’s not really true, you know.” I said, “What’s not true?” She said, “Home is where your story begins. That is not true. Your story begins in your birth mom’s belly.”

She moved on and went about playing around the house, but of course, I’ve thought about this conversation all day. I promise you we do not prompt discussions about adoption or biological parents. It may seem like we sit around and hash out our adoption story with the kids on a daily basis, but that is not true. Honestly, we rarely talk about it unless they mention it.

Over the course of the past few weeks, both of our older children have randomly said things about it. What this tells me as a parent is that they are both coming into recognition that adoption is a big deal, that their lives have a different component than their non-adopted friends, and that they are figuring it out as they go along and grow older.

And, you want to know what? I’m both excited, a bit relieved, and a little scared by it. I’m excited that they trust us enough to bring us their questions. I’m thrilled that they seem to understand (as much as their age allows) that they grew in a different mother’s body. I’m relieved that I can start sharing more about their stories as they grow older, and that, so far, I haven’t totally messed it up.

However, I am also a little scared – scared that they will experience a measure of heartbreak (and rightly so) for not being able to grow up in their families of origins. I’m scared that the next question will be one that I will have to answer with truth, even though, some of the truth is ugly.

This is the life of an adoptive family. We chose to tell them as young as possible (like reading stories about adoption when they were barely toddlers) that they were adopted. When they were learning to count, we would say things like, “two mommies”. When they played with baby dolls, my husband would ask, “Did you adopt that baby?” And, so on.

No regrets. Only truth.  

My daughter’s insight caught me off guard today, but it also caused me to be a bit in awe of her.

Yet again, this is another example of a life lived from barren to blessed.

Adoption is Different

My child: “Mom, who was your first mom?”

Me: “Well, Mamoo (name the kids gave my mom) was my first mom?”

My child: “You only have one mom? You didn’t have a first mom?”

Me: “No. Mamoo is the only mom I have.”

Silence…This is a snippet of the conversation I had yesterday with one of my kids. It came completely out of the blue – like most of the conversations we have had about adoption, birth parent(s), etc.

This child has been with us since just a few days old. This child never lived with a biological parent and is extremely bonded to us. Here’s the deal, though. It is wrong to assume that “the child may not question as much if you get him/her as a baby”. It is also wrong to assume that the child will never wonder about biological family, or compare his or her own histories and situations to other people’s situations.

Adoptive parenting is somewhat evolutionary. As the child grows, their concepts, understanding, and desire to learn about their stories evolve. It is our responsibility as parents to be comfortable with this. And, it can be tough.

Once the gavel falls and declares you as the adoptive parent(s), your adoption story is really just beginning. Look at it this way: The paperwork, court processes, placement, and finalization are really just the introduction to the story. The rest…well, that is where the “meat” of the storyline really comes to life.

Adoption is different. I’m not ashamed or offended when that is suggested. It just is. However, in the difference, there is a great opportunity for a richer, more meaningful parenting experience, and for you, as the parent, to be challenged, humbled, and continue to grow in life .

This, my friends, is just one more way that I am learning my life is far from barren.