Posts tagged adoption
Compassionate Parenting

I was going to be the best mother. I would blow everyone away with my mothering skills—most of all my husband, who, amid is longing for fatherhood, carried the ominous expectation that it would be the weight to finally completely cripple him with anxiety. Luckily, I knew my motherhood would render parenting our first child a breeze. He'd be ready for six more in no time.

I rounded the corner of my final lap toward family life sure of two things: 1) Parents should be in control at all times, and 2) Children should never be allowed to emotionally manipulate their parents. Bolstered by a stack of books penned by some prolific Christian authors, I was convinced that this two-part theory (with enough nurture thrown in) would guarantee a happy home life.

But when motherhood finally met me at dusk in a little Ugandan orphanage, I furrowed my brow and curved down my mouth at how my expectations failed to fall in line. I had a degree in family studies, for crying out loud. What were these inadequacies and failures doing, showing up in the one area I was supposed to be good at? We finalized the adoption, and, despite all the parenting advice I'd taken in, I couldn't control my son. A year went by, then another, and another. We loved each other deeply, but the Beatles were wrong—love wasn't all we needed. I felt hopeless and defeated; he felt cornered and scared. I didn't know how to get through to him, and he didn't know how to trust me. We were at a stalemate: a very emotional, angry, brokenhearted draw.

And that is exactly where I was the night my husband discovered a man named Jean Vanier in a mediocre-quality YouTube video.


Read the rest in the July 2018 issue of St. Anthony Messenger

Colorblind

My white parents were raised in Mississippi in the fifties and sixties. My siblings and I grew up hearing about how the Civil Rights Movement affected the young lives of our mom and dad; how Brenda Travis, a girl in my dad’s hometown not much older than he, had dared to participate in segregation protests and was subsequently taken from her family and banned from the state; how the Ku Klux Klan had threatened my parents in their early years of ministry; how my maternal grandfather was a champion for his black constituents as a local politician, even as a product of a deeply segregated system himself.

However, I grew up in central Texas in the nineties, when Americans were too sophisticated for that kind of drama. I grew up in a nation that hailed itself colorblind and would hear of nothing else. I grew up certain that racial injustice was a horrific part of history that no longer held any systematic or economic weight.

The first time I was confronted with the truth was when I drove through a sea of small towns with my college roommate, who was black. Her family lived further away than mine so her coming home for occasional weekends with me became part of our norm. But the first time we took the route, lazily rolling to a stop at an empty red light in a nondescript town, she shrank low in her passenger seat, eyes darting furtively around.

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Read the rest at Sick Pilgrim!
Easter at the Catholic Worker
Image: America Magazine

We sat side by side on a hay bale, knees under a makeshift picnic table and bellies full of homemade bread. Samantha lived in a tent by the river. I could sometimes make out the tip of it when I drove by the woods in our SUV on the way home from running errands with my kids. I had heard that she and her boyfriend were troublemakers, a reputation no doubt fueled by their respective addictions, neither of which do any favors for one’s interpersonal skills.

But there at the table, I saw no signs of all that. I saw only a woman who cooed over the baby in my arms. We made small talk, or at least attempted it, until her curiosity could contain itself no longer: “Why are you here?” she asked. She could not keep the skepticism out of her voice, and I did not blame her. I was married and clearly middle class, despite my best attempts to play it down. Why on earth was I hanging out at the Day House, a place frequented mostly by people experiencing homelessness? I chuckled low and got honest: “Because we need friends.”

Three years prior, my husband and I had returned to the United States after two years of serving as Protestant evangelical missionaries in Indonesia. When we came home, it was as first-time parents to a newly adopted son. Between reverse culture shock and the tangled web of adapting to the complications of our son’s early childhood trauma, our lifelong faith suddenly came up lacking. We prayed fervently for healing for our little boy, that his brain would be rewired to send signals of safety instead of fear, but nothing ever changed. And we began to break under the weight of our own inadequacies as our best parenting efforts failed day after day, until we barely resembled the healthy, competent people we once knew ourselves to be. I had never imagined there could be such darkness within me. But then I had never needed to.

Read the rest at America Magazine!