I've heard something like "you can be a hero once when you adopt, but from that point forward it's called parenting". Two and half years ago my husband and I adopted Judah (then 2.5) and Addise (then 11 months) from Ethiopia. Adopting never felt heroic. We don't believe we saved our kids from anything. Becoming their parents always felt like a gift, an obedience to a calling. These days it feels like parenting with as much obedience as we can muster on any given day.
Parenting adopted kids is no joke. Granted, parenting my biological 1 year old son is no joke either, but he hasn't come into our family with a host of deficits, needs, trauma, and core pain. Our biggies have and it manifests itself every day, whether we have the eyes to acknowledge it or now.
The nitty gritty truth of adoption is every aspect of adoption is painful, and will forever be painful. My sense is that "others" think after your adopted kids become a part of your forever family and you grit through those first blurry-eyed months of transition that your family is normal, just like regular families. It's not.
We just celebrated Mother's Day. It was over-the-top joyous for me, but there was a deep, unspoken, and unacknowledged ache in my heart as I remembered Judah and Addise's first mom. Every birthday is a reminder of what was given and then lost. Every time we're at the doctor and are asked questions about their history I have to shrug through my smile and I'm brought back to the unknown of my children's past.
We watched our "Meet-chya Day" video
for the first time with our kids this past Mother's Day. Judah was eerily quiet and confused. He was entranced while watching the first moments when our family was introduced. I know he was trying to process what was going on. I anticipate his questions in the days ahead.
Where are the pictures when I was a baby? Why were you crying, mama? Why was I wearing that girl shirt? Why was I born in Ethiopia? Is Addise my "real" sister? ... GULP.
A few months ago we had lunch at our local Ethiopian restaurant and our server, named Aster like our daughter's middle name, began asking questions to Judah in Amharic.
Aster: What's your name? Judah: My name is Judah.
Aster: Is she your older sister or younger sister? Judah: She's my little sister.
Aster: Do you want that to drink? Judah: Yes, I want the orange juice like them.
Aster: Thank you for coming here today. Judah: Thank you.
In a state of utter shock, I asked Aster if he really understood her: "Of course. Once he knows Amharic, it's always in there." she nonchalantly replied. I could hardly process what was happening. My son lived in Ethiopia for 2 1/2 years and has been home for nearly the same amount of time. For nearly half his life he's barely heard Amharic. But it all rushed back to the surface.
It's different with our daughter. She doesn't have the conscious memories, she has visceral wounds. She's oddly clingy and frequently reverts back to baby-like behaviors. Recently, she's been fearful of us leaving her. Her reactions to discipline are disproportionate. These are the wounds she carries and we have the opportunity to help her heal through.
These reminders of their loss and trauma and past are all too often. Many days we just are doing our parenting/life thing and then a trigger will pop up from no where. Some days we feel like a normal family (whatever that is) and then reality smacks us across our face. And we are humbled at the privilege and responsibility of parenting our children in and through their whole story.
This is why I'm so excited about Idea Camp in September. Adoption is a privilege, a calling worth giving our life to but we need support and we need others to get it with us so we don't have to explain every single thing. Parenting is exhausting enough without having to educate the world.
I'm not sure I can attend/participate at Idea Camp Human Care this September (ya know, with the "3 kids 5 years and under" thing), but I certainly hope you can. These are good people. Smart people. Humble people. Active people who are as committed to listening and question-asking as they are to doing something. I trust founder/CEO, Charles Lee
, and believe this conversation is important not just to the Church but to our lives.