World Adoption Day

I think a lot about adoption and I’m very pro-adoption. In the similar manner that I’m pro-adoption, I’m also pro-life. However, I saw a sign the other day that said, “Adoption is the loving choice to abortion” and I gotta admit, it really made me think. Not because I don’t think adoption is loving. But because I think this is one of those signs that make us feel good to proclaim, but we really don’t know what we’re saying.

Let me explain what I mean. Adoption can be a loving option if you’re pregnant and know you’re unable to parent. These adoptions are typically done privately and without any state involvement. There’s a plan in place, parents are chosen, and you begin to walk the journey together.

However, on the flip side, we tend to praise the birth moms represented in our house for choosing life, but they did more than that. They also wanted, and chose, to parent. Now granted, their parenting was sometimes dysfunctional and often dangerous, but they never went through 9 months of pregnancy with the intention of having their child call another woman mom. No matter how they showed it…..they wanted their children.

I think we have this fairytale idea of adoption that is just not there.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Adoption is necessary and can be amazing. But it will never be perfect. We are very open in our house about adoption and that means we are very open about the loss. The other day one of my kids made the comment about how it will be sad when Henry realizes he’s adopted. One of the older kids piped up and asked why and she simply said…..because he will miss his mom.

That is the reality of national adoption month.

The birth moms represented in our home chose life the same way my mom chose life. The same way I chose life with Trey and Addison. These moms were excited to be pregnant. They were excited to have a child. They didn’t choose adoption. There was nothing loving in their mind about their child being adopted.

Adoption is hard. Messy. Scary. Sad. Happy. Beautiful. Loving. All rolled into one. And typically adoption, much like abortion, is rooted in pain and hurt.

I’m pro-adoption. I’m pro-life. Let’s spend November celebrating these kids and raising the need for awareness. Especially for sibling groups and older teens. We should not live in a country where a child ever ages out of foster care. Period. We should not live in a country where sibling groups are split up and separated when they are adopted. Period. We should not live in a country where women can’t afford to feed their children so they have them removed. Period.

Let’s celebrate moms who chose to carry their baby for 9 months only to hand them off to another woman. I cannot imagine how that would feel. But, let’s also have some sympathy for the moms who chose life and desperately wanted to parent. A mom recently told me that when she was in the throes of addiction she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to parent her children. She told me she felt like they were kidnapped.

That probably didn’t feel too loving.

I’m convinced that if we work together to change the stigma and narrative of adoption, we can change the direction for adoptees. They can be open about their loss. Open about their pain. They can sit at the dinner table and talk about feeling sad. They can tell me they miss their mom but don’t really know why. They can be open about making sure we are never going to leave them. They can be angry and jealous without fear of judgement.

Adoption is amazing and can be a very loving choice. Children waiting for homes should know they are seen and heard. However, they should also know we see all of them. We see the pain, the hurt, and the ugly it brings. We should be willing to have the hard discussions and engage in hard talks about policy change.

Honestly, I’m thankful my girls didn’t read that sign when we drove past it. Not because I completely disagree. But because I don’t want them to ever feel like a project or simply a slogan on a sign. They are worth so much more.

True Confessions….

In light of what’s happening in the world right now, here is a really dumb post to keep the mood breezy……

A few things you may not know about me:

Now that J.O. is working from home, I sometimes go to work even when I’m off and just read a book. Alone. In my office.

Sometimes I go for a “run” but really just go around the corner and sit on the trail behind our house and watch Netflix. I’ve never been more “healthy” than when I was trying to finish Grey’s Anatomy.

My son open hand slapped me this morning when my eyes were closed in bed because I wouldn’t look at him. So, I did what the therapist suggested and pivoted away from him. He then threw himself off the bed in anger so I told my 2 1/2 year old with global developmental delays, “That hurt no one but you bud. I’m headed to the shower.” He was fine FYI….me too for anyone concerned.

Our house has cameras in it for an old alarm system. The younger girls still think they work and I take risks on that one all the time. So far I am 10/10 on telling them to go ahead and confess because I saw it on camera. I’ve learned a lot of interesting things simply by bluffing. I’m getting very good. Sometimes they yell at me and ask me what they’re doing in front of the camera. I can usually guess or sneak around and peak.

If I’m in a bad mood, I grab my flower mask out of the car instead of my First Baptist one. That way I don’t have to worry if I’m not too friendly.

I realized several years ago spanking didn’t work for my kids. Plus, I only ever spanked out of anger. I also said dumb things like, “do you want a spanking?” My mom pointed out once that a child has never answered yes to that question. In the last 2 years my kids behavior has stayed the same. It’s no better or worse with lack of spanking. So has this worked? No clue. But we are all happier.

Having 5 kids gets me out of a lot. No one expects me to be really good at anything. It’s been awesome for someone who is happy being mediocre. When Henry is the only child at home, I will have to move.

I don’t have fear of missing out. I love chatting and keeping up with friends, but relaxing on the couch wins out every time.

Well, if you made it this far congrats. Hopefully I can create a more intelligent post soon.

Treating People like Humans

I’m obsessed with a new show on ABC called “For Life.” It follows a man wrongfully convicted of being a drug kingpin who receives life in prison on his first conviction. It’s based loosely on a true story and is easily one of my favorite dramas on tv.

My favorite part of the show is the female warden of the prison, because she is determined to completely change the way the prison is run. She allows longer visitations, more contact between inmates, and gives them a place to work out and play sports outside.

Basically, she treats them like humans.

I’ve only been inside a prison as a visitor twice and both times were within the last year. So, I will be the first to admit my experience is very limited. However, I noticed something the first time I visited. The mood in the visitation room was extremely subdued. The officer on duty was very stoic and had no visible personality. Now, I should be clear about something. The women in this facility are not on death row with shanks hidden in their pants pocket. Felons yes, but mostly due to a lifelong struggle with addiction.

Anyway, I was immediately told this guard wouldn’t let many things fly. The women were visibly nervous when I started letting Henry roam around the room. He started going towards the American flag and I could tell this was not okay. The guard was giving us the eye and Henry’s biological mom told me I should probably grab him. She told me she was nervous this guard would give her a strike and she was working so hard for no strikes. I just chalked it up to prison life and tried my best to keep Henry from running rampant. At one point, she asked the guard if we could take Henry in the play room and the answer was no. There seemed to be no apparent reason for this answer other than the fact that she could.

However, the next time I visited I noticed something different. There was a different guard on duty and the room was visibly more relaxed. Women were smiling and talking a bit louder and the guard even made an effort to engage in a bit of small talk. The play room was utilized and Henry was able to make his way over to the coveted flag. It was a better experience completely, but the reason didn’t hit me until one night when I was watching my beloved show.

The second guard treated these women like humans. She celebrated their families, smiled at their children, and allowed them to play together in the playroom. She still followed every single rule they had, but did it while remembering these were actual people. With real families. And real lives outside of these four walls.

We wonder why people are so often released from jail just to find themselves right back in. Have you ever been around a child who can do nothing right with their parents? Seriously. They wake up and screw up from the second their feet hit the floor. They are too loud, too rowdy, too rude, too messy, etc. etc. And after a while they just quit caring. They are going to stay in trouble no matter what so they might as well have fun while doing it.

Now, before you come at me with, “but kids are not hardened criminals” or “these people are terrible people.” Let me tell you something. I’ve heard about some kids doing some pretty sad things. Starting fires, offending against a younger child, and so forth. But make no mistake….if we tried to rehabilitate them by putting them in a metal cell in our closet, we would be the ones arrested. We don’t do that because it wouldn’t work. And because it’s extremely cruel. As parents, we may send our child somewhere for help, but it would look more like a therapeutic center and less like shackles and chains.

I’m not asking for a debate on whether adult criminals should be incarcerated. Of course someone who kills another person should be put away. Or someone who sex traffics young girls. And so on and so on. The day sin entered the world, there became a need for rules and regulations.

But I am saying this. As a society, we have to quit treating humans like caged animals and being shocked when they bite.

Your hair smells good….

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the chair with one of my kids and they commented on my hair smelling good. I didn’t think too much about it and just said thanks and moved on. Then, a few days later, I was laying in bed with another child and she commented on my face smelling great. She wanted to know what kind of lotion I had on. Fast forward to a third child commenting on my hair and I wondered what in the world had changed. I was using the same shampoo and in fact, actually showering less than before Covid hit.

Honestly, I was quite proud that I had trained my hair to go longer between washes by not washing it as often. It certainly couldn’t have been smelling good then. Had I changed dry shampoo? I didn’t think so. My face lotion was the same Mary Kay I had been using for months. Why were they suddenly enamored with my smell?

Then, it hit me. We’ve never had this much time together before. They had never spent this much time sitting beside me reading or watching tv. Or this much time laying with me in bed talking while I pretended to nap. Or stayed in my bathroom while I was getting ready and pilfered through my makeup and browsed my jewelry. Before we were all home together things looked very different. My mornings were spent getting ready in solitude before anyone was awake. My nights were spent running in the door from 15 different activities and shoveling whatever was in the crockpot onto their plates. Typically at this point I was yelling about homework that needed to be done, notebooks that needed signed, and pajamas that needed put on.

I doubt my mom even knows this, but one of my favorite memories is being in her bathroom while she got dressed. Being a mom myself now, I realize she probably didn’t love the lack of privacy but she never said a word. My memories of this time are very random. I remember her always putting on a robe and then the smell of the lotion she would put on. She always had new makeup I wanted to see and some new hair gadget I wanted to try. It was typically a new round brush, velcro rollers, sponge rollers, or something else of the sort. I would sit on the clothes hamper and watch her dry her hair and put on makeup.

It’s so sad to me that it has taken a pandemic for my kids to smell my hair.

Don’t get me wrong: I miss our activities. In fact, I’m so ready to head back to church, swim with friends, and go out to dinner on a whim. My kids are missing friends and are already looking forward to the fall. Especially Grace who needs interaction and face to face friendships. But, I hope I don’t miss the lesson in this time of stillness.

I tell my kids all the time not to qualify their apologies. Don’t say, “I’m sorry for yelling, but it’s because you’re mean.” Or, “I’m sorry for hitting you, but you made me.” I hope I don’t look back and qualify this time in our home. I hope we look back and the kids remember sitting on my tub while I put on makeup. Or sitting in the chair with me watching Shark Tank or Ninja Warrior. Or laying in my bed while I try to convince them I’m sleeping.

I hope they look back and remember what I smelled like. And it makes them smile the same way it makes me smile picturing my mom in her robe patiently listening to me talk.

$1 Because Jesus Loves You….

We recently headed to Texas over Christmas break to see J.O.’s sister and spend some time with family. It was a bit stressful to head out the day after Christmas, but I ended up being thrilled we went. It was fun to watch the kids together and we always enjoy catching up with his sister and brother in law.

On the way home, we stopped at Jason’s Deli to eat lunch. Now, you should know something about us when we travel. We don’t mess around. We are always trying to get home for something. This time, it was to pick up Henry, and our dogs. We left very early that morning and our attire and tired faces reflected that. We looked less than stellar. So our stop at lunch was interesting to say the least. We probably should’ve eaten somewhere like McDonalds, but Jason’s Deli is somewhere we all agree on. The kids ONLY eat there for the free ice cream, but that still makes it a favorite.

We headed into this small town Jason’s and everyone in there had church clothes on. I mean everyone. And they all knew each other and we stood out like a sore thumb. It didn’t bother me at all, I just noticed it immediately. And obviously so did others. Towards the end of our meal, an older lady came over and gave the kids $1 and told them Jesus loves them. Our girls didn’t miss a beat and got super excited for the money, and Addison immediately said back….”well, Jesus loves you too.”

After she left, it hit Addison. She said….”oh, is this because we look like we haven’t been to church.” It surprised me that she picked up on that, but I just said maybe and went on eating my meal. I started thinking about it later. No doubt, this is something she has been encouraged to do. How do I know this? Because if you grew up in the church at all, you have been told to do the same. I will never forget doing this as a part of my youth group challenge. I gave $1 to the Sonic carhop and told her “Jesus loved her.”

Can this be an effective evangelistic tool? Maybe. But, it certainly can’t be our main “go to”. In fact, in certain situations I would argue this causes more harm than good. Refraim it a bit….basically, I am going to give you money to show you Christ’s love. Sucks to be you, but I’ve got $5/$10 to spare and don’t think twice about giving it out. Now, obviously this is exaggerated. Small acts of kindness are awesome and can often go a long way. But, why do we feel the need to make ourselves feel better about telling of Christ’s love by attaching money to it.

This past week, Trey had someone join his friends group chat that started cursing them out. No doubt it was for the shock factor of a new kid trying to shake things up. He was quickly removed from the group and they all started trying to figure out who it was. I actually found out from another parent and told Trey. Trey told me he wasn’t going to tell the kids in the chat, because he didn’t want them mad at this boy or judging him. He indicated the kid had some problems at another school, but Trey had never heard him curse like this. He wanted to give him a chance and thought he was likely just showing out.

Now, Trey could’ve immediately gone back to the chat and ratted this kid out and it would’ve been justified. He was being very rude and the kids had a right to know. But he didn’t. I don’t know where this kid will be long term, but to me that goes a lot further than handing someone a dollar and walking off. Be kind in a restaurant, sure. Open doors, pay for a coffee, pull out a chair, give someone money when prompted, and by all means tell people Jesus loves them.

But, when Jesus becomes something we think we have to bribe others to hear about, we probably need to rethink our motives.