Last night, at our Vacation Bible School, it was about 85 degrees out around 5:30 – plus the heat lamp effect from a wide-open cloudless sunny sky. Throw a few amped up kids in the mix with an endless supply of freezy pops and bouncy out door inflatables, and you have a recipe for potential parental stress.
I noticed one thing in particular that I made a point of not conspicuously noticing – namely – the family from our church that has only recently returned from Rwanda with their two adopted children. I’d seen the full-family for the first time just then – and wondered what the event must look like to two orphans from a war torn impoverished country. It was an American explosion of hot dogs, pop corn, and VBS panda bears.
More interesting to me – and ingeniously executed as I later thought on it – was how Mama-Bear had placed the two newest adopted additions in a double seater three wheeled child carrier. The kind of tank-carrier you see crazy people jog in parks with their kids sitting carelessly within. It was a brilliant idea. She had maintained control of their play-space…maintained the boundary of their safe home in a potentially nerve frazzling environment. A three wheeled bound-ried home away from home.
I specifically didn’t go in for the “hey how are you are these your adopted kids they’re so beautiful” meet and greet. Instead, I just hung back and watched curiously – as a student watches their mentor painting uninterrupted from a distance. I wanted to see an unvarnished perspective of what a freshly adoptive family looked like.
My initial observations verified my latent suspicions. The first being that Mama Bear does a lot more work with the new baby bears, than Papa Bear does. Papa Bear has a supportive role – but it was Mama that arm wrestled the 42″ wide kid carrier through the swinging doors of the Church foyer. There’s only 2 ways to do that – either go through the doors backwards and muscle it through – or humbly rely on the assistance of others to help you through. In either case – you force it through uncomfortably, or conspicuously rely on the assistance of strangers who run over and make a scene when I think sometimes – you just want to blend in and not stand out. Either way – life, interrupted from it’s norm.
The other thing I noticed – perhaps more importantly – was that the kids were “being kids.” All four of them. Smiles abounded. There was interaction and excitement, and it was fun to watch them taking it all in and just enjoying what had been prepared for them.
So in the end, I think it was a blend of brute force and contemplative joy. In short – not much different than my experiences with my own natural born children that evening. A mix of, “I love you guys” and “you guys drive me crazy and make me sweaty and aggravated”. A blend of take, and give. In a word – family.
Steve Carells’ character in the movie “Dinner for Schmucks” said, “You may say I’m a dreamer……”. My wife would probably agree. I’m pretty ‘pie in the sky’ when it comes to most things. I don’t think them through to their mundane and often times critical details. I like to think of myself as a “big idea” guy. Well I’m starting to learn that there’s little room for “big idea” guys in Adoption Land. It will eat you up and spit you out.
The various Departments of Social Services are not well oiled machines of efficiency, either. Do not plan on making a single phone call, about anything. Someone is always checking with someone else about something or other about permission to do this or that. At this earliest stage I get the distinct sense that if you work in DSS for any county, you are equipped with a giant “butt shield” so as to cover yourself in every situation possible. To just enroll in a series of classes – 10 total in 5 weeks at 3 hours a pop – required no fewer than 7 phone calls. 7 phone calls for 30 hours of classes to teach you about parenting a child that has had their formative emotional world turned upside down. If ever there were a filter to weed the ‘good intentioned’ from the ‘truly called’ – this is probably an effective process.
And then there’s the logistics of it all. The where and how of it all.
We live in a big house, relatively speaking. But when we moved there, we told God what we wanted – that we wanted Him to use it for His stuff, and for His work. So far, He’s seen fit to fill it with a small group, Bunko parties, sleep overs and Bible Studies. Stuff you can’t do in a small house. He’s used it to house gear to minister to men that never slow down. He’s getting His money’s worth out of our house, and I love Him all the more for it.
On Sunday morning, I spent some time with Karen and a roll of blue painter’s masking tape. We started laying out invisible walls and loft beds that only existed on my phone, and in Ikea 60 minutes away. Going over quotes from contractors and using words like “shingles” and “do we need an electrician for such and such”. Hell on Earth for Big Idea Guy Mike.
I’m also painfully aware that my 5 person Nissan Sentra is woefully inadequate for transporting young kids that like to touch and poke and taunt and tease each other. There is no concept of personal space at that age. Nor is there any concept of blood pressure, on their parts. To my wife’s all terrain 4wd vows to the contrary – I think we need a van. (I’m not allowed to use the word “mini” to describe the van). I’ve seen this van in a vision, of late. It is a Nissan Quest m–i van, painted black, with blacked out windows….with a red stripe, rims, and rear spoiler that mimics the “A-Team” van. The license plate on the back says, “J-Team”. It is a masculine instrument of precision performance of aerodynamics (ala Lightning Mcqueen).
I have no idea where this van is. Who owns it now, or how it will get from someone else’s lot or driveway, into my driveway. In fact, I’m rubbing my face with both hands in-between lines just now as I write this, just thinking and worrying about it. I’m whispering something that sounds like “faith” and “trust” under my breath, among other things.
When we first got married, Karen and I prayed a crazy prayer. We said, “Lord, never give us so much that we don’t need you anymore”. In hindsight, not the most brilliant prayer ever prayed from a practical standpoint. In faithsight, maybe the most perfect prayer ever uttered.
I don’t know how to make it all happen. I have no idea where the resources are going to come from. I have doubts about myself as a husband – as a provider – and of late as I consider this all – as a father. There’s the Michael you all see – and the Michael that you don’t see most of the time. The kids you experience for a few hours here and there, and the kids that are lucky Sentra’s don’t come standard with rear ejection seats.
Why on Earth would anyone want to adopt, when you throw all of that into the pot and mix it all around?
Because these little girls will walk past a Christmas tree in a park somewhere, around 6 years from now on their way home to their apartment, with no presents under a tree – and no one to call or receive calls from. No one to say, “I’m proud of you….I believe in you”. No one to call when they did really good on a test, or really bad on an employee review. All they will know is that the people that were supposed to love them the most – couldn’t – or worse – just didn’t. They will most likely turn to the same things that drove their mom’s and dads into the cycle that churns out people no one wants, or loves. Because Jesus said he cared about orphans, went out of his way to share his thoughts about kids in general – and there are literally thousands of photos like these two kids on AdoptUSKids.org
I have no idea how this can all happen. I feel woefully inadequate and under equipped for the task. I have more doubts than answers. More bills than (m–i)vans.
And yet there’s this peace – this sense – that we’re in the boat right where we’re supposed to be. Winds and waves right on time.
Watching Mama Bear last night though, as closely as I did when no one thought I was – I think looking back it will be a combination of brute force cart pushing and humble reception of help when we need a door opened. A combination of take and give and kids being kids and moms and dads hanging on for dear life. In a word – family.