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/)

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

Finally! (little meme about a big announcement)

 

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Our youngest child has finally decided that he is done with diapers, and moving onto bigger things…like pull-ups and going potty in the Pirate Potty Seat!  I had to announce this.  No more diapers for this Mama to change!

For all of the Mama’s out there still changing diapers and/or starting the process of potty-training, I salute you.  Hang in there.  Our little guy will be four in July.  FOUR IN JULY…and just started potty-training.  With Kindergarten in the not-too-distant future, I was starting to get a little anxious.

My “babies” are all growing up.  It is so incredible and challenging to watch children bloom into themselves.  What an honor and a reminder that parenting needs to be intentional, full of determination, and saturated with humor.  ‘Tis the reason for this meme…

We.Are.Straight.Outta.Diapers.  

Yay!

 

 

5 Things Every Adoption Social Workers Wants to tell to Hopeful Adoptive Parents {Adoption.com article}

Recently, I wrote an article for Adoption.com regarding five things adoption social workers want to tell to hopeful adoptive parents.  It was really difficult to list just five things, as there are so many facets and nuggets of wisdom that social workers can share with families!

From my experience both working in the field and as an adoptive parent, I narrowed down to the five things that I feel are most important for hopeful adoptive families to be aware of and consider.  You can read the article by clicking on the link below:

5 Things Every Adoption Social Workers Want to tell to Hopeful Adoptive Parents

If you are a social worker in the field of adoption, what advice do you give to adoptive parents?  If you are an adoptive parent (or hoping to be one soon), what is the best advice you have been given by a social worker?  I’m curious to hear your thoughts!

Blessings,

Caroline

Family Whose Video Went Viral Shares Their Story {Adoption.com Article}

Have you seen it?  There’s a video of a couple meeting their adoptive newborn son for the first time floating around on Facebook, and boy, it is quite moving.  After watching it, I reached out to the adoptive agency the family worked with, and asked if I could contact them for an interview for an article on Adoption.com.

The family agreed, and the link below is for the article.  I absolutely loved hearing the backstory to the emotional and loving video.  It confirmed to me what I have always known.  Behind every story of adoption, there is loss, fortitude, hope, and love.  

Take just a moment to read it:

Family Whose Placement Video Went Viral Shares Their Story

Blessings,

Caroline