Friday, March 22, 2013

Backpacks, Jump Rope, and an Older Child Adoption

Diapers and rocking chairs.

That is where we were at.
There are days where I am still there.
That is...until I find myself wandering through the toy aisles at Target wondering if our daughter is able to jump rope or if she will like a Disney Princess backpack or lean more toward the mini-hipster owl style.

Oh yes. That is because she is 6 years old. Not 10 months old.

We have had to do some serious mentality shifting since January. It is almost like when you spend weeks and weeks preparing for a big test and then sit down, fully prepared and slightly puffed up at your lack of procrastination, to find that not one of the things you studied is actually on the test.

(If you haven't ever experienced that, then you are just far too smart for your own good and/or just a huge slacker that never studied.)

When we decided in January to pursue another adoption, we not only said yes to a beautiful 6 year old girl on a Waiting Child List, but we said yes to throwing out everything we THOUGHT we knew about preparing to be adoptive parents.

When you've spent 13 months preparing, reading, training, and learning specifically for something and then it all changes...
It rattles the cages a bit.

We've all of sudden stopped thinking about how to make a bottle and what crib to buy and started looking at how to register for elementary school and how to communicate through a language barrier.

I mean HELLO?!? Steven Spielberg would have a hay-day with a plot twist like this! (I may be taking some liberties with that one, but hey, I'm a big dreamer.)

So, how do you do Older Child Adoptions?

I have no idea.

But luckily, there are a lot of really wonderful people out there that have been brave enough to say yes to a child that is waiting for a family. A child who has already experienced a decent amount of life in their own country, speaking their own language, learning their own traditions and ways of living.

And we get to learn from their successes and their failures. For that, I am so grateful.

So as we read, learn, train, talk, and prepare as much as possible for yet another crazy and amazing adventure, here are a few thoughts I have to a lot of questions I have...

Why an Older Child? 

We never in a million years thought that we would start out parenthood with a 6 year old. That goes against every single understanding of the family order that I have ever known.
But, that is just it...that is all I have only ever known.
That doesn't mean that it is the only right way.

We had this awesome moment in our marriage (the kind that would have included fireworks and a soundtrack had this been that Spielberg movie I was referring to earlier) where we saw this little girl, saw her sweet joyful face, and knew in our hearts that we couldn't say no.

If we say no, and the next person says no, and the next person says no, and so on....
Then who will ever say yes?

And isn't that what we set out to do in the first place? Say yes to God's TOTALLY RIDICULOUS plan for our lives through adoption?

We realize that an Older Child Adoption is not for every family. But, was it not for us just because we don't have kids and are generally "young" by comparison? Just because it may somewhere down the line throw off the birth order of the children in our family? Because we are 29/30 and we have no idea what to do with a 6 year old?

Those just didn't seem like good enough reasons for us. Not good enough to say no to an orphan who needs a family.

What about all of the "challenges" that come with adopting an Older Child?

We may be young, but we are not naive. (Well...for the most part.) We know that this adoption won't be all roses and fluffy bunnies...which would be weird anyway.

There ARE challenges that come with Older Child adoptions like a greater sense of loss, difficulty in attachment, development, language barriers...the list goes on. We will most likely have to face many of these situations and pray for a lot of patience, a lot of grace, and giant dose of humility.

We have a lot to learn. A LOT. And not just from books and conversations. I'm pretty sure a lot of this learning will come once we are actually face to face with our little girl, growing and learning how to be a family together.

But, what family doesn't have challenges? A biological family may have different challenges than an adoptive family, but that doesn't make it any more or less challenging, does it?

A dear friend of mine, who adopted an older child several years ago, said to me over a perfectly brewed cup of coffee, "Jessa, you guys will indeed face challenges as parents. I face challenges every day, some with my biological children and some with my adopted one. But at the end of the day, they are all my children and I wouldn't want it any other way."

Are you scared?

Freaking terrified.

So if anyone reading this has been here, lived through it, and wants to share some important "know-hows"...bring it!

There are days where I feel like I am going to be the worst mom ever. I'm selfish, impatient, quick to anger, even quicker to talk, prideful, and protective of my "own" time.

I sometimes think that I am an even worse "adoptive" mom because I'm not reading enough materials, taking enough online webinars on parenting older children, writing eloquently and frequently on my blog, supporting 150 causes, or starting an orphan care ministry in my town.

God is pretty cool like this though. He doesn't judge me on my Amazon shopping cart book list. He doesn't even give me an eyebrow raise when I spend an afternoon catching up on missed episodes of Nashville instead of blogging about adoption.
He has a really gentle way of reminding me that I am not perfect. Never will be. Don't have to be.

Because He was for me.

And there is something strangely relieving about knowing that I'm going to try my guts out in adopting an older child, being a parent, loving a daughter, passionately pursuing my husband...and probably failing a lot.

And it is okay.

I pray every day that we will be the best parents that we can be and that we won't completely screw up our children. But before I pray any of those prayers, I pray that our daughter and our child that is maybe waiting for us in Ethiopia right now, will ALWAYS know how deeply loved they are by our God.
And that they will know that far before any of our mistakes, missteps, or "learning curves" that we throw at them as parents.

Like I said before...
I know Older Child Adoption is not for everyone.
But it is totally for us.

Even if fall flat on our face while re-learning jump rope.


  1. You guys are going to be such great parents! You are already so good with children and I cant wait to see your BEAUTIFUL daughter :)

  2. I don't even know you but I love your writing! We were planning adopting babies and will now be bringing home a 3 and 4 year old. God will give you guys as well as us exactly what we need to be successful parents!

  3. Jessa,
    this is a beautiful post!
    I am very excited for you as you start this new brave chapter of your lives!

  4. This post just makes me want to meet you and be your friend even more!! I know we don't really KNOW each other, but I can just hear and see God moving through all your words and all you guys are doing. I can only imagine it will be TOUGH, but oh how God moves and speaks and works in the tough stuff! The easy stuff is just that- easy. It's the God-sized things that bring Him greater glory and display his mighty power! Wahoo for stepping out in faith! I just can't wait to see all that happens through you guys!! :-)

  5. Wow! What an awesome leap of faith you are taking, relying on God for EVERYTHING! But that's what it is really about.... adoption... not about our family, us as a couple, or little ol' me. It's about God orchestrating love across the globe for ONE child who needs you as badly as you need her. Obeying His still small voice is so very rewarding.... and so dang hard at the same time. Our seven year old Colombian princess came home over two years ago. I wondered all the same things you are wondering about being the worst adoptive mom on the planet... but God picked me for her and His mercy and grace and love is enough for both of us.

    I'd love to sit over a cup o' joe and tell you all the wondrous miracles God has in store for you, but I'm in Phoenix. We have a mutual friend who goes to your church that pointed me to your blog. Here is ours in case you need some midnight reading while you lie awake and wonder. MySistersJar (dot) wordpress (dot) com.

    Blessings on your journey!

  6. I love how 'real' you are here! I'd be a lot MORE concerned if you acted like you had it all figured out. (As parents, we NEVER have it all figured out!!)

    Excited for you, and will be praying.

  7. You guys will be great parents. So excited for both of you. It's awesome how God stirs your hearts as a couple :)