Thursday, January 30, 2014

Beauty is the Eye of...? Beauty is Only Skin Deep?

Beyonce's Grammy performance + yoga class + feminism + objectification + beauty= ?

I loved this post over at EBONY on these subjects for many reasons.  So, let's talk about beauty.

My oldest daughter was thick baby.  Born just under six pounds, she quickly filled out to meet the 90th (+) % for weight for her age.

She was stunning.  Large brown eyes with eye lashes like a mascara model.  A perfect, silky, curly afro.

When I'd venture out with her, we got plenty of attention.  But the type of attention we got was often dependent on the race of the attention-giver.

White women would often approach us and say things like:  "What a chubby baby!"  Or, "She's well-fed!"  Or, "Now that's a fat baby!"  These were often NOT compliments.  I would be met with frowns, up-and-down glances, tisk-tisk sounds.

Black women would approach us with exclamations of how "juicy" my daughter was.  They would smile and nod in approval and GUSH over my little girl.    

My darling little girl, just a few months old, was already being taught what beauty is and isn't in the eyes of whomever was looking at her.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? 


My daughter, at around age two, lost all of her "baby fat," though she's certainly still a curvy girl.

And shopping for a girl with, as my daughter like to say, "junk in the trunk," is not easy.  Everything in the little girl section of the store is tight, low-cut and essentially created with teenagers who are stick-thin in mind.  (Don't get me started on glitter, "I hate school" and "I love boys" themed slogans, and everything spoiled-little-princess.)   The clothes are

Toys, greeting cards, books, movies, t.v. shows, advertisements---they are 99% all the same:  Euro-centric and the White standard of beauty.  And when the one "ethnic" doll appears on the shelves alongside the blond-haired, blue-eyed dolls, the "ethnic" doll is supposed represent all other races besides White.  The doll has green eyes, flowing and silky and straight and long dark-ish brown or black hair, and if the skin is tinted brown, it's always light brown.

The parent who wants to find things for their children that look like their children, accurately, has a job ahead of him or her.    (I've blogged about some of my favorite toys, toy companies, etc. many times.)

Our children are being taught, every day, through the media, through the items on shelves and on racks, and through the commentary of others, what beauty is and isn't.

Parents:  it's our job to diligently combat the White beauty standard that dominates our world and permeates into places we wouldn't normally suspect. 


I think, one, we have to surround our children with the standard of beauty we want them to be familiar with and appreciate.  There are many ways to do this, but within your own home:

  • buy dolls, action figures, and other toys that accurately look like your children
  • buy books and DVDs and art that feature kids who look like your children
  • obviously, have a diverse group of friends:  "Your child should not be your first black friend."
  • personally subscribe to magazines that keep you abreast the latest issues that pertain to your child's race:  not only to educate yourself, but to have those magazines in your home so your children can see magazines that have advertisements and models who look like them (and advertise products that are specifically made for people of a certain race)
  • buy clothing for your kids that they are confident in and that fit their body type.  And please, make them age-appropriate! 
  • support businesses, clothing lines, publishers, production companies, etc. that create products that accurately depict children who look like yours
  • be cautious of how you speak of your own beauty, and always, always cheer on your children for not only how beautiful they are, but how talented they are, how smart they are. 
  • stand up for your kids in all areas of life, not just when their looks are critiqued---because by doing so, you teach your children to stand up for themselves (and how to do so effectively)
  • monitor what your child is reading, watching, and hearing.  What are they learning through books, songs, shows, movies, online interactions?  Is it appropriate for their age and maturity level?  Is it helpful or detrimental?  What messages are being conveyed? 
  • have honest, open conversations with your children about everything, including things they see, hear, and read.  Teach them to be critical thinkers, consumers, and world-changers.
Read much more on this subject in my book Come Rain or Come Shine:  A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children

I'll be spotlighting some products and companies I love this February as we celebrate Black History Month.   I'll be giving away hair products, books, and apparel which all uplift kids of color.     

Friday, January 24, 2014

Need to Breathe: What Am I Here For?

It's funny how God works.

These past few days, I've been thinking about my choices and where they are leading me.  And then I read two great bloggers speak to the ideas of refocusing on things like gratitude for abundance.

As I tell my kids, good choices=good stuff, and bad choices=bad stuff.   In conclusion, make good choices.

If only it were that simple.

Well, it sort of is.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm never going to have life all figured out.  There's never going to be a perfect day.   I'm always going to be mulling over mistakes, ideas, improvements, accomplishments.  I am who I am.  Type A, Type I.  A little bit Bridget Jones, a little bit Emily in The Devil Wears Prada, a little bit Shelby in Steel Magnolias. 

I left my nine-year job (teaching at a university) to be a full-time stay-at-home-mom.  Well, sort of.  That same year, Baby Z was born, my book was published, I started working for, and I started consistently doing media appearances.

It was exciting.  Exhilarating. 

And a bit overwhelming.

And I feel like now, a year after our busiest year yet, I'm needing to put on the brakes for a few reasons.  First, I quit my job to be able to have more time to focus on my home and my family.  Teaching, like actually being in the classroom, was easy for me.  But about 90% of my work was happening at home:  grading, prep, answering e-mails, tracking down reading material, entering grades.     It was impossible for me to get any work done with young kids in the house.    I was tired of feeling so divided, rushed, and tired.

Second, Miss E starts kindergarten in seven months.   My baby.

Third, Baby E heads to preschool in the fall.

Fourth, my book has been very successful, to which I'm honored and thrilled.  But marketing a book takes a whole lot of work:  time, energy, and thought.   Being in author is hardly glamorous or lucrative, though it's most certainly quite rewarding.

Having three kids under age five is mayhem.   But I enjoy it.  I love the funny things my kids say.  I love their questions.  Their facial expressions.  Their dance moves.  Oh, their dance moves!  I love their hugs and kisses and little hands patting my cheeks.  I love their artwork and Lego creations.  I love the way they look when they sleep.  I love when they say "I'm sorry" to one another.  I love when the girls unite and stand up to me when I ask them to do something or discipline one of them:  "But we are sisters!"  I love their sighs and their giggles.   I love how they can't contain their joy or their sadness.  I love how they believe everything is possible.  I love how when their dad walks in the door, they all literally jump for joy.

Here's the deal:  I don't want to miss moments because I'm caught up in making someone else's day.

Maybe it's because it's January:  the month when resolutions are still promising and I've just turned another year older.  Maybe it's because here in the Midwest, the weather is incredibly unpredictable, but regardless, we spend many days indoors while the skies are gray and gloomy.  Maybe it's the realization that in just a few short months, my girls are both taking major steps in their young lives.   Maybe it's because my son has just turned one, and I already feel like he's kissing babyhood goodbye.

My children have taught me more lessons than any blog, book, post, article, message, or Tweet.

And my to-do list is created by me. 

I'm going back to saying no.  No to things that don't empower, educate, or energize.  No to things that aren't authentic.  No to people who serve toxicity.  No to demands that deplete.  No to jealousy and judgement. 

I'm saying yes to face-to-face time with friends and family.  Lazy, appreciative afternoons.    Rest.  Prayer and Bible-reading.   Outdoor play.   Good books.  Dancing, baking, creating.  De-cluttering.  Thanking.  Blessing others.  Learning.  Daydreaming.  Jesus-following.  Healthy living.  Simplifying. 

Yes to breathing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Sister": Guilt vs. Conviction

The scene:  New Year's Day.  Fabric store.  Mama on a mission to find the perfect fabrics and ribbons to make birthday banners.   2 adults.   3 kids.   2 cups of Starbucks.   1 bottle.  1 stroller.  1 cart.

Going anywhere with our children is an adventure, simply because there are three of them.   Our oldest is the mature, bossy one who thrives on praise and sleep.   Our middle-child is three.  She is a bundle of energy.  She doesn't walk.  She skips, somersaults, propels.  She touches everything.   And our baby, nearly mobile, is cuddly and content, yet is still young enough to need constant bottles and snacks and diaper changes.   

Usually it's just me with the littles, but my husband was off work and willingly (graciously) agreed to accompany us to the fabric store.

We were there for well over an hour:  choosing fabric, waiting in line to have it cut, choosing ribbon, making multiple trips to the bathroom and to the van for a forgotten diaper or bottle.    We were all running on little sleep.

We got in the checkout line which was quite long.  Our girls happily browsed the dollar-bins (aka:  desperate parent impulse buy items).  A lady who appeared to be in her fifties said, "Excuse me." 

I turned.

Mind you, I never know what to expect.  A question or comment about adoption.  Someone handing me the shoe we lost in aisle six.   A comment about one of the girl's hairstyles.  A "you've got your hands full" statement.  

She said, "I'm an adoptive mother of four children."  She paused and put her hand over her heart.  "You have a beautiful family."

"Thank you," I replied.  "How old are your children?"  

She shared a bit about her family as we progressed through the line.  Then came our turn to pay for our items.   We were called to the last cash register.   A Black woman took the dollar items from my girls, scanned them, and handed them back.   At that moment, the meltdown happened.  My oldest said something sassy to me, and my middle daughter tried to run out the door (which she discovered opened via motion detection).  The baby started writhing in his stroller.   I gave my husband THE look, and he took all three kids out the doors and to the car so I could finish my transaction in peace.

The cashier looked me right in the eye and said calmly and warmly, "Patience, sister.  Patience."

I smiled, my eyes filling with tears.   

That moment meant a lot to me for a few reasons.

1:  I felt validated as a mother for not having perfectly behaved children---and the fact that their moods and quirks and personalities were simply parts of childhood and maturing.  And that was ok.

2:  I felt like this woman was imparting motherly wisdom and encouragement upon me in a non-condescending, non-judgemental way.   (Which, hey, as we all know, is rare.  Mommy Wars live on.  As do relatives who believe you should be parenting in a different way.  And strangers....and...)

3: I felt affirmed.  By her simply calling me "sister."  

Transracial adoptive mothers carry responsibility, guilt, and fear.  No different than any other mother.  But we are under a microscope.  Even if we are good mothers and know we are, the world can wear on us.   We learn, as women, to doubt ourselves, believe in what others say (even when they don't know us), and question our judgements.

But here's the deal:  there's a difference between guilt and conviction.

Guilt comes from the world.   The world is an imperfect place made up of imperfect people.  Most of these people do not have our best interest at heart.  They don't know us.   They don't care if we succeed or fail.   They don't care if our feelings get hurt or we beat ourselves up. 

Conviction comes from God.   And conviction is strong and clear.   God doesn't seem to do things half-way.   His direction in my life has always been evident.  

Guilt cannot be combated with much.  Though we try.  We might attempt some sort of meager self-improvement.  We tread.  We worry.  We second-guess.  We whine.

But conviction, well, usually there's a clear way to deal with that.  God's telling you to do (or not to do) something.  God's leading may come in the form of a Bible verse, a song, a person who crosses your path, a sermon you hear.     Conviction can be met with denial or obedience.  Our choice.

Being affirmed that day by a cashier was conviction that I needed.   A gentle reminder that though our adoption path has had numerous highs and lows, up and downs, there is no substitute for walking in God's will for our lives by responding appropriately to convictions.  Step by step.  Moment by moment. 

I remember that being "in the world but not of the world" is essential to happiness, productivity, peace, and, most of all, right-ness with God and being the parent that my children need.

To the lady whose words overwhelmed me with validation, encouragement, and affirmation:  Thank you. 

I pray I am able and willing to listen to God's promptings to pay it forward.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Marginalized vs. Validated

The other night, my husband and I watched a recent episode of Oprah's Lifeclass.   The focus?  Colorism.

This subject hits very close to our home for our family, because we are subjected to colorism often, as a whole family, and individually.   Our children are a range of skin-tones.  My oldest has medium-brown skin.  My middle daughter is very dark, which prompts many strangers to inquire, "What country is she from?"  (Um, the US...)   My son, our youngest, is light-brown.  (When Steve and I have been out with him without the girls, no one notices he's adopted because his skin is so light.)   I think the range of shades is one reason we are asked, "Are they real siblings?" when we are out at the park, a store, or restaurant with all three kids.

The show was intriguing and moving, but above all, it was educational.   I came away from the episode agreeing with a statement the hosts had made:  everyone wants to be validated.

If you are part of the adoption triad, you are probably familiar with feeling marginalized.   Comments (often assumptions), questions (based on more assumptions), stares, and choices:  made about you, for you, with or without you.  

Oftentimes, triad members are glamorized (this mostly falls on adoptive parents, the so-called "heroes" and "winners" in adoption) or stereotyped (which often falls on the adoptees and biological parents).

Dismissed.  Ignored.  Pushed aside.  Shushed.  These are all too common, especially for those who have been adopted and those who have placed children for adoption.  

Hearing the truth of their experiences from those triad members is often difficult, messy, and downright uncomfortable.

But it doesn't mean we shouldn't hear it.  

Steve and I had many conversations about race (ask him---4 straight months, every single night, for HOURS) prior to choosing to be open to a child of any race.  We met with transracial families.  We talked to people who had been adopted and who had placed children for adoption.  We read books and blogs.   We went over our own childhoods (in a small, diverse but segregated town), our interactions with people of other races, our resources (should we choose transracial adoption as an option), our places of employment, where we lived, where we might move to, our circle of friends---everything we could think of.

We wanted to be prepared.

Those talks were really, really awkward at times.  Because we had to be truthful.  We had to face fears.  We had to think, "What would this mean for a child of color?"  (Basically, are we qualified to be parents of a minority child? Are we worthy?)

Five years. Three times we were chosen to adopt Black children. 

And like any parent, but especially like an adoptive parent in a transracial family, we felt and continue to feel a restlessness that mixes with peace and joy.   We know we can't stop learning and growing.   We are immensely honored to be our children's parents.  And we are plenty scared, too.

We need to hear the voices of transracial adoptees who have "been there, done that" (or are still there, still doing that).  Those who our children will grow up to be one day.

I appreciate the commenters on a prior blog entry, those who said they really want to hear from a transracial adoptee on the issue of transracial adoption.   And I couldn't agree more. 

Though I have chosen to have no room in my mind and spirit for those who want to bash and trash my family and my parenting (those who have never even met me or my family), I am recommitting to being "all ears" to adoptees. 

I need it.   Many of my readers, composed primarily of those who have adopted transracial or are waiting to adopt transracially, need it.  And not just us, but the public---they need to hear it too.

I certainly do not feel that my experience is any more valid or important than that of another person's.  Nor do I believe that those who are walking in the shoes my children will eventually be in should be marginalized.   Nor do I wish to be part of the crowd who is doing the marginalizing.

I really want to get this transracial parenting thing right.  

I look at my children---so innocent, so needy, so smart, so beautiful, so creative, so free.   And I know what's coming.  I know they won't always be so innocent.  I know they will become more independent as time passes (less me, more of them).  They will become smarter in many ways, one way being the way they understand that the world doesn't think they are as fabulous as we do...and some of those reasons might be because they are brown-skinned and because they are adopted.   They will learn that the general standard of beauty is the White standard of beauty.  They will possibly, at some point, have their creativity squandered by someone who passes them over for a job because they are a person of color.     

The saddest part is that they won't always be free.   There will be roadblocks, mountains, and traps: and those things have been in place for hundreds of years.  

And (gulp), they are going to have to navigate those.  And you know how many of us have learned to get through hard times?  Based on what our parents raised us to do (or not do).

I have a big, big job.

I don't like to use the term "special" to describe adoption or adoptive parenting.  But in all honesty I have felt, for the past five-ish years we've taken on the role as transracial adoptive parents, that we are always taking (and should take) extra steps, calculated steps, thought-out steps as we progress through our parenting journey, because we can't just "go with our hearts" and hope everything will be ok.  We can't latch on to a new parenting trend because it's the cool thing to do.   That's not how the world works, especially not for families like mine, for children like mine.

I can't do this alone.  I shouldn't do it alone.  I won't do it alone.

I'm very proud of my book and the articles I write.  I've poured years into researching all-things-adoption.   Parenting has been a great teacher.   But I'm realizing more and more (since my kids are getting older), that I need to continue to reach out (with more determination than ever) and open up to transracial adoptees and hear their stories.    Learn what I should be doing, not doing, what to do better, what to do less, what to do more. 

So to the commenters, thanks for the reminder.  

We all want to feel validated.  And in order to feel validated, we have to be listened to.

I'm listening.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Happy First, Sweet Baby Z!

Happy B-day, to our sweet Baby Z, who a year ago, made his appearance on my birthday! 

Today is also Dr. King's birthday.   Here are three of our favorite books discussing MLK:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Day I Was on NPR: And Learning to Listen


Dear Readers,

I was honored to be part of NPR's The Sunday Conversation this morning.  Of course, the topic of conversation was transracial adoption.

I was very excited this morning when my husband dashed into our bedroom and turned on the radio and said, "You're on!"  With my girls on either side of me and my husband standing nearby, we listened to the pre-recorded show.  We did a little cheer when it was over and went to eat breakfast and get dressed.   And then, we headed to church, had lunch, ran errands, and right now, everyone's winding down for bed.

At one point today, I read a few comments on the NPR web page, comments made in response to the story.   And naturally, like all things public and controversial, there were a range of opinions ranging from the simple, such as "love is all kids need" to the extreme (basically saying I suck, NPR sucks, transracial adoption is awful, etc.).   

Though in the past, I was more vulnerable to opinions of total strangers, this time I shrugged, set my phone down and proceeded to make a Target shopping list while simultaneously prompting my daughters to get their shoes on so we could head out the door.

I share these mundane tasks, like making a list and running errands and eating meals, with you because here's the deal:

Though transracial adoption is a major part of our lives (because it's directly tied to our path to parenthood and how we choose to parent), it doesn't consume our lives. 

Our lives are incredibly normal.  Even dull at times.

I'm a stay at home mom of three young kids.  I write on the side.  I spend many days in yoga pants and t-shirts, my hair in a messy knot on top of my head, no makeup.   I wash a lot.  A lot.  Of laundry.  I make meals.  I fold towels.   I discipline.  I encourage.  I color with my girls.  I hold my baby close.  I share my day with my husband.  I call my mom.   I text my sister.  I answer e-mails from book readers.  I socialize on Facebook one day and go out for wine with a girlfriend the next night.   And yeah, occasionally, I respond to interview requests. 

And like all parents, I work really hard to make sure my kids are healthy, safe, secure, happy, educated, empowered, and filled with the right things.

I've heard it all:   why in the world would I hire a female CHRISTIAN mentor for my girls?  what do I think about the NABSW statements on transracial adoption?  how dare I write a book about transracial adoption because, after all, I'm so young and my children are fairly young? am I trying to whitewash my kids?  why would I teach them about Black history, thereby emphasizing race?   why would I choose to be on a national television show where the host believes in things that Christians are not "supposed" to support? 

I have a comeback for every single question, but I'm not going to waste my time.

A few months ago, I wrote typed a distraught, pleading message to Denene Millner, a Facebook friend and successful, strong female.  I shared my heart with her.  I had encountered a few vicious comments online from a handful of women who had repeatedly attacked my integrity, my parenting and adoption choices, and my writing.  Embarrassingly, but honestly, I had allowed them to make me feel less-than. 

Denene said to me something that I know will stick with me forever.

She shared that she used to get really upset with her online haters:  people who would spew nastiness, including racially-charged comments.   She'd respond.   But, she concluded, "It didn't do much to silence critics.  No matter how many times you put one in her place, two more pop up with more crazy."  

So what to do? 

She shared, Don't pay mind to those who...

"a. don't pay my bills. b. have not harmed me physically c. Can't make the sun rise in the morning And once I embraced this particular philosophy, I started winning..."

You see, we have so much power.  What we tell ourselves matters far more and weighs so much more heavily than what anyone else says.   It's really us.  Not them.   There will always be opinions, experiences, and voices---some louder than others.  There will always be lies, hurts, and prejudice.  There will always be sin.  

The most significant, relevant, steadfast, and the only pure truth, is what God speaks to us.

God has used today to remind me of what truly matters and how far I've come because of His grace.  Bible verses learned during my childhood come back to me, slowly, steadily, and beautifully:

Romans 12:2   "Do not be conformed to this world, but continuously be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God's will is—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect." 
1 John 5:21 "Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God's place in your hearts."
Philippians 4:7 "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
1 Timothy 4:12  "Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity."

Today, and how fitting it's Sunday, could have left me discouraged.  But it didn't.

Because instead of giving my time and mental energy to distractive voices, I was thinking through the ways I've been blessed, affirmed, and empowered.   I recall this verse:

Jeremiah 30:2  "“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you."  

This was a verse I had circled in my Bible many years ago when I was feeling lost.  I had the urgency, the drive, the passion to write a book, but the words weren't coming to me. 

God was preparing my heart for a later date.

My book isn't perfect.  My opinions, and experiences, and parenting---all flawed.  Because I'm not perfect.   And I'm going to make sure that I teach my children that I'm not perfect.  And they don't have to be either.

Because when you are redeemed by Jesus, there's no legalism. 

He freely gave.  He still does.

His mercies are upon me every day, even when I don't recognize them, ask for them, or are thankful for them.

I'm not sure why I got diabetes, or why during my hospital stay the word "adoption" popped into my mind so clearly, or why we were chosen to parent children of another race, or what God is going to do in and through our lives, even through our failures and flaws...

but I'm certain that He will be exalted in my words and deeds when I am listening to Him. 

I choose Him.    

So readers, my Sunday fades and I prepare for another normal week of laundry and meal prep and gymnastics class and preschool and diaper changes, I will work to continue to empower, educate, and affirm others while also continuing my practice of learning and transcending.  

Whatever your mountain is today, I pray that you are able to rest in God's encouragement and in the wisdom of those around you who God has placed in your lives.   

And please, whenever you have the opportunity, return the blessings.

Hebrews 12: 1-3
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls."

Special thanks to Denene Millner of MyBrownBaby for her permission to use her words in this post.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Melissa Harris-Perry, Forgiveness, and Living Big

So, I've been asked, quite a bit, about what I think about the Melissa Harris-Perry controversy, and I've been consistent in my response:   the segment turned offensive, quickly, MHP and some of her panelists owned up to it, Melissa apologized multiple times (including on-air) in a heartfelt and no-nonsense manner, and we should all just get over it and move on.


Because the MHP show has done a lot for the Black community, including my family.   They focus on issues people of color face that many news outlets either ignore or extort.   And though I'm not a big news-watcher (I have three kids under age five, and most of which is one news is too violent, graphic, aggressive for my children), I was hot over the Fox News segment when several reporters laughed about and insisted that Santa (and Jesus...) were White and to diversify Santa is just ridiculous.   Um, ok. 

What MHP has done for the Black community far outweighs a one-time screw up.

Back in August, I had the honor of being on the MHP show on a segment on transracial adoption and the importance of being educated and racially literate.  It went exceedingly well.

When THE NATION requested a statement from me regarding the MHP controversy, I readily complied, happy to state my views on the subject.

I've been criticized for being on MHP (oh-my-gosh-Rachel-didn't-you-know-she's-pro-abortion!).   Or, MSNBC is for liberals (aka, people who don't give a lick about God).  And here's what I have to say:   if you only interact and engage with people who are exactly like you, you are living a very small and very un-Jesus life.  

And to not forgive a person who apologizes genuinely and without excuse, well, that's not very Jesus-y either. 

I want to live a big life.  A life where I meet people who don't think like me.  A life where I can teach and be taught.   A life where I embrace new experiences while being grateful for the past.   A life where I don't hold on to hurts.  A life where I am setting aside every single thing that doesn't keep me on the path to the life God has for me.  A life where I am not distracted by the voices of those who seek to harm me or my family.  A life where accepting "I'm sorry" brings both parties relief and joy...and the only place to go from there is forward.

I admire MHP now more than before.   No, I don't think exactly like her or agree with everything she says.  But I am thankful to have sat next to a woman who has a heart for transracial adoptive families, who knows when to apologizes, and who knows how to be strong and use her intellect, her grace, her presence, and her power to empower others.   



For more on strong people, read this article:  Mentally Strong People:  The 13 Things They Avoid

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Open Adoption: Messy Business

This post is prompted by recent events, as well as some exciting news. 

Yesterday I got an e-mail from Open Adoption Bloggers sharing that my International Breastfeeding Week post had made OAB's list of one of the Best Open Adoption Blogs of 2013.   Hop on over to OAB and discover more fantastic posts!

And now on to the mess:

2013 was our family's hardest open adoption year.  

You might think it would be year #1, the year we first experienced open adoption...the year we discovered our first child had a bio sib who was also with an adoptive family.  The year we had to learn what to write in letters sent to our first child's bio mom.  The year we had to figure out what we really wanted out of open adoption and why.   The year we were first-time parents who straddled the joy of finally being someone's mom and dad and the heartache of knowing that joy only came from someone else's tremendous loss.

We have three open adoptions.   But not one looks the same.   Some are more spread out than others.  Some more reciprocated than others.  Some with more mutual expectations.   Some with hurt feelings and disappointments.   Some with uncertainly.  Some with confidence.  

And you know, being Miss Type A Control Freak, I like order.  I like predictability. 

2013 brought us extreme moments of joy and surprise.   While some moments had us at our lowest-lows, questioning if open adoption was (is) ever a good idea.   Is it worth the time, energy, and potential for hurt and disappointment?  Were we really doing the right thing for each of our children?  Should we continue to encourage other families to be as open as possible, even when it's sometimes uncomfortable, because, after all, it's usually what's best for the kids?  Or it is what is best for the kids? 

Where is the perfect balance?  The right answer?

One thing is for sure.  There's not guidebook on how to navigate the messiness of open adoption.   There's no one-size-fits-all answer.  

I do know for certain, that as I try to navigate open adoption in this season of our lives, that beauty can come from ashes, but only with grace, patience, and God-given peace (which surpasses all understanding).    Because, in all honesty, many days I feel like I don't have much more to give.  I don't have patience.   I'm tired of lowering expectations.   I want the best.

But I remind myself of something I saw during a T.D. Jakes talk.  He discussed how sometimes there are big people:  people who have 10 gallon love tanks.   And then these 10-gallon people are involved with 2-gallon people.  So the 10-galloners are often left disappointed when the 2-gallon people give, but it simply doesn't fill the 10-gallon tank.   Then he said something I'll never forget:  that 2-gallon people, if they give their 2-gallons, are doing their very best.  And instead of always expecting that we get 10 gallons from 2-gallon people, we need to learn and and accept that 2-gallons as that person's best, be thankful for it, and stop expecting more and telling ourselves we will never be satisfied with that person until they give more.    The problem, well, it's not really with the 2-gallon person, is it? 

And then, what my mom has always told me.  That I'm only in charge of myself.   I cannot do anything about the behavior and choices of others, nor should I pour my energy into changing other people.   I have to do the best with what I have at that time, make personal changes according to the conviction and prompting of God (not people!), and take care of business:  that is, my #1 job is to protect, love, nurture, and guide my children, the children I was chosen to parent.

I wish I could hand you, dear readers, a pretty package containing open adoption perfection, a gift that would make your life easier.  A little more Hallmark, and a little less Lifetime-movie. 

But I can't.

Perfection.  Perfect joy.  Perfect peace.  Perfect relationships.  They simply do not exist within the confines of humanity.  Adoption is messy, open adoption especially messy, because it all began with brokenness.   The break between a biological mother and child.   So, any adoption is going to have dark, unrepairable nooks and crannies.    There are tangles.  Road blocks.  Valleys. 

In 2014, I want each of us to choose and pursue peace, even in the midst of storms, worry, anger, frustration, confusion, and heartache.    For the sake or our hearts.  For the sake of our children.  For the sake of their biological families. 

I am certain of nothing in open adoption except this:  God will give me what I need, when I need it, if choose His peace and rely on His promptings.