Teaching Our Children Belonging

In 2010, I went from never being a mother, to a mom of two toddlers in a span of a day. It has and remains, all these years later, one of the most horrifically beautiful adventures of my life.

Journeying to motherhood was fraught from the beginning. I have known since I was 16 that becoming a mother biologically would be difficult. At 25, I learned it would be impossible. And at 30, I traveled across an ocean to hold two toddlers who would change my heart’s cry about everything.

Adoption is a mixed bag of emotions, expectations and failures. Failures of a system, socio-economic status, death and loss and those wounds are cut before non-biological people begin to live together. Add cultural differences, trauma from institutionalized children and add people who has been yearning for a child, only to have the stress of all of it drive them further apart, as opposed to uniting them.

Then add preconceived ideas from family and friends, societal questions about “Why did you choose to adopt from another country?” and the services that are usually unavailable to adoptive families.

It all can amount to collapse. And often, it can bring more heartache.

Creating a fresh beginning of a family can be an awful lonely experience. I remember exhaling to someone I loved several months after being home with our kids that “this is deeply hard.” I am sure she was trying to be encouraging when she replied, “You chose this. Remember?”

“Uh. Yeah. I do remember. I also chose marriage and that is hard. So is choosing to go to college, learning to pray and learning to forgive friends when they say stupid things.”

Just because it is hard does not mean there is no worth in it.

Raising two Ethiopians in the middle of suburban Oklahoma brings its share of stares and questions. We have never had someone bring their questions or biases directly to us as a family, but there have been plenty of whispers behind our back

It is vital to me to create spaces for my children in our home where they feel loved and listened to and appreciated for who God created them to be. However, I feel differently about creating similar spaces outside our home.

While being humble, inclusive and justice-minded are some of the top lessons I want our kids to know, it is just as imperative to teach the reverse. I do not believe that the world is a terrible place to be, but it also does not provide identical acceptance for everyone.

Belonging is not a permanent status in every setting our children encounter. You can be courteous, respectful and yet never truly belong. And when we allow for there to be good conversations and notable expectations for certain friendships, organizations, positions we hold in companies and churches and even with those closest

Deep belonging comes from true acceptance of who you are. It involves being able to read where you do not fit, in order to embrace the whole sum of who you are. That includes coming to terms with your body, the ever evolving of your soul, the appreciation and empathy for the humanity around you and the courage to walk away from any place that does not feel safe.

Society portrays that we belong everywhere and if not, we contour ourselves to the mold.

Pure belonging can feel like a most solitary practice, as it should. Because only when we examine who we are, can we ultimately know who our people are. And that authenticity creates an acceptance that cannot be diminished or deleted.

As I continue to weave stories into my children’s lives about who they are, it is in this practice, I must also do for myself. I do not need a book club, mom’s group, girls’ trip or itemized list of what every woman on my street is maintaining in their lives, but it is the inventory of myself and choosing to surround myself with what really matters.

I would rather belong to the real me and remain a mystery to the world than it to ever be construed as the other way around.

Lindsey Andrews
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