I travel often for work. Enough that the whole experience is a fairly routine one for me. Airports, car rentals, hotel rooms, even long security lines and flight delays — I’m fairly numb to it all now. It’s just a means to the end of getting where I need to go. However, a recent trip to Chicago was anything but routine. My oldest daughter came along with me and it changed the entire dynamic.
I’m learning to release the beliefs in this life that once kept me tethered. Perhaps, the most confining of these beliefs was the one that placed a large amount of importance on what others might think of me.
I’ve spent a good part of my life in work that goes hand-in-hand with public critique and opinion: television ratings and rankings, book reviews, and feedback down to the color of my blouse. It’s part of the territory.
I’ve been told that I’m too humble with my words; that my writing needs more sex appeal and less God appeal. I’ve been judged, by some, for being an adoptee who has also adopted. And, judged, by others, for writing books that express a beauty in adoption. I’ve been celebrated for my writing, and I’ve been castigated. I’ve learned a lot about life, through the experiences of both.
Imagine being scared everyday of your life as you wonder which one of the kids would get a beating. Would it be me this time? Would I have to hide in my room while dad beats up mom, as I worry whether she would live through this one? Did I clean the house well enough? Was dinner good? Are the kids behaving or would I have to take a beating for one of them? Will mom and/or dad even make it home from the bar tonight?
If you could have your perfect day, what would it look like? Would your day be filled with the rush of business matters, making phone calls, or ticking away at that to-do list? Would you disappear from sight and take to binging on social media?
What would you do?
I pose this question to myself, as well, as we welcome in the month of June. Summer is upon us; kids are getting out of school and I sense the excitement of an expansion in time. The days are longer, and I even get a break from filling school lunch boxes in the early morning hours! This, alone, fills me with an anticipation equivalent to that of flying off to some tropical island! There’s just something about the summer months and the marvelous thought of slowing down.
I’m a mother to a beautiful child. She’s everything I had always hoped she would be, and more. My love for her is rich and deep and unconditional. I cherish our family vacations and visits to the park, and I especially enjoy watching my daughter dance. But, it wasn’t always that way. I was once an empty, heartbroken young woman who had lost two babies to miscarriage. Back then, I feared I would never become a mom. Adoption changed that, and even more importantly, it taught me a thing or two about love. Here is what I have learned:
Difficult to place.
These are the three words that social workers used to describe me while in the care of the United Kingdom’s foster care system. In other words, these three little words equaled one giant judgement about my worth. The social worker assigned to my case believed that finding a family for a child like me would be, yes, difficult.
I was seen as “illegitimate” and “ethnic” within the system. My foster papers described me as the “extra-marital daughter” of a woman who indulged in an affair with a “dark man.” Adding, “The child is dark, like her father.”
“It’s not safe”. I think that is what I would tell you if you were looking to foster or adopt. I’m not sure that this would be a good slogan for an adoption agency, but after walking this path, I’d think a warning is in order.
I would want to tell you that if you choose this path, you will never be the same. You will no longer look at the orphan crisis as a statistic, you will suddenly look at it as a thumb sucking, 1 year old in a diaper and onesie plopped into your lap at 11 pm at night. Eyes wide and filled with fear, you and this tiny ‘orphan crisis’ will face this storm together. Suddenly, it all takes on a name and a dirt-smudged face.
May is National Foster Care Month. As a former foster child, as well as an international adoptee, I’m often asked about my nationality. In other words, people are curious as to where I originated, what my heritage is and to whom I once belonged.
Believe me, I have been — in my lifetime — ultra curious about these things, as well. In fact, the journey of discovery has taken me along paths to unknown destinations, and to unknown parts of myself.
The experience of seeking out adoption truth is like putting together a puzzle with vital pieces missing. Empty holes. Empty spaces. Those hollow places in the heart; caverns created by loss.
How much are we willing to sacrifice in an effort to put back the pieces of a shattered-self? What are we willing to risk? How can we revive the dormant parts of who we once were, as adoptees, prior to being removed from our first lives?
Last year, a couple of weeks before Christmas while my husband and I were out shopping, he turned to me and said, “Why don’t we just adopt a child from Syria?” His statement was due—in large part—to the current and ongoing refugee crisis and a result of reading and viewing horrific news almost daily about families forced to flee their homelands for safety. My husband obviously knows that there’s no such thing as “just” adopting, but he was expressing his solution to a need.
I study the effect of media on children and families and recently finished a study on the effect of the superhero and princess culture on children. If you have ever been around a preschool child, you know that both superheroes and princesses are very popular with this age group. In fact, many children this age say that they would like to be a superhero or a princess when they grow up. I’ve pondered on how being a superhero or a princess might relate to our royal identity and what this might mean for the way we see ourselves in an eternal light.