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."
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.