Thursday, December 31, 2015
For the last twenty years I have perpetually been adding titles to help me define myself.
In 1996 I added the title "wife" (Pastor's wife, even) and "foster mom" to my self-description after 32 years of being single. During that year we relocated from the Twin Cities to a very rural two point-charge, my husband graduated from seminary, was ordained in the United Methodist Church (previously having been a Wesleyan pastor), and married me all in three weeks time. Three months later a 20 month old foster son moved into our home and we became parents for the first time.
In 1997 we became foster parents to another little boy and several others who came and went. We were now a family of four -- with two boys under 3 that were 14 months a part. They were caucasian, looked like us, and looked alike, so other than wondering why we had our children so close together, we appeared normal.
In 1998 we decided to adopt. We added two boys, 11 and 8, to our family. We added the title "adoptive parents" and "parents of kids with special needs." We added to our lives acronyms like RAD, FASD, ODD, and IEP. It was one of our most challenging years.
In 1999 we decided adoption was so often we wanted to do it again. Twice. In February, a sibling group of 3 Hispanic children, our first (and only) two girls and their older brother, and in November we added a son, biracial, to our family and declared, "8 is enough!). We added "trans-racially adoptive parent" to our list of titles as well as "parents to daughters.
In 2000 I added the title "adoption professional" as I started my first adoption related job. It has led to many great opportunities and the introduction to so many great people.
In 2001 we added the title "International adoptive parent" to the mix as we headed to Guatemala to pick up another son. We also added "parent to a developmentally delayed child" and "parent to a child who doesn't speak English" to the ever growing list of ways to define us. We learned about ESL and how to communicate in unique ways. While at the orphanage we met another little boy and asked if we could adopt him but we were told by the orphanage staff that the son we were picking up was the hardest child they had had in the orphanage in 25 years. They told us that if we did OK with him for a year we could come back for another.
In 2004 we went back to Guatemala. Our first son from there sized up the competition and decided he would never be naughtiest in our family and settled right in. So we went back for another. And even though it is not a title, we became parents to a child who seldom talked. THAT was new for us.
The years between 2004 and 2007 were riddled with difficult issues amongst our large number of then teenage children, but when we learned about two Vietnamese brothers in Texas in 2007 who had no special needs, we were intrigued. We adopted them to complete our family of twelve and were shocked to find out that it was true. Compliant, helpful, and easy to parent. They were, and are, a special kind of joy. All of our children are magnificent in their own way, but neurotypical was a blessing.
In 2009 we started to have grandchildren and now have 5 with twin girls to be born any day. I have been an adoption professional for 15 years and will officially begin my job as Chief Program Officer at Patrick Henry Family Services on Monday. It is the intention of this blog to consolidate my thoughts in an attempt to pass on any wisdom I have learned from being a part of any of the subgroups listed above. I hope to share with parents and professionals tidbits that have come my way as a result of my own journey.
So before closing my very first entry, I want to share with you the concept that there is always the next chapter and that it can begin immediately. Wherever you are in your journey, you can choose to end the chapter and start another one. Whether it is a personal chapter you aren't enjoying (like being unhealthy, or not praying enough), a parenting journey (entrenched in power struggles with a child), or a professional journey (letting resentment towards a coworker ruin your effectiveness) you can end that chapter now. You, along with God, are the author of your story.
So I encourage you today as I embark on my next chapter, to embark on a new chapter of your own. It's the perfect day to do it -- it's the last day of 2015. Time for a new beginning.
Join me on my next adventure. I look forward to being part of your next chapter as well. (Note, I love comments and interacting with my readers).