Sweet Mom, Judgy Mom, & a little bit of caffeine

20170505_150607Standing in line at Starbucks, I sparked up a conversation about coffee and children with a mom (I’ll call her Sweet Mom) of two little ones as my soon-to-be 11-yr-old son eagerly waited for his special treat of an Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte.  Caffeine does not negatively affect my son.  It actually helps him concentrate.  This is a part of ADHD that most people do not understand, but that is not what this post is about.

Sweet Mom looked at her little guy and said, “Grandma gives him sips of her coffee, sometimes.  He LOVES straight, black coffee!”  We both laughed a bit but as we did, I noticed a lady (I’ll call her Judgy Mom) standing at the counter and listening to our conversation.  Sweet Mom had her back to the lady and had no idea Judgy Mom rolled her eyes and shook her head in disgust at our conversation about allowing our kids to have caffeine/coffee every now and then.

The longer I stood there and watched Judgy Mom’s utter dismay at us, the more I found myself wanting to come to the defense of Sweet Mom and all of the other moms out there who are just trying to do the darn best that we can.  By the time Judgy Mom got her own caffeinated beverage, Sweet Mom swiped up her drinks, told me it was nice visiting and went about her merry way.  When the barista called my son’s name, I proudly grabbed the drink, handed it to him, and said, “Here you go, bud.  Enjoy.”

As I walked to the car, drinking my own strong little number, my imagination decided to embark on a conversation that I chose not to have with Judgy Mom (because I’m not a confront and destroy kinda girl).

Here is what I really wanted to say,

“I’m assuming by the look of disgust on your face, the rolling back of your eyes, and the shaking of your head, that you just can’t believe the nerve of some “young moms” these days allowing their kids to have a little caffeine from time-to-time.  You might think it is abusive or neglectful or just bad parenting, right?  You might wonder what on Earth we also allow our kids to have.  

Well, here’s the deal, Judgy Mom. (Okay, I wouldn’t call her that to her face.)  If you really want to see “bad moms or dads” in action, why don’t you join a Child Abuse and Neglect Investigator on a home visit to investigate allegations?  I’m sure arriving at a home and finding a neglected baby in a crib whose diaper hasn’t been changed for four days would probably alarm you.

Or, how about you take a look at pictures of a blue-eyed, 4-yr-old child who was beaten so severely for not eating her dinner fast enough that the imprint of the perpetrator’s boots was left on her skin?  (Yes, this is a real situation.  I’ve seen the pictures.  I still have the images engraved in my mind and it’s been 10+ years since viewing them.)

Perhaps, you can become a CASA or other type of advocate for children so that you can learn how a lot of kids don’t eat over the weekend because there is no food in the house and their only meals come from school.  Once you do any of these things, you won’t be as tempted to roll your eyes and shake your head in disgust at two moms having a chat about the antics of slightly coffee-fueled children.

How about that?”

I know some of you might think this is a little extreme, but one thing that gets my goat more than anything is the amount of parent-shaming that exists nowadays. Perhaps, I’ve seen too much.  Maybe, working in child welfare has skewed my perception of what is a “good mom” versus a “bad mom”.  All I know is that once you truly learn what is happening to children and what some parents either do to their kids or allow their kids to go through, it is really hard to get all worked up about things like caffeine, sugar, screen time, red dye #40, or whatever other items that have become a trendy thing to frown upon.

I believe that most parents are just like my husband and me – trying to balance work, parenting, social activities, sports, spiritual development and medical needs all while raising kids to be half-way decent human beings.  There are some days where we literally eat on the go and high-five each other in passing.  There are others where we eat home cooked meals all day, stay inside and just be together.  Either way, I do believe my kids are going to be just fine and that we are doing our very best at this glorious, God-given task of raising future adults.

To Sweet Mom, whom I met at Starbucks today, your kids are precious.  Don’t worry about Grandma sneaking a sip of coffee to your little guy.  You’re doing just fine.

To Judgy Mom, I’d love to meet with you and talk about parenting over a nice, large cup of coffee.  I bet I can figure out a way to give you an outlet for your obvious concern about children.

To all the other parents out there, if you are meeting your kids’ physical, emotional, and social needs, plus working each day to raise them to be half-way decent human beings, then you are also doing just fine.

Let’s stop parent-shaming.  There are far too many issues going on with children and families to worry about a kiddo getting a little bit of caffeine.

How about that?

Taking Care of Roots {a little lesson with my daughter}

My daughter came home from school this past week and said, “Mom, we played foster care at school today.”  She then said, “I was the foster child and I had two moms.”  I told her that sounded fun and interesting.  We went on with the rest of the day and she didn’t mention it again.

I thought about this conversation the remainder of the week.  My daughter is very smart, willful and can be extremely challenging.  She walks to the beat of her own drum and is fierce in so many ways.  However, it seems that the older she gets, the more she thinks, questions, and talks about being adopted (even in non-direct ways), and the more concerned I am about her sense of self-worth and identity.

During our foster parent training, one of the videos we watched showed a foster mom and her foster daughter planting flowers together.  Although a bit cheesy and scripted, the point was made that using things like gardening or other activities is a great way to connect with children.

20170415_130021Yesterday, as my daughter and I were planting flowers, I took a look at her little hands digging in the dirt, remembered the scene in the foster parent training video and thought, “If I get an opportunity, take it.”  As I lifted the flowers out of their containers to transplant them, I grabbed the root bed and held on firmly.  I said to my daughter, “You know, the roots are really the most important part of flowers.  Even if you transplant them from one place to the other, as long as the roots are taken care of, the flowers should grow just fine.  If you don’t take care of the roots or feed, water and help them to be stable, the flowers won’t do very well.”

My daughter said, “Kinda like if a baby tiger is taken away from its mother and no one takes care of it, it will die.”  I said, “Kinda unless another tiger family takes it in and takes care of it and gives it ‘roots’ to grow, then it should be just fine.”  As my daughter plunged her hands into the dirt, she said, “I didn’t know my birth mom, right?”  I said, “Well, you were a newborn, so no, I don’t think you would remember her.”  She then said, “Yeah, but you got me and take care of me now.”  I said, “Yes, it’s kinda like taking care of flowers.  Even though we are transplanting these flowers, as long as we give them what they need, they will be just fine.  The same goes for you.  You came to us and we are your family.  Families give us roots to grow.”

We spent the next few hours digging in the soil, planting flowers and just talking.  I watched as she carefully watered and tended to them.  I’m not quite sure if this conversation will actually make a difference in her life, but I do believe that intentional parenting, backed up with nurturing and honesty, will give her and my other children the best chance they have to navigate this world and their place in it.  Most importantly, I deeply hope that it will help them understand that being adopted is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

If you have a child from another mother’s womb, it is important to not be scared of answering questions as they come.  Think outside of the box.  Take moments such as the one I described to connect with your children.  You don’t need to come up with elaborate plans or ideas.  Just be authentic, in the moment, honest and insightful.

Just as we tended to the roots of our flowers, my hope that is that the roots of all children will be met with nourishment, stability, and love.

 

Baby Showers Are the Worst

The title of this post seems a bit dramatic, doesn’t it?  After all, why would anyone say that celebrating the soon-to-be delivery of a precious little love is the worst?

Who would say this?

WOMEN WHO ARE STRUGGLING WITH INFERTILITY

…that’s who.

It is hard to creatively describe what it feels like to what into a baby shower knowing that you will not be able to share the same type of experience.  It may seem a bit silly, but infertility is far from a trivial issue.  It is very complex.

Before the adoption of my children, I dreaded going to baby showers.  Every time an invitation card came in the mail, I puffed out an “ugh”.  Even the act of shopping for gifts was just a big load of emotions and not pleasant.

This is how I survived baby showers:

  1. Slapped on the “so-happy-to-be-here-face” as I nervously entered the host home.
  2. If possible, I always found the pet cat or dog to pay attention to.
  3. Grazed around the snack table for as much time as possible (regardless if I was hungry).
  4. Pretended to understand the lingo of pregnancy terms (laughed on cue when others laughed even if I didn’t understand what they were talking about).
  5. Played along with the games.
  6. Oohed and awed over the gifts.
  7. Ate more food.
  8. Hugged the Mama-to-be and made a dash to my car…
  9. just in time before the tears gushed out.
  10. Gripped the steering wheel all the way home.
  11. Entered my house, went straight back to my bed, clung onto a pillow, sobbed and then felt guilty afterward for feeling that way.

Through the years, I’ve spoken to far too many women who are experiencing struggles with fertility.  Each one has affirmed that, indeed, baby showers are the worst for women who cannot get pregnant or keep a pregnancy to full term.  Each one described similar sad feelings when getting invitations in the mail, anxiety when arriving, and the struggle to play the role of a happy guest.

Here’s the hard part of all of this.  We want to be invited but we aren’t necessarily happy about going.  It’s not that we are unhappy for our friends and loved ones who are expecting.  It’s just that with each shower comes along a bitter reminder of what we cannot have.  I say “we” because even though adoption has made me a mom, I still consider myself a part of the sisterhood of broken hearts and empty wombs.

I want anyone going through the challenge of infertility to know that it is okay to dread baby showers.  It is normal to not want to go or to feel like an “outsider” while there.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  The road you are walking is hard enough the way it is.

If you are expecting and worried about inviting that friend of yours who has miscarried or is experiencing infertility, the most courageous thing you can do is speak with your friend about it.  Perhaps, your conversation can go something like this:

“I know you received my shower invitation and I also know that this is a really hard tine in your life right now.  I’ll understand if you do not want to come, but know that I would love for you to be there.  If you decide not to, also know that I love you and am supportive of you.  Perhaps, we can grab lunch one day and spend some time together.” 

If you friend decides not to come, please do not take it as anything other than it is – a super tough experience for someone who cannot have a baby.  Chances are that your friend will come.  Chances are also high that your friend will grieve afterward.

I hope this sheds some light on the subject for those who care for others going through it. Most of all, I hope this post confirms to persons experiencing infertility that their feelings regarding baby showers are a normal part of the journey.

Infertility is nothing short of a crapshoot.  It is just a big jumbled mess of all sorts of emotions, and even baby showers can’t escape its wrath.

Hang in there, friend.  

“I’m Helping the World”{my daughter’s 7 Billion Ones story}

For the past year or so, I’ve been involved in a movement born from the vision of a local professional photographer, Randy Bacon.  The movement, “7 Billion Ones” is fondly referred to as the “YOU Matter” movement.  Randy Bacon is the visionary behind it.

7 Billion Ones captures the stories of life and is accompanied by breathtaking portraits of the storytellers.  I shared my own life story for the project and found that not only is Randy an amazing photographer, he is also just an all-around awesome human being who values each and every person he comes in contact with.  I strongly encourage you to check out the 7 Billion Ones website.  It is powerful, humbling, and completely confirms that we are more alike than different.

The week before Christmas, my 8-yr-old daughter came up with one of the most endearing and uplifting ideas she has ever had.  I was moved by it but not completely surprised.  She has always had a generous spirit and a soft spot for homeless people.  I shared her idea with Randy and out of it, came a day that she and I will not forget.

 

7billiononesrandybaconhomelesshomelessness
Photo Credit:  Randy Bacon (www.7billionones.org)

 

Here is the link to her story:  I’m Helping the World  Please take a moment to read it.  I’m sure you will be blessed.  I know I was.  Spending the time with my daughter on that special day was simply incredible.

Children have a way of frustrating us at times, but they also have a way of amazing us.  Her act of generosity did just that, and for that, I know full well what a blessing she is in my life and the lives of others.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens

7 Billion Ones {The “YOU MATTER” Movement”} Adoption.com article

About a year ago, I met with professional photographer, Randy Bacon and his wife, Shannon.  I was asked to share my story for their project, 7 Billion Ones.  Since meeting the Bacon’s, I’ve become more involved with their project.  7 Billion Ones is now a movement and it is absolutely rich with humanity.

I wrote an article for Adoption.com about this movement.  You can read it by clicking on this link:  7 Billion Ones {The “YOU MATTER” Movement”}

I am a firm believer in the truth that everyone has a story to tell.  Everyone has a story that matters, and we can all learn from each other.  Whether it is substance abuse recovery, domestic violence, life-threatening illness, suicide, adoption, or any other life experience, there is always something to be learned from another person’s walk.  Sharing ourselves with the world promotes empathy, understanding, wisdom, healing, and connectedness.

Please go check out the article and stay a while on the 7 Billion Ones website!

Blessings,

Caroline

The Other Side of Sadness

There you are, sitting on a side of sadness where….

 the air is sucked out of your lungs;

your mind is forced to enter a dark place;

sorrows are whispered;

another day is wished for;

results seem to not come;

regrets are mulled over;

anger is justified;

what could have been is fantasized about;

your spirit is bored down;

pleadings go unanswered;

miracles do not seem to happen;

loneliness and despair sit side by side;

things don’t make sense;

our bodies break down;

and, you are compelled to let go; even though it is the life-changing, heart-breaking, and most pain-inducing moment of your life.

Are you sitting there, my friend?  I have been there myself.  Many others have too. Sometimes, we choose this side through our actions or lack there of.  Most of the time though, we are swept away from the other side of sadness we once lived in. Like a stranger in a foreign land, we enter into a place where we do not find comfort, and wish to leave.  This side of sadness may feel as though it will last forever.

I want you to know that there is another side of sadness, though.  It is one where….

hope dwells;

the resilience of the human spirit is witnessed over again;

beauty comes out of messes;

love is not silent;

laughter resonates;

stars are wished upon;

new life is born;

miracles are witnessed;

wind is felt;

purpose is found;

friendships are formed;

faith is grounded;

prayers are answered;

restoration happens;

and, meaning leads you to the peace that once evaded you.

The hard part of life is that we often find ourselves sitting on one side of sadness or the other.  We have not been promised a life of glorious moments, painless relationships, or perfect condition.  No….life seems, at times, to be just the opposite.

I have found, though, that memories I will choose to walk through life with are not the ones that caused strife, or physical pain.  The memories I want to hold dear towards the end of my life, whenever that will be, are moments where my senses felt alive, my mind was stirred, and my heart was over-flowing.  Yes, these are the moments that exist on the other side of sadness.

There is another side of sadness, another side of pain, and another side of having no control over some of the tragedies in our lives.  The human spirit is capable of capturing grace and joy in the darkest times; even when life is depleting.

The other side of sadness is one where love collides with life.  It is one that cannot be taken away.  It is where memories remain.  It is the side that doesn’t deteriorate or go silent, even when circumstances seem to be challenging it.  

The other side of sadness awaits for you.  It has reserved a spot with your name on it.  It will be waiting for you when you are ready.  I hope to find you on the other side of sadness soon.

 ….Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:5

Just Be

photo (55)Dear mothers and fathers, you are raising the next generation of mothers and fathers.  You have the most important job in the world, so don’t allow yourself to feel as though your role is invisible or doesn’t matter.  You are the architects of future family systems.

You are the builders laying down the foundation for generations to come.  You are the soil that roots take hold of.  You are artists who painfully work each day sculpting, refining, and creating the masterpiece that your children are.

There is no audience more important than that of children.  They watch you, they listen to you, and they move with you.  If you sway one way, they will follow.  If you give up, they may never try.  If you conquer a mountain, they will climb up after you.  If you finish the race, they will yearn to cross the finish line as well.

If you embrace faith, then let them see you live it out.  If charity makes your heart beat, then be charitable to them and in front of them.  If you value friendships, then teach them to be a good friend.  If humility is something you desire for them, then be humble.  If you know you have been captured and saved by grace, then be gracious.  If hope is all you have, then grab on to it with all of your might so that your children will recognize what it is to have a hopeful heart.

Strength can be spoken in many forms and languages; all of which children can hear, see, and feel.  There’s the strength you find yourself holding on to when holding them in the middle of another sleepless night.  There’s the strength used to put one foot in front of the other, to pick yourself up after you’ve fallen, and to cling on to when striving for a better future.  There’s also the strength needed to admit when you are wrong.

Courage is needed when learning how to let go, so let go, dear mothers and fathers.  Let go of bad habits that ruin your health and your hearts, relationships that are degrading and devaluing, and regrets that have become your bondage.  This bondage you wrap yourself up in has a generational impact, so stop it before it clings to your children, and your children’s children.

Find your voice and speak it loud.  If you favor kindness, then speak kindness loud enough for children to hear.  Speak it into the darkest of places, into the hardest of hearts, and into the lives of those who need it the most.  Soon, your children will speak it as well.

Yearn, dear mothers and fathers, yearn to make this world a better place for your children and your children’s children.  Yearn to be the dad you never had, or the mother you wish you would have had.  Yearn to be the kind of parent your children want to grow up to be.  Yearn to be their example of a life lived well.

Don’t stop believing in yourself and what you mean to the little eyes, beating hearts, and little ears that look up to you.  You don’t have to be a perfect parent, but you must be a present parent.  Don’t ever lose sight of how much you mean to your children.  You mean the world to them.  You are the world to them, so don’t forget that.

Dear mothers and fathers, parenting is the hardest job you will ever have.  It will test your limits, break your hearts, and exhaust your bodies, but don’t give up.  Be the parent you want your children to be.  Be yourself – they love who you are.  Be genuine, authentic, and comfortable with who you are so that they too will feel safe in their own skin.  Be strong and be courageous.  Just be, mothers and fathers, be the architects, builders, soil, and artists of future fathers and mothers.  Just Be.