That’s Just Fine with Me {perfection is not a guarantee}

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This past week was parent-teacher conference time at school!  I always look forward to meeting with teachers (not because my kids are perfect angels. Sorry to disappoint).  I look forward to it because teachers are spending nearly all day, five days per week, with my children.  They watch them interact with others, learn their quirks, discipline when required, and encourage when needed.  That’s big, people.

Yesterday’s conference started out like most other ones.  We reviewed grades, etc and then my child’s teacher asked, “How is the school year going?”  My reply went something like this, “(Child) is having a hard time.  Not wanting to do homework, lots of behavior issues, threatened to run away this week, questioned a lot about adoption…”

The teacher shoved the grade card aside and we sat and talked about my child and what is going on.  At one point, the teacher showed me an assignment that my child wrote titled, “My Favorite Person”.  She then read it to me.

Here is some of it:

“My favorite person is my parents.  They protect me.  They make sure I am safe on the streets.  They watch me when I am playing outside.  They are respectful of me.  They have manners.  They listen when I am talking to them.  They forgive me when I say sorry to them.  They don’t let me down.  They adopted me.  As you can see, I have a very good Mom and Dad.”

While the teacher was reading it, I started to cry.  Soon after, she did, too.  She said, “You’re doing a good job, Momma.”  I cannot stress enough the importance of the timing of this.  My child has been questioning a whole lot about our adoption history and I’ve had to answer some pretty tough questions.  This parent-teacher conference was not just about reading, writing, and arithmetics.  It was about life and I needed to read the words: They don’t let me down.

Some people have questioned why we chose to tell our children immediately about adoption.  (Like as soon as they were adopted – age 20 months, 14 months, and 13 months).  We knew they didn’t understand or comprehend it, but the word became a part of our language and adoption, a natural part of the make-up of our family.  My husband and I have come to realize that if we hide or mislead our children about the smallest of details of their adoption stories, then we shouldn’t expect them to trust us with any of the details.

We know that if we chose to hold tightly their adoption stories, it would have been a mistake.  Even with our openness, it is tough at times.  There is nothing like watching your child grieve for a mother that one has never met, or felt.  It is heartbreaking, deeply moving and can render one at a loss for words.

When your child spits venom at you that encompasses the full measure of grief, anger, and confusion, it does cause you to question whether you are good enough and if you have this whole adoptive parenting thing down.  After reading my child’s letter, I know that while we are not perfect, we are good enough.  Just good enough.  That’s fine with me.

Surely, we will have tougher days ahead.  Perfection was certainly not promised when we signed on the line for adoption.  It is not guaranteed for any family, regardless of how children come.  With adoption, though, I’m learning that we do have more to prove, we do have to be intentional about our efforts, and we must work hard at never letting our children down.

I’m also learning that while perfection is not a guarantee, love is.

That’s just fine with me.

My Child, There Are Better Days to Come

My child had a rough morning.  I could see it all over my darling’s body; eyes a bit wilder than usual, hair somewhat disheveled, and arms flailing with impulsive movement.  It reached a game-changing moment during a redirection.  I looked up and saw that hand, the one that often grabs mine when walking together, fly up in the air and smack hard against my skin.  Sure, it was a slap on the arm but it hurt.  It left a red mark.  It was not a “toddler testing boundaries” kind of hit.  It was meant to hurt me and it was full of pent-up angst.

First, came the shock, followed by a brief moment of anger.  Just as soon as my anger began to swell, I melted into tears; sadness took over.  My child fell back into the seat and started to cry.  I sat there for a moment not knowing what to do.  We were loaded up in the van and on our way to school but the last thing I could focus on was getting there before the bell rang.

While trying to find the right words, I heard, “You are going to just give me away to another family.”  I could not believe my ears.  With the sting of my child’s hand still lingering on my arm, I said, “No, of course not”.

Soon, my child said, “I just get so mad.  I have anger issues.  I’m sorry.”  I tried to find the right words but it seems during moments like these, words can be elusive.  I offered the knowledge of “Even if someone has an issue with anger or whatever, it is still up to them to make better choices.  You have to choose to do the right thing and ask yourself, “Is this worth it?”.  I don’t know if that was good enough or if that is what my child needed to hear but it was all I could come up with at that moment.

There was a hug, followed by an apology, and a statement regarding the worry about other kids noticing my child’s tear-stained face.  “Just tell them you had a rough morning,” I said.  The van door slid open and I watched as a piece of my heart formed in the shape of a child slowly walk to the doors of the school, pause for a moment, and then look back to make sure I was still there before entering.  My kiddos know I always stay put until they enter the doors to their school.  On this morning, it was especially important for me to stay a while.

Ugh.  Of all the things that happened, the saddest and hardest part was hearing the words, “You are going to just give me away to another family.”  Where does this come from?  My child has been with us since infancy and despite filling the space between us with love, this child still seems to meander carelessly somewhere between the knowledge of being adopted and the full measure of being in our family.

Sure, there’s counseling, training, and all sorts of ways to intervene.  We’ve set up boundaries, applied consequences, talked openly about adoption and biological parents, followed through with providing moments to build self-esteem and show our love, but there is still a void that is hard to fill.  When the void gets too deep, the claws come out.

My child thinks deeply and has big emotions.  This child is sensitive, inquisitive and always wants to know more and more…even when there’s not a lot more to offer.  Moments like these are tough to swallow.  Knowing how to respond is even harder, and I tend to receive the blunt end of all that emotion welled up inside a youthful body.

Being an adoptive family is a wonderful thing but it is not perfect.  It is filled with a lot of loss.  We do our best to weave the tapestry of our family with as much good as we can but there are issues.  We’d be foolish to think that everything is okay all of the time.

This is a part of adoption that others don’t see.  This is the part of parenting children with invisible special needs that are often unseen by many.  This is hard.

Even with all of the intentional efforts put into raising a well-rounded and secure child as one can raise, we still have to navigate these valleys and they are deep, my friends.  We put on a smiling face that does a good job of covering up some of the battle wounds we’ve endured.  We pretend that everything is great but sometimes, it just isn’t.

Telling an adoptive family, “Oh, kids will just do that, sometimes” is useless.  We know that kids, regardless of their histories, will do things that can break one’s heart.  We are well aware of that but there is a difference, you know.  When your child is exhibiting things that seem to carry an invisible message, it is hard but it is not impossible to manage.

I guess that is where the fortitude to keep going comes from – the awareness of possibilities covered in a glaze of hope.  Hope is found in the possibilities; hope for change, hope for better responses, hope for a recovery and hope for healing.  If it weren’t for the belief in possibilities and the endurance of hope, nothing would be gained and so much would be lost.

There will be tremendously painful moments full of emotion throughout our life as an adoptive family.  Yet, in many ways, the complex splendor of life is often found in the midst of incredibly hard times filled with blood, sweat, and tears.

My child, the one with the big emotions wrapped up in a small frame,

I love you.  I have always loved you.  I will always love you.

Nothing you have done or ever will do would cause me to not love you.

I have never regretted adopting you.  I never will.  I am yours and you are mine.

I wish I could retell your story minus all the bad stuff, but I cannot.

It must be scary to feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Let Momma carry it for you.  If I could, I would swallow it up so that you never have to feel it again.

I will never be able to claim myself as your biological parent.  I know that breaks my heart and I suspect it breaks yours.

You are unique.  You have a gift to give this world, baby.  You’ll find it and when you do, hang on and hold tight.  I believe you could be a world-changer.  

You may feel broken at times but history shows us that the Lord uses broken people for mighty things.  That’s the incredible part of faith – knowing that our weakest moments can become part of our strongest testimony.

You have a place in our family.  You always will.  Don’t lose sight of that, my child.  Don’t lose sight.

My child, there are better days to come.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

-Isaiah 41:10

 

What Adoptive Parenting Has Taught Me About Persistence {Adoption.com article}

Hello, friends!

I was tasked with the assignment of writing an article regarding what adoptive parenting has taught me about persistence.  Parenting, in general, definitely teaches us a lot about persisting, but I’ve found that adoptive parenting and raising children who come from hard places brings its own set of unique challenges.

Here is the link to my article:  What Adoptive Parenting Has Taught Me About Persistence

I hope you take the time to read it!

Keep on keeping on, Friends!

Blessings,

Caroline

Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Adoptive Parent?

I was recently tasked with the assignment of writing an article for Adoption.com regarding “what it takes to be an adoptive parent”.  At first, I was not quite sure what to write.  What DOES it take to be an adoptive parent?  What does it take to be any kind of parent, really?

As I thought more and more about this subject, I rested on a few themes: patience, understanding of systems, strong emotions, humor, comfort, perfection, rejection, resilience, “issues”, and the meaning of adoption in each of our lives.  Sure, some of these things may be important for any type of parenting.  The reality is that they are especially important for adoptive families.

Here’s a link to my article on this subject: Do You Have What It Takes to be an Adoptive Parent?

If you have any other ideas of what it takes to be an adoptive parent, I’d love to hear them!

Blessings,

Caroline

Four “AHA” Moments That Changed My Adoption Path {Adoption.com article}

I was recently tasked with the job of writing an article for Adoption.com regarding “AHA” moments that changed my adoption path.  For the article, I chose to focus on four moments that changed my perspective of the path to adoption.  These moments are ones that have stuck with me long after the Judge’s gavel fell and adoption was declared.

To read the article, click on this link:  Four “AHA” Moments

I would love to hear about your “AHA” moments!

Blessings,

Caroline

Let Your Heart Speak

It was a particularly rough day at our home. One of my kids struggled ALL DAY with making poor choices, being rude, etc. After a long night, my child said, “I bet you wish you didn’t even adopt me. I bet you wish I was just dead.” I took a breath, thought for a minute, looked at this precious little soul, and then said, “No. If something happened to you, I would miss you every single day for the rest of my life.”

My child collapsed into my arms, crying, and said, “That is the kindest thing I’ve ever heard.” We spent some time crying together and reassuring each other that we are okay, we love each other, and that I (and daddy) are so thankful to have been given the gift of adoption.

A few things come to mind regarding this experience. If you plan on building your family through adoption, please understand that your child(ren) might say things like this. This particular child of mine has been with us since infancy; still, yet, we find ourselves always having to show reassurance through our actions and words. It can be typical for a child who has been adopted to consider his or her “status” in the family. Don’t fear it. Just understand that it can happen.

It can be really hard to fall into the habit of parenting that is too regimented and scripted. I’ve been to lots of training regarding behavioral issues/special needs and I have taught them as well. However, when in the moment, it is hard to remember what is the right and most appropriate response to take.

It is recommended (at times) to hold your ground and be direct with your expectation, but in the moment I described above, I decided to let my heart speak.  My child’s words seemed to be about something more than being angry for some trivial issue. Instead of giving a consequence for the behaviors that preceded the statement, I chose to reveal a truth to my child, and I could tell that my words were unexpected, yet perfect for the moment.

Looking at my child in that desperate state and hearing my child’s words that tended to originate from a place of not feeling secure and good, I was able to see more clearly the power of grace. When I’ve said to God, “You’ve just forgotten about me. You don’t even care. I wonder if I was even worth being created”, I know that He has responded with, “You are loved. You are special. You are unique. You have worth. You mean something.” If I desire this response from God and all the grace that comes from Him, then how in the world would I not want to dish it out to my children or give them the response they need?

There is something pretty powerful when we choose to parent from the place of grace. It can be so hard, though. When the kids are acting up, embarrassing us, or saying mean things, the natural instinct is to defend oneself or give a directive. I’m learning that being an imperfect parent is okay. Not having the right or more disciplined response is okay. I’m trying to allow my heart to speak more, instead of letting my frustration be the author of my words. At the end of the day, when the years have come and gone, I know there will be a lot of regrets and thoughts of “I should have been better”, but I also know that my children will have no doubt that I deeply love them.

If you are building your family through adoption, my advice for you is this:  You will feel judged by others. You will be asked far too many personal questions about your child and your parenting style. You will not feel capable of handling strong emotions from your child. You might question what the heck you are doing and if you are just messing your kids up. You could face lots of obstacles and deal with issues and needs that you did not face as a child. Yet, despite all of this, if you stick to resilience and stand firm in the belief that YOU are exactly the parent that your child was meant to have and needs (however messy it is), then you will be okay.

Let your heart speak.

Of all the regrets we may have as parents, this is not one of them.

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/)