Monday, March 24, 2014

The Refining Process

I keep telling my husband that this whole adoption process is so refining.  It forces me to look deep within myself.

I got my first "Oh!  So you want to adopt athletes?"  What?!  Seriously.  No.  I am not adopting black children in order to get athletes.

I also got "Oh you definitely don't want to adopt a 4 year old.  Character is already set by 4.  There's nothing you will be able to do and they will be completely damaged."  Thank God the majority of us did not grow up with people who believed that we could never change or grow after the age of 4!

Yesterday we visited a friend's church.  The church is led by two amazing African American families, one of whom happens to be really good friends of ours.  The crowd was made up of African American families and one white family who had adopted black children.  I didn't think much about it.  But, at some point during the music, I looked down at Abigail.  She looked like she was about to cry.  She was just looking from person to person.  I picked her up and she rested her head on my shoulder the rest of the time.  After the music she willingly and hesitantly went with the other children to another room.

I couldn't help but watch my daughter.  She is a very confident, independent and secure child, but she was unsure.  She was a little scared.  She was in a new place that was full of people who looked different than her.

I felt like my heart was being ripped out of me as I thought about the little boy or girl that we will bring home.  They won't just be in one room of people that look different than them.  They will be in a whole community of that.  They will be in a family that looks different.  They will be terrified.

(Abigail quickly forgot about all of it and made new friends.  In fact, both of my children said they loved the church and want to go back.)

Then, last night we watched a video that our social worker had given to us.  The video interviewed adults who were not white but had been adopted into white families when they were children.  I'm learning more and more that our entire family is going to have to have an identity adjustment.  I can't expect my black kids to think they are white or even want to be.  And, I can't ignore the issues that they are going to face one day because of it.  On top of that, Parker and Abigail are going to have to embrace Africa as a part of their upbringing as well.  Their identity is going to totally change too.

I wonder if my adopted son will have the cops called on him because he's walking through our neighborhood one day.  Or, will my adopted daughter's heart get broken when she's in middle school and can't use the same beauty products as her friends.  I wonder how long it will take before Abigail gets tired of her friends not believing that her little brother or sister really is her little brother or sister.

Just like Abigail stared at people in the church we visited, I too, stare at people's blogs who have mixed families.  I stare.  I look at their facebook pages and wonder and think.  Lots and lots of thinking.

I think I'm actually mourning the loss of our identity as a family.  Not mourning in a regretful sort of way, but mourning because we are walking into uncharted water.  Mourning because I'm not sure where we will fit in.  But, at the same time, I am compelled to keep moving forward.  I am compelled by a story of redemption and grace-  a story of love and adventure.  I have no idea what the next few years will bring, but I can't wait to look back on them one day and see the story that has been written.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Baseball and Butterflies

I'm learning a lot about myself during this whole adoption process.  We've had to write autobiographies, answer worksheets on parenting children of another race, fill out forms on cross-cultural parenting, and go through several interviews.  And, all of that is just the start.

Yesterday we had our individual appointments with our social worker.  She asked me what values I want to teach my children.  I told her that the most important thing I can teach my children is to love God and love others.  Most of life's problems can be summed up with those two things or a lack there of.

But then she asked me what small values I want to teach them.  Through this process I've realized how much I value independence.  I reward my kids when they are independent.  I reward them when they allow me to be independent.  I don't know if that's good or bad.  I'm sure it's both, depending on the situation.  The interesting thing, and slightly scary thing, (okay, honestly really scary thing) is that when we first bring home a child from Congo I am going to have to teach that child to be dependent--completely dependent on me.  This freaks me out!  I don't know how to do that.

One thing I've learned that I don't value, but need to value, is my children's uniqueness.  They are unique, and that is good.  I get so caught up in the "mom race."  You know, the "My kid plays 5 sports.  What does your kid do?" race.  So caught up!  I don't know why.

For instance, Parker is now playing baseball.  Baseball is like the Bible of East Cobb where we live.  Everyone plays baseball.  And, to top it off, he plays in a competitive league.  This is his first year ever playing baseball and he is playing with kids that have played for 8+ seasons.  Yep.  Needless to say, it's been rough.  Why can't I just sit back and enjoy that my quirky science loving kid is enjoying a sport?  Why do I feel like I have to explain to everyone that this is his first time playing.  Who cares right?  For some reason I care.  I hate that I care.  I don't want to care.  I want to be the parent that just enjoys my kid whether he gets a hit or not.

So that is my new mission in parenting.  I want to celebrate my kids for who they are- for the unique way God has made them individually.  I'm setting out to change my values, to change my way of thinking.

(This is a picture of the butterflies that the kids grew over the winter.  One of the many science projects we have going at our house right now.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Check for the Right Amount

One of the biggest stressors with adopting is the money.  It is so expensive!  And, the hardest part about it is that the money is almost all due at the beginning.  You don't really get to spread out the expenses throughout the process.  Last month was a pricey month.  This month shouldn't be too bad, but April and May will be CRAZY.

This morning I added up how much money I thought we were going to need this month to cover our adoption expenses.  This month it's $1,103.  Not too bad, but a little painful knowing what's about to come.

When I got home today and picked up the mail I saw a letter from State Farm.  No lie... We got a check from them for $1,097!!  Only $6 difference from what we will owe!  We NEVER get money back.  Once again, these little bits of amazing keep happening.

A Congolese Role Model

One of the questions that we had to answer for our home study was, "Who do you know that can be a role model for your child from their native culture?"  When I read that question I had no idea what to write.  We knew of no one who was an adult from Congo.  I've met a few families that have adopted at this point, but not any adults.  So, I wrote for my answer that I didn't know anyone, but that we would try to get connected.

Another thing that you have to do for a home study is have a pretty in-depth physical.  My regular doctor couldn't get us in until August.  (This is one of the things that can really hold us up in the process.)  I called another practice in our area that got us in almost immediately.

Last week we went to see the new doctor.  I could hear Eric in the room next to me getting all excited about something.  (You know how you can always hear through the walls...)  The doctor came into my room and said, "I can't believe you are adopting from Congo.  You know my husband is from Congo." What?!  I could not believe it.  Just the night before I had filled out paperwork stating that I would try to find some adults from there.  And, there they were.

We chatted throughout the hour that we were there.  My doctor's husband actually works at Emory (seems to be really well known there) and also runs a non-profit to bring awareness to the situation in Congo.  He's not only a smart educated man from Congo, but he's doing something to help the situation over there.  Now that sounds like a role model.

Our new doctor was also amazing.  She finished up all of our paperwork, we already have it in hand!  And, hopefully, we've started a relationship that will one day greatly influence our children and our whole family.  I can't wait to see what happens next!

In the meantime, if you need a doctor please check out Dr. Pink (yes, that's her name.  I'm a little jealous.) at Laureate Medical Group.  And, if you want to learn more about the situation in Congo check out Congolese Genocide Awareness and get informed.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Little Bits of Amazing

There are moments in life when you know you are on the right path.  We've had lots of those moments in the past couple weeks.  I call them my "little bits of amazing."  I don't know why.  It just came out of my mouth one day.  I'll take a few posts to tell you about some little bits of amazing that we've been experiencing lately.

Last weekend we were eating dinner at Chili's.  Eric told me to turn around and look at the family behind us.  I turned around.  Holy freakin' cow!  There, at our neighborhood Chili's sat a family that consisted of 2 white parents, 2 white kids and 2 younger black kids.  What!?  I have never seen a transracial family in our neck of the woods. 

I had to do it.  I had to be that person.  I got up from our table and awkwardly approached the family.  I explained to them that we were adopting from Africa, that I noticed their family, and that I had no idea what to say but I wanted to say, "hi."  Classy, huh?! 

We chatted for awhile.  Turns out the family lives in MY neighborhood.  I was almost in tears at the thought that my adopted child could possibly have friends close by who understand what it's like to be in family that looks different than you.  I could not believe it. 

In our short 5 minute conversation we exchanged phone numbers and now we are meeting up this week at the park.  I even learned about a website called "Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care" for white moms who are parenting black daughters.  So cool!

As this process gets tough, these little things are a constant reminder that we don't have to worry.  The whole thing is so big and can be confusing and hard, but I believe God is giving us these little things to let us know that He's got it.  As soon as I start to worry if my child will fit in, if he will feel like he belongs, if anyone will understand him or us, God gives me a little reminder...a family like us in our own neighborhood!  Yep! He's got this.