Monday, October 24, 2011

Post-placement pride

We recently had our very first post-placement visit with the local social worker who originally approved us to adopt our girls.

I always, always get nervous about these visits.  Someone wielding a whole lot of power, who really doesn't even know you very well, coming into your home and asking questions and making observations.  Yuck!

But this time, in the hours leading up to the visit, I also found myself a little bit excited.

See we kind of had to fight to pursue the adoption of Tigist and Mekdes, because our homestudy agency had some random biases.  In the end we won them over, and I think we also scored a few points for team "Not-Every-Large-Family-is-Always-Chaotic-and-Messy."  If you have a big family, you can thank me in the form of Starbucks and IKEA gift cards.  :)

Now fast-forward a year.  Our daughters are home.  We are a family of nine now.  And even though Mekdes and Tigist have only been home four weeks, oh my goodness, they are doing amazingly well.  Kevin and I are doing amazingly well.  My other children are doing amazingly well.  Our family has worked through the initial adjusting and fine-tuning and are sloowwwly inching our way towards being settled again.

I suppose my excitement stemmed from the fact that I wanted our social worker to see how positively precious my daughters are, and that "special needs adoptions" (whatever that even means--because believe me, every adoption includes a traumatized child with unique and special needs!) are something to rejoice in and pursue, not run away from.  I'm also pretty darn proud of my other five children, and how they've weathered the storm of upheaval.  And of course my husband continues to be such a steady rock and support in our home.

The thing is, you really never know how a placement is going to work.  You can think you know, but you don't.  Not really.  Not until the child is home, and the dust settles as the honeymoon ends. 

And yes, we're surely still in the honeymoon phase, but I do believe we are the right family for these girls.  They fit right in.  My other children adore them, Down syndrome is so not an issue, and our days spent at related medical appointments are, for some reason, fun for them.  (It's not solely because they get McDonald's for lunch or because they get to ride in a Very Big Van that they think is the coolest thing ever, but it helps!  :)  )  Basically, so far, I think our home is a pretty safe place for Mekdes and Tigist to be.  Their siblings (and bursting-with-pride parents) love and appreciate them for who they are, and precisely because of who they are.  We have plenty of wiggle room in our lives and schedule for doctor's visits and, yep, even multiple heart surgeries.

And here's the thing, friends: it's not because we're doing anything special.  At all.  Because we're not.  I do occasionally yell at my kids and there are crumbs on my floor and I'm doing my best to get everyone to soccer and catechism class (on time!), just like the rest of ya'll.  But I am finding crazy, relentless, remarkable-every-day-graces in the errands we run and chores we do.  God is showing up like you wouldn't believe, and I honestly cannot fathom how we ever wound up so blessed as to have Tigist and Mekdes grace our lives.

We don't deserve it.  We've done nothing to earn it. 

And so the social worker came.  We were all smiles and really had nothing negative to report...just the usual challenges you'd expect with an adoption.  The girls were their usual charming selves.  But, I felt as if my daughters are still seen as nothing more than "special needs kids" or "Down syndrome kids" by this agency.  And we're that "big weird homeschooling family."  Any excitement and pride I'd felt ahead of time was quickly replaced by defensiveness and frustration. 

The thing is, some people will just never "get it."  My daughters will be fighting stereotypes and other peoples' ignorance their entire lives, and this is only the beginning.  So I just put on a smile and gave the social worker an earful about how dang awesome my little girls are, how they are sweet and social and attaching to our family.  I talked about how much we love them, and the amazing progress they're making. 

That's what I'd been looking forward to, anyway.  To being able to look this person in the eye and say, our daughters are amazing.  Our family is doing well.  Life is so beautiful.  God is taking care of us.

And of course eventually she left, and it was just our happy not-so-little-family again...and really, at the end of the day, that's who matters.  The people in my house.  Oh how I love them so!

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