Have you ever been in that awkward position when you have to try to parent someone else’s kid? It’s really not easy to do for lots of reasons, but primarily because chances are, those other parents choose to parent their children in a way different style than you would. So when you try to correct or lead another kid, it often is difficult to do.
Now imagine trying to parent a child which is indeed your child, but over whom you’ve never had real authority….and frankly still don’t. But you are put in a position to try to do this.
This is what it’s like to be on a first adoption trip, have the children out and alone with you, need to parent them, but not really know to what kind of parenting they will respond or even how they’ve been parented in their foster home or orphanage…and forget the fact this older child, we’ll call her Abby, also spent six years with her biological family, followed by at least two foster homes. No doubt every one of those places parented differently…..or maybe even not at all.
Amy and I, during our whole visit, felt like we were parenting from the middle. Needing to parent but trying to do so with no real authority or permission. It was interesting.
But like usual, God had prepared a way. The story I’m about to tell you is probably one of my favorite, if not my favorite moment from the five-day visit with our children.
Sunday was an interesting day. We did not go see the children until late afternoon since we needed to take a look at some potential places to stay with all 10 of us when we return. We found a lovely place with some wonderful hosts! We also ventured up to the town where the children were born and took a look at the Baltic Sea. Figured we were so close…..why not? Before you get excited about our “beach” visit, please know it was 40 degrees and VERY windy. Not exactly sun-bathing weather! But it was beautiful….looking from this vantage point, the next point of land would be Sweden.
After a nice lunch near the beach (I think Amy had two kinds of COLD FISH! I opted for the schnitzel and potatoes.), we headed back to the kid’s apartment for yet another 85 step climb. We had a nice visit for a couple of hours, playing with them in their bedrooms and then left for our hotel, promising to be back bright and early to take them for the day. It was cute when Abby, our oldest in this bunch, let us know all she had planned for Monday….a walk…shopping…photo booth at the mall….lunch, and fun. She was so excited.
In the course of the visit we discovered Abby had a Facebook page. Wait…what?
She’s eight years old, mind you. Then we found out talking with her, she has had it since she was SIX!! Yep, her biological parents set her up with a Facebook page so she could communicate with them and vice versa. Her biological father also gave her an old cell phone which couldn’t make calls but, when connected to wifi, could get on the internet. We were VERY UNCOMFORTABLE with all of this. But what could we do? We were only her mom and dad in our hearts, not legally yet. We had no authority to take the phone away or cancel her Facebook account. We knew it wasn’t Abby’s fault, she was innocent, but we were concerned.
We left with our concerns to our hotel and, as we were talking about it, I noticed some Facebook notifications on my app. Yes, you guessed it, Abby had found our Facebook page and started liking pics and even commenting on a few. She was very sweet and saying things which made our hearts melt, but that wasn’t the point! We wondered what the courts would think if they found out we had this kind of contact with her? Was this a good thing or a bad thing? We knew our biological children would not have access to Facebook (I can’t understand why any parent allows their young children to have Facebook, but hey, that’s us) for several more years, but here we are, stuck parenting from the middle. I called Grace and she was concerned. She said to “block her right away!” so I did. That hurt a little. My first great action as a parent is to block my daughter from having access to me. Wonderful.
Small caveat. How often do we do for our children what is RIGHT over what is POPULAR? Hopefully we always consider the wisdom of decisions we make for them, or help them make, based on what is best for them. I know as a parent we do sometimes make decisions for them on what is best for US or what we prefer rather than what is right for them. We must consider what we are teaching them; what we are showing them is important or unimportant in life; how they should respond to adversity or even victory and so many more things. I believe we would do better, present company included, if we more often made selfless decisions for their good. They won’t always like it, but this ensures they have the very best chance at life.
Isn’t this what God does for us?
So, I blocked her. It hurt a little.
Amy said, “We need to go over there and talk to her.”
I said, “Why? We can talk to her tomorrow?”
Amy said, “No, we need to go now. We can help her understand, but not from here.”
And this is parenting from the middle.
Amy was SO right, as much as it pains me to admit!
I called Grace back and explained to her why we needed to go back to the foster home at 8 o’clock at night. She came to pick us up, and again we climbed the 85 steps to deal with our first hard situation with one of our kids. We found Abby sad and a little mopey. Definitely not the lovely and bright little girl we had come to expect. We took her in the bedroom so we could talk privately with her. Through Grace’s translation, we had a conversation which went something like this:
Jeff – First, you’re not in trouble, and this isn’t your fault.
Abby – Bursts into tears and cries hard on my chest while I held her. Heart breaking.
Daddy – Facebook can be good but it can also be dangerous, especially for beautiful little girls like you……etc, etc, etc. Plus, you are our daughter in our hearts, but the courts have to make it official. They might not like us having this kind of contact yet.
In a family, when we make mistakes (and both moms & dads, and kids make them) we don’t stop loving each other; we don’t give up on each other. We fix it, forgive, move on, and most of all, never stop loving each other.
Abby (through the translator & paraphrased) – I thought I blew it. That you wouldn’t want me anymore. That you wouldn’t want to take me home to be your daughter.
Mommy & Daddy – Crying. SSSSOOOOO broken over this statement. She believed we wouldn’t want her anymore because in her mind she had blown this chance to have a family. Not only her chance, but her siblings as well. Wow.
Daddy – Abby, you are our daughter. We love you and nothing will ever change that. There is nothing you could do to make that stop, or make us not want you, or not want you in our family. You are our daughter. Period. Forever.
Abby – Giant smile through her tears. Relief all over her body & spirit.
Daddy – When we get you home, we will give you everything you need. You won’t have to worry about it. You won’t have to wonder. We will always love you, always provide what you need, always take care of you. That will happen in a few weeks. Until then, will you trust us? Will you trust we know what is best for you and will do everything we can to protect and love you? Will you trust us?
Abby – Yes, I will trust you.
We hugged it out, probably smooched on her A LOT and went back out in the kitchen with the rest of the family.
I cannot adequately express in this blog what this conversation did for us and for Abby – and probably by association, the other three as well.
When we arrived the next morning, Abby ran to us and in broken English told us on her own without a translator, “I deleted my Facebook, Skype, Gmail, and Instagram. I trust you.”
I said, “Abby, we are SO PROUD OF YOU! This is very brave, and we love you so much for trusting us.” We had a wonderful last full day together.
I have learned a lot about trust in this journey. Trusting my agency & agent, trusting the process, trusting my instincts, trusting my wife’s instincts, and most of all, trusting God. Abby put her trust in our hearts even though we aren’t yet legally her parents and have no real claim over her outside of what’s in our hearts before God. But the trust she exhibited towards us was amazing…..and child-like. It’s how I’ve tried to approach God through this process, and now with everything in my life. I think my faith is more child-like now than it has ever been. I want the Lord to know I trust Him. Even when I don’t understand. Even when it hurts. I trust Him. Just like Abby trusts us.
Do you trust Him?