Thursday, November 1, 2012

what adoption has taught me

Welcome to November! Halloween is over, pumpkin patches have been visited and pumpkins carved. Costumes have been relegated to the toy box and left over Halloween candy is being doled out two pieces at a time to my young boys. I have pulled out my  annual Christmas planner and updated it. I don't plan to decorate or think much about the holiday just yet but getting out the binder and refreshing the pages just somehow relaxes me. Knowing that I am prepared and ready to organize my family for the always busy holiday season assures that I don't miss a thing. There are so many family friendly activities and events that I don't want to miss, gift ideas I don't want to forget, special dinners I want to plan. Organization is the key to a peaceful holiday season, at least for me. But enough about my Christmas planner.

Before the tree goes up and wrapping paper comes out we have November. A month to be thankful. November is also National Adoption Month. A month for being thankful and a month to celebrate adoption. Now that I can get behind. What am I thankful for? You guessed it - adoption.

Throughout this month I will be sharing my thoughts on adoption, as well as re-posting older adoption essays. (After all, the holidays are right around the corner so time is tight...) To start with, though, I want to share with you what I have learned through our adoption journey.

I have learned that raising children is difficult, no matter how the little monsters  sweeties came into your family.

I have learned that when my Big Five Year Old tells me no one  likes him at school I immediately go to the adoption guilt. Does he feel "different"? Are the other children making fun of his smushed little nose? Has he been asked about why his eyes are slanted or why his little brother doesn't look like him? I know that the other children at school like to play with my son. I know that he has friends. I know that every day is not going to be a good day. And I know that most likely his day to day issues with school have nothing to do with adoption. But I can tell you that as an adoptive parent, I go to the well of adoption guilt every time. Every. Single. Time.

I have learned that love isn't always forged through breastfeeding and co-sleeping. Sometimes it blossoms among matchbox cars and silly songs about cats throwing up.

I have learned that every day is a gift. Now I know that biological parents feel this as well. And if they don't, they should. Because every day with our kids truly is a gift. But when you try so hard to start a family, go through miscarriages and hormone treatments and shots and painful and intrusive medical procedures, that child finally placed in your arms is a Gift with a capital G. I miss my clean house and my orderly life and quiet time with my sweet husband, and I would give my right arm for a good babysitter, yes. But give up the little every day moments with my two crazy kids? No way. Every day thankful, that is what I am.

I have learned that the general public is way more outgoing than I am. I would never consider asking a total stranger a question like "How much did your son cost?" or "Why didn't you just have your own kids?" But the world is full of people unlike me, and that is what makes it such an amazing place, right? And I have learned grace from each and every one of those stupid questions. Maybe my answers provide lessons for the busy bee who asked, but maybe their questions provide me a lesson on handling myself with grace and dignity.

I have learned that my children don't have to share my DNA to be a lot like me. My oldest son frequently cannot look past something he doesn't enjoy but is forced to participate in because someone else in the family enjoys it. He works himself up to the point that he cannot find even one thing he could be enjoying in the moment. I do this. Just ask my husband about the time I cried at the thought of going to the Brown's game on a super cold, super snowy day. My youngest son has my short temper. Did I teach them these behaviors? Were they born this way? Who knows. All I know is this; these aren't two children who are nothing like me. These are my sons, and they do share some of my traits.

I have learned that these are the children I was meant to parent. God placed these boys in my path for a reason. As I have said before, my children aren't Plan B. I cannot tell you how many times I have been told, "Now that you have adopted you will surely get pregnant."  Believe me, after bringing home a baby, getting pregnant was the last thing on my mind. Adopting was not some convoluted way to conceive. These boys were meant to be in my life. They need me. And I need them.

I have learned patience. Waiting for the right time to submit the paperwork. Waiting on documents. Waiting on a referral. Waiting on travel orders. Waiting on the van that broke down while bringing me my sweet Chinese son. Adoption has taught me patience. As has parenting, right? Who hasn't tapped their foot impatiently while mini me runs around the house looking for his other shoe or favorite stuffed baby animal?

I have learned that post adoption depression is a very real thing. It is energy sucking and works against bonding with your new little one. I have learned more about this than I care to know.

I have learned to ask for help. Prior to having kids I was relatively self sufficient. Now it seems as though I am always seeking advice. How to approach adoption questions in school. How to handle toddler behavior issues. How to bond with a new little one when the older one still needs my attention.

I have learned the importance of community. My son's China play group, as he calls it, has been a life saver. Sure, it is good for him to grow up surrounded by families that look like ours. But it has been an amazing experience for me as well. These other mothers, they get me. They face many of the same issues with their children, and they frequently offer a listening ear and thoughtful advice.

I have learned to trust God. To trust my inner voice. One and the same, I guess. I have learned that adoption is an amazing, difficult and fulfilling journey. And I have learned that I would do it all over again, of course. And I wouldn't change a thing.

What has your adoption journey taught you?

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