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/)

 

 

 

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.

He’s Never Called You Mommy, Birth Mother.

This weekend marked the eighth anniversary of the adoption of our oldest son and Mother’s Day.  Despite the joy this weekend had, you (Birth Mother) were on my mind.  He’s getting so big and growing into a young man; still yet, in my heart, and I know in yours, he will always be a blonde curly-haired and brown-eyed little boy.

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The reality is that he has stopped calling me “Mommy”, and I don’t know when this happened.  One day, he was tugging my pants saying, “Hold you, Mommy” and the next, it became just simply, “Mom”.

It grieves me a bit to think about how fast time is flying by, how we are all so far removed in years from when he was little, and how soon…too soon…he will be grown and spreading his wings to fly into the world.  Still yet, through all of the mountains and valleys of raising a boy in this world, you are never far from my thoughts.

The painful truth that hits me square in the heart is that he has never called you “Mommy”.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to write to you every anniversary of our adoption.  I suppose it is the least I could do.  The fact that our adoption occurred right around Mother’s Day is something I rejoice in, but also feel sadness about.  My first official Mother’s Day was just days out from our adoption in 2008.  In many ways, I feel that the timing is God’s wink at me.  In other ways, the timing is so incredibly complex and full of grief.  People may not understand why, or wonder how I could think of you so often, especially on this day, but that is okay.  This is our journey – his, mine, and yours.

Honestly, if I think too much about it all, my emotions get the best of me.  On the one hand, my heart leaps with love at the thought of being his mother.  On the other, it sways in sadness that you are not.  If you did not choose life, if an intervention had not happened, and if difficult decisions were not made, then I would not be here, typing this out, and listening to him laughing at a video in his bedroom.

This, Birth Mother, is the place where sadness and joy sit next to each other; one touching the other, one never too far from the other. 

I want you to know that he is a wonderful little human.  He is kind, athletic, artistic, and enjoys all sorts of people and places.  He does not seem to know a stranger and has no expectations of the types of friends he makes.  I love that about him.  He holds no judgment about other people.  He doesn’t care what skin color a person has, or what interests a person has, he just meets people where they are at.  This is a lesson for us all and makes my heart swell with pride.

He is eager to enjoy time with others, loves to goof off, and is a loyal person.  He is a good big brother, loves animals, and is always thinking of grand ideas that are (sometimes) okay to explore.

Birth Mother, you were so incredibly kind to us even though we had your son.  You could have chosen not to be.  You could have decided that we were your enemy and that I was anything but his Mother.  Instead, you referred to me as his “Mamma”.

Thank you…from the deepest and most vulnerable part of my soul, thank you.

I suppose you will always be in my thoughts, and in my heart on every adoption anniversary and Mother’s Day.  He may not call me “Mommy” anymore, but know that…

In my heart, we are both his “Mommy”.