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.

Any questions?

After my son’s adoption in 2008, a neighbor asked me, “Are you concerned that you didn’t connect with him since you did not carry him?”  I was only briefly stunned by her question.  I knew that I needed to think quick and give her an answer.  After all, she asked me in front of a group of neighbors during our block party and I did not want to be standing in the middle of an awkward moment of silence.  I replied, “No, not at all.  Loving him is very natural…as if I gave birth to him.”  All she responded with was “Oh”.

When I told my husband about the conversation, he said, “She didn’t carry or birth her husband.  Does that mean she is not bonded or connected to him?”  (Good point honey, good point)  He has always had a great way of simplifying things.

Her question has stuck in my mind through the years.  I really cannot blame her for her lack of knowledge about adoption.  After all, she had only given birth to children.  She had never experienced the incredible richness of becoming a mom through adoption.  I am still not sure what she meant by the word connect.  Perhaps she meant to say “Are you worried that you have not bonded with him because you did not give birth to him?”.

Looking back on our short conversation, I wished I would have said to her the things that have been revealed since becoming a mother through adoption.  I have realized that my expecting was not in months, but years.  My labor was not in hours, but years as well.  I did not carry my children in my body.  I carried them in my imagination, my prayers, my hopes, and my dreams.

I carried them in that quiet space where it is just myself and the Lord.

Foster and adoptive families usually get asked all kinds of random and often insensitive questions.  When we were going through the licensing process to become foster parents, someone said to me, “You are not going to take one of those meth babies, are you?”  Was that a question or a directive?  I was not quite sure.  The truth is that many newborns who come into protective services in the state I live in have been exposed to prenatal drug and/or alcohol usage.  To call them “meth babies” though felt very cold and calloused to me.

Here are some more questions that I have been asked:

  • Are your kids “real” siblings?
  • Are you scared that their “real” parents are going to take them back?
  • Are you sure it is okay to tell them that they are adopted?
  • Do you plan on having your “own” child in the future?
  • Do you know their “real” parents?

I answered the first two questions with a “no” and a “yes”.  No, I am not scared their “real” parents are going to take them back….that would be considered kidnapping.  Taking them back is not an option.  Adoption is legally binding and permanent.

Yes, I am absolutely sure it is okay to tell them they are adopted.  It is a travesty for children to not know their history and to be lied to.  It damages every ounce of trust and relationship built through the years.  It also gives glimpses of the thought that adoption is something that should be kept secret, as if it is shameful.

As far as the kids are concerned, they are real siblings.  Trust me, if you spend any amount of time in our home, you will notice that they fight like cats and dogs, yet are inseparable.  There is nothing fake about their relationship as a brother and a sister.

The last two questions can be answered by this fabulous quote I found.

“Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial.  Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary.  Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else’s child.  Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all your own.”  -Rita Laws, PhD

 Any questions?

Sunny Days and Ice Cream Cones

Working in child welfare for any amount of time forces the rude awakening of the troubles we have in our society and the daily struggles that too many children have in the United States.  There are children who are fatherless, motherless, or both.  Many are taking care of their baby siblings even though they are babies themselves.  Some can tell you how to prepare a crack pipe because they have witnessed it in their home.  Others do not understand boundaries or safety because they have never been kept safe.  Infants are born with the addictions of their mothers; or at least, the exposure of poor choices made while in the womb.  If you do not believe or understand this, then I encourage you to spend a day with a child abuse and neglect investigator.

It is deeply troubling when I hear people dismiss children as if they carry no purpose.  I have written about this before in my post Where is Your Treasure?

ALL children are vital to this world.  ALL children are precious in the eyes of the Lord.  He loves each one as if he or she is His only child.

They teach us to forgive quickly, to slow down, to laugh, and to dream.  They see things through the lens of innocence.  They have great purpose in this world.  Not to sound cliché, but they are the future and the potential fulfillment of all things good in this world.

When I took this picture of my daughter above at a family get together, I could not help but think about what the life of a child should be made of.  Their lives should be filled with love, silliness, warmth, and parents.  Their lives should be enveloped in family, memories, shelter, encouragement, and safety.  They deserve days filled with the warmth of sunshine, the laughter of playmates, and the sweetness of ice cream cones.