Monthly Archives: November 2016

Choosing a name

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Nearly three years ago, when we’d been on the waitlist for about five months to adopt for the second time—this time specifically a girl—Mike and I went on a study tour to Israel with a group from our church, led by the Center for Holy Land Studies. (If you have the slightest interest in visiting the Holy Lands, look them up this organization; it’s phenomenal.) We had an incredible time, and gained so much insight about stories from the Bible we’d grown up hearing. Somehow, standing on the turf where it all went down makes it come alive. Even when all that’s left is dirt and wildflowers.

But we came away from that trip with more than just a journal full of notes from all the lectures/sermons; we also went home knowing what we’d name our daughter.

Throughout the trip, we heard about a Miss Lydia, who had founded a school for the blind in Jerusalem. We wouldn’t meet her until we reached the city at the end of our week, but her name came up frequently because several on our trip knew what amazing work she was doing and were excited to hear her share about it.

Our trip began in Beershiva, where we learned about God calling Abraham out of Ur. Those first couple days, we spent meandering the ruins of Old Testament stories. Then we hit New Testament sites like Caesarea and Capernaum and heard first about Jesus’ ministry and then about Paul, including how he traveled to Europe, preaching, and how a Gentile woman named Lydia was his first European convert.

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

Later in the New Testament, Paul mentions Lydia again, lauding her for her hospitality.

Then, mid-way through the week, we stopped at the church of the annunciation, where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her she was going to have a baby. Our guide pointed to all the pictures of the Holy Family painted in the arcade enclosing the church, noting that each was gifted from a different country, and in each, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus looked like the citizens of the donor country. He continued with a lecture about the first Christmas morning (and how many of the details I learned as a child from flannel graph boards in Sunday school are a result of bad translations :/), and then freed us to visit the shrine to the annunciation inside the church at our leisure. As we were milling around the courtyard, Mike said casually, “Have you given any thought to what we’d name our daughter?”

I hadn’t, really, but since he asked, and with my mind primed thinking about Miss Lydia and Lydia the first European convert, I realized I quite liked that name. “What do you think of the name Lydia?” I asked. Mike’s jaw dropped and he gasped, “You’re kidding me.”

Two nights prior, we’d stayed at a kibbutz on Lake Galilee. We’d been given free time to spend reading the Bible and praying, and Mike had made himself comfortable in a hammock on the beach. While reading, he’d sensed the Lord telling him that our daughter would be named Lydia. He’d written it down in his journal, but hadn’t told me about it right away.

Standing in the courtyard of the church, we both got chills. We wouldn’t meet our daughter for another year, but from that moment, her name was never in question.

Also, our Lydia looks fabulous in purple.

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The happiest moments

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About six years ago, we decided to pursue adoption as the way we’d grow our family. Once we made that decision, we had to accept that our kids wouldn’t look anything like us. As they grew from infancy to childhood, we would never turn to each other and exclaim how they had Mike’s eyes or my chin. Friends would never say, “He looks just like you!” We came to be at peace with that and were reassured by other adoptive parents that our kids would adopt our mannerisms, which can be just as satisfying to see as similar features. And we’ve seen some of that already. Mike has a horrible habit of starting a sentence and then not completing it because his mind has already moved on. Teddy does the same thing. I use “so” as a filler to start sentences. Teddy does, as well. It is rather adorable to hear him say, “So….I’ll put my own shoes on.”

But what we didn’t expect, and what has provided some of our happiest moments as adoptive parents, is discovering how much our kids’ interests and personalities mirror our own.

Teddy is blessed with a natural athleticism and love of baseball. We introduced him to the sport at an early age. And like Mike, he LOVES IT. He’s been throwing and catching since before he could walk. He swings an aluminum bat like he’s in the Little League World Series. He can’t stand still for 15 minutes, but put him in section 137, Row T, Seat 1 at Nats Park and he’ll sit for 3 hours with only the occasional request for a Coke and a bathroom break. It brings Mike so much joy to have a rapt audience in Teddy as he provides commentary throughout a game.

He also loves words–almost as much as I do. He insists on spelling out as many words as he can think of at his writing desk. From about age 3, every trip down the street involved him asking what storefront windows and street signs said. He takes great joy in pronouncing words he’s never read before and asking for definitions of words he hears, but doesn’t understand. And, while I’m not really sure how to define “caustic” in five-year-old terms, it brings a smile to  my face that he wants to know.

Another way he mirrors me is how literal he is. I’ll admonish him for something, and we’ll get into a 10 minute argument because he doesn’t accept my description of what he did. This is a personality trait that would be super endearing… if I didn’t share it (as was pointed out to me a few months ago: I couldn’t appreciate a story Mike was telling because I got stuck on a detail he had wrong). Instead, we butt heads over this…a lot. But if I choose to think about it as something Teddy “got from me”, it makes me smile. And I find it easier to see the positive side–Teddy will make a fantastic lawyer some day.

Lydia has a natural gift for gab — just like her daddy. She’s been jabbering practically since we brought her home and at 19 months, she’s stringing words into intelligible sentences already. (Tonight at dinner, she randomly stood up and declared, pretty clearly, “I’m happy and I know it, clap my hands!”) She’s got opinions. Lots of ‘em. And she’s not afraid to share them. Mike also has opinions and isn’t afraid to share them. So he encourages her to tell him about the injustice of wearing a bib while eating dinner, or how unfair it is that he insists on holding her hand while crossing the street. Right now they’re working on the confidence to express one’s opinion. They’ll work on the validity of the argument later.

Like me, she seems to be a morning person. I often take her with me on pre-dawn runs because the boys are still asleep and, well, see the previous paragraph. Also like me, she wants to go to bed when she’s tired…unlike her night owl father and brother. While they yawn and insist they’re not tired, she’ll reach for her crib and eagerly snuggle under her blanket, stick her thumb in her mouth and roll to her side, falling asleep in minutes. We girls do not understand evening second winds. 

Mike and I will never hear anyone exclaim how our kids are the spitting image of us, but we see reflections of ourselves in them all the time. And that makes us so happy. 

 

The questions are the hardest part

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Before our kids came home to us, the wait was hard, and in a few years, we’ll have hard race and identity issues to deal with, but right now, in my day-to-day parenting, the hardest adoption-related part is the questions. Ever since we brought Teddy home five years ago, I’ve fielded queries from strangers. Mostly the same two — is he yours and where is he from — and then a third — are they siblings — when Lydia came home, and at times other random ones. I’m quite comfortable responding to anything Teddy is curious about, but somehow I stumble frequently when confronted with queries from people on the bus, at the playground, and in passing. I’ll have an answer prepared for an anticipated question, and then someone frames it slightly differently…and suddenly I’m at a loss. Or I get a brand new question, and on the spot, I have to decide how I want to answer while respecting Teddy’s and Lydia’s stories, portraying adoption openly and honestly and without shame, and being gracious. It’s a lot to think about in the moment.

I experienced a new dimension of this struggle at the playground a couple weeks ago. Most questions come from adults, but kids are curious, too, and now that Teddy is elementary school age, his peers are asking questions. (Teddy is asking new questions, too, for that matter.) I was sitting with Lydia on the merry-go-round (the things parents do for love of child :/), and a girl of about 8 or 9 years asked if Lydia was my daughter. Not uncommon, but the conversation continued and eventually she asked a question I declined to answer. We learned in adoption training that the details of our kids’ stories are theirs to know and share as they choose. And I’d already decided that the piece of Lydia’s story this girl was asking about was for Lydia to share if she wanted to.

No matter who asks a question, I’m always uncomfortable opting not to answer. I fear coming across as rude, and the conversation usually takes an awkward turn. (In this case, it just sort of stopped, and the girl eventually went away.) I especially don’t like keeping an answer from a child. I don’t want to quash their curiosity! And I really don’t want to create a negative memory around adoption for them. But I think it’s important for other children to glean from our experience that they, too, are allowed to decline to answer a personal question. Our stories are our own, and we are the best stewards of them.

I’ve thought a lot about why I bristle so much whenever I’m asked questions in general, and I think part of my reticence comes simply from being an introvert. (Mike has no issue with questions.) Small talk is not my forte. I’m happy to exchange pleasantries about the weather with people I don’t know, but not share about my kids’ personal stories. And when people express curiosity about only their connection to me, birthplace or relationship, I feel like our family is a specimen under dissection, and once the research has been completed, we’re no longer of interest.

The best approach I’ve ever experienced was by another adoptive mom. We were watching our littlest ones on the playground, and she commented, “I don’t know if you’re a family through adoption, but…” and proceeded to share her own story. First of all, I appreciated “family through adoption” because it doesn’t single out the kids and make them seem part of a transaction. We’re all in this together. Second, the conversation did not hinge on whether I shared our story. She was sharing her own connection to adoption first, and if I wanted to reciprocate, great. If not, it wouldn’t be awkward.

But not everyone will interact in a way I’m comfortable with. I know I’m supposed to be an ambassador for adoption, but it’s frustrating sometimes, and I think I just have to accept that and pray for grace.