Sometimes you encounter odd situations on the foster (or adoptive) parenting journey. They can take your breath away, deeply wound you, or leave you dumbfounded. We encountered a situation like this recently.
Last night Mike and I met friends for dinner. We share the common bond of parenthood, marriage, church, hometown community and foster parenting. During the first course, we talked about the stupid thing we did as young adults. By the main course, we lamented the ever growing need to monitor our students’ technology and the ins and outs of teen dating. By dessert, our conversation turned to foster care. We shared stories about little ones who haven’t slept in months as well as enthusiastically long prayers given by pre-schoolers at dinner time. We shook our heads at the hard parts and belly laughed at the funny bits.
Is it possible to find people who get it? How do I go about connecting with people who won’t judge or criticize me if I’m brutally honest? What about people who will love me and my children even when things get really bad? Where do I find people like that? We’ve had these questions, and more, over the years. Here’s where we’ve found answers…
I heard the bus pull up at the end of our driveway and glanced at the wall clock. My kids were home from school and I had completely lost track of time. I jumped up to unlock the door and smiled widely at my three youngest sons. My 8 year old hugged my waist, my 9 year old threw his backpack across the family room, brushed off my hug and stomped to his room, slamming the door behind him. My 10 year old rolled his eyes and I put my hand on his shoulder to stop him, “Ok, spill it.” He sighed, “Noah wouldn’t leave him alone on the bus. He kept asking about his ‘real’ brothers and sisters. We asked him to stop but he wouldn’t. Noah asked why his ‘real’ mom didn’t want him and then it was time to get off the bus so we all just left.” “Thanks for telling me, I’m sorry that happened to you guys,” I squeezed his shoulder. He smiled a half smile as he looked up at me, “It’s ok, mom, some people just don’t get it.” In our family, we have 8 children all of whom were adopted. We don’t look alike. That fact is usually lost on us until someone else points it out.
Our society prides itself on titles, positions, rankings, and statistics. It’s how we identify pro-atheletes, leaders of major corporations, and our favorite sports teams. Often, it’s how we identify ourselves. But we have learned that, in our family, we are much more than a title.
Ok, Ok I understand our blog is called Confessions of an Adoptive Parent. It’s easy to think that we eat sleep and breathe adoption. Our title is a brand but it isn’t all that we are. Adoption, to us, is more like a surname. A last name is an identifier but it isn’t a person’s sole identity.
Traditions are a part of what solidifies the culture of each unique family. As foster and adoptive families, we have the important challenge of blending many different customs in to one new family unit. This holiday season, we’ve been asking ourselves and our children how we can honor our individuality while celebrating together.
When I was growing up, Holidays were full of family traditions. On Thanksgiving Day we traveled to my grandma’s house for dinner. We cleaned up together and then went for a walk around our little town. Even if it was freezing, you could count on a gaggle of Schultzes quite loudly making our way through the neighborhood. That evening my family would buckle into the Caprice Classic and only then, begin the non-stop Christmas music that would fill my ears until New Year’s Day. The next day, we would venture out to cut down the perfect Christmas tree. We didn’t start decorating until all family members were present and accounted for, Nat King Cole Christmas was on the record player and egg nog was properly chilled and poured into 6 decorative mugs.
“I have both adopted and biological kids and I find my bio kids often get lost in the shuffle of everything we deal with as an adoptive family. How do we support them and stay connected to them?”
We get this question ALL the time. Usually I’m thinking, “Hmmm good question, I don’t have any bio kids so I don’t know how to answer that.” Next, I’ll think, “I should really meet someone who has bio kids and ask them this question.” Then I say to myself, “Better yet, I should find a bio kid who was raised in an adoptive family and then I’ll ask the question.” This weekend my mom and I went to an adoption conference together and I kept introducing her and by saying, “This is my mom, she’s an adoptive mom too!”
The holidays can be a difficult season for children in foster care. It’s also an emotional time for the parents caring for them. But if this isn’t you, there’s still so much you can do that’s helpful. Here are some ideas on how others can serve families like ours during the holidays. Feel free to share this post with them. That’s why we wrote it…. 🙂
It was a chilly winter afternoon shortly following Thanksgiving. The nights were getting longer and the days chillier. My family was decorating the tree, drinking vegan egg-nog (yes, that is a real thing) and rocking to our Christmas playlist. The doorbell rang and six of my eight children ran to answer it. Stumbling over each other and laughing, they nearly fell into the door. Mike and I hollered from the other room, “Wait before you open it!” We scooped up our 3-year-old and went to see who our surprise visitor might be. I flipped on the front porch light and unlocked the door to see a family standing on our front step holding a brightly wrapped gift. Mentally I checked through my calendar. Oh no, this must be the family delivering the gift from my son’s biological father. I had completely forgotten. I extended my hand toward the mom and greeted her, welcoming her inside. She was friendly but seemed to feel uncomfortable. The dad shook our hands as well and their three teens smiled awkwardly at my kids.
When you’re part of a big family, you often face a big space problem. We’re routinely asked how we are able to have so many children and live in a small house. The answer? We create special space.
When I left for college, my younger brother moved into my room. Immediately. I’m not sure the over-packed van had pulled out of the driveway before he had all of my belongings stuffed into a cardboard box. I’m exaggerating of course but that is the nature of a large family. There is always someone next in line. Waiting for the coveted bedroom, hand-me-down jeans, or a turn driving the family car. I wouldn’t change the way I was raised for anything.
The world often looks at a child like mine, who suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), as a hopeless case. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. He is a warrior. And he is overcoming this disorder every single day!
My son sat slumped next to the front door in a defeated posture.
“What’s wrong kiddo?” I said. “We’re going to church and you won’t tie my shoe for me!” he shouted back. I jumped, surprised at his response. He hadn’t asked for help. To my knowledge, he hadn’t even been sitting there that long. I crouched down next to him. I almost yelled but remembered quickly that my son’s brain doesn’t work like other children, he has FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) and his frustration level goes from 0-60 without warning. I took a breath again and asked if I could show him how to do it with one shoe and he could do it with the other shoe. “No!” he shouted again. I stood up and calmly reminded him that shouting hurts my feelings, I would be happy to help when he was ready.