“So, how many kids do you have?” the conversation starts with standard mom small talk.
Shrieks of delight and shouting emanate from the glass doors separating the café and the ice rink, and I shiver before answering, “I have six—“
Incredulous, “Six, wow, that’s amazing. How old are they?”
I had been going to ask her about her family, but this was the way typical conversations started when my soon-to-be friend realizes how many kids I have, “My oldest is 16, and I have two thirteen year-old girls, two eleven year-old boys and an eight year-old.”
I can already anticipate her next statement, “Wow, you have two sets of twins! You’re amazing!”
“No, on both counts,” I chuckle, “I don’t have any twins, nor am I amazing. Six years ago, my family of five adopted three kids from Ethiopia and we lovingly call our two thirteen and eleven year-olds the chocolate and vanilla twins.”
Again, the typical response, “Wow, I could never do that, you are amazing!”
I ponder just how much I should share with this new acquaintance, but decide that telling her that I am unable to do this job without the Lord’s constant help would require giving too much personal information that doesn’t seem appropriate to this casual conversation. So instead I just smile, thinking that perhaps when we get to know each other better, I’ll share the difficulties of raising these children for the glory of God within the context of a blended family.
I usually don’t share these challenges of blending a family of biological and adopted children, because so often we are not given as much grace as others when it comes to the ways we raise and discipline our children. For most outsiders, it is easier to imagine the losses that our adopted children have experienced before they became part of our family than those of our biological children. Most people don’t even think about the losses our biological children have faced and judge them more harshly when they are acting out in similar ways to our adopted children. Both sets of our children, and each in their own individual ways, have suffered loss and are trying to discover the ‘new normal’ of their lives.
Due to our differing skin colors, it often feels as though we are on display for anyone to question or comment on. Most people offer unjustified praise, and some give judgment because our discipline seems harsher for our adopted children than our biological children, never taking into consideration that different children require different discipline. Sometimes people judge us in ways most people would not feel comfortable judging other families, but because of our visibility, we have to just accept from time to time if we are to live the transparent lives God has called us to.
My thoughts thus occupied as we continued to chat, I hear Casting Crowns’ song Does Anybody Hear Her over the speaker system and the words are like a little nudge from the Holy Spirit. I decide to take the plunge. I need to be transparent, even if it leads to judgment, perhaps speaking to some difficulty in her life.
“You know, I hear that comment a lot, about how amazing and how cool it is that we adopted and kept these three siblings together. In complete honesty, it is neither.”
“Really, what do you mean?”
“Well, we expected that adopting these children would be hard in the beginning, but that after a short adjustment, God would make our lives easier than others we’d known who had adopted. He’d asked us to do this after all, so He couldn’t have meant for us to suffer, right? Well He didn’t make it easier, things got harder and harder,” I paused to let that sink in, continuing, “Sometimes God uses difficult
situations to draw us closer to Him.”
“Do you really believe that?” as her eyes become moist.
“Yes, wholeheartedly! You see…” and as I shared with her, this stranger, of God’s redemption and love for us, I realized that this was exactly what He had called me to: I am to live a life on display so that others may see Him living in me, especially through my struggles.