Tag Archives: Learning

The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Learn

26 Aug

Dear Little Man,

This past June I did what every 20-something should do at least once: I backpacked through Europe. Now before we get any grand ideas, by “backpacking” I don’t mean I trekked through the mountains of Europe in hiking boots with just a compass and my sense of adventure. I mean I pre-booked trains and flights and hostels and had a few minor panic attacks when I thought I was going to miss any travel connections. But I did pack a month’s worth of belongings into an over-sized REI backpack…ergo, I backpacked through Europe. Just roll with it.

No matter how you define “backpacking,” I saw some incredible places on my trip. Your Aunt S and I met up in France and traveled to Spain, Germany, and Ireland at which point we parted ways and she flew home as I continued my European exploration in England.

I climbed the Eiffel Tower (despite my paralyzing fear of heights because, um, it’s the Eiffel Tower)…

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel 2

And hung out in the Alcázar Palace in Spain….

Spain

And drank massive beers in Munich…

Giant Beer!

Glug, glug...

And went scuba diving in Nice…

Scuba Diving

And found five-leaf clovers in Galway…

Five-Leaf Clover

And ate and ate and ate some more.

European Food!

It was amazing. The people I met, the cultures I was immersed in, the daily adventures I went on with your Aunt S…it was everything I always thought it would be. I’ve always wanted to travel, especially around Europe, and my month-long excursion was definitely worth how poor I am now. I ate and I laughed and I danced and I could really breathe for the first time in months. It was glorious, and perfectly timed.

But everywhere I went, I thought of you. I wanted to show you the carvings on the underside of the Arc de Triomphe and the view of Paris from the tip top of Montmartre. I wanted you to see just how blue water can be and how fish look when you’re swimming right beside them. I wanted to tell you about the feeling you get when your legs are dangling over the edge of the Cliffs of Mohar (not entirely legal, by the way) and you can’t even breathe because it’s so beautiful and you feel so small.

But since I couldn’t bring the real you with me, I brought our story instead. But the first time I brought you up, I noticed I was a little nervous. I suddenly realized that I didn’t know how adoption translated…literally and metaphorically. How do I say, “I have a son but I don’t have him because I chose other people to raise him and be his family because I thought that’s what was best for him?” That particular sentence is not in any French phrase book. I know, I was surprised too.

The first person I told our story to was our friend and host, François — he was kind enough to let us sleep on his couch during our stay in Paris. I was going through pictures on my phone at dinner one night, and since most of my photos are of you, he glanced over and saw one. He asked me, “Is that your nephew?” I smiled and corrected him and quickly launched into the story of your adoption and The B’s. He looked surprised at first, but just for a second…and then he asked all about you. One of the last things he said to me was before we left for Spain was, “Say hello to your little boy for me. It’s things like him that make life beautiful. That’s what it’s all about.” So, hello from François :)

When I told our story to the woman we stayed with in Provence, Elodie, she started talking about how she couldn’t wait to have children with her soon-to-be husband. She told me the boy and girl names she’d already picked out.

When I told Florian, our German host, he told me he hoped that if he had any kids, he wanted them to have curly blonde hair like yours.

When I told the woman who worked in the coffee shop in Dublin on my last morning there (she stole a glance at a photo of you like François did), she said she’d never heard of anything like our adoption story, but that it was inspiring because she and her husband were trying to adopt in Ireland and they’d been on a waiting list for over a year. She said our story gave her hope and made her smile and she was glad I had walked in that morning.

I learned a lot of things when I was overseas. I learned about cultures and languages and history and methods of travel. I learned what orejas a la plancha means (pigs ears…don’t order it) and how thin hostel mattresses can be. I learned how you can live on zero sleep and still feel more alive than you’ve ever felt. But what surprised me the most was that our story did translate…it didn’t matter that I didn’t speak the language or that some words only elicited confused smiles and shoulder shrugs.

Love is palpable. Especially the love I have for you and The B’s…it doesn’t need to be verbalized to be felt.

All of these people I told our story to, they have dreams of that kind of love too. They hope and they dream of beautiful, curly haired children that they want to love someday. Different people from different countries with different languages, all with the same desires. So different in culture, but so similar in heart. We are not alone. Love…it really is the universal language. That discovery — even if it had been the only thing I learned — would have made the entire trip worth it. I thank you and Europe for teaching me that.

Oh, and just so you know, ‘adoption’ in French is the same as in English. Turns out I didn’t need to worry about translating it after all :)

“The most important thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

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Adoption is Everywhere

13 Nov

Dear Little Man,

I’m going to share a secret of mine with you. That secret is that I dream about being pregnant again someday.

In my actual dreams, I’m generally terrified of pregnancy and, in dream world, I find myself thinking, “I’m pregnant again? Oh my, I wonder if The B’s will raise this one for me, like they did Liam…” So, so, so weird. I’m generally thrilled to wake up and realize it was a dream because I has such a difficult time going through with placing you…I’m not sure I could do it again.

But during my waking hours, sometimes I think about having a baby when I’m ready for one. I love you so very much…in that “beyond words” kind of way…and I hope to be able to someday have a little half-brother or -sister for you to meet, that I can love just as much. I never thought I wanted kids, but once I discovered I was carrying you, I realized that I wanted nothing more than to be the best mother I possibly could. Hopefully I will be able to be that mother someday. Hopefully you think I am that mother today.

Yesterday evening, Miss Manhattan (one of your many aunts, a fellow blogger with a wonderful site, and one of my oldest friends) sent me a link to a blog called Arielle Elise. This blog is mostly (beautiful!) photography, but this particular post was about a couple going through an adoption in Uganda.

In my many talks/discussions/speeches given at Bethany functions, I have heard a few stories of international adoption, though most of the ones I’ve heard have been from Asia. Though I don’t know much about international adoption (I am studying it!), I still love that adoption spreads its influence so widely. The love that adoption encompasses can span oceans…how beautiful is that?

The couple featured in the Arielle Elise post are twenty-somethings, married for 5+ years and in the process of adopting their own Little Man from Africa. Their photos are all about them and love and how love creates family (oh how I can attest to that!) Their blog, This Beautiful Truth, follows an incredible, emotional journey through adoption and their daily lives. Like one of my favorite bloggers, Infertility Awakening, these journeys fascinate me. People who have the hearts and souls for adoption never fail to astound me with their openness and their love. I always find them to be very brave, courageous people who have decided to open their hearts and look on the bright side of life…just like The B’s!

I love sharing stories of people like this, mostly because I feel that somehow, we’re all connected through this adoption experience. Birth mothers, adoptive families, adopted children…though we’re all different a spread far and wide, I somehow feel like we’re all connected at the core. I get to share our story and other couples and birth mothers get to share theirs and together, we form this network, this collaboration of people who want nothing more than to love their children and families as much as humanly possible.

And I understand. Though I am the birth mother rather than the adoptive mother, I think I get it, or part of it at least. I understand that longing to be a mother, to create a family, to want to share your love with a child you have the privilege of calling your own. Though I certainly can’t empathize with the frustrating, upsetting, sometimes devastating effects of infertility, I think I realize the desire that drives it. The desire to hear someone call you “mom.” It sounds like a small thing, but it means something so much bigger to so many people.

And that’s why I still have my dream. My dream of being “mom.” That’s why. someday, I’d like to give you those half-sibling(s) that call me “mother.” It’s a small thing, but that tiny act of love can fill a heart to the point of bursting. I would know. That’s what I feel every time you call me “Nay-Nay.” It may not be “mom” outright, but I cherish it as though it were. Because though you may not call me your mother, I will forever call you my son and I will be proud. That’s just how love works.

So enjoy this tiny piece of your expansive network, Little Man. I hope you enjoy reading the stories of this family as much as I enjoy telling the stories of my own little boy, my shining star, my bright light at the end of all of my dark tunnels.

That would be YOU, in case you were wondering ;)

The Teacher and the Student

20 Feb

Do you remember me mentioning “The Handbook?” It’s how my parents always used to explain why they did what they did when it came to me…it was “in the parenting handbook.”

Now as we’ve discussed, you did not actually come with a handbook or any other kind of cheat sheet. But before I had you, before I even really considered whether or not I wanted to be a mother someday, I just assumed that it was every parent’s job to teach their children. Of course, what you taught your children could vary, but the fact that it was your job to teach something to them was just set in stone.

This weekend, I got to watch you while The B’s went to a local tourist attraction that we have in my hometown. We watched Elmo ( a lot of Elmo), played with a toy kitchen that I had when I was little, played in the bathroom sink, played the piano and did a lot of other little stuff in between. And I got to teach you some things – how to lock and unlock the door to the porch, how to turn the lights on and off on the lawn mower (Pop-pop 3 helped with that one). True, they’re little things, but we taught them to you and you picked them up pretty fast.

I have known for a while that I have the ability to teach you things –  that thanks to your observational skills, I was a role model to you. But one of the beautiful things about a parent-child relationship, especially ours, is that the learning is not just one-sided. Believe it or not, at the young age of 19 months (as of Wednesday), you have actually taught me quite a few things too.

On a small scale, you’ve taught me a lot of little things. That climbing the stairs – over and over and over again – can be fun (when I’m not terrified for your safety). You’ve taught me that splashing around in the sink can be a rather entertaining activity. You taught me that things that aren’t designed to be play toys (i.e. measuring cups, keys, etc.) can most definitely be play toys. You taught me a new way to say “hot dog” and “tractor” (“dot dog” and “at-too”). You taught me that we should all play now and sleep later. You reminded me that I used to love Sesame Street. You reminded me that when you’re little, every day is truly a new day.

Aside from these things, I’ve also learned quite a few big, life lessons from you.

The first one you taught me was not to be afraid of babies. embarrassing as this is to admit, I was mildly terrified of infants before I had you. I thought they were adorable (like every other woman in the world), but I didn’t like holding them and if I interacted with them, I preferred it to be from a safe distance. They always cried when I got near them, and nothing scared me more than a crying infant. But then there was you and you were mine and it all went away. I learned how to change a diaper. I learned that bouncing you when you cried would calm you down. I learned that if a baby cries when you hold it, it doesn’t mean that the baby hates you or that you somehow harmed it. Even though I read a million books and Googled a million things about how to be a mother, you were the one who actually taught me. You teach me that every time I see you.

The biggest thing I think I’ve learned from having you as my son is that I should take joy in the little things in life. When you were figuring out how to turn on the lawn mower lights, you had to watch Pop-pop 3 do it a couple of times – the first time you did it by yourself, you looked up at me and gave me the biggest smile! And I found myself absolutely thrilled. I was smiling and laughing and just utterly excited…about turning on the lawn mower’s headlights. It sounds silly, but those are the things that you find happiness in.

Everything is new to you – it’s why you do things over and over again, because it’s so exciting to have figured this “new thing” out. So unlike most 20-year olds, I get excited about lawn mower headlights, and turning keys in locks, and walking up and down the stairs. To you, everything is something worth discovering, and that is a kind of magic that can be lost on adults. We forget how fun and exciting the world can be because we assume that given our age and experience, we’ve figured it all out. Seeing the world through your eyes…it’s refreshing and beautiful, in a way. And though it’s humbling, you’ve taught me that maybe I don’t know it all.

As soon as The B’s and I figure out our next rendezvous date, I’ll start counting down my days again. But until then, I’ll just think of you when I use keys or stairs or bathroom sinks. And, most likely, all of the minutes in between.

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