Monday, February 3, 2014

A Break from Ordinary

what is he thinking?

Most of the time, my children do not want to talk about being adopted. They'd like to go about their normal lives and just pretend that we are just an ordinary family who are all the same color thank you very much. And most of the time, I am relieved, because talking about their adoption and about how we are different colors is exhausting and often makes me cry. So for the past several months, we've gone about our lives- school and snow storms and renovations and arguments about screen time and on and on...

But this week, for reasons unknown to us, our son has said a few things that prompted me to think that we need to talk more about being adopted.  First of all, we had last weekend's eye opening conversation. Read it here. Then, Daniel says something to Andrew about being replaceable. As in, if he was lost, would we "just adopt" another boy? And just yesterday, Daniel asked me which orphanage I lived in when I was a little girl. He was disappointed when I reminded him that I lived and grew up with Grandma and Grandpa.

I'm glad to have these reminders that we are not just another ordinary family.  We had gotten too comfortable pretending.

So tonight I sat Daniel on my lap and read him his life story. He pretended not to want to hear it. He pretended to climb off the chair and run away. But he also sat back into my chest and nodded when I asked him if I should keep going. His story, as he said once, is a sad story.  Reading it I tried not to cry, and failed. Daniel said, "Stop crying! I'm going to be embarrassed."  I said, "I'll try."

In telling Daniel his story I try to get him to understand that he is not replaceable. I try to get him to recognize that it was a terrible tragedy that led him to lose his first family, and not because he wasn't wanted or loved.  I want him to hear me when I say how much he is loved and wanted and treasured.  I try to help him understand just how special his story is.  But I know that he will probably not truly internalize those truths until he is an adult.  My loving words fall into a deep, deep space inside him.

I'm telling you, the whole wide web, this intimate family story because I want more people to understand just how hard adoption is for children. Just how tragic and terrifying it is. Yes, life saving and life changing and trans formative, but also, a sad story.

Occasionally someone will say to me about my children, "how lucky they are." Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The only luck they had was in getting adopted at all, and not having to grow up in an orphanage.

I am the lucky one.

Ethiopia is slowly closing their international adoption program. I have very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand,  it is certain that many, too too many children were wrongfully taken from their families and "sold" into adoption. On the other hand, too too many children will now suffer, die or grow up to live limited lives in care centers. There is nothing worse for a child than to grow up without a family.  I can only hope that more families will stay intact, or that more children will be adopted within the country.  I'm hoping that when we visit Ethiopia this Spring, we will go to find Daniel and Lily's old care center empty and shuttered.  Those hopes are fairly thin.

Ah! You might be saying... What can I do?! I hate crying over all these sad stories! What can I do to help?! 

Well, you might donate money to one of the many, many organizations all over the world that are helping children stay with their families or work to prevent the causes of orphaning in the first place. Heifer International, The Fistula Foundation, Heartline Ministries Haiti and Ethiopia Reads are four that we donate to regularly. Or, you might sponsor a child at risk of being orphaned through one of the many organizations that helps children attend school, get good health care and clean drinking water. We sponsor four Ethiopian children through Food for the Hungry.

Or, you can find out ways to support families at risk closer to home. Tragedies and orphans don't just happen far away in Africa...

But even if you do nothing more, even if all you did was read this, thank you. I am the lucky one.

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