The future of our family was being determined in a meeting halfway around the world.
And by the end of the day all we had was a name and age: Maletsatsi and she's 3.
Within a few weeks we had one picture:
Oh my word, what a year does!
And in the past year, I have been asked a few questions. Some of them have been, well, amazing (but not in a good way--Why did her mother give her up? Does she have contact with her?). Most of them have had to do with Mali's history--which frankly, is none of a random person's business. Of course, I understand curiosity. But no, I'm not telling you about her biological parents or why they could no longer care for her.
However, in the midst of all the intrusive questions, I have been asked a few really great ones. But the best on came about two weeks ago and warmed my heart.
"I have a family member traveling to pick up their toddler in a few weeks, given your experience, how can I best support them?"
I have to be honest with you, I almost cried.
Attachment and adjusting and becoming a family with a new little person is gut-wrenchingly hard work. If anyone tells you otherwise, they're lying. Not only that, but it takes a really long time. We're still in the throws of attachment and healing.
So, if you know someone traveling soon or has added someone to their family through adoption, international or domestic, and you want to support them, I have a few words for you. (And this could be true for almost any family--we all need a little support from time to time.)
First, some physical things to do:
- If they're traveling, make sure they come home to a spotless house. And fill their fridge and freezer with food. We walked in the door and knew we had dinner in the fridge. It wasn't fancy, but it was perfect. We ate, showered, and went to bed. From there on, we were blessed with food and gift cards for food. One less thing to worry about.
- I had two friends who did similar yet different things and I am still grateful. One friend committed to coming over for a few hours once a week to do whatever I needed. She usually brought a meal for my freezer. She usually did laundry or cleaned something, then she just sat with me. Another came over from the farmer's market a couple times with fresh raspberries and flowers. It was a total surprise and appreciated. I still choke up when I think about how those two served me. (thank you, friends)
- Want to help, but don't want to cook? don't have time to spend at someone's home? No biggie. There is a real way you can help. Money. Cold Hard Cash. I'll tell you, adoption is expensive. But God laid it on so many hearts to bless us with money. That cash made it possible for us to not worry. $20, $50, or $100 dollars can go a long way when you add another mouth to feed and body to clothe.
The physical aspects are way easier than the emotional ones. But here's the short list of things to be emotionally supportive when someone brings home a child.
- Listen, without judgement. Some of my ugliest emotions and greatest faults have made themselves known in this past year. Don't judge me for them, love me through them.
- Offer childcare/respite care--but adhere to every single crazy rule they tell you. Parenting an adopted child is different than a biological child.
- There may be things going on in their home that you will never see. Emotions are hard and draining and well, emotional. If you see an outburst, let the parent do what they need to do. (if you have a strong enough relationship you may able to ask about it, but if not, please don't pry.) If you never see one, let me promise you that they are real. Believe them and the exhaustion of the parents.
- Pray hard. I've become convinced that Satan hates this: adoption, redemption, love in action. We have been attacked in our marriage, we've struggled in numerous areas of our family life and even work has been affected. And long after a child comes home, after the newness has worn away, pray still. There are still days when I am so discouraged, so convinced of the error of our life that I want to quit and run away and hide forever. Yes, the darkness has mostly passed, but that doesn't mean it's gone forever.
- Finally, if there are other children in the family, be a special person to them. We all agreed to this addition to our family, but watching those three struggle has been the most heart-wrenching part of our journey.
Of course, this list isn't exhaustive, nor does it apply to every situation, but it's what's on my mind. And I'm sure it applies in situations other than adoption.
What about you? Do you have some helpful words for a friend wanting to support a family member through a transition? I'd love to hear them!