Can We Honor Our Adopted Kids By Honoring Their Birth Parents?

They gave us her picture.

Right there amidst the triple copies of court documents and health histories.

Right there, in the beigeochromatic box of a family services conference room.

Without anticipation or expectation, she was suddenly staring back at us. The black and white printout clearly taken from a state database, grainy and overexposed with shadow.

Even so, she looked out with her round cheekbones and the exact eyebrows of her/my son.

20180801_224419

Lately I’ve been wondering what it looks like to honor our adopted sons and how we can allow them to grow with the most unfractured spirits possible.

The more I allow all possibilities to that question, the more my heart chases the whisper that the answer lies in honoring their birth parents.

Can we create invitations for their spirits to be as unfractured as possible as they carry the knowledge or heartache or shame they couldn’t offer enough safety/sobriety/nurture to their children?

20180801_230837

The wind keeps whirling this idea back to me.

Honor our children by honoring their birth parents. Give them all a chance to be whole.

20180801_225451

I hate this because it requires emotional elasticity from me.

Do I have the energy to choose the harder way? Do I believe love expands infinitely and is expressed in infinite ways? Do I believe parenting is the long game based on small actions now? Can I find the tension between rock-solid boundaries and liquid scoopfuls of grace?

I hate this because it runs counter-intuitive to a mother’s blind rage to protect at all costs.

Didn’t they have their chance?! And yet…the longer I am in this foster care world, the more I believe it is a child’s right to know about and know their birth family (in the increments it remains safe and emotionally healthy for the child.)

I hate this because I have to crush my ego and my desire to reduce complexities into binaries I can label “good” or “bad”.

I do not get the luxury of seeing time in a vacuum without the deep realities of our American history and how race, cyclical poverty, blocked access to education, and current politics play heavily into why I sit at a table telling the state I legally promise to be Nurture Mommy while Birth Mom remains as voiceless as her pixelated picture.

20180801_230003

I allow myself the freedom to not have answers right now. There is no map.

For now, there is time.

For now, we focus on all children in our home feeling attached and safe. For them to believe they belong, are chosen, and known.

For now, I slide that paper with her picture onto the top of the pile knowing what a treasure it will be in the discussions to come with her/my boys.

20180801_231301

Dear Daughter, So The Bullies Came Today

Hey there, Big Sis.

I want you to know I see you trying to navigate fourth grade and I see how much emotional energy it requires. I see how you give to this family. I see how the storyline isn’t focused on you very often and how graciously you allow space for that. I see how you are an old soul trapped in a child’s body and suffer fools constantly. I see you.

I see the attentiveness you give your four younger siblings. (Thanks for slipping Little Sister’s library book into her backpack today, by the way. TK library day is not on my radar.) You’re always so observant of others to meet their needs. Perhaps that’s why it stings a little sharper when peers cannot reciprocate.

Do you know the way you notice details and anticipate needs is a gift?

Last night you shared the names they are calling you at school. Whispered breaths just beneath the teacher’s ear. Mocking comments in a passing line. Fellow fourth graders weaponizing “smart” and slinging as an insult to cut you down.

Even as I imagined slapping nine-year-olds, even as we gave statistics for why and when girls stop speaking up during class, even as we validated the raw hurt of your feelings, you offered such empathy and insight.

But I hope you know you never have to justify your mistreatment because another person is threatened by your intellect.

Let me tell you a secret, my love. They will come for you for being “too smart” and they will come for “not smart enough” and they will come for you for “wrong jeans” and they will come for having the “right jeans”. There is no escape. No matter what, the critics will come.

While this is not a new road of hurtful words to navigate, I am still heartbroken I do not get to fix it for you. I cannot shadow you. I cannot be there to intervene. We do our best to teach and tend to you at home then have to stand back and watch you enter your own arena.

Honestly, I’m not concerned how you respond. Ignore them. Confront them. Roll your classic eye roll. Punch them in the throat.

Whatever you do, just remember they do not have a say in your worth. Do not question your giftings. You have been hand-crafted and ingeniously created by the Designer of the Milky Way.

Smarts happens to be your gifting. Your brain is lightning. Your gifts are your superpower. Use them! Give them! Never be ashamed of them. That is the award. Not the hundred percent math tests or standing for school-wide writing accolades. Those are periphery.

The gift is living within the flow of who you are and not apologizing for it and not diminishing. In your young-heartedness, you already do this without holding back. Do not let their names and mean whispers teach you to withdraw. Do not shy away from being fully who you are. I watch you live and could weep with how you are teaching me to do the same.

Of course, you know our family does not care one lick if you are the smartest kid in class or if you come home with post-tests covered in red marks.

We care that you are the one sitting next to the new girl from Saudi Arabia being a friend in a new country.

We care that you follow through with your responsibilities to lead recess games with the kindergarteners even after your peers bail.

We care that you carry your sister’s lunch box every morning to lighten her load and listen to your brother’s stories under the oak tree every afternoon.

God, sweet girl you are strong. Do you know that? Shine on, my fiercely smart, fiercely kind girl. You, my preteen daughter, are fire and magic and all that is the best of us and you better believe I will hitch my wagon of hope for the future to you every dang time.

Response To World Amok? Let The Soul Self Steer.

I want the real things of life. I want to sprint toward the shimmering edges, where the veil between the sacred there and the holy here meet.

Can I not just lose myself in the tasks of daily life with littles? Can I not just placate my hungry soul with the purchase of an Anthropologie candle? No. I have tried that already.

I wonder if anyone else is dishing up applesauce and wiping down highchairs thinking these thinks or feeling these feels. Aren’t we all just trying to make it through the day and find that one skillet dinner the whole family will enjoy? We are.

And also . . .

There is the undercurrent of our lives. That true self. That soul self deep inside gently asking to emerge.

I am discontented to not let that self steer the family wagon. What wild inconvenience. What wonderful trajectory.

But when the whole world feels like it serves only platters of anger or numbness on menu, how do we navigate? When all we consume during the day is the dissonance of people and media and worry and genuine rage and fear, what do we do for those of us who acutely feel it all? How are we a bridge without being stepped on? How do we proceed with both our day to day and our big picture?

If you’re anything like me, you probably need to return to nature and playfulness and time with your people to recenter yourself. You probably need moments to remember what you truly believe inside.

20170913_172047

We pile backpacks by the door with abandon and speed away from usual after school routine for the beach. I need the spaciousness of sea and sky. I need to feel the sting of the cold water on my shins and sliding sand on my toes. I need grounding.

20171026_121036

I come to hear laughter gurgle out of my kids. The sound of healing.

I come to disconnect myself from the dissonance on my screen.

I come to connect my daily task self with my silly self with my introspective self. I am all these personas at once.

I come to drink in the beauty of nature, sloppy greedy gulps as the antidote of an empathetic person living in a world on fire. I take in the beauty and exhale yes. I wait at the water long enough for the warm autumn winds to dry my hair and long enough to craft a creed.

Yes, I still believe people are good inside.

Yes, I still believe people want opportunities to express generosity to others.

Yes, I still believe we get to be hope for others.

20171022_172040

I watch the ocean move and am reminded this is the way of our lives. There is what can be seen on the surface, choppy wave or calm current, then there are entire realms still becoming known below. Like the ocean, we can hold the tension of both. We can attend to the daily tasks and tend to the deeper ponderings within. We can live among the clashes and still have peace inside.

When I forget, I come back to the water as physical reminder. So often I retreat into my head and my heart – which is good and needed – more and more I am finding I need to birth that inward life into physical expressions. Do you have a process for your processing?

I leave you with a poem I have tucked into my pocket lately. It is wisdom poetry from Sue Monk Kidd. I hope you will find as much treasure in it as I have.

To be fully human, fully myself,

To accept all that I am, all that you envision,

This is my prayer.

Walk with me out to the rim of life,

Beyond security.

Take me to the exquisite edge of courage

And release me to become.

Roadtripping to Reclaim Our Skin

 

A myth has been following me in the way Mother Universe and Auntie Time will place a theme repeatedly before us until curiosity can’t turn away. It is the myth of the Seal Skin – a mythical creature from the sea trades her seal skin for a life on land, becomes a mother then makes hard choices and goes on a journey to reclaim her seal skin as passage to return to her origins and share that part of her with her child. Now, if that’s not a direct translation to motherhood, I’m not sure what is.

Over the past few years, I’ve been on a search for my own misplaced seal skins.

This summer, my oldest three and I drove from San Diego to Yellowstone and back. The unexpected happiness was discovering previously lost seal skins all along the way. Over two-thousand miles of KidzBop, Chexmix, loose expectations, and national parks, and each mile a reclamation of parts of me that have been missing or dormant.

20170809_101420IMG_20170817_135323_286

Here’s what I know:

This earth is so, so beautiful. Take notice. Let it overwhelm you. Then use it up. 

The land. The sky. The people. Do you ever get overwhelmed at the sheer beauty of it all and whoosh an exhale when you didn’t even realize you had been holding your breath? The canyons and clouds are poetry just be being and I receive it in awe. But as a favorite current theologian of mine, Butler Bass, says, awe in itself is not the point of spirituality. “Awe is the gateway to compassion.” I love that.

20170809_123250

 

The gift really is the journey, not the destination as annoyingly trite as that truth sounds. 

I love not knowing exactly what the day holds. I love having a destination point, but filling in the details as we go. I love unexpected finds along the way and being surprised by the joy of it all. Road trips birth free-form  filling a day in a way the structured routine of our daily life simply cannot.

IMG_20170812_201736_907-2

Making decisions on the fly…seal skin.

Honestly? Making authoritative decisions without checking in with another person at all…seal skin.

Taking detours to explore new experiences…seal skin.

Saying yes to the fun of hotel swims before breakfast and unlimited fruit snacks…seal skin.

Curiosity. Playfulness. Seal skin. Space for introspection and perspective. Seal skin.

IMG_20170810_083731_391

So the trick is translating all the life-giving forms back into our everyday life. I don’t have all the answers yet. But I have been given the gift of remembering what it is like to reclaim parts of me that have been gone and for that I will maintain gratitude and renewed fervor to be wholly me to my family and not fade into a role, because what they don’t need is a generic mommy/wife figure. What they need is a wholly, vibrant ME swimming in my seal skin and showing them the mystical lands available to experience themselves.

 

I’m going to continue on this journey. I’m going to try.

Have you misplaced your seal skin?  I hope you, too, will search to reclaim it and use it to dive into the deep beyond.