Announcer: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way. And now your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Lynette: Welcome back to the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. You know Tera, the other night we were having dinner with new friends who had just completed an adoption. This made three children for their family—two biological, one adopted. We were talking about the logistics of it all and how they were coming off the high.
Tera: The honeymoon phase.
Lynette: They were entering the hard part. They looked at Kevin and I and they said, “The hardest part is adjusting to the new normal at home.”
Tera: That’s so true.
Lynette: “There’s no books for that, Lynette.” They were just beginning to pick our brain, and Kevin and I were thinking back on how we did it. When a new one joins the family, that is your calling.
Tera: That is. It’s your new normal.
Lynette: It is. We have a phrase at our house Kevin says all the time, “I need everybody to stay in your lane.” Right?
Lynette: So, this is your new lane. Adjusting life for attachment during this time is God’s will for the family, right?
Tera: That’s right.
Lynette: For those first couple of months, they just look different than what life will look on down the road.
Tera: They do.
Lynette: Building a sense of daily-ness, builds security and trust.
Tera: That’s exactly right. I can remember the first few days at home with our first adoption and they were very honeymoon-ish. It was all rainbows and lollipops and then day four, there was a tantrum of epic proportion that I didn’t know a child was capable of. I quickly was emailing my social worker thinking, “What in the world have we done? I don’t know that we can do this. This is my new normal? I don’t have the skill set to deal with this.” I realized as we journeyed through the years and we just had the stick-to-itiveness to keep going, that more and more families that we came in contact with had a very similar scenario at home.
Lynette: Right, they do.
Tera: When those things happen, when the baby starts crying incessantly and you can’t seem to get things under control, when you’re school-aged adopted child or foster child has tantrum of epic proportion, it’s really okay. It’s not abnormal for that to happen but the way that you react and the way that you choose to move forward, is going to be able to make all the difference in the world between attaching and not attaching.
Lynette: That’s right. So, can I just say to mom, “I know you enjoy many things. I do. Many, many things, but this is a time to just hunker down at home. It’s not for the faint of heart but it is for you, in the first six months or so.”
Here’s what we have to understand. I’m asking you, asking your family, to broaden your tent, to open your life to bringing home a child. Jesus placed upon you, a very high calling. Now he ask us, to release our agenda, to hold it loosely. To lose your life, your plans if you will, so this wounded, broken little one can begin to heal. If you listen to Sharon Miles’ podcast, you’ll remember that she had a funeral.
Tera: I remember that.
Lynette: An actual funeral service in her own backyard. She had brought home three older children, internationally, and had empty nest.
Tera: Right. And they were school aged.
Lynette: They were school aged but they couldn’t enter our school system yet. So she took rocks and wrote on them, her former life. Tennis, meeting out for lunch with friends, Tuesday ladies Bible study …
Tera: All good things.
Lynette: All good things.
Tera: All fun things. Good things for life.
Lynette: And then she took them in the backyard, she lifted them up to the Lord and she threw them in the lake.
Tera: I love that story because it’s so true. When you bring home a baby, if you’re pregnant and you bring home a baby, you know that for the several months you’re going to be sleep-deprived. You’re going to be incredibly tired. Everything’s going to kind of be is disarray and your house is going to be a wreck. In your mind, you know that to be true.
Lynette: And the world gives you a break.
Tera: The world gives you a break, and it’s very similar. Life as you know it … If Sharon was doing all of those things before she physically had a baby, she knows that those things are going to have to go on hold for a while. It’s the same thing when you’re bringing home a foster or adoptive child. Your agenda is on hold for a while.
Lynette: Right. And the world doesn’t understand that. That’s why we need community and one another. When Sharon did this, when she did the physical act of letting go of her former life, her former days, the things she just did the week before, when she did this, this was the portal to joy for her new, very difficult, normal.
Luke 9:23 says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” I always say the Lord looked at the disciples, got their eye contact and added the word daily because he knew in 1964 I’d be born, and I would need that daily word in there. “Do not grow weary, mama, in doing good.” Second Thessalonians 3:13.
Tera: That’s right. During those difficult times you do have to remember that you do have to take a deep breath sometimes. Recognize that you’re going to need a break sometimes because the refreshment of a small break, whether it’s, “I’m going to go take a 15 minutes shower and daddy, you’re going to take care of things here.” Just to be able to have that break, then to be able to be refreshed, to be able to do the next thing … It’s not, “What’s my goal for the entire day?” It’s, “What’s my goal for the next moment?”
Lynette: The next thing, yeah. That’s great. That’s a great point. I get it. I am very well aware that this is humbling and it’s confining. It really is. In Luke 18:14, the Lord says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” It’s humbling. “But the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” I’ve often heard perseverance described as long obedience in the same direction.
Tera: That’s a good definition.
Lynette: What do these days look like, moving in that direction to wholeness, for this child? What do those first days look like for you?
Tera: For us, because we brought home school aged children, it was a little different than if we had brought home an infant. Even so, no matter what age range you bring home, it is that moment by moment goal orientation. I’m going to get up in the morning, I’m going to put my feet on the ground and ask the Lord for his help in getting through the next moment of the day. I’m going to feed breakfast to our child and whether that breakfast takes 10 minutes or an hour, your goal is to get breakfast in the child.
The next goal might possibly be to get dressed. Whether you accomplish that goal or not, the first three, four, five days, the first two weeks, it really doesn’t matter. That’s what you’re going towards.
Lynette: As simple as that sounds, it can be an incredible hurdle to get over.
Tera: I can remember bringing home a baby and David coming home at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, me still being in my pajamas, and he’d look at me like, “What have you done today?” I wanted to say, “What have I not done today?”
Tera: There will come a time though that one day, after two months, three months, four months, six months, you’re going to look up and say, “Not only did we get up, have time with the lord, eat breakfast, get our clothes on, we also read a book, went to story time at the library, had lunch, took a nap.”
Eventually, a new normalcy is going to occur. All of that, when you talked about confining, it is confining. For people who are extroverts, it’s really hard but you just kind of have to release your agenda because that confining time and those moments of eating breakfast together if it takes an hour-
Lynette: Coming to the table.
Tera: Coming to the table. Those are the things that allow you to have shared experiences with your child, which allows for attachment and bonding. You have to give yourself time. It’s going to be hard. You might even feel like you’re babysitting somebody else’s child for the first six months but you do the right thing. Do the next thing. Be the adult in the room, as we often say, and eventually the Lord will provide those feelings of love and affection if they haven’t come supernaturally to you at the beginning.
Lynette: Hear us say, “Mom, don’t drown,” because one of the first outings when our son came home was meeting … You probably don’t even remember, it was meeting up with you and your boys at just pizza buffet.
Lynette: We got in a small corner table. It was an outing. Dad was not with us so that was different, but it was a small step to doing things we normally like to together as a family. In Luke 19, I think about Jesus sought out Zacchaeus. In other words, Jesus was for Zacchaeus. In Luke 19:6, he tells Zacchaeus, “I must stay at your house.”
Tera: So Jesus was outside of his normal day and stayed at Zacchaeus’ house.
Lynette: That’s right. It was Jesus’ plan to stop and take time for Zacchaeus so that, here’s the goal, salvation could come to his home. Jesus came eternally for Zacchaeus and his family.
For the adoptive child, the need to know we’re in our home, this is what home looks like. Let me teach you about Jesus in our home. I am for you as our new child as we’re building our new normal. I’m here, you’re safe in your new home. We won’t leave you. Our family is forever. That’s to take precedent over all other things. You see, one of the deepest fears I believe, for an adopted or foster child, is the fear of abandonment. Right?
Lynette: Every kid needs someone by their side, someone in the stands who’s there for them, who awakes them in the morning with smile. Just as you talked about, and a hug, a daily routine, who picks them up from school and assures them that a warm meal is being prepared, it’s coming. Someone who knows when to listen and when to hold. In those first few months at home, it’s imperative to communicate these truths, to lay the strong foundation of attachment and family. When you’re able to be a loving daily presence for your child, you are empowering him to move toward wholeness.
Tera: That’s right. It helps bond your whole family. If you have other children in the home and you [crosstalk 00:11:04] get through those first little bits, it’s okay that … I can remember when our youngest came home, we had pancake breakfast every morning for I think a month, because he ate them and he loved them. Yes, I realize that’s unhealthy but-
Lynette: You just do what works.
Tera: We did. One of our boys was a pancake making machine. It was his way of serving brother. We had a much more relaxed breakfast time, morning time, just so that one child could serve another child and it could become a normal thing, in a normal routine. Then as time wore on, we were able to speed things up a little bit. We didn’t have to eat pancakes every morning, those kinds of things but-
Lynette: That’s good point you make about, you relax life. One of ours didn’t know how to sit at a table. She’d never seen utensils to eat with. I love family dinner at the table. I was raised that way. I think it’s very important for a family. I know you can’t do it every night but I think you should do it a lot. She could not understand the concept, at three years old, of sitting at a table and conversing. She couldn’t speak our language and our food smelled terrible to her, although we were trying to accommodate her.
It took us probably two weeks, to get over the hurdle of sitting at a table. We weren’t even at the pancake breakfast level yet. We had to relax life. Some of our routines, certain restaurants we went to after church, your routine you get into, we just had to hold loosely.
Tera: The time does come when you have more of a resemblance of your old life and your old hobbies and all of those things- [crosstalk 00:12:46]
Lynette: It will.
Tera: As your child settles in. But even some of those things, like tennis, might be eventually one of those things that your child loves to do with you. The things that your family loves and the things that your family does, it’s not as if they’re lost forever.
Tera: They will come back around but every season of life requires us to give something up.
Lynette: That’s right.
Tera: If you’re going to get married, it means that David Melber could not be on Kentucky Lake fishing every single weekend after we got married. That doesn’t mean that fishing and hunting was all over for him after he put a ring on his finger. The same goes for when you bring a baby in the home. When there are different, new life mile markers, something’s have to go to the side and that is okay. The Lord gave you that season of enjoyment for a little while and he will allow those things to come back.
Lynette: For this time-
Tera: For this time.
Lynette: Stay in your lane. Hunker down at home. Tie down the tented home and simplify life. Clear the calendar as best you can in those early days and that will help connect you and your child and your bio-kids, your whole family, in a deeper way. It really will.
Tera: We did many things together where, in the later adoptions, some of our kids, our older kids, were doing their own thing and we asked them, “Hey, I know that you play three sports…” They actually didn’t all play three sports- [crosstalk 00:14:10]
Lynette: But, a lot of people do.
Tera: Three different sports. We’re going to ask you to simply your life too. Some people might say, “Well, that’s not fair. They’re not the ones who adopted.” But, they are a Melber. We’re the Melber team and we’re going to all get to know each other the very best that we can. That’s going to require shared experiences and that is a sacrifice for the family, no matter how you’re expanding your family. It’s okay to ask of your teenagers or your school aged kids, “Hey, we’re going to kind of settle things down for a little while so that we can bond as a family.”
It’s not a bad thing to ask your child to do that. It’s really not. Simplifying for you as parents but simplifying your entire family’s calendar to be able to hunker down and be a little bit more confined in order to really, really facilitate that attachment in your family.
Lynette: Absolutely. You know, one of the greatest paradoxes of living for Jesus is that, greatest joy, most fulfilling stages of life can come when we are serving others.
Tera: That’s right.
Lynette: It’s going to take time and some days will be messy and clouded, but it’s mind over matter. [crosstalk 00:15:21] It’s getting up- [crosstalk 00:15:22]
Tera: It’s a choice.
Lynette: And doing the right thing [crosstalk 00:15:23] day after day to build trust and security for your new family. Let us not grow weary again of doing good for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up.
Lynette: You know Tera, when we refuse to hunker down at home or stay in our lane or we keep adding to our schedule and not taking this new child the Lord has placed in our family into consideration … We may do it without even realizing it, but when we do that, what we’re saying to the child is, “I can only be somewhat committed to you because I’m first committed to me and my agenda and my want-tos.”
I know daddy has to get up and go to work. I know kids have to get to school. I live that with a large family. I understand, but we can look at our co-workers, we can look at the church, we can look at coaches and say, “We need a week or two here of grace so that dad can get home a little earlier.”
We can have time together at night as a family. We can start our new normal of family devotion together, whatever that looks like. We can have that snuggle time after pajamas. We can begin to add those things to our new family so that this child can settle down and begin to attach.
Tera: That’s a good word.
Speaker 1: You’ve been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. We’re so glad you’ve taken time to listen today. Keep in mind, we are a Ministry of the North American Mission Board and funded through the Annie Armstrong Offering and you’re giving to The Cooperative Program. We look forward to talking more about adoption, fostering and orphan care, and how you can be involved.