Last month, my precious lifelong friend Kellie Bieser traveled to China to make the host child she photographed in our home last January her son. This is her honest response to that complicated, frequently-asked question: How are you?
Guest post by Kellie Bieser
If you are one of the brave, patient souls who has already asked me this question, you know that the response is not a 5-second, “We are good!” And this is because a.) If you asked me this, it means you likely saw us get out of the car like circus clowns with our herd of children, wheelchair, baseball bags, snacks, activities, et cetera. And b.) I am an honest person and to just say, “We are good!” would be minimizing all of the other things we are experiencing right now.
But really, we ARE good. We asked for this version of our family and we got it. And on a deep soul level, I know that this is right and that this is where we belong. All five of my kids are handling this major life transition with honesty and beauty that I cannot begin to fathom.
Henry (the youngest who I was worried would have an issue with not being the center of attention all the time) just talks louder if he isn’t feeling heard. He also brings toys to his new brother and sits next to him coloring and cuddling in our quieter moments.
Annie (our 8-year-old girl who I thought might resent having yet another brother added to the mix) has taken on the role of nurturer and wants to anticipate all of her brother’s needs and care for him like a little mother … and he adores her for it.
Noah (our 11-year-old boy who I was worried would try to bottle up all his feelings) has been so open about needing to take this all in at his own pace and has been so willing to talk about the things that concern/annoy/frustrate him … and he is also the one who waits for his new brother to wake up so he can escort him down the stairs.
Oliver (our 13-year-old boy who I was worried would struggle with being embarrassed by his clown car family) has truly been like a third parent, helping not only his new brother but ALL of his siblings as we try to navigate the activities and emotions and responsibilities of five children. And when we all ventured out to his baseball game last night, he didn’t try to pretend we weren’t his but rather waved enthusiastically as we cheered obnoxiously for him.
JJ (our newest addition who I was worried would hate us for ripping him from everything he has always known) has taken to this family in the sweetest way, slowly becoming more comfortable in our home and tolerating all of our quirks and craziness with grace that I can’t even begin to imagine possessing.
Jim (who I was worried would expect everything to be back to “normal” when we returned from China) has been the foundation of it all, reassuring me when it all feels like too much and taking over when it really is too much.
And then there is me. And I am good, too … kind of. You see, the past year has been filled with me worrying about how everyone else would adjust to this adoption without ever wavering in my confidence that this is what *I* wanted and would therefore embrace with grace.
Turns out, I wasn’t as graceful as I thought (or even close).
In China, I struggled seeing a kid who was NOT what I saw when I met him last year (after he had had a few weeks of love from his amazing host family). He was distant and scared and completely unresponsive … and I was frozen with fear.
While I spent lots of time at home researching his needs and scheduling appointments for the doctors who could help him, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about what it would really look like to bathe a 13-year-old stranger (spoiler alert: it is weird and uncomfortable and difficult for everyone involved). I read all the books on adoption psychology and knew exactly what was “normal” and how to deal with it and yet none of that research compared to actually parenting a kid who would rock back and forth violently or refuse to talk to me or cry without warning.
In my head, I was prepared to need a wheelchair some of the time and get a few stares, but I wasn’t ready for MY OWN FEELINGS when people rush past us to get to the door before we slow them down or honk impatiently at me as I struggle to get the wheelchair folded because I am taking up a prime parking spot.
I didn’t prepare for what it might feel like to be alone all day every day with a child whose language I don’t speak and whose culture I don’t fully understand and whose personality I am just beginning to learn … a true stranger who is also my son.
You see, I knew what I was getting into externally and prepared for everyone else, but I didn’t do the best job of anticipating my own heart in all of this. And it has been HUMBLING because now I know that I am not as good as I thought I was.
I am impatient. I am proud. I am judgmental. I am weak. I am overwhelmed.
But don’t worry! Because in all of this, all of those things about me have had to be shattered, and this is what I keep telling people who are brave enough to ask and patient enough to listen: This experience has BROKEN ME. And that hurts. But through it, I think I am starting to emerge better (though I am cautious to say that because I have seen just how bad I can be …).
I am learning to slow down and to not care so much about the things I can’t control. I am learning to be okay with discomfort in the name of truly caring. I am learning to love in a way that is unnatural and for the first time ever, in a way that feels truly selfless. I am learning from these five kids and this husband who claim me as their family … and as I was the one who was “preparing” all this time (read: preaching at them about what would need to happen in this adoption process), it is a humbling thing to admit that. All of it has been and is so hard and yet there is so much beauty in that hardship.
So we are good. We are better than good. And while it might not look that way on the outside (because I haven’t figured out how to add a make-up routine to my current schedule), we are.
We are just redefining what “good” really means.