Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Who is narrow of vision cannot be big of heart.

In nearly every other blog I've read by parents who are adopting or in stories I've listened to, there seems to be a common sensitivity to the words we use to talk about adoption. Back when we first started thinking about adopting, I read a good bit and when these issues would come up in my reading, I realized that I most likely asked dumb questions or made insensitive comments along the way, having no idea I may be hurting someone. I guess it's a classic story of shifting from sympathy to empathy.

I'll give you a couple of examples from my own life. The first, and most hurtful, happened at a womens' soup-party through our church in Portland. The church organizes these gatherings of groups of six women at various homes to eat together and connect. Many of the women are meeting for the
first time. At the gathering I attended, we got onto the topic of our families of origin. Everyone was going around the table talking about how many siblings we have, the age of our parents, etc. Through this topic, someone brought up the issue of people today having kids at a later age than in the past. Apparently, though our ages were varied, the women at this table mostly seemed to follow the traditional model of getting married in their early 20's, kids by mid 20's, kids out of the house by early 40's, grandkids soon after that. A few women started swapping what sounded like horror stories about parents they know who are older than the norm (though what is the norm, I'd ask?). I just sat quietly, biting my tongue. I am 32; Ted is 46. We don't exactly fit whatever they considered to be normal. One lady in her early 50's, I'm guessing, spoke up and in a hushed voice, as if she was sharing a shocking secret, gave an example to trump the rest:

"I know a man who is 45 and has a
fourth grader."

I was shocked alright, but not at the fact she shared. I was shocked and eventually deeply hurt by the isolation that comment forced upon me. I am guessing that I wasn't alone in my feeling, as there were several single women at the table. None of us spoke up, I suppose since this was a polite gathering of Christian women.

I got home that night and could hardly sleep. The next morning, it all came pouring out to Ted. In the one place that I should have felt most supported and understood, my church, I felt the most hurt. That one comment made me feel seen as a freak for not having lived my life in the old-school, traditional way (not that there's anything wrong with old-school--I have plenty of friends who had kids in their 20's). I hope I gain compassion for this woman. I hope I can let it go eventually. And I also hope that one day she'll get to see my hot 50-year-old husband dropping off our preschooler in kids' church. Imagine the story
that'll give her for her next womens' gathering!

"Who is narrow of vision cannot be big of heart."--Chinese proverb.

It was later that morning that we went to our first adoption seminar and where we first were drawn to Ethiopia. I still felt like a sleep-deprived emotional wreck when we walked into the building. We spent some time wandering around the many agency's booths gathering their abundant brochures until we came upon this one simple table with one lady standing nearby. She explained that she was there representing a support group for adoptive families. I am guessing that she read a look on my face saying, "Oh, this doesn't apply to us yet."

More likely, she heard directly from the voice of God because she stopped mid-sentence, made eye contact with me, and gently pointed her finger to my chest. She so earnestly said, "I want you to know that you two are still welcome to join us because the two of you standing here
are a family." It was so what I needed to hear, after the night before having been made to feel glaringly deficient and crippled for not having kids. What came next were projectile tears and snot. She pulled me to her and let me sob, this complete stranger, my newfound angel of grace.

God hears our cries, no doubt in my mind about that one.

PS: If you've never listened to The Duhks, I urge you: go look them up. They have an excellent myspace page. Listen to them and breathe in the goodness.


neola said...

i think it's so cool of you two to share this journey with the rest of us out here reading.

i'm so glad that i've gotten to know you two (through our occasional catch-ups) and know that you are both amazing and your child is super lucky and amazing as well (and i can't WAIT to meet him/her/them!).

Susan Isaacs said...

When I was born, my mom was 40. It was back in the 1960s and people were shocked. I guess she was a pioneer. People who make comments about your age live in a narrow world. Your world is large and full of love, and that's a world any child should hope and pray to be a part of. so excited. Hope you get twins!!

Anonymous said...

50 with a 4th grader? that's so common in the areas we've lived that what is most amazing to me about this entry is the narrowness of these women's apparent experience. we've lived in three metro areas (2 CA, 1 NY) and many neighbors and friends have been in their 30's, 40's and 50's and are/were having and adopting their first child. though our experience is also skewed because these are major metro areas, it seems that the women in your group need a large dose of both reality and sensitivity.

Fiddledeedee said...

Hi Lori,
First off, I'm a fellow blogger. My husband, Tom who is a friend of Ted's, gave me your web address. Please say "hi" to Ted from Tom & DeeDee (old co-op members) who now live in Florida.

Second, we're also "older" parents. And all that baggage that goes with it. And we're doing just fine. With the aid of Tylenol and reading glasses.

Third, go check out She is a wonderful blogger who is quite familiar with Ethiopian adoptions. She's in the middle of one right now.

Good luck to you guys! I'll keep you in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

I think the old ladies have very very rigid opinions. It's your choice and it's perfectly right. Good luck again.

Anonymous said...

I'm fully supporting what you are doing. As a friend I'm of course entirely biased and am in no doubt this is what you should be doing,but laying this aside I would say one thing about adoption is that you're most likley to be giving parenting (and your child) a whole lot more thought and consideration before going through with it than many parents do as they approach having children by the 'conventional' route...I've long-believed it is the case with 'natural' parents that not everyone is a natural parent in fact...Having kids can in some cases quite often be a rather thoughtless act.So I think the adoption process actually brings about a kind of heightened 'attention to detail' which can then,surely,establish the most healthy foundations for parents and child(ren)..