Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Vitals:  The boys are coming along slowly (slowly, SLOWLY) but surely.  We've hit a few noteworthy bumps, but the kids have been sick and it will take too long to write it all out.  SO, I have been working on this "Why-we-are-putting-ourselves-and-our-children-through-this" blog post for a few months. 

Today seems like a good day to post it. 

This is a list of photos with text that basically describes life in the orphanages where my boys were.  It’s actually worse in many cases.  I’ve probably written before about the boy that first stole-my-sleep because he was tied to his bed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, basically kept naked on a vinyl mattress so they could wipe up after him.  Another family adopted him (Thank You God) but there is another one, Colton, who I fret over often.  You can see him here:  Scroll down and check out the photos on the left hand side.   Colton is third or fourth up from the bottom. 

The problem with those links however, is that they only tell part of the story.  The first link especially might be called a guilt inducing, “how can you just go about your happy lives when these children are suffering?” sort of post.  If you adopt with only that reason in mind, you are just going to make yourself and everyone else around you miserable. There are other, better reasons to adopt.

So, Reason Number Two:  Handicapped Parking Sticker.  Totally awesome.

Reason Number Three is that we have added two charming “outliers” to the suburban American game of “Let’s Compare.”  There’s nothing wrong with being proud of one’s children, but I think that many times it gets taken too far around here, people casually dropping the fact that their kids are on the “travel” soccer team, in the gifted program at school, the lead in the school play, etc. etc. If I hear things like that too often, I can feel myself getting caught in the trap of wanting to justify my child’s existence according to their accomplishments.  The truth is that my children are valuable because they bear God’s image.  That’s it.  ‘nuff said.  I used to have a mantra:  “I’m not raising superheroes, I’m raising good moms and dads.”  I haven’t had to remind myself of that lately since, when I have Ruslan and Will with me, I don’t hear as many stories about overtly-successful children from the people I meet. 

Reason Number Four is that the boys are having the same effect on our older children.  Instead of comparing themselves to the kids around them, they have a live-in reminder to be thankful for the things they can do and the life they have had so far. 

Reason Number Five:  My older kids also have to think outside themselves on a regular basis now.  Before we got them, we were basically an average middle class family with reasonably intelligent, reasonably healthy children.  The truth is, it just doesn’t take THAT much time to clean the house and do laundry, and we really don’t need the kids to contribute to our grocery bill.  Therefore, nearly all their time was spent on themselves; making us a family of “My/Me;”  my sports, my school, my books, my playstation, my computer, my happiness.  It’s not a terrible way to live.  I, myself, have lived that way nearly all my life.  However, it’s hardly ideal.  If no one around you is legitimately needy (the case in 99% of American cities)¸ there’s really no reason to get in the habit of putting others first.

Well, since we adopted these boys, everyone HAS to pitch in.  I can no longer keep up with everything on my own.  I have to put the extra effort into making my children contribute.  If I slip and don't make them contribute, there's no clean laundry and there's cat hair everywhere, which seems to annoy them.  It’s Donate or Die around here and that’s the way I like it.  

Reason Number Six: everything has slowed WAY down.  There's just no walking quickly to or from the car/bus stop/grocery store with two handicapped children in tow. 

Reason Number Seven  is what this is doing for me. I taught in a special needs pre-school for a while and one of the best lessons I gleaned from my year there was that I LOVE the parents of special needs kids!!  Every last one of them were gracious, patient, loving people without pretense or prejudice and with proper priorities. 

The pastor in a church we attended for years had an office full of books and Bibles from floor to ceiling and yet he was among the least loving people I have ever met.  I can’t remember one time that he wasn't scowling at me.  He never stopped to chat, never asked about me or my family, never even smiled our way.   So much for book learning!  I don’t want to be like him when I grow up. 

I remember another time, meeting a missionary who had spent her life taking the gospel to people in the Soviet Union.  Let me tell you, she was a grouch!  I went away from our meeting thinking, “If this is the result of fervent ministry, I’d rather be a heathen!”   I don't want to be like her when I grow up.

When I lived in Mississippi, I went with a friend of mine to meet a prominent political leader and the first thing she said to my friend was something critical.  Despite her noteworthy achievements, I don't want to be like her either.  

All that is NOT to say that gracious Christians are non-existent, but rather, “Regardless of nationality, social standing, or religion, there are undesirables all around--except where the parents of special needs kids are concerned.”  After a few months teaching in that special needs pre-school, I remember thinking, “when I grow up, I want to be just like these parents.” 

For most of my life as a parent, I’ve really been TRYING to be like them, mostly by purposefully keeping my priorities in order.  If my family comes first then the house is not always clean.  The kids do not always get their homework done.  I might not always get a shower.  The car is DEFINITELY not clean.  We will sometimes have Cheerios for dinner.  

I've been OK with this because the pro's outweigh the cons.  We can always have all the neighbor kids over anytime because, since the house was never spotless in the first place, there's nothing to ruin.  The dishes are all plastic, the toys are already out, one more fingerprint will not make any difference when the windows are just about opaque anyway.  

Those things have always been true about us.  I’m just not a Type-A personality.  But, with only a few, healthy kids, there’s no way to get around the unspoken question of whether things are a mess because 1. I'm stupid,  2. I'm lazy or  3. I have my priorities in order and my house falls well below my God, my husband and my kids.  If I was well and truly humble, I wouldn't care about the answer to the unspoken question.  But, apparently, I'm not that humble!  We all know that all three reasons are entirely possible.  Therefore, there's a certain amount of defensiveness that goes along with my lifestyle choices.

I've been realizing the past few months that now that we have the boys, I’m more relaxed about it.  I thought it was that the parents just HAD to get their priorities straight, but now I think that it's societies reaction to them that makes it all possible.  I now have a built in excuse.  No one really expects me to have everything together, because I have these special needs kids.  See?  No one's asking the unspoken question because in the eyes of society, I don’t have to measure up.  I’m excused.   It takes some pressure off. 

Either that, or I'm just getting used to the idea that I'll never be cool, so the answers don't really matter.  With Will hanging on my hip, there's just no way to appear with-it.  He’s kind of goofy.  It’s one thing to take him to home group or church where everyone in the room knows we adopted him.  It’s another thing to take him to a store where everyone thinks I am the one who produced a funny looking, babbling, shrieking, drooling, not-entirely-with-it, cross-eyed, limping child.  

The first time I took Will to Wal-mart, I saw a man look at Will, then look at me, then look at Will again, then look at me again.  I’m ashamed to say that my first impulse was to say, “he’s adopted.”  Canyoubelieveit?   NOT COOL!  So, I picked Will up, kissed him on the cheek and then smiled at the question-looking man until he went away. 

I don’t consider myself to have failed that test entirely, but it was sort of a shocker and made me understand a second reason why I love the parents of special needs kids so much.  In exchange for a free pass on the house cleaning, you have a funny looking kid on your hip.  That pesky pride problem is finally taken care of!

I know that’s not the most inspiring way to phrase it, but I think to be perfectly truthful, that is what’s happening. 

I’m OK with it...   so far....   really.


  1. OK, yet again you have me and my husband cracking up. We couldn't find one of your 7 reasons that we hadn't experienced or thought of ourselves. I'm telling one should ever dismiss the blessing of getting to park in handicapped spots! I'm glad to hear you are OK because I was just thinking about you today. I was missing your updates!

  2. I always love your blogs!Thank you for expressing everything that I am feeling so much better than I ever could (even if we do not get a special parking spot). :)

  3. You guys are so awesome. After I posted that, I started clicking around on other blogs and reading about how much other parents just love and cherish their kids right away. Then I had to berate myself for not mentioning how much I adore my boys and how they brighten my day, etc. etc. ...yeah... Anyway, I needed that encouragement. Bless you for understanding!

  4. Marnie, I just love your honesty and your writing ability! I gave birth to that child you describe and when she drooling and hooting and hollering in a store and I get the stares, my comment to those onlookers is this. "Isn't she just beautiful? I hope you go home and get down on your knees tonight to thank God for your children!'or if I'm feeling scarcastic I tell them 'She's having a bowel movement.' Stops them dead in their tracks!As a special needs parent, I've learned 'you got to laugh' and to borrow a phrase from Bob Marley 'Don't worrry, be happy!' and 'No BIG deal.' I just enjoy my child for who she is and not who I had hoped she'd be!

  5. welcome to my world...No really, welcome!I could not think of anyone I'd rather have around....looks like you have joined the ranks....full fledged....freeing your mind of caring what others think(like at walmart) is SO liberating. Admit didn't care much anyway..Just the luxury of looking normal is out the window and this solidifies it...
    When I see my daughter in need(with needs to calm herself), or with behaviors and fears...I just think that's how God sees us anyway...just a mess. It makes you think, that's the only one looking who really matter's and we all look a Him.

    Love you and yours, of course...

  6. Wow...I love your honesty and sincerity, Marnie. Humbly, I would hope that put in the same or similar situations, I would respond similarly. I especially love what you wrote about your encounter when you first took Will to Walmart!!

  7. You always make me laugh, because the truth is just funnier than fiction and you tell it like it is. This was a great post!