Monday, November 18, 2013

Adoption Music Videos

So, there's a few adoption-minded music videos out there.   I'm sharing them during Adoption Month.  What do you think?  Are these types of videos good or bad for the adoption community?  Do they teach the general population what you want them to know about your family?

Children of God

Find Me a Baby

Everything to Me

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Identity Crisis

I've wanted to write on this topic for some time, but I couldn't find the write words to convey my feelings.  Then I realized, there are no right words.  This is messy.  If I wait for the perfect way to share my thoughts on this issue, I never will.

So, here goes...

I have been having, for some time, an identity crisis, and not a cliche one where I'm getting tats and piercings and going to parties on weeknights and buying myself a younger-person car.    (Though all of those things to sound mildly appealing, especially the going somewhere on a weeknight, if I weren't so tired by 6 p.m.). 

I've been thinking a lot about transracial adoptive families and what we are, racially-speaking.   A racial identity crisis, of sorts.

(For the purpose of creating examples, I'm going to hash this out in terms of our family:  White parents, Black kids.)

If a White couple adopts a Black child, the family becomes transracial.  This means the parents should be thinking in terms of how to nourish the children racially, using resources (people, literature, activities, etc.) to give the child what many other Black children receive organically, when being raised in Black families.   This provides the opportunity for the child to develop a healthy racial identity.  

But what does this mean for the parents?   Their skin is White, obviously.  But are they still fully White after adopting a child of another race?  Because they, if they are parenting to the fullest (in my opinion), are changing to empathize with people of their child's same race:  to understand their struggles, to deal with their challenges.  They are evolving into someone else and not remaining the same.  They find being White a bit discomforting in some ways:  recognizing White privilege, for example.   They are conflicted.  Caught between being White but having the concerns of the Black community.  But being able to continue to be protected and privileged by White skin.   The covering is White, but the heart is...something else?  Black?  Black/White?  White/Black? 

Is race a matter of skin?  A matter of heart?  A matter of culture?  A matter of upbringing?  A matter of someone else's perception or personal perception?

I get myself quite worked up every time I hear racially-charged stories of prejudice, injustice, negligence.  I bawl every time I see another interview with Trayvon Martin's parents.  I feel my blood pressure rise when I hear stories like the young man who innocently purchased a belt in New York and was taken to the police station simply because he was a Black boy with money.  Or the story of the precious little girl who was shamed by her school for wearing a protective hair style.   Or when a teacher identifies a student as "black boy" instead of using his name.   Every time I read a book about a Black person's experience where racism has prevailed.  Every time I hear of another Black child who remains in foster care for years, while thousands of couples line up, eager to snatch up the next healthy, White infant placed for adoption.   Or what about when a school uses slavery as the subject of math problems?  And what's up with the super-racist Halloween costumes (Black face?  What?) that seemed to dominate this October? 

And it's not just the overtly racist stories, but what about the ignorance of toy companies who refuse to create one or more than one doll or action figure that represents Black children?  What about the lack of tv characters or book characters of color?  Clothing?  Another example.  Bandages----yet another.  "Flesh tone" tights for girls---yep, they are for White girls.  

I'm burdened by these things and more.  Like the adoption agencies that charge more for the adoption of a White child than a Black child.    Why are the adoptions of Black children discounted?  Or is it that the fees of adoptions of White children are inflated?  

Why are "ethnic" hair care products often quarantined to a dusty, dimly-lit corner of major discount stores?  

So, here's my point.

My White friends with White, bio kids, aren't all up-in-arms over these things.  They aren't burdened by the culmination of these examples. 

But I am.  And so are other transracial adoptive parents.  And, we are just beginning to get what people of color have known and have been trying to share all along.

So there's the injustices.

The oversights.

The dismissals.

The dedication to raise racially-confident children.

The weight of not being Black and never being Black, yet teaching kids to be Black.

The knowledge that there are gobs of resources, and the excitement of their availbility, yet the constant awarness that all the resources in the world cannot change the fact that there is a color difference between family members that love can't (and shouldn't) "hide" or "heal."  (As I believe race should be celebrated and not ignored). 

The fear that we, adoptive parents, may not be doing enough, or may not be going in the right direction.

The overwhelming love we have for our children.

What are we?  Where does that leave us in terms of our race, our feelings about race, and our ability (or not) to take what we know, what we are still learning, and channel that into the betterment of our families and of the world around us who is watching?

I took part in a radio show this year.   One of the other guests was a Black woman who was raised by White parents.  She said something rather simple, yet profound, when the host asked her about what effects her parents had on her.  She said that above all, she was taught that she is valuable and beautiful because she's a child of God.   Having that knowledge and confidence, first and foremost, has given her the confidence that she needed to be an adoptee, a Black woman, and a child of White parents.

Sometimes I let my fears get the best of me.  There's no right way to raise a child who was adopted transracially.   I think there are some things that should be done and done well (ahem, that's why I wrote a book about it!).    But if the very foundation isn't there, the foundation "on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand," than isn't everything else going to be on unstable ground?

I know that I cannot let the fear, guilt, uncertainty (this racial identity crisis) burden me into becoming paralyzed and ineffective.  I refuse to let it.   But I also sense that this ever-present sense of wondering and unease can push me to be the best mom possible, the parent my children need.  

Race doesn't define how much I love my children or how I love them.  But adopting transracially has changed me, deeply, and continues to do so, which in turn pushes me to be a better parent, a different parent, certainly, than I would have been had "transracial" never become part of our family definition.

Crisis usually stems from confusion/lack-of-foundation.   So as I think through these things and always think through these things, I will choose a firm foundation, knowing that no matter what else comes our way (things will inevitable come our way), we will stand strong.

Luke 6:46-49
46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.[c] 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”


Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Peace and Quiet"

Peace and Quiet.

It's a tall order for any mother.

When I was younger and living at home with my siblings and parents, we'd ask my mom what she would want for her birthday, Mother's Day, or Christmas, and her response was always (jokingly) the same:  "Peace and quiet."

Serenity is hard to come by when you are a mother.  Even when you schedule opportunities for yourself, at least 50% of the time, the plans have to be cancelled.  A child gets sick.  You get sick.   You forget about a prior engagement, usually something the opposite of relaxing, like a yearly gyno appointment or a dental checkup.   Or there's that project you forgot you agreed to help with.  

This has been a weird past few months for me, adoption-wise.   A lot has been going on, and it's been confusing and frustrating and emotional.  I feel pretty isolated at times in these struggles, since I always honor the privacy of our children and their birth families and there are very few who truly get (and whom we trust) these struggles.  And I just am a bit burnt out on all-things-adoption.    I spend a lot of time filling the cups of others:  recommending articles, discussing agency options, writing articles about ethics, reading books, talking to prospective adoptive parents.   I do enjoy these things---but I'm feeling the need to take a step back and find my "peace and quiet" for the sake of my own sanity.

Even though I'm a strong advocate of the oxygen-mask mentality (you know, putting the mask on yourself first in order to best serve the person next to you on the plane)---I haven't been practicing it as much as I should.   I've been giving a bit too much, which, to my detriment, hinders my own growth and understanding of adoption and adoptive parenting.

There's been some major changes this year for our family.   Baby Z was born in January.   We have three kids under age five.  That's a game-changer:  three kids.   (Granted, I feel like the fuller my house, the fuller my heart).  Then in March, my book was published, and I've spent a lot of my "spare" time promoting my book through guest blog posts and tv and radio show appearances.    Then I just decided last week that I'm done teaching at the university for awhile.  I cannot fathom teaching a few classes, keeping up with my house and my three kids, continuing to write for and promoting my book and writing freelance articles, and being a decent human being who has friends.   Plus, November, December, and January are VERY busy months for our family between four birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas (plus two birth family visits and a huge adoptive family Christmas party we host).  Oh yes, and then there's the ever-present chronic disease...   Something has got to give.   And I've decided it's teaching.  

So, how do any of us, who need and desire "peace and quiet" gain those things when our plates are so full?  

I'm going to choose peace.  

Yep, it's a choice.  

Circumstances come and go.  There are always challenges and confusion and unpredicted rain showers.  There are always moments, if not seasons, of discomfort and guilt and discord.   There are always "haters" (whomever or whatever yours are) attempting to steal your joy.   Tamper with your soul.   Distract you from what matters most.    Sometimes, you are your own hater. 

It's a choice to let garbage in.  And you know the saying:  garbage in, garbage out.  Once garbage takes hold of your life, it can't help but come out:  in your emotions, in your words, in your actions, in your thoughts, in your relationships, in your parenting, in your job.  

That garbage could be a particular person or group. That garbage could be foods that don't nourish and energize your body for the tasks you have to handle that day. That garbage could be media (tv show, social media, magazines that tell you to hate how you look). That garbage could be too much clutter in your home that hinders you from being thankful for what you have and enjoying your favorite things. That garbage could be saying "yes" to commitments you aren't truly passionate about. That garbage could be a bad habit: gossiping, overspending, overcommitting, self-depreciating.

So the only way to keep that stuff out is to never let it in.  Don't even flirt with it.

Choose peace.

Eliminate distractions.

Nourish your priorities:  those essential relationships (God #1 trickles down into all other relationships), your health, and your life callings. 

By doing these things, you create quietness:  in your spirit.  

Be still and know that I am God
~Psalm 46:10

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
~It Is Well With My Soul (Horatio G. Spafford)

Peace and quiet is possible. 

I hope that today, you and I both have the courage to take steps towards peace and quiet.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Just a minute."

Welcome to one of the phrases most commonly heard in my home.  

It starts out with one of my children asking for a drink, a hug, a mediator, assurance, a potty-partner, etc.   "Mommy, _______?"

Me:  "Just a minute."

With three little ones, each just two years apart in age, I'm constantly dealing with the most-demanding/pressing child first.   

Other phrases uttered/yelled/blurted:

"Let's go.  Today."

"Hands are not for hitting."  (Feet are not for kicking, teeth are not for biting, etc.)

"That's unaccectable."  or "That's not appropriate." 


"That's one.  That's two.  That's...three.  Corner." 

"If you cannot listen and obey me, you are not going to _____, because I know you won't listen and obey your teacher there either."  (Fill in blank:  hip hop class, gymnastics, Sunday School, preschool, a friend's house.)

I used to read a great blog (that is no longer being written, because the mama is homeschooling and parenting three very young kids---and is a bit, well, busy), where the mama suggested creating a family purpose and parenting goals, because choosing not to do so means you are pretty much just winging it every day without knowing what you are creating, heading towards, or establishing in your children's hearts. 

Sounds good.

But, as with all-things-parenting, it's easier said than done.

Some days I feel like a complete failure as a parent.   Why?  It comes in many forms.   Maybe it's because someone posted a picture of their kid on Facebook doing something my kid, the same age, cannot yet do.   Or maybe it's the fact that I haven't read my children a book in three days (something I highly value doing).  Or maybe it's that I'm giving my kids scrambled eggs and an apple for dinner AGAIN.  Or maybe it's that I feel like I just cannot catch up, and I can never, never get ahead.   Or maybe it's the fact that I just cannot sit down and speak to my husband for five minutes without someone demanding a drink.  Or it could be that I let my child watch more than the one hour of recommended time of television that day. 

But I'm trying to fill my mind and heart with good stuff.   Peaceful stuff.   Affirming stuff.  Because there are a lot of things out there that are trying to tell me to do more (not better, just more), to move away from my motherly instincts and instead invest my mental energy in comparisons, and to be really good at everything (to have it all)---which, we all know is a total myth.  Impossible.   No one has it all and has all that together. 

Something has got to give.

Every day.    Every minute.

I was talking to a mom the other day about the fact that we always feel stuck, always a bit chaotic, always a little bit guilty.   But the truth is, our kids are probably doing really well.   They are blossoming in their own ways in their own seasons.   They have great parents.  They are talented and beautiful and creative and smart.  

They are ok.

I recently wrapped up a study of Sally Clarkson's book Desperate.  And in one of our study sessions, we were talking about how hard it is to be a "good Christian lady" (whatever that is) when we are so buried in the demands of motherhood.   I said that I'm not the woman who lights a candle while sitting in her cozy chair and sipping hot tea at 5 a.m. (before everyone is up) and pouring over my Bible and humming old-school hymns.     I'm not the Christian many of the books say I'm supposed to be.   And one of the mamas said, "You know.  Don't you think God cuts us some slack?  Don't you think that we might be doing the right thing right where we are?"    And I thought, whoa.  She's right!  I mean, if we are always worried about LOOKING and APPEARING right, but aren't ever really just being us and staying focused on the few things that matter the most, does it really matter what our Jesus-time looks like?    My real Jesus time is a mental prayer when my children are driving me up the wall or someone cuts me off in traffic or someone says something nasty about me or asks an annoying and intrusive adoption question...and it goes like this, "Jesus, help me right now, in this moment, to do the right thing."

My motherhood is my ministry right now.    Even when I do tell God, like I tell my kids, and my husband, and everyone else who wants just a second of my time, "Wait a minute."   Those minutes are sometimes just minutes.  But sometimes they are days.  Sometimes they are hours.    But I'm working on that.   Embracing the moment.  Listening to God's whispers throughout the day as I cuddle, discipline, encourage, guide.

As the holidays approach, routines will be upset, food will tempt me to fake-forget my diabetes, my kids will be spoiled with gifts and will likely say many wrong things and the wrong times to relatives, and my home will be turned upside-down and inside-out with planning and preparation and partying. 

I'm going to say, "Wait a minute" more times than I want to admit.

But I'm going to work hard to give those precious minutes to who matters most.   And I'm going to try my best, with the help of God, who is always with me even when I tell Him to "wait."    Thankfully, He doesn't listen.  He gives me what I need, when I need it, no matter what.


During the craziness of the upcoming holidays, it's easy to slip into ineffective discipline practices with your children.  Check out this post on creative ways to correct your littles.