Friday, August 30, 2013

Birth Moms

     I swear that the kids save up their most awkard ("Mom, where do you catch the baby out of?), embarrassing ("LOOK! That man looks like Chunk!) and heart stopping (see below) conversations for when Ryan is at work.  I get to be the one to fumble, usually tearfully, through these moments with them.
     To be honest, Blake has been a stinker this week.  That kid is either really, really good or really, really bad.  Luckily, he's usually great.  Not so much this week.  Being the instigator that he is, Blake had managed to get his brothers naked, screaming and running circles around the dining room table.  At one point, I hollered in my toughest voice something about birthing Blake into this world and taking him back out of it.  Don't judge.  You weren't herding loud, nude boys.
     A short while later, as I was lathering lotion on the now clean, naked boys, Ezekiel began to cry.  Really big tears rolled down his soft cheeks.  Sweet boy said in his deep voice
"Mommy, I don't know if I am supposed to love you or my birth mommy more."
     Oh my heart.  I wrapped him in the biggest mommy hug I could and rocked him.  I told him that there is room enough to love us both.  That sometimes he may not want to love her at all and that's okay.  That sometimes he may not want to love me and that's okay too.  He just cried harder and said
"Keep hugging me, Mommy."
     I reminded my Zeke that his birth mom could not give him clean water or food or a safe place to live.  He asked if she was dead and I was honest.  I said I didn't know, that only God really knew.  I said that it really stinks that we don't know for sure but that we do know for sure that I am his real, forever mama.  That God made us family.  Then Molly, whom by this time was rubbing Ezekiel's back, said
"Zeke, remember how God loves us all so much? Remember how He doesn't love some people more than others?  You can have a different kind of love for both your mamas and it doesn't have to be more or less."
     She rocks that big sister thing.  I realized later that my lame comment about birthing Blake must have stuck in sweet Zeke's head.  Ugh.  I always knew that this conversation would come up.  This is one that I've said over and over to myself, in my head.  But saying it aloud to my son as his big body shook with tears wasn't something that I could ever really prepare for.  It's the sin of the world that there are orphans.  That birth moms can't or won't keep their children.  But then there is that thing called grace. Once again,  I was reminded how sacred and precious and-holy cow!-huge this life we live is.  How blessed I am to be the one to guide their little hearts to Him.  
Molly walked Ezekiel to kindergarten but he would not let her hold his hand. Sniffle, sniffle.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013


    This week commemorates the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's"I have a dream" speech.  I know you all know that.  What I also know is that some of you don't have is the perspective that I do; raising black children in the United States.  I'm not gonna lie.  The footage of Lincoln memorial, the images of Birmingham, Alabama, the words of Dr King's message, they all rock me to my core.  This is more than my country's ugly history; it's raw and real to me in ways I didn't previously understand.  Let me tell you why.
    Earlier this summer, from the back of the mini van, Etienne said "I don't think a lot of vanilla people like brown people."  Out of the clear blue sky.  We were seriously on the way to my brother's house.  Hadn't been in public, Ryan and I hadn't had any lively debates on racism.  The television was off.  This kind of statement, though we thought that we had prepared ourselves for it, shocked us and saddened us.  Our son is around other African Americans but he does not live in a predominately African American part of the country.  Our son is routinely around a community of trans racially adopted kids.  Yet he feels racism.  He doesn't have words for it or even a moment that he can pin point.  He just feels it.  Doesn't that make your stomach churn?  He is first grader in a middle class family surrounded by a lot of hipster educated, typically PC, sometimes pompous but always well meaning people.  Unbeknownst to E, his statement happened the same time that the jury reached a verdict on the Trayvon Martin trial.  I was already wondering if Etienne and Ezekiel how we would counsel our beautiful brown boys on image and style and racial profiling.  My heart hurt to know that someday, when my beautiful boys were young men, there would be people that would be judge them for their skin color.  Etienne's comment has haunted me since.
     Here's the other thing.  I know many white Americans believe that racism is pretty much dead.  I think that there are many people, even those that I love, that have cutesy Pinterest "Love is blind" pins and they listen to JayZ and they believe that all Americans have equality.  But being "color blind" is only avoiding that although Dr King's dreams are almost realized, we aren't quite there yet.  
      Last night, as Ryan and I were tucking Etienne into bed, he began to cry.  He said "I wish I looked like everyone else, Mom.  Some kids don't like my hair.  And I don't feel like the blonde kids don't like me."
Probably some of the worst words my child could say.  There is absolutely nothing that I could do to really fix this or to comfort him.
    So I told him that a long time ago, I began to know with all my being that God had extra special plans for Etienne.  I said that there was purpose in his struggles.  I told my E that right now his heart is a squishy ball of play dough. That God is just squeezing and shaping Etienne's play dough heart so that when the time comes, his heart will have more space to fit in all the other people in the world that have hurt and trials like him. Then I just held him and cried with him.
     Blake was on the bunk above us, hearing this conversation. He skittered on down and laid himself flat on Etienne.  Then he took E's face in his hands and he said
"E, don't you know that you are the strongest kid in the school?  You can run faster then everyone else.
"E, you can see your muscles without even trying. And your eyebrows catch sweat so you can see the football."
     Thank God for brothers. Thank God that Blake could meet Etienne where he was; speaking on his brother's level.  Our tears quickly turned to giggles.  Sigh.  
     It get's messier. This morning, Molly laid her head on my lap and sobbed. She sobbed because her heart broke to know that her brother felt racism, that her "ancestors" persecuted others, that she can not do a whole lot about any of it.  The boys, meanwhile, were engrossed in MLK Jr's son on the Today show; whether he was "kind of strong or kind of fat?"  All this before 8 AM.
     So you could argue that Etienne is just insecure (which he is, duh.).  You could say that I am more sensitive (of course I am, you would be too.).  But the fact is that my son's perception is that he is disliked because he is African American.  And that is the problem, isn't it?
     I will continue to acknowledge Etienne's feelings when he believes that he is judged by his skin tone.  I won't ever be that mom that gives false assurance on things I don't  know full well.  But I will tell Etienne that I know kids like him because he is the one to tie their shoes, to sit next to them when they are alone, to be a friend to them when they are lonely.  I will tell him that he is wanted, that he is loved and he is his Father's child.  And that he has the biggest, squishiest play dough heart ever.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Other Shoe.

     We've been waiting for the other shoe to drop since returning from Rwanda.  And guess what?  It hasn't.  That stinkin' shoe hasn't even slipped loose.
     For real.  Pinch me.  There have been countless moments when I have thought to myself "this is the best summer we have had since 2009!"  I can't tell you how many times my eyes have welled up with tears as Ryan and I sit on our red bench, watching our kids play baseball or catch fire flies.  I have not sat on the steps outside the boys' room, crying, once this summer (since '09, I would almost nightly collapse in tears next to Ryan on those stairs).  We are entering our last week of summer here...I think it's safe to say that we stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop.
     There is zero logic in our plan. Zero.  Who goes to the other side of the world to find healing for their son's hurt heart?  We haven't gone to therapy, there aren't any new supplements or theories or attachment techniques.  It's just another chapter that God has written in Etienne's life.  And I am so, so thankful for this illogical twist.
     We still have our wet beds, our crashing into everything, our general random-weird-post institution behavior.  But the dark, flat stares, the manipulating lies, the hurtful actions are nothing like what we've survived in the past.
     Part of it is that I have embraced that my E will never function  like other kids.  Don't judge-let me explain.  For example,  I know Etienne's cues these days and I'm meeting him where he's at.  If he's been out of his comfort zone, over stimulated or tired, it doesn't work to try to snuggle him or even to have him nap.  Instead, we've taken to running together.  The physical exercise helps him regulate himself as well as taking him away from the stimuli (or the grown up that is low on patience).  So when he's starting to do flips off the furniture (I'm not kidding) or laughing his high pitched tired scream, I make him run five laps around the perimeter of the house.  Corporal punishment? Nope, he likes it and we call it "preseason conditioning."
     School starts soon.  E says he could "stay in summer forever."  I'm not gonna lie; I have my own fears about him returning to sitting in a desk, in a classroom with people that don't know his heart.  I get nervous to think that the expectations of the school are going to be really, really challenging for him.  But then I go the grocery store and another mother tells me that E was always the boy that tied her son's shoes.  Or we work in the school garden and his old teacher shares how he always offered to pray for his classmates.  And I know God is using my E in that public school to bring Him glory.
      I think back to a few months ago, when we were so afraid of the aftermath of going to Africa.  And that aftermath has been the best summer of our lives: a swimming, books, ice cream, tan lines, s'mores, road trips, fire flies,  bare feet kinda summer.  It was worth it.  The last four years of feeling like we were just hanging on.  They have been worth every moment we have savored this summer.  So bring on first grade! (Gulp.)