Sunday, April 24, 2011

Enough Kids?

People that we are close to expressed their displeasure recently at our desire to adopt. "Don't you think you have enough kids?!" 

This would be my response if I thought they would hear me:

It's not about a desire to have more kids. We have seven. By most people's standards, that's a lot. Often, we even think it's a lot, but usually, it just seems normal. We are imperfect people and an imperfect family. There are times when I think we've got it goin' on...and times when I feel like we're the Beverly Hillbillies. But when I look closely, I can see God's design. 

There are an estimated 147 million orphans in the world, today. That number is too big to wrap my brain around, so I look at individual children that I'm aware of that have nobody. I look at the pictures on Reece's Rainbow and imagine what those kids are like. Who delights in them? Who encourages and challenges them? Who loves them?

No one.

I imagine them living the life they've always known, in the same groupa with the same caregivers, playing with the same toys (if there are any), looking at the same walls...when, suddenly, at the age of five, they are jerked from that environment...ripped away from all they've ever known...and taken to a dark and scary place. There, they are tied to a bed or crib and left alone. I imagine their tears (which are ignored) and the noises which leave them terrified. Screams, moans, cries, and profanity assault their innocent ears. Most of them die within the first year.

And I think of my children. 

If you asked them, they would tell you they have a rough life. They don't have the electronic gadgets many of their friends do. They are forced to share a room with siblings. Most of their clothing is second-hand. I lose my patience and yell, sometimes. (Okay, maybe a lot). They are required to do chores and take care of each other. Their younger siblings break their stuff. 

They are blessed.

Quite simply, we believe we have something to offer the orphan. A small home, an imperfect family, siblings to play and fight with, parents to delight in them (and yell at them, from time to time), and the love of their Heavenly Father.

We are under no illusion that it will be easy. We don't expect our future children to show us any gratitude for being rescued any more than our current children do for not having to be. Children are generally selfish, messy, loud, and exhausting. Kids who were raised in orphanages come with emotional baggage, usually expressed behaviorally. Parenting is seldom easy, no matter where you get your kids.

Do we have unrealistic expectations about what it will be like? I'm certain that we do. We sure did when we were expecting our first, when we added a second, and when we set out to have a large family. No one can adequately prepare you for the future. 

I believe that's where grace comes in to play. God promises to be our strength in weakness. He tells us that He has given us all we need for life and godliness. He assures us that His grace is sufficient. I imagine it will be. It is now.

I didn't know about the fate of children punished for simply having an extra chromosome before we had Eon. I do now. I cannot pretend I don't. I believe that would grieve the heart of my Father. He is a champion of the weak. "Let the little children come to me," He said. He called caring for orphans "pure and undefiled religion," and He likens caring for "the least of these" as caring for Himself.

"Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don't stand back and let them die. Don't try to avoid responsibility by saying you didn't know about it. For God knows all hearts, and he sees you. He keeps watch over your soul, and he knows you knew! And he will judge all people according to what they have done." Prov. 24:11, 12 NLT

We are not in a position to adopt, at this time. We don't meet the minimum income requirements for our family size. That's a hard pill for me to swallow, sometimes, but I believe God's timing is perfect. Until then, our hearts are willing. We advocate for orphans and support the adoptions of others. And we pray....oh, how we pray...that the precious children waiting will find their way home. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Back Home Again, In Indiana*

When Eon was born, I received numerous copies of the essay, "Welcome to Holland." Although, I didn't agree with everything in it at the time, I thought it was a good enough analogy for what we were experiencing. I've since learned that some of my fellow moms in the Down syndrome community really loathe that essay and some really love it.

My friend, Patti, recently wrote a blog post about her response to it and where she is now, that made me think about it some more.

Now that I am more than two years into this journey, I feel like I lived in Holland for a little over a year. During that time, I ate, breathed, and slept Down syndrome. I read journal articles, joined support groups, blogged and read blogs, connected with other mommies, and advocated until I was blue in the face. Anything related to Down syndrome was worth my time. 

If Holland is the analogy, then I learned the language, wore wooden shoes, and ate dutch food. I did feel like I was navigating the back roads of a foreign land.

Eon is now 2 years and almost 3 months-old. I feel like we emigrated back to Indiana. I enjoyed my time in Holland. I learned so much and connected with some amazing people who will always be part of our lives. I brought home useful and beautiful souvenirs. I still know the language and occasionally cook dutch food and wear my wooden shoes.

But I don't live there, anymore.

Down syndrome is a part of our lives and always will be, but it is no longer front and center. It is not the defining part of who we are. 

Eon's needs fit with the needs of the other kids. He needs his juice thickened to prevent aspiration, Ellie needs to take her ADHD medication, Ben needs a schedule to plan for his day, Zak needs reminders to flush the toilet, etc.   Everyone's needs are special to them and, because they're my kids, they're special to me.

Eon is a kid with Down syndrome. He is also one of the Lakes' kids. I finally see him as more of the latter, than the former.

I love Holland, but there is just no place like home!

*Back Home Again, In Indiana  is our state song, most famously sung by Jim Neighbors (of Gomer Pyle fame) before each Indy 500 Race.