Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Letter to Readers

Greetings all,
In the eighteen months or so since my last post, it's occurred to me on several occasions that I never officially signed off on posting stories. Many things prevented me; to name a few, doubling my guitar student load, adding more children to our household, remembering my frigging password to blogger. Many of you all have kept up with my family through my wife's blog. For those of you haven't, the newborn mentioned in my last post is now coming up on eighteen months old.

In my last post, we had just brought her home. Since then, she's got a mouthful of teeth, but says only "Daddy" and occasionally "Mom."

Isaac started 2nd grade:

My little Vivi started Kindergarten:
The little boy we once called "J", we finalized Jayden's adoption back in 2011.
He's still in pre-K and his face is still sometimes obscurred in pics. But we love him...
The latest addition to our family is our boys' biological cousin, K.
I have so many punchlines about this boy, I'm not sure where to begin:
  • he's the rebuke from all the times I've said, "I'm so glad none of the children have any of my personality."
  • he's the reason I'm thankful Jesus is real and karma is crap, because I'd swear he's the universe's punishment on me for my teen years
  • he has an ego that would give Freud a complex
  • It can take up to an hour to get the baby's hair ready in the morning, yet we're almost always waiting on him to get out of the door (this is also why I'm constantly singing Outkast's "So Fresh So Clean")
  • I've lost more sleep over this boy than when both the girls were newborns
  • he alone is more stressful than the other four children combined
  • he's got more jokes than the Bible's got psalms
Seriously, though, it's hard to complain about a fifteen-year-old who calls me "Dad" two days after moving in. I come home every night to a five-person stampede hugs and shouts of "DADDY'S HOME!!!" (six-person stampede if Laurie is particularly exhausted). Psalm 127 says, "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth." Robin Hood's got nothing on me.

Today, I received a comment about a story I wrote five years ago (Black Sabbath), and finally felt motivated to update my blog. I can't say if I'll ever take up writing as a regular hobby again. I'd love to, but when it became work, I needed another hobby. The positive is that I got back into guitar playing. But at the same time, I had serious dread about opening my laptop to write. I heard in a workshop once that a writer writes because he can't bear the thought of not writing. So I'd prefer to write when I can't bear of thought of not writing, or when another punchline comes to me regarding the boy. The next time the urge comes, ya'll will be the first to know. Until then, I'll leave all posts as they currently are. Please feel free to share the site with people who are considering adopting or becoming foster parents. All comments go to my main email address which I check daily, so please write whenever you want.

To avoid ending on a sad note, I'll ask that you all pray that I live to see all my children totally out of diapers. Cause I hate diapers.

Friday, April 1, 2011

BIG News Around Here

I am now the proud Daddy of FOUR children!

Our daughter was born Sunday at 36 weeks gestation, her birthmom picked us out of 6 profiles the next morning, and she came home Wednesday!


Jasmine Faith

March 27, 2011

5 lbs. 15 oz. 18 inches

You can see more pictures and read about our whirlwind 48 hours to bringing our daughter home, at my wife's blog: http://www.adoptioncreatesfamilies.blogspot.com/ We are all so very happy to have our family completed by this wonderful surprise!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Lucky Ones

When attending social events with strangers or casual acquaintances, Laurie and I are often asked for intimate details about our children’s adoption stories. We’re reluctant to share such details, not because we’re private people (readers of our blogs, testify!) but because we view these details as the children’s stories. In other words, since it’s not our story to tell, we don’t tell it.

Through experience, Laurie and I’ve found a comfortable middle ground where we share our journey through fostering and adopting, thus limiting as much background of their birth families as possible. Nevertheless, what little we share includes some unpleasant facts, as a certain amount of grief, loss, and trauma accompanies every foster or adoption story. These unpleasant facts inevitably inspire the listeners to respond, “Those children are so lucky to have you.”

While I’m fine with saying “Thank you” and hoping to move on to a new topic as soon as possible, Laurie takes every opportunity to educate people. “We feel we’re lucky to have them,” she says. Then our audience nods their head, as if we gave them the response they expected. It feels to me like the entire conversation was part of a prearranged script, with Laurie and I reading the roles of “Saint” and our audience reading the role of “Inspired Listener.”

It’s an awkward statement – one that would seem ridiculous if the roles were reversed. Were a biological parent to be going on about their child’s grades or soccer team, it would never occur to us to say, “Your kids are lucky to have been born to you.” Furthermore, calling our kids lucky might seem more genuine to me if it came from an informed and credible source. At a recent parent/teacher conference, Isaac’s kindergarten teacher told Laurie, “Isaac really lucky to have you guys for parents. I can tell you guys are really involved with him.” Since she’s intimately acquainted with Isaac on a daily basis, her compliment was sincere.

But strangers have no idea if the kids are lucky to have us for parents or if we’re lucky to have them for children. It might not feel so forced from strangers if I agreed that the children were lucky to have us. The last time we acted out the screenplay was at a dinner party a few weeks ago. We were late getting out of the house, and in the car on the way to the babysitter’s house the kids were especially rowdy. The catalyst involved a toy laptop designed for children younger than our oldest, older than the youngest, and for boys the same as age as our daughter. Long story short, each of them was claiming the toy.

After what seemed like an eternity of arguing, crying, and bad attitudes, and several warnings and threats from their mother and me, I commandeered the toy and announced, “That’s it! If I hear anyone else say another word, or if anyone even looks at their brother or sister, they’re gonna be sorry.” There was a sad silence that lasted almost two minutes before one of them started fussing about something else. To avoid another outburst, I kept my mouth shut.

Later at the party, we met an older couple and started talking about the kids. Laurie whipped out the little photo album she keeps in her purse and gave the couple a short history of the last few years. Each time she turned a page, the wife touched her cheek and said, “Oh they’re precious!” Then she put her hand on Laurie’s knee and said, “They’re so lucky to have you guys as parents.” Laurie had been going on and on about the kids for at least ten minutes, so anyone listening could tell how proud we were of our kids. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about the incident back in the van.

Announcing that the children were forbidden from speaking to each other was the kind of statement an evil supervillain announces right before he casts the hero into a pool of angry sharks, but not something a grateful father says to the children he loves. After the party, we picked up the kids and on the way home, Isaac said, “Dad, you can let Vivi or J play with the laptop.” He handed Vivi the toy and she responded, “Thank you, Isaac. Look, Dad, I play so nice.” Then J said, “Fifi (Vivi), I play next my turn, please?”

Were I a suspicious father, I would have wondered if the kids had planned this conversation with the sole intention of making me feel like a heel. It just seemed too much – the kindness, the politeness. Where was this coming from? I gave Laurie a “What the?” look, and she smiled and hugged my arm. “They’re good kids,” she said. And I had no choice but to admit that I’m lucky to have such good kids.

This story is also posted at www.wearegoodkin.com.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Token Diversity Family

Shortly after Isaac came home, a friend – a white friend – said to us, “This is great! Our child doesn’t have any black friends.” Immediately, the phrase ‘token black child’ rang in my ears. I was struck by visions of social events in which people fixated on what made our family stand out. As a multiracial family, Laurie and I both recognize that we stand out. In almost any crowd, we are treated like a novelty.

We know that as the parents of these kids we have signed up for a lifetime of explaining and educating people, and we try to approach new people with optimism, and hope they will use discretion and tact when asking questions or making comments. We’ve learned that inappropriate questions and comments typically catch us off guard because they can come at anytime and from anyone – strangers in the grocery store, acquaintances, and friends and family with whom we thought we’d be safe.

We recognize the importance of giving people the benefit of the doubt but only up to a certain point. Often times, the oddest comments have come from people who seemed uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say. When someone at work found out I adopted my son, he offered that his Japanese teacher had adopted a newborn but the birth father was contesting the adoption. I failed to see the relevance, so all I could think of to respond was “Okay.”

To be honest, I had a really hard time in the beginning with all the blatant staring and attention. I had to remind myself that if I saw a white man chasing a small black child through a crowded restaurant who was crying and screaming “I want my Mommy!” I’d stare too. But as his parent, the staring made me want to claim him all the more. “I love you, Son” or “Hold Daddy’s hand,” I’d announce. My wife and I don’t suffer the same kind of inappropriate conversations. My lot is to endure blunt questions like “Why did you adopt? Do you shoot blanks, or something?” and “Is your wife barren?” A lady once asked me, “Do you wear boxers or briefs? I’ve heard briefs can really mess up your count.”

Meanwhile Laurie gets asked, “How much did it cost?” and “What if their ‘real’ mother comes back for them?” Then, after she discretely avoids answering the questions, someone says, “I’d love to adopt. I don’t think I can handle another pregnancy.” Then Laurie gets to listen as the group discusses baby showers, breast feeding, and many other aspects of parenting we’ve yet to experience.

While Laurie and I prefer to be accepted as normal parents, as time has passed, we’ve accepted the attention that comes with having such an interesting family. At parties, hosts who know our kids nonchalantly introduce us, adding, “They have the cutest family,” ultimately forcing us to whip out pictures of the kids. For a while, it felt like we were being labeled; the couple who just got back from a trip, the couple who sells real estate together, and us, the couple who adopted. Inevitably, we became the center of attention, and I felt the eyes of the entire room on us as we talked about the same mundane things everyone else’s kids do.

Just a few weeks ago, Laurie and I attended a wedding shower where we knew only the groom and his immediate family. The mother has known Laurie for years and took great pride in introducing us to the other guests. “Come on, Laurie,” she said to a group of couples, “I know you keep a little photo album in your purse. Let’s see those little darlings.” It’s hard to feign modesty when you keep a small photo album handy for just such an occasion. But the guests genuinely perked up with interest: “Oh. My. Gosh.” “Aren’t they precious?” “You all are just a bunch of saints. Saint Billy and Saint Laurie.”

It might have been too over the top, but this was nothing we haven’t heard before, even the “Saint” part. Years ago, we might have felt awkward pretending to be humble. We’d feebly thank them, but we usually made them feel embarrassed rather than encouraging. But I’d like to think we’ve grown past that, to a point where I can humbly accept their adulations, where I can reach out and hold Laurie’s hand, put my other hand on my heart, nod my head, and say, “You’re right. We are terrific people.”