Today I am 41. Last year, I celebrated my 40th birthday with an array of friends and family. This year it was my sister and I and our children. Like every day, today was full of hustle and bustle. Children … Continue reading
Apparently it’s National Single Parent’s Day. I didn’t necessarily set out to become a single mom. But I’ve never feared the prospect. When God first spoke to me about adopting, He said I might do it alone. At the time I was 10yrs old. The only alone I could imagine was a husband dying or divorcing. So that’s the scenario I played out with my Barbie dolls.
As a teenager, I felt more strongly that I would adopt before marrying. By then, outside the church, women were doing that. Then, I fell in love with someone who loved everything about me – including the crazy dream of adopting. At that point, adoption was still primarily done when you couldn’t have children of your own. Never was it the first choice. But I wanted it to be mine.
Over the past decade, I’ve watched the church rise to embrace adoption as a calling. It’s a powerful testimony of Jesus choosing us as we choose to love the least of these among us.
I tell my daughters that God knew I would be their mother – He made us for each other. “Then why didn’t He just give us to you at the beginning?” Raine often asks. Why didn’t He spare them the pain of beginning elsewhere under less than ideal circumstances? I don’t know. “Because He hoped things would be different. He wanted things to be good for you. He let your birth parents have a chance to work with Him. But He got me ready just in case,”is the answer I give her.
When I finally felt ready to pursue fostering, a dear friend informed me that any children I cared for would be cursed by God. She told me I was going outside of His desire for family – a mother and father – and because I was defying divine design my children and I would live outside of God’s blessings. Her words stopped me in my tracks. Though I didn’t agree, I found myself blocked for several years as I processed that thought. My idea of fostering and adopting as a single woman was foreign to the circles I moved in. Most people didn’t take me seriously when I first started talking about it. But when I began moving towards it, I realized how opposed most people were.
Because of that and other reasons, my relationship with that friend came to an end. I grieved for a long time while I continued to grieve the loss of the man I’d fallen in love with. For reasons I still can’t fully understand, that relationship exploded. Was it all for the best? I really don’t think so. But it’s how it worked out. There’s nothing I can do about my lost love. Believe me. And there’s nothing my girls can do about their ill-equipped birth parents. That’s just how it’s gone. We have to come to a place of acceptance.
I didn’t intentionally set out to defy perception. God created me to be a mother. It’s in my DNA. “Mom” was my nickname as a teenager. That’s how everyone saw me becuase that’s who I am. Would it be better to have a husband walking along side me? No doubt. But I wasn’t willing to forfeit my calling when that opportunity didn’t come togehter. So, I have become a single mother.
It may be more difficult than parenting with a partner. Since I’ve never had one, I can’t say for sure. I’ve been told that it is. I am only one person. That means that some of the kids have to wait for my attention sometimes. The dishes don’t always get done right away. Sometimes I run out patience. But, I think, that can be said of any parent – even when there are two.
My children are blessed. They have one parent who loves them. They have one parent who always puts them first. They have one parent fully commited to raising them into the amazing women they’re meant to be. I am one person, it’s true. But I don’t see that as a disadvantage. My kids have one person completely devoted to them. And that counts for an awful lot.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Like most holidays, in my opinion, it’s highly commercialized. Perhaps unintentionally, the message received by most singles is, “I am not enough”.
That’s not a thought I entertain in the everyday, so it wasn’t part of Valentine’s Day. I bought my daughters new shirts as I usually do.
The message on Athena’s top is dear to my heart. Love Wins! In so many ways that is the testimony of our family. We invited another single mom over for lunch. She asked to bring a friend – a single mom as well. My girls and I turned the lunch into a little party. I ordered cupcakes from a lady at church. I bought flowers. We decorated.
In years gone by, I’ve busied myself with lavishing love on others. Many times I made greeting cards and wrote heartfelt words to dear friends who were without significant others on Valentine’s Day. That made me feel better about being alone.
This year much too late, I remembered not everyone is comfortable being on their own – especially at Valentine’s. But I was out of time to do anything about that.
Since becoming a mom, that longing has slowly subsided. Someone would be lovely. But I’m not going to spend my time waiting. I have a life to life – a life of significance. That significance is not marked by having a ring on my finger or someone to fall asleep with.
This year, when I least expected it, I reaped the generosity I’d previously sown. Two friends stopped by unexpectedly with gifts. One brought chocolate and flowers – the very kind I’d bought to give to my lunch guests. The other made cinnamon buns and brought chocolates. The cinnamon buns – possibly her first attempt – weren’t spectacular, by her own admission. But that made me love them all the more. It was a mark of our friendship that she’d chosen to include me in the less than exceptional moments. I love being in community. For me that means being real. That my friend made the effort to bake me something and chose to share the imperfection of her creation speaks volumes to me. Those are the kind of relationships I want – sincere, honest, and an example of family at it’s best. I also got a lovely card and chocolates from one of my party guests.
Athena made me a flower arrangement at school. Raine, who is with me every waking moment, realized too late she had nothing for me. But in the midst of a few teary moments as emotions overtook her on Saturday, Raine told me repeatedly how much she loves me. “And love is all that matters,” she reminded me of the words I’ve often spoken.
My love is full of love. Being single, I am not living without. The truth is I am living a significant life full of love.
There’s a commercial on the radio station that’s always on in our home. I don’t recall the details but it says, in preparation for Christmas “everything has to be just right.” After hearing this for several days, Raine asked, “Does everything really have to be just right for Christmas?”
Perfectionism is not something I’ve ever fallen into. Nor is it a mindset I encourage. “No,” I answered, “Christmas doesn’t have to be just right.”
Still how easy it is to get caught up in the mindset of making everything glorious and wonderful. Today is Christmas Eve. It’s 9am and both of my kids have been in time out. Athena peeled paint off the bedrooms doors I recently repainted. Raine has lied about a few things and has a very bad attitude.
This is when the guilt creeps in. “I’m ruining Christmas for my kids!” a voice says. “They’ll be scarred for life! Christmas will always be remembered negatively!” Then the voice of reason sets in. Christmas Eve and Christmas day are two days in the midst of many that we have shared and will share as a family. Like any day, they’re made up of a series of moments and a variety of experiences. So far today there have been lows but there will also be highs. Hopefully, my kids will remember the consistency that brings stability to their lives. If they are destructive there is a consequences whether it’s Christmas Eve or any other ordinary day. If they lie and speak rudely to me the result is not a favourable one. That behaviour is not ok on Christmas any more than it is another day of the year.
In years past, I often gave in to that persistent pressure telling me everything needed to be just right. I wanted us, in our state of foster/adoptive family, to be perfectly happy. Year after year, that just didn’t happen. Holidays are hard for those grieving. Foster children and adoptive children live in various levels of grief. Christmas can be a glaring reminder that they are without the family they were born to. Often the hype of the holidays makes that loss more apparent than it is on other days. As a foster mom, I’m starting with several strikes against me as I try to conform to society’s view of this wonderful celebration.
This year, we don’t have any foster children residing with us. Still the increased consumption of sugary treats is making spirits less than bright in our house. Grief is likely also a factor. It’s hard to know because kids can’t always express what’s happening inside of them.
Let me warn you – today and tomorrow will not be picture perfect at every turn. Hopefully there will be some good times that I manage to capture for posterity. And hopefully what Raine and Athena remember is that I love them and that love compels me to parent them wholeheartedly regardless of the day.
Christmas really is a day like most others. It’s an opportunity to come together and choose to love in the midst of imperfections. It’s a time to appreciate the gift of family and friends who embrace us for who we are. In prophesying about Jesus’ arrival on earth, Isaiah declared Him to be the Prince of Peace. Today and tomorrow, I’ll be focusing on pushing away the pressure to have everything just right. I will be working to embrace peace. Perfection may be a goal you’re able to achieve. For me it’s too elusive. So I will enjoy the highs and make it through the lows. And we will celebrate Christmas honestly and without any lofty expectations. I’m ok with that.
The question caught me off guard.
Raine repeated herself, “Are you trying to be nobody?”
That Saturday morning I was trying to be exceptionally cheerful. We were supposed to go out for breakfast with their birth grandmother and cousin. But she’d had to cancel. Friends we were supposed to visit a farm with that afternoon had also canceled. I was still planning to take the kids out for breakfast and to the farm, but Athena woke feeling unwell. So we were staying home. Our day went from being filled with excitement to very drab. I was making pancakes and trying to convince Raine it was all ok.
“These cups!” she shouted when I failed to understand her. “Nobody drinks juice out of teacups. You’re trying to be nobody!”
The force in her voice gave the impression she didn’t much appreciate my attempt to be nobody.
“I like being nobody. I like to do things that nobody else does. Sometimes it’s best to be nobody,” I answered.
Thanks to a disgruntled 14 year old who trashed my house and kicked several
holes in the wall, I’ve been reorganizing and redecorating. Sometime ago a friend was overwhelmed by all my dishes. I have two complete formal sets and one partial along with three everyday sets. She suggested scaling back but at that point I wasn’t ready. Her encouraging words returned to me recently. So I let go of my everyday dishes and replaced them with a partial set of formal china. The array of glass cups gave way to assorted tea cups. That’s what I was serving juice in on a very disappointing Saturday morning.
“These are beautiful!” Raine exclaimed, carefully handling the delicate cup. She was happy with the change though had sounded otherwise with her repeated question, “Are you trying to be nobody?”
The quest for individuality has always been a driving force in my life. It’s part of how God made me. Everything in me wants to go against the flow. The way I dress and decorate, the way our home is run, the choices I make tend to be counter-culture. I am praying other single, godly women step into adoption. In this area I don’t always want to be the only one. But for now, in my real-life world, I am. That’s ok. I don’t mind being a nobody.