I have spent a lot of time reflecting on many things over the past 4 months- one of them is family- How important my own siblings are to me as I have watched the relationships of the new kids in our family develop...I find myself wondering how this relationship will grow over time.
I am very close with my sister, Jill. She is one of the coolest mom's around. Her kids are wonderful and are a true testament to her attitude towards parenting. She is patient, she listens, she laughs, she cries, she is fun and she is a teacher. She and I are the bookends in my family- here we are laughing during a blackout in Rochester, NY this summer. We try and call each other every day- we don't talk- we leave messages- she calls on her way to work- and leaves a message- this is at about 5:00AM my time. I then listen to her message on my way to work (8:00 AM) and call her and leave a message. Then on her way home from work she listens to me and then calls and leaves me a message...or not- because sometimes I leave 5 messages and she does not have time to talk herself! :) This way we stay in close touch about what is happening. We started this a few years ago and it’s amazing we have kept it up- but we are very close because of it. Sometimes a long time will go by without us actually having a conversation- but our ongoing conversation is great because we have to listen to each other before we can but in. This is especially good for me- known for butting in.
This next photo is of the top of my brother's head. He and I are only 15 months apart. He is a great big brother. We shared a room growing up and I love him dearly. He lives in NYC and here he is with his baby boy- his next baby is due in November. He is one of the most giving and compassionate people I know. Creative. Smart. and Funny. I think God gave us each other. I came about in kind of in a surprise kind of way- though my mother would never admit that- she always says, "I always wanted 4 kids- 2 boys and 2 girls!" But I think God thought...this little guy is going to need someone to be little with and to giggle with and to fight with when he is a teenager...and to love him when he is an adult. And of course I have always needed him. So we have always had each other.
This last picture is of my other older brother. Uncle Gordy. The other day Phoebe said, "If something happens to you and Daddy what happens to us?" I said, "You would go and live with Aunt Jill and be near Aunt Sharon and Grandma and Poppa and Marilyn." She replied, "No I want to live with Uncle Gordy." He is so much fun and incredibly funny- the one who can make us all laugh until we cry. Here he is a few years ago with the classic pull my finger joke- just perfect for Cal who was about 7 at the time. I just love that picture of Cal because its shoes how I feel when I am around my brother. He is loyal and strong and goes to God in ways I can really learn from.
So, this week has brought about a lot of feelings- of family and work. And when I think about my family history - all of the difficult things and all of the good things...I would not change that- or take it away- the stories we have lived as a family have shaped us into who we are today...a midwife, an actor, a writer, a teacher, a mother, a father...and many of our issues go way back- far into the depths of our early childhood. But we know that history. We can try and understand why we feel the way we feel today. My little boys from Ethiopia have those stories too- they have that history- but they will not be able to rely on that to help them understand why they feel sad at certain times...why when Maren is punished sometimes he cries- and sometimes he just gets really quiet- punishingly quiet.
There are families in Ethiopia who are choosing adoption for their children- Mothers of 2, 3, 4, and 5 children- walking them to a place - being videotaped or photographed- saying they want something better for their kids, saying they want their kids to go to America and then come back and care for them. They can't possibly understand all of the implications of this choice they are making- especially if we don't. But in all of the poorest and most destitute communities of the world- people will give their children and their wives to prostitution to have bread at the next meal...then sending a child to America has got to be a million times better than the alternative...starve...hard work...prostitution...HIV...So, why can I not get the thought out of my head that these parents are giving up the one thing that is the most meaningful in their lives...and that their grief over the loss might quite possibly be insurmountable? Could this choice be the very death of them? And what is it doing to the children? Do these parents understand what adoption means? What it means to quite possibly never see their child again? And please don't get me wrong. I am not judging the people who make this plan for their children. I understand that they live in a world so unlike ours...a world where my little boy never owned a single pair of shoes...and came into care wearing a large tattered piece of cloth- no pants- and too weak to walk...so I am not saying that people shouldn't be allowed to make this choice. I just want to be sure they are able to talk about it, think about it, digest it and that hopefully- God willing- they are offered a way out. How can we help you do this on your own?
My husband's family is in their 4th generation of living in Malawi. His dad was born there- his grandparents went there in the 1930's. His cousins started a program called KINDLE orphan outreach in response to the devastating orphan crisis in Malwai. The program is designed first and foremost to provide food, medical care and water so that families can keep their children. They knew when they started the program that ultimately they would probably have to start an orphanage. But they have not done that yet. Instead they have managed to keep families intact through their mission.
So...what will the documentary look like in 20 or 30 years that my little filmmaker will make of his journey and the journey of a generation of Ethiopian children- some of whom left family behind- some who left against their will. I can imagine that film. And that is what has been making me think all week. I am praying for agencies out there to be cautious. To stop and evaluate their plans on a regular basis. To be present in the country they are working with. To maintain information on the birth families for the children who have family in Ethiopia. Yes, there is an immediacy of saving a life, but there is also that life to think about. Think long term. Do things to help this child...not just right now...not just today...but help this child succeed and flourish to be successful and happy adults...and slow down. God has given you a gift and the gift is a gift to children and the gift is a gift to the families. Take good care of God's gift.