When Your Reasons Don’t Matter

I have done this, I have said things, and I have tried to justify them. I have been stressed out immediately after opening my mouth-feeling sick with regret. At the age of 15 I spent way to much time crying in my room because I was pretty sure I had lost my friend for over something I did or said. As an adult, I have tried to make changes, take a pause before I speak and be more in tune with why I say what I do and how it may be perceived.

Today I came across a group on a social media outlet that used their space to share what was thought to be humorous moments, specific to the country that they are working in, in an effort to ‘alleviate stress and discuss cultural differences’. This may not need to be an issue, but what was regarded as humour was at the expense of the very people they were there to work alongside. Once others entered into a conversation calling out the behaviour, I was stunned and disgusted to see what unfolded.

When you travel to another country to serve, work, lead, provide support or teach a trade you are entering someone else’s world. You are the visitor (no matter how long you stay), and you must adapt to how things are done differently. Think about how, within the very country you grew up in, things can vary greatly from home to home, state to state or province to province. Now imagine flying to a different country and immersing yourself in another culture; not everything will make sense. Do you really believe you can set foot in a new country and automatically think your way is the right way?

In this group pictures were posted of people doing things within their culture, albeit differently from North American methods, but not necessarily wrong. Commentaries and off-the-cuff jokes were made underneath the photos and that was the general vibe of the group. When those brave souls came along to defend their culture they were told why they were wrong and were asked to justify why they were offended. I was stunned, the white folks were attacking them for speaking up against their culture being the root of the jokes.

I watched white person after white person justify their actions, their jokes and their posts. The conversation went so far for someone to say that the country’s own diaspora wouldn’t return to the country to serve because they know it isn’t safe. Yet all the white people were ok to travel there and serve? The white saviour mentality bubbled up, and white privilege was rearing its ugly head. Almost no one could see why their behaviour was wrong because they looked at it only from their perspective. The argument was the group wasn’t actually mean-spirited because the intention was for things to be in jest, not to be hurtful.

My problem with this is that I have been spending some time educating myself, and making changes from that “I was just joking” person I was. I used to be super sarcastic and think pretty quick on my feet, making almost everything open for a wise crack. I abhorred anything to do with racism, yet often my jokes came at the expense of those around me. I was the naive person who said “I’m not racist” and I most certainly knew my heart didn’t support overt racism, but didn’t understand subtle racism. Since becoming a transracial family I have had my eyes opened and my perspective forever altered.

My world changed when I stopped thinking about my heart, and my intent and I opened my eyes to the impact of my words.

I usually know what I am saying when I say it, and I can defend my words to the ends of the earth. But what I cannot argue about is how my words may make you feel. I cannot see inside your heart, I cannot see your upbringing or what you may be going through right now. I can’t stop people from taking offence to what I might say the wrong way, but I can be cognizant of the people around me and take them into consideration. If where I am has largely become fuel for my laughter, why am I there? What impact am I having on the community I am in if, one moment I am working with them, and the next I am  making fun of them?

When what I do or say has a negative impact on a person, group or a culture what I intend is irrelevant. I can defend it until I am blue in the face, but it will not erase a person’s hurt. 

That is the real issue, it’s naive to think that we can explain away a joke, when the joke is about someone. When you stand face to face with your (un)intended victim, will you recognize them for who they are, their value and their humanity? Or will you continue to try to explain your reasoning to them?

M

Healing the Child Within

My journey to motherhood was a battlefield; my mothering experience has been one of joy and thankfulness. But in recent months there have been little cracks developing in who I am as a person, away from being a mother. A child is an incredible gift, one that has the power to make you become acutely aware of what was tarnished, broken or missing from your own childhood.  I have learned I will never be able to be the mother I hope to be until I deal with the child I was, that remains within me.

When you choose to become a parent by way of adoption in Canada there is a required education component to being approved. When you choose to adopt transracially there are countless courses and resources on how to do so. When your child is home there are other parents who have walked the road before you, and articles to support almost any situation you may encounter. You often can choose how prepared you want to be.

However, as a child you just become a member of your family. No choices, no guidance, no advice. We all navigate some bad experiences in childhood; many times we celebrate the good. Hopefully, life has offered you balance between the two.

Often times, when the balance is lacking and we carry some memories with us that were perhaps not what our parents ever intended. Some are dealt with, talked about and worked through. Some are buried. Some things seem unimportant until we have our own little girl or boy in front of us and we cannot imagine them ever being hurt.

I have become aware that how I parent, and what I dream of for my child is based on what I felt was missing for me. Doing better, or doing right by my child is the driving force behind many of my choices. My focus is not on baking, or activities, or keeping a perfect home. It is purely emotional, being there for her, helping her grow in confidence and letting her know she has a voice.  All valuable lessons, but they control me. I will never be perfect; and I will never be free of making mistakes. I will do my best, and hopefully she will be free enough to tell me what she needs.

As adults we can put on glad faces and do all the right things in front of others but who are we in our quiet moments? What do we think about? What do we say to ourselves? What do we fear? A child will make all of these thoughts, fears and feelings so much more obvious.

I must come to terms with what I needed as a child, what I didn’t receive and what I hear in the quiet. These are my issues and I cannot save my daughter from something that may not necessarily exist for her.

This year will be one spent working on me. I must see beauty in myself before I can truly appreciate the beauty around me. I must understand that the love of my husband and daughter will not fill the emptiness created by me not loving myself. I must believe in myself first, or I will never truly accept that someone else believes in me.

This coming year brings the promise of growth, for my family and me. I am thankful for my daughter and how this little person has stirred within me a desire to be better to myself. I know I will be more for her than who I dreamed to be because I will not be choosing from a place of fear. I know the child within me is safe and loved because I am the one holding her.

A Child of My Own-Repost

This is a piece I wrote for the website Mothering in the Middle in October 2013, I am reposting here as it is near and dear to my heart….

I was walking through an antique store and a lady approached me to say how adorable my daughter was and, that now that I had adopted, I would get pregnant and have a child of my ‘own.’ I had not met her, spoken to her about my road to adoption, or about infertility and if it played a role in my world.  But she continued to tell me her friend had finally given up and adopted, and then she got pregnant.

Many (most) adoptive parents experience things similar to my encounter. “Do you have any of your own? Do you plan to have yourown child?” I could brush it away as ”another woman had this child” therefore… but really that isn’t what is being asked of me. They mean biologically, thus resulting in the child officially being mine.

Others may think I am being picky about wording, obsessing about semantics. Clearly my daughter is adopted, I am white and she is brown.  Obviously the woman is just chatting me up, telling me a story about her friend. When strangers ask questions it usually isn’t with the intent to be rude.

I remember as a child having a couple of different children introduced to me as someone’s “adopted daughter.’ Each time it didn’t matter what ethnicity, the significance was they were ‘adopted.’

If you are following what I have said so far you are noticing that everything is from the adult’s perspective. But now think if my daughter was older and capable of understanding the statement ‘a child of my own.’ The children who I was being introduced to as ‘adopted’ were around eight years old, at the time.  What kind of impact do these statements have on them?

I do not want to see what will happen to me if I hear the words ‘adopted daughter’ prefacing my child’s name. I think the same knife that could pierce her heart will pierce mine. I share who she is with her with her Haitian Mother; she carries her blood and her characteristics. But this little girl carries both of our hearts.

I have loved her since my eyes first saw her wrinkly little face and her tiny knit hat. I fought for her when I thought I had lost her because of an earthquake. I cannot put all the different emotions I felt into words describing the first time I held her. I have been up with her while she cried, been to the hospital with her when she was sick and had anxiety attacks stressing over things that will likely never happen.

To throw an extra word in front of son/daughter removes a portion of the bond any child has to their family. If there are biological siblings involved it makes it even more damaging. It creates an opening for a child to feel less-than. She is my daughter. My daughter by way of adoption, and yes it is semantics but the wording does not preface my child’s identity within my family.

I used to feel I needed to share details so that people wouldn’t judge our family and the extended family in Haiti. I have since come to understand the cloak of protection that families have over their adopted children’s story. I am thankful my daughter was a baby and didn’t hear me blathering on so that I am the only one carrying shame. A great deal of who our children are is tied up in their story. We should only be adding to it not taking. They have already experienced too much loss before they come to be our sons and daughters. We can’t afford to give away more of who they are.

If you are in a position where you have to introduce someone’s child as “adopted,” introduce him or her by his or her name. If you see a family who looks like mine (transracial), refrain from asking personal things. People will always have questions; it is inherent in human nature.  But know that their story is not your story.

Original post, and my others here: http://www.motheringinthemiddle.com/?tag=michelle-eisler

Grief and Promise

This past week I have grieved for you.

You are a son I have not met. A boy I have not held. Now you can walk. You are getting teeth. You are eating solid food and learning how to say prayers.

Your smile makes my day so bright. But I have only seen it in pictures.

Your mother asked for me to raise you. in that moment I knew it would happen. I couldn’t see how, I didn’t know the way, but I knew if it was her hearts desire it was mine.

We are waiting. So many approvals, so many steps. A year ago we started. I know the wait, I walked it with your sister.

This is so hard, and my head knows better than to get trapped in these emotions. But I understand there is a new delay, one I didn’t count on and now all I feel is loss. My heart is heavy.

I am missing out. We wait once again for things we have no control over, no timeline. How do I not see time with you slipping through my fingers, like every other adoptive parent?

I skipped Christmas. And New Years. And all the days in-between, I have spent the last 3 days in bed, I have no words for people right now. I was even afraid to tell your Dad how hurt I was because it would make it real.

Know this: You are worth every tear I have shed. Every missed meal. Every prayer. Every anxiety. Every moment of cocooning myself away. Every minute.

You are worth it and so much more. My son.

This morning I saw this on my computer: ‘Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.’ Isaiah 43:19 Be encouraged!

I will hold onto these promises, and carry them as closely to my heart as I carry you Jadyn.

The Lean

I knew about you before you were born. I prayed for you, cried for you and you were in every waking moment of my day.

The email came saying “it’s a boy”. You were my son and I knew it in my heart. I named you, and continued to pray for you. I begged for God to open the doors and show me the path to bring you home.

It’s been over a year and now I am in the lean months, my work is done and I must wait. The papers are making their way through the many required steps. Your sister waits for you and smiles when she sees your pictures, she has many plans for you.  Your dad worries about the finances needed and how we will do it. His eyes sparkle when we get new photos.

It’s quiet. No emails come telling us where we are at and what we need to do.

I’m trying to push forward, not focus on the wait.

I remember this now from when we adopted your sister. Wavering between feeling good and having faith about the quiet. Then struggling for a couple of days with all the unanswered questions, wondering, missing out on your days.

I feel the distance.

From you. From reality outside of my bubble of adoption. From God. He isn’t quiet, but on these days I don’t hear Him. I am in the stage of ‘doing’ and praying. Not meditating, not learning, not reading about His plans for us. I’m selfish and focused only on what is next for us.

I need to lean into this journey and look The One who has brought you to me. Even if some days I can only successfully do it one minute at a time.

In the meantime, know how much you are loved.

Hardship

A woman needs to take the life of her unborn child because she has no room at home for them. She knows that what she takes could prove the end for her life on earth, but her husband begs her to as the financial strain is too great.

She survives and asks the God that she believes in to forgive her for what she has done. Later, she finds herself pregnant again, life has continued to serve this couple with limitations. Her husband asks her to do the same, she is torn between what she see’s as sin and obedience to the world she is in.

Do you make a judgement on this family?

If I told you they live in Haiti would you look at this circumstance differently?

We in North America have many blessings that sadly we think it allows us to offer our opinions on things that we could never begin to understand. I am often asked why my daughter’s mother just doesn’t take birth control. Why does she keep having kids?

Like life in Haiti has somehow offered her choices.

Who are we as people to turn to the person on our right or left and judge them for their actions, limitations and life choices? Our opinions of others are based on the lenses we see life through, not the reality they live in.

I carry the shame for the many times I have assumed I knew better, the naivety that I carried that made me think it was my place to weigh in on someone’s life. If we are asked, our words should still be tempered to understand we do not see the hidden corners of someones heart.

If we are not asked, why is what we think so important?

I should be sleeping!

I can hear my husband’s snoring through the floor. If my blood pressure would ever rise, this is the time for it to happen. When we were first married I did the loving wife gentle jostle to try and make him stop. Three months into our marriage I whispered a death threat into his ear and he stopped instantly. Almost twenty years later I sit on the couch and I decide to make a blog entry?

Again much has changed. We have learned a lot about Nathalia’s food intolerance’s, with one last set of Dr’s appointments to come we are feeling much more on solid ground. My husband and myself also managed to develop a couple which has explained a lot of the allergy and fatigue issues! We think we tracked it back to parasites that were undiagnosed in our daughter on her arrival from Haiti. She was very sick with lactose and soy intolerance issues so we think it masked the parasite, or they were testing too specific and missed what she may have had. Either way, we have treated the whole family and things are improving!

I am learning my food limits with this issue, my intolerances show as migraines. Not. Cool. I spend a lot of time in a housecoat (yes, I said housecoat-no I am not 80 years old). I wear my glasses and often times I feel like my hair looks like Doc from Back to the Future. I survive in a less than flattering state.

Now there are coyotes outside. I often wonder why they scream like hyenas? Living in an area that allows for some wildlife surrounding isn’t always wonderful. Like mostly at night. Or early in the morning when the woodpeckers were trying to get the pine beetles out of the trees, at 5:45. On the trees in back of our property. I digress…

I have grown as a person, in the sense that I can shake things off a little easier and I see my value more than I used to. Personal growth is hard, it doesn’t come naturally or with time. It truly is something you have to work at. These realizations don’t just happen with a birthday-it’s because you are willing to fight to believe in something more than you did before. I think you become tired of the status quo, and you want more for yourself.  For some people, they are tired of giving and they need their cup filled, either way, there comes a time when you know things need to change.

I am thankful for a God who is willing to stand by me when I am slow to learn, quick to be hurt or suspect, afraid and insecure in my place in this world.

I am thankful for a God who is willing to keep filling my cup, even when I spill His blessings and don’t seem to notice.

I am thankful for a God who waits for me as I come to the realization of the plan He has for me and my family. As I step out in faith, even though there is nothing there for my eyes to see, I will follow Him.

I have been working on something for my family, putting all this stuff together and making it work. I stepped out in faith, and when the doors opened I started to do the work. The reality is, I’ve done nothing. What has been done up till now has been all God, the timing, the doors opening, otherwise everything was not possible. I’m thinking God started the ball rolling and I stepped in and kept it going. Not so much.

It’s not about me. I am the vessel, I am the means to His plan. I asked for help, if this was in His will to make it happen. Clearly I am only the hands. God is in control, and I keep thinking I can get things done. Who are we to think we can do anything better than God by hanging onto things we ask Him for?

God has heard. God has given. Those were His words to me. I must trust in Him, my last piece of the puzzle will come.

Philippians 1:6 ~ Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…..