Tuesday, March 14, 2017

100% Parent

I'm sure I've told this story here before, but I'll tell it again because it is worth repeating.

We met Ashley four days before Christmas.  We picked her up from a children's home in a town nine hours away from ours.  We stayed in a Holiday Inn.  We celebrated Christmas in a hotel room with a 12 inch tree.  We opened presents on Christmas Eve morning because on Christmas Day, Hannah and I would be making the nine hour trip home.  It was not a Norman Rockwell Christmas.

She was hard to handle from the start, easily angered, difficult to understand, and very loud.  There was lice involved.  It was not the most wonderful time of the year.

We trudged through those four days until, finally, Christmas morning arrived.  Hannah and I were excited.  It was time!  In a few short hours we would drop Ashley back off at the children's home and for 36 hours we would be Ashley-free - until they flew her to us on the 27th.

We checked out of the hotel and headed to the only restaurant we could find open on Christmas morning, IHOP.  It was packed.  We slid into our booth and ordered.  The girls went to wash their hands. The waitress brought our drinks and napkins and silverware.  We sat chatting, mostly Hannah.  Something had made Ashley mad.  I don't remember what.  Suddenly, without warning, Ashley threw her arms across the table and everything on it went flying.

What would you do?  What would you say?

The place grew deathly quiet.  Every eye was on us.

There was so much I wanted to say, so much I wanted these folks to know.

I knew what they were thinking.  I would have been thinking it, too.

They saw me as a mom who couldn't handle her own kid.

I wanted to stand up and explain.  I wanted to tell them that I had only met her four days ago.  I wanted them to know that I picked her up from their children's home down the street.  I wanted them to know that this was not my kid.  I had not created this mess.

Instead, I apologized a million times to a waitress that was not amused.  I offered to clean up the mess, but she refused. I offered to pay for the damage, but she didn't take me up on that either.

So we sat as they cleaned up around us and brought us new drinks and napkins and silverware.  Our breakfast arrived and we ate it in silence.

Then we left.

The folks in that restaurant never understood, and that's okay.  They can think that I'm the worst parent in the world. They can think that I have no business raising children.  They can think all kinds of things.  None of that matters.

You know what matters?  Ashley.  She matters.

From the moment I picked her up on December 21st, 2008, I signed up to be her 100% mom.  From the moment I met her, I committed myself to be 100% in her corner.

Even at IHOP on Christmas morning.

It doesn't matter if your home is her forever home or a temporary one.  As soon as she is placed in your care and for as long as that placement lasts, you are her 100% parent.  Everyday.  Not just the easy ones.  Not just when you feel like it.  Everyday. Everyday. Everyday.

Fight the urge to explain her mess to others, especially strangers.  Keep her confidences, protect her reputation, show her that you'll take what comes and won't spread it around.

Be 100% on her side.  Even if it makes you look like a fool in IHOP on Christmas morning.

You'll be in good company.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Somebody to Somebody

Hannah has been talking, but not just her usual chatting around the house.  She's been traveling across Texas speaking to folks who are considering foster care and adoption. Big groups, small groups, individuals - it doesn't matter to her.  If you're willing to listen, she's willing to talk.

This morning we were in Waco. I listened as she shared her story.  I've heard it a hundred times, but this morning she said something she had never said before.

"I just wanted to be somebody to somebody."

I immediately teared up. Isn't this the ache in every heart? Don't we all long to matter to someone?

Thankfully, most of us are surrounded by our people. We have family.  We have friends.  We don't feel alone or unimportant.  Especially at nine years old.

But Hannah didn't have that. She wasn't somebody to somebody.  She felt like a nobody.

I watched a lady on the back row dap her eyes.  I did the same. Hannah never stopped. She moved forward with her story, pleading with these would-be foster or adoptive parents to hang in there when the going got tough. Asking them to be the somebody who made a child in foster care feel like somebody.

I'm in love with this journey - even the parts that make me cry.

Monday, September 5, 2016

It Sounds So Easy

I've been thinking a lot about our adoption journey and what I would do differently. The girls and I talk about it from time to time.

I can only go forward, not back.

But looking back, evaluating what went well and what went not-so-well is still important. It has value because it can make me better, more effective, and, most importantly, more like Jesus.

And that's always my goal.

Ashley asked me this morning what I would do differently if I had it all to do over again. I told her I wish I have been more pleasant. That would have solved a lot of my problems.

It sounds so easy. We're pleasant to waitresses who serve us meals and folks we run into at school and coworkers who grate on our nerves. It probably makes you wonder why I couldn't be more pleasant to the new little one who moves in.

Because there's a big difference between the two. You see, the meal eventually ends, at some point we walk out of school and most of our co-workers are only with us 8 hours a day Monday through Friday.

But when you move someone into your home, it's every minute of every day. It's weekends and holidays and middle-of-the-nights. It's mornings filled with calls from teachers who can't control her and meetings with principals who want her moved. It's evenings of screaming and and door slamming and wishing for just a moment of quiet. It's mealtimes that resemble battlefields and bedtimes that never seem to come fast enough.

This is when I pipe in and remind everyone, including myself, that all of that lasts only for a season. The screaming and fits and long days are only a part of the beginning, even if the beginning seems to last a really long time.

All that eventually ends. One day you wake up and it's different. She's changed and you've changed. Smiles and hugs are no longer forced. Conversations aren't awkward and you don't dread waking her up in the mornings.

And when that time came for me and I looked back, I wished I had been more pleasant during those hard days.

Because now I like her. Because she was mine from the moment she walked in the door, but now I'm actually glad that's true.

Looking back becomes hard. Looking back reminds me that some days I was motivated by anger. Some days I was motivated by selfishness. Some days I didn't consider her at all.

Regret creeps in - followed closely by his friends, guilt and shame.

And I end up kicking myself for not handling it all well.

So what do I do? I do what I can to make it right.

I offer apologies and seek forgiveness from both God and from my girls and then I allow the grace of God to help me learn from it and move on.

I don't want them to watch me wallow in guilt and shame. I want them to watch me seek forgiveness and accept the grace that can only be found in the One who knows me best and loves me most.

We're all learning. We're all growing. Thankful for girls willing to forgive and move forward. Thankful for a fresh start every morning.

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