“I didn’t know that, Bud. Was it so fun?”
“It was great. We stayed 2 nights in a camper at the beach. They gave me new shoes and a CD with the chicken dance on it… Mom, how do you spell foster? F-O-S-T- then is it and I or an E before the R?”
A storm had prompted these memories. Storms always remind him of the first safe arms he knew. Arms that healed instead of hurt. Arms of a foster momma who fought for him. The foster momma, now a beloved “aunt”, who still fights for him on her knees 9 hours away.
Our kids have steel trap minds. D has never forgotten a thing (except his homework!) and even though it’s easy to assume because she was only 18 months when she taken into care that EG doesn’t remember anything, but you wash a baby’s brain with adrenaline on a daily basis and you’ll be surprised what they can easily recall.
He’s been scared of storms for as long as he can remember, but last night while his little heart pounded he said, “Momma, I know God is protecting me, but I don’t really know. This is my chance to learn. I know He loves me, but I don’t really know. I have to learn it.”
Before the conversation turned back to asteroids, meteorites and Legos, all I could say was “I know Bud, me too. I know God is keeping me safe and keeping me in His love, but it’s something He has to teach me again and again every day. Let’s pray and ask Him to make us never forget His protection and love.”
I love being an adoptive mom. It feels particularly scary and sacred all at once.
But isn’t that the case for anything God uses to bring us to the end of ourselves?
Based on the survey responses so far, it seems like a good number of forever families read this blog. Whomever you are, you or perhaps dear friends of yours have stepped out in faith to welcome an orphan into their family. Have you ever wondered how to sensitively and intentionally care for these mommas and daddies? These questions and thoughts might not be one-size-fits-all, but I love phrases like:
- “Sometime I’d love to hear your adoption story.”
- “How are you doing in this season of parenting?”
- “How are the kids doing in this season?”
- “What things are you trusting God for right now for your family?”
- “What are specific ways I can pray for you and the kids?”
- “What are ways I can pitch in?”
So, adoptive mommas, if we were curled up here on my couch drinking tea together, here’s what I’d share with you, it’s mostly just what I wish someone had shared with me. I hope the rest of you will eavesdrop for insight into “what it’s like” and how to be intentional in conversation.
1. Adoptive Parenting is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
For Heaven’s sake, I wish the minute we knew our kids were coming home that someone would have grabbed me by the shoulders, given me a hug, then a good hard shake, and then told me to gird my loins and take a big fat extended release chill pill. The first year is brutal.
Please, please, please give yourself an entire year of hibernating in the heavy fog of adoption. Please tell yourself and all those around you that you’ll return their calls in a year when you can think and see straight. And even then, you may need an extension.
People joyfully give grace to families with newborns and there is no reason you have to instantaneously and effortlessly try to pull off family life. Whether you’ve been matched with an itty bitty, a toddler or a teen, clear the dang calendar, and take the pressure off yourself (and that child) and be okay when they don’t know how to walk into a room alone, resist the temptation to eat food off the floor or out of the trash, sleep in there very own, yet very new bed, etc. etc.
The pressure is off. This is adoptive, restorative parenting. You’ve prayerfully got years ahead of you to teach table manners and self control. It’s gonna be okay. Ya’ll will make it. Find a comfortable cadence and pace yourself.
The first year will probably kick your butt. Take a load of pictures and write down the cute stuff. I promise you it’ll be year 2 and you’ll realized you were actually blacked out. You won’t remember a thing. Just keep everyone alive and celebrate the baby steps. It’s brutal but may God make it insanely beautiful.
2. Adoptive Parenting is a Grieving Process
“Adoption Loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful” – The Reverend Keith C. Griffith, MBE
Each adoptee will experience profound losses for the rest of their lives. These wounds cut to the core of their psyche and are unimaginably far-reaching. Nothing short of professional therapeutic guidance, fervent prayer and God’s healing can help. We read enough books and have experienced enough hysterical meltdowns to tell us that.
But the grief of the adoptive parent is what caught me by surprise. Even this morning I was tempted to believe that if God gave us a baby then we would get to experience the lost little years. God gently reminded me that those experiences would be with a new child and would only magnify the losses of D & EG’s little years. There are constantly losses for the adoptive parent to grieve.
Not knowing when (or how) she got her ears pierced. Not being there when he took his first step. Not knowing if anyone held them and loved them through their first fever and their first bad dream. Not having a clue about so much. I didn’t expect those missing details to hurt so deeply.
My grieving, when surrendered, has produced gratitude and hope. Gratitude because GOD knit them together in their mother’s womb and was there for each milestone. God saw the injustice and was the perfect advocate He was writing their story and fighting for them when I was not.
We adoptive parents are grief counselors and daily we get to paint the picture of forever, redemption and hope for our children. We can tell them that when they are 16 and can drive a car, we will still be their momma. We can tell them that Jesus too can sympathize with every one of their sorrows and weaknesses and that Jesus has given them a greater capacity to understand His adoptive love. We can pray all these fruits of the Spirit into them, and rest the parenting pressure on God, the producer of all harvests. May God lead us as we lead these little ones through grief and to the One who knows what it’s like to be rejected by His Father.
3. Adoptive Parenting Is Different But Not Depressing
Sure most people don’t regularly pick up and hold an almost 8-year-old or rock and snuggle him till he passes out every.single.night. Sure most elementary school parents can get babysitters as often as needed so they can be in a small group or take a date night. Sure the oils, probiotics, special diets, therapies and regimens may seem completely hocus pocus to many. But this is what we are gonna call “parenting with blinders.”
No one may ever understand why your child is wigging out over a ________ or why ________ parenting strategy won’t work for your family. But the sooner you embrace that adoptive parenting (and really just parenting any sinful human) is a unique challenge, the better.
Different doesn’t mean that you buy into the “Woe is me. No one understands my life” mentality long enough to become completely independent, isolated and depressed. It just means that by the power of the Holy Spirit and with the help of great resources and supportive groups you parent with blinders.
You try and see if you can joke and tease a bad attitude away instead of corporally punishing the fool out of it. You try and connect every time you correct. You give choices to share control. You let the child “try again” ALL.THE.LIVELONG.DAY. You jump up and down when slowly but surely you make progress in your parenting. You let set backs go. And you have a TON of fun in the process because you celebrate literally everything because they came from literally nothing.
Daily you realize that there is such a long way to go, but there is so much excitement and adventure along the way. They’ve never experienced the simple pleasures of family life and as they feel more safe and secure a whole new world unfolds before your very eyes. May we love them for free, expecting nothing in return and may we offer our lives in exchange for ours just as our Father does for us.
As we approach Orphan Sunday this weekend, I’d be remiss not to invite you to pray and ask God what part you might play in changing a child’s life. In the U.S. 397,122 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system. 101,666 of these children are eligible for adoption. (Sidenote: Did I mention that there are also countless embryos awaiting the chance at life and there are two adorable twins that came from this post?)
Perhaps praying, giving to a family’s adoption fund or bringing meals to a newly formed family is what He will ask of you. Maybe applying to become a respite, foster or adoptive parent is a grace gift He would bestow. We are praying and asking God if our family is complete or if we are to pursue growing our family again. I don’t know how He will lead you (or us!), but if it’s still on your mind, it’s still in your heart!
Anything else you’d add to the Adoptive Table Talk discussion? Tomorrow is the grand finale of this 31 day series. Are there are any final things you think need to be included? Don’t forget to fill out the Reader’s Survey for extra entries in the Untie Your Story Giveaway!
Also, if you’re in South Carolina and need an incredible photographer, these beautiful memories were captured by my friend Erin Drago!! Couldn’t recommend her more highly.
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