Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When An Adoption Fails, Love is Always the Right Answer

The first time it happened, we got a phone call from our adoption agency.  Would we care for a toddler whose mother was choosing between parenting and placing?  At the time, we had a child of the exact same age:  so we agreed.  We were told it would be just a few days.  But a few days turned into three weeks.  And during that time, I fell in love with the little boy who wasn't mine.  



He was our first son (but not "ours").  He arrived reeking of cigarette smoke, his shoes two sizes too small, and his sippy cup half-full with some sort of bright red liquid.  He was smart.  So smart.  And he was hungry.  Always hungry.  He would eat whatever we fed him.  Within a few days, he went from severely constipated and nervous to a little boy with a glow.  He and our daughter quickly became friends and siblings-of-sorts:  bickering over toys (some biting may have happened...).  Every night, when we put him into a pack-n-play, he would quickly fall asleep, but find himself, in the dead of night, creep into our room, his arms outstretched waiting to be scooped up and cuddled.  


We included him in everything we did.  We took him to the park, out for ice cream, to church.   I took out cornrows for the first time, the little guy being so patient with me.   When my husband would arrive home from work each day, our daughter would squeal "Daddy!" and reach for him.  Within a few days, the little boy would do the same.   


I fell and fell hard for him.   A child among many.  Hungry (for food and love and attention).  I called the social worker and said, "If he's available for adoption, we want him.  We want him to be our son."  But she said no.  There was an interested family, homestudy ready.  


He didn't end up being adopted.  He was instead handed over to his biological father for the first time in his life.  


The day the social worker picked him up, I packed up all the clothes and shoes we purchased for him.  Extra diapers and wipes.   Toys.   I was desperate to give him things, since I couldn't be his mommy.


The social worker said, "Thank you," as we installed the car seat and buckled him in.  Then they drove away.  Forever.   


For a few years, I searched the waiting child websites, hoping (and yet not hoping) to see his face.  I wanted to know he was OK.  Or that my heart didn't lie to me:  that he was to be our son.   


****


The second time it happened, I had just left a dental appointment.  My girls were with a babysitter.  I turned the volume back up on my phone and saw I had a voicemail from an 816 number.  Kansas City.  The same area my girls had been born.  


My heart started racing.  I immediately called the number back.


It was our lawyer.  A toddler boy was available for adoption, immediately.  He needed to know now:  did we want to be considered to be the little boy's parents?   I called my husband, who is the type who needs time (usually a lot of time...too much time, in my humble opinion) to make decisions.  But this time he said, "OK."  It would be cool, he felt, to have a son.  And the little boy was younger than our youngest daughter, so no messing around with birth order.  


But then it was no.   It would take a good month to get a homestudy (which we needed to do an interstate adoption), complete with state and federal background checks.  I called lawyers.  I called social workers.  But all arrived at the same answer:  that we needed a month to get it done.  And we didn't have a month.  The toddler's mom wanted to place him into a forever family immediately. 





So our yes turned to no.  The son we so desperately wanted was not to be ours.   Again.   And though we had two beautiful daughters, our hearts still ached for the what-could-have-been.


****


The third and fourth time it happened were potentially the hardest.  


Now you'd think that after having three children, all of whom came to us by adoption, we would be fulfilled.  We wouldn't yearn or imagine or hope.  But we did.  


Twice, biological siblings were placed with another family.  Again, both boys.  


Why were these so difficult?  I think because we know, we know, how strong biological ties are between siblings.  We know how meaningful they can be.  We know that for an adoptee, "losing" a biological sibling to another family can be heartbreaking and confusing.   





And not once.  But twice.  


I know those boys were never mine.  But there were times that the grief I felt, not just for myself, but for my child, was all-consuming.   


****


Every time there was a no, there was a yes.  When boy 1 didn't become ours, six months later we adopted our second daughter.   Losing Baby D was the prompting we needed to say "yes" to doing another homestudy and adopting again.  


When boy 2 went to another family, we knew we desired to have a son to call ours forever.  Though we never specified sex when adopting, we were matched with a baby who, we learned two months before the due date, was a little boy.   Our son.   


And when two more boys (3 and 4) were not placed with us, I felt the growing urge to adopt "just one more time."  We were matched very quickly, but not with a boy.  Another girl.  Our third daughter (our fourth child).  She is our sunshine.  


****


So what I want you to know is that the losses, the times you hear no (yet again), the almosts, the rejections, the broken hearts, the hopelessness, the crumbled dreams...they are so real and so raw.  But that's not all, dear one.  They existed and moved you closer to your "yes."  


I am thankful for the heartbreaking moments, the baby boys who left forever imprints on my heart.  I still ache for them, even though I have a beautiful family of four children with miraculous stories.  I am sad, still, that I wasn't to be their mommy.   But I do pray that each of them have exactly who and what they need to become successful, happy, kind, strong young men.   


When you are in the midst of heartbreak, in whatever form it comes to you on this wild adoption journey, you are allowed to feel all the feelings.  You aren't silly or ridiculous for falling in love with children who aren't yours.   You may never "get over" the children who never called you "mommy."  You may not ever stop thinking of them, praying for them, or yearning for them.   


Choosing to build your family by adoption means you are signing up for a lifetime of heartbreak.  It is in that brokenness that the walls come down.  That you are able to realize that the confinements of love are ridiculous and that true love has no walls, no boundaries, and no rules.  


So love, dear one.  Love big.  Love hard.  Love ridiculously well.  Love when it hurts.  Love when it's magical and beautiful and perfect.  Love when the easier response is anger, fear, or sadness.  Just love and love and love. 




Yes, I regret not mothering those precious boys.  Though it was never my choice to not mother them.  But what I do not regret?  Loving them in the big and small ways I could, for the times I could.  

Love IS always the right answer.  


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

5 Simple Ways to Celebrate Black History Month With Your Young-ish Kids

My kids are Black 24/7/365.  Yours are, too.

So now that we've addressed that, let's chat about Black History Month.


Yes, we celebrate it.  

Consider this:  I love my children every day, all day, but on their birthday, it's an opportunity to take it up several notches and go all-out for that child.   I look at BHM as the same:  we work year-round to affirm and educate our children, but February is an invitation to step it up, to re-energize, and to re-commit. 




If you're a busy family like we are, you may not have much time (or money), but you can certainly still celebrate.  Here are five simple ways:


1:  Create a playlist.


We have many favorite Black music artists in different genres.  To us, it's important that our kids know that they can enjoy music of whatever genre pleases them, so we point out Black artists in that genre.  Now when a song comes on, my kids ask, if they don't already know, "Is the person who sings this brown?"   For some variety of genre, we enjoy listening to Darius Rucker, Kane Brown, and Mickey Guyton (country), Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald (jazz), Mandisa and Jamie Grace (Christian).   Enjoy your playlist throughout the month AND in the months to follow.  


2:  Volunteer.


Ask your library (whether it be your town's library or school's library) if you can set up a Black History Month display in the children's and adult's department.  Work on the project as a family.  You can also volunteer to read a few books commemorating Black History Month to your child's class.  Teachers generally love parents helping in the classroom AND giving the teacher a break. 



My second daughter looking for the perfect book at EyeSeeMe. 

3:  Donate.


Donate copies of your favorite books to your child's classroom, to your local library, or to your pediatrician's office waiting room.  You might also/instead of consider donating puzzles, dolls, action figures, board games, or art.  Brands that offer diverse products include EeBoo, Peaceable Kingdom, and Melissa and Doug.  You can also consider buying these multicultural markers, crayons, pre-cut bodies, pre-cut hands, and paper to your child's classroom.  


4:  Read and watch.


Make an effort this month to make ALL your bedtime story reads focused on Black history and/or Black protagonists.  For example, here are our favorite children's picture book starring Black girls.  I also list several favorites of ours here.


In our home, Friday nights are for pjs, popcorn, and movies!  Try showing a Black history, kid-friendly film each Friday night this month.  Or show a movie that stars a Black protagonist.   Think Akeelah and the Bee, the Doc McStuffins' episodes where Doc's family adopts a baby (!!!), Cinderella starring Brandy, Whitney Houston, and Whoopi Goldberg (it's SO good), Princess and the Frog.  There are endless possibilities!   Older kids may be intrigued by Selma, The Secret Life of Bees (oh how I love that book and movie!), or Hidden Figures.  There are many sports films that showcase race, including Remember the Titans and We are Marshall.


Tip:  choose books and movies based on your children's interests.  There are so many amazing resources available now!   Check my post on how to institute a family reading night.      


5:  Take a hometown tour.


We are fortunate to live so close to St. Louis.  Last year, we took our kids on a Black-owned business tour of the city.  We had dinner at Steve's Hotdogs, had a treat at Miss M's Candy Boutique, and purchased items from EyeSeeMe bookstore (where my children's books are sold!). St. Louis is currently featuring a Civil Rights exhibit (which is fabulous!), houses the infamous Sweetie Pie's soul food restaurant (we met Miss Robbie!), and offers a vegetarian-vegan bakery (walls covered in Black art which can be purchased) called Sweet Art.  We've also enjoyed both locations of Gulf Shores Restaurant.  On our next tour, we plan to check out Natalie's Cakes in Ferguson.  


You see?  It really is THAT simple.  A little effort can go a long way in affirming your children, learning more about Black history, and showing your children that they matter

And keep an eye on my Facebook, Twitter, and Insta:  I'm posting books daily that highlight important figures in the past and present.