If one more person tells me how amazing I am for adding two more kiddos to my family through adoption, I will hurt something. Possibly the person who says it. I am not a hero, I am not wonder woman, I am not a saint.
Don't get me wrong--this adoption journey was hard. The ongoing transitions and changes in our family and in my life are not easy ones. They are GOOD, but they aren't easy. I won't sugarcoat anything and pretend it's all one big happy party. But I also won't go along with the idea that it's an act of sainthood, either.
It's an act of parenting. Parents take care of their kids, period. I'm hardly alone in this. Parents all over the globe make sacrifices and do hard things to care for their little ones. Often those hard things begin with carrying them in-utero for nine months, and going through physical pain to deliver them into the world. Sometimes those hard things involve social worker visits and flights halfway around the world. And sometimes those hard things even involve giving up that child so that he can have a life that you cannot provide--sometimes, just so the child can live, period. My hard things are my hard things. My children's birthparents have been through their own hard things to provide the best for these children. None of our hard things make any of us saints or sinners or victims or winners. Our collective hard things make us parents, and parents do what they have to do to ensure the safety and well-being of their babies.
My parents raised nine kids. They both worked around the clock. They kept us fed and clothed, they taught us the value of hard work & education, and somehow all nine of us grew up to be pretty decent people. Maybe it's their fault that I'm rejecting the medals for international adoption, because they set the bar too high. Thanks to them, I know that parents do what they have to do for their kids, almost always without applause or pats on the back.
I think what I'm saying is that I don't deserve any more recognition or praise than any other parent who is doing the best she can in her world. We all have our hard things. We all need support and help, and we all need to be a support and help. My hard things aren't any more noteworthy than a mother who puts off retirement to fund rehab for her son, a mom who takes parenting classes and attends support groups to ensure that the cycle of abuse she knew growing up ends with her, a parent who creates happy moments for her children while coping with marital infidelity and personal heartbreak.
It's not just parents, either. My hard things aren't any more heroic than a childless friend who cares for both of her aging parents, or an immigrant friend who works backbreaking manual labor all day and attends classes late into the night, or a friend who faces demons of addiction every day.
I'm uncomfortable with the praise not only because it's unfair, but because I've noticed that it doesn't help me be a better mom, or even just an ordinary good one.
When I gather my kids around the dinner table, I am NOT amazing. Definitely not heroic. They squabble; I yell. Any bad word you've ever heard my kids use, they probably learned from me. I get tired and lose my temper. If I even start, for one teeny minute, to believe things like "amazing," and "hero," I get so tense! I start to feel so much pressure to be those things, and I'm just NOT those things. That stress and pressure raises my expectations, for myself and for my kids, and that's pretty much a guarantee of failure. The negative cycle of perfectionism is toxic enough at my house; we don't need any help.
You know what does make me feel good, though? When people tell me I'm a fun mom, especially when my kids say it. I like being a fun mom. Fun moms smile. They laugh with their kids. Even if I'm not really much of a fun mom, when I'm told that I am, I try to live up to it.
I'm also okay being told that I'm brave. Parenting has ended up being one of the most courageous things I've ever done. It takes guts every single day. Some days it even takes guts just to get out bed. The ways that I am brave might be different from the ways that you are brave, but we can all acknowledge and praise our collective bravery.
It makes my heart happy when someone notices how much I love my kids. It motivates me to keep being loving, doing loving things, using loving words, giving lots of hugs and kisses.
I'm uncomfortable with praise for inheriting a pretty cushy situation. I live in a country where I will never have to make the choice to give up a child so that she can obtain the healthcare to keep her alive. I live in a country where I can attain the level of education I choose, for the types of employment I would like, so that international adoption can even be option for me. I live during a time when my fitness as a parent isn't unduly scrutinized because I am single, when I am not legally prohibited from adopting because of my marital status. I am blessed to be in a situation where I CAN have six kids if I want them. There are people who don't have that choice. I'm keenly aware that I am richly blessed, and 99% of those blessings were not earned.
That is one comment with which I will completely agree: I am oh-so-very blessed. I am blessed to have a wonderful Gracie-girl in my life, who is nearly as tall as I am, ultra-responsible & hard-working & fun. I am blessed with my sweet Mia, and her delightful sense of humor, quick wit, tender heart, and thoughtful nature. I am blessed to know Mercie, to see the world through her unique lens, appreciate her heart for all God's creatures, to stand in awe of her relentless determination to deal with challenges she faces. I am blessed with my little man, Eric--his sensitive and introspective nature, kind heart, keen intellect, and disciplined mind. I am newly blessed with Jack, non-stop bundle of energy, animated and outgoing, a little ray of sunshine. And I am blessed with Annie, my little snugglebug, who is content to spend an entire day soaking in loves.
On top of that, I am blessed with good people who love me and my family. Yes, blessed is a word I will definitely take.
Since many of those people I love and who love me right back are the ones who throw around the words of "amazing" and "hero," I suppose it would be kind of rude to ask them not to use those words.
So, let's make a deal: you can use those words for me, if I can use them for you. I won't use your names here on this blog, but you & I know who you are, and please, know that I think you are absolutely beyond amazing, and heroic in every way, as you:
- head back to school to complete your degree and show your kids it's never too late
- keep going to therapy for years and years, refusing to give up the effort to overcome scars of childhood sexual abuse, paying a price for someone else's sins
- call your sponsor when the urge for a drink comes
- participate in hours of grueling therapy and rehab every day to regain basic abilities that everyone takes for granted until they are gone
- put your adoption papers back in again after suffering the devastating loss of giving a child back
- accept that new foster placement and commit to love that child with your whole heart, whether it's for a day, a week, months, or years.
- support your wife through chemo, telling her she's beautiful and meaning every word.
- humble yourself enough to ask for others' prayers, so they can help share your burdens
- swallow your pride and head to the food bank, because your kids' tummies are more important than your ego.
- freely forgive those who have deeply hurt you.
- teach other people's children while longing for your own
- open your heart to love again after great loss
- take on frightening, overwhelming responsibilities at church because you believe God wants you to accept the call.
- follow what your heart knows is true, even when everyone around you disapproves.
- trim the grocery budget by $20 each month so you can help provide life-saving heart surgeries for orphans.
- tell your fiance about your eating disorder.
- love your spouse through years of bad decisions and poor judgement, never losing sight of all the worthwhile reasons you fell in love in the first place.
- share your talents and gifts freely with those around you