Coming To Terms With a Stereotypical Family

When I was Planning Out My Life in my twenties, I assumed I would:

  1. Get married
  2. Adopt a puppy
  3. Have 2 biological kids
  4. Foster and/or adopt another kid or two
  5. Live Happily Ever After

 

I got married and we soon adopted a puppy. Three years later, we gave birth to our first daughter and three years (almost to the day) after that, our second daughter was born. We’re at a place with our youngest that, if I was to go by my original schedule, we should start filling out paperwork and taking preparation classes to explore foster care and adoption. This is what we should do. We are fairly stable, fairly well-educated, mostly good parents. Shouldn’t we be saving the unwanted children?

But whenever I put aside my savior complex (because, of course, fostering and adoption must be so much bigger and deeper than that) I still can’t bring myself to fill out the paperwork because of one big reason. I’m tired. Having two young kids is tiring. (I know, I know. Try filling a minivan before talking about exhaustion!)

I’m embarrassed that only two kids makes me too tired to want to add to our family—either biologically or through foster care. I’m embarrassed that I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of preschool next year, when I can claim two mornings a week for myself. I’m embarrassed that I’m not digging deeper into an unwavering capacity in God’s energy.

For a long time, I felt proud of our family plan. And maybe that’s why it feels too overwhelming now. My motives were driven by a societal need I felt I could fill, rather than knowing that we’d be embarking on a long, difficult journey of falling in love with a kid who most likely had experienced too much life already. There’s a lot of energy and grief that go along with the adoption process.

Quite a few of our friends have gone through infant adoption, toddler foster care, and all sorts of heartache that goes along with that journey. I see how hard it is—on their marriages, on their families, and on the kids themselves. It’s an incredibly good and holy experience, but it’s a hard one.

I feel selfish as I dream about the next season, when our two are more independent and we can start doing things as a family that potty training and nap schedules inhibit. I wonder what really is next, since I still can’t shake this feeling that fostering could be part of our journey.

As I lean into a theology of liberation and jubilee, I’m reminded that restoration doesn’t always look the way I want it to. In her book, Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World, Kelley Nikondeha explores the idea of jubilee being “the twin sister of justice.” That a return to the land is part of the restoration of heaven on earth.

How to I celebrate a jubilee spirit as I look at a tug away from foster care? Maybe this tiredness is a necessary part of my journey? Without the fatigue, would I have stopped to really examine if entering into a foster role is the best thing for us, both as a family and as members of our community? For some, it is absolutely the answer. I look at our friends who are forming a family with their foster children and I thank God these kids have a steady and loving home.

But as I look at my own hesitation, I realize it doesn’t mean we aren’t cut out for familial restoration. I’m realizing that it means there are other ways. What are we doing to support families staying together—this jubilee spirit of return? Maybe one day it will mean that we enter into a foster system as a family, ready to adopt another child. Maybe this will look like supporting foster parents as a respite home. Maybe it will mean volunteering or coming alongside families in ways I can’t imagine at the moment.

I’m learning to step back and relabel my tiredness. Maybe it’s not totally selfish. Maybe this is God’s invitation to take a breath and listen. To rest in this moment and lean into a different story.

Annie Rim

Annie Rim lives in Colorado, where she plays with her inquisitive and independent daughters, hikes with her husband, teaches at an art museum, and grapples about life, faith, and community on her blog. You can connect with her on Twitter (@annie_rim) or via her blog: annierim.wordpress.com.

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