It’s a no

The expectant mom we met with selected another couple. We are a bit disappointed, but also kinda feel like it was not a situation meant for us anyway. So we are OK with what happened. Actually, the whole situation has made us think about what is right for our family and we decided that moving forward, we will only consider children who are at least part African American. This is best for Seven and feels like the right thing to do.

Follow the path or follow the signs?

We’ve been thinking and praying a lot about the potential expectant mother situation. I know she met with two other couples and has not yet made up her mind about which one to select (of course, I know she can also select none of us and choose to parent). In trying to decide what we want to do, there are many factors at play. I won’t go into specifics, but this situation has some unique characteristics that are making us think hard about whether this would be the right addition to our family. Race is just one dimension. But part of us also believes that if these children need a home–and are meant for our home–who are we to say no?

One thing I’ve been pondering is what it means to follow God’s path for your life. We both want to do what we think God is calling us to do. The question is how do we know what that path is? Do we follow the “passive” path and take whatever comes our way? That often seems to be what people mean when they talk about letting God do His work. But yet that feels almost as an excuse to not make any decision at all. Let the expectant mom choose us to place with us. Or not. Either way, we would not really be making a choice–someone else would be making the choice for us.

What it, instead, following the path God has for us means paying attention to signs that are out there and actively choosing to do what we think those signs are pointing us to? For example, we were in the car the other day and a story about transracial adoption came on the radio. The point of the story was how big a deal this is for adoptees. Of course we talked about the implications for what we would do for Seven. And we wondered if this was a sign that we should ensure that any future children in our family share Seven’s racial background.

Usually I try to figure out what the “right” decision is by trying on both decisions and seeing where I feel more peace. Sometimes even the choices that appear more chaotic on their face actually bring more peace because there is something telling me that is the path God has meant for us. In this situation, though, there is not a strong pull for one path over the other. At least for me. My husband feels a little more pulled in one direction.

How do others think about this? Does following God’s path for you mean taking whatever comes your way? Or trying to actively discern what that path is?

Potential

Well, my house is continuing to be more clean than it’s ever been before. After finally talking with our case worker, we learned about a potential adoption situation. I don’t want to provide details here, but there is a lot for us to think about. We were curious enough that we wanted to learn more and actually met with the expectant mother this weekend. Since we never had the opportunity to meet Seven’s birthmother before he was placed in our care, this was a new experience. We were pretty nervous before the meeting, but it went well.

We are trying to decide if we want to move forward. Of course, she may decide not to move forward with us. The funny thing is that my husband seems to want to move forward more than I do. It’s not that I don’t want to, just that I have some concerns. The main issue that we are trying to work through is the importance of our second adoption also being transracial so that Seven is not the only non-White member of our household. We were originally thinking that is what we would do. And then this situation comes into our laps and I feel like it’s not our place to refuse children who need a home.

Housework

Most of my evenings start out with good intentions. As I drive home I think of the laundry I will do and rooms I will organize. And then of course nothing gets done. Once we get through dinner, Seven’s bedtime routine and tuck him in, my motivation to do anything around the house is completely gone.

But today I happened to check my voicemail as I was making dinner and noticed a call from our caseworker. All she said was to call her back because they have a potential adoption situation for us. She didn’t answer when I called her back. It’s been about an hour. And the laundry is folded, clothes are put away, and floor is swept.

Counting

Many years ago, there was a late night comedy sketch (I think it was on In Living Color–I loved that show!) about a mother who was overly attached to her grown son. When introducing him to someone, she described him as about 422 months old. That she still counted his age in months was part of the punch line about how much she babied him.

I find myself thinking of that sketch whenever I hit a boundary for how I count Seven’s age. I started counting in days. Two days old! Now he’s 8 days old! But slowly (or rather, quickly), days turned weeks. And weeks into months. Should I say 11 days or 1.5 weeks? 7 weeks or almost 2 months?

And now we find ourselves at yet another milestone. 22 months. It is hard to believe it has been that long. But it is also beginning to feel a little embarrassing to say 22 months. When each new person asks about his age, I find myself stumbling about how to answer. “22 months,” I’ll say, and quickly add, “He’ll be 2 in March.”

It’s not that I’m eager for him to move into full-fledged toddler-hood and growing independence. It’s that I see the changes in him everyday and marvel at how much he is learning. His speech has exploded. He is becoming so polite with his “thank you, you’re welcome” and “please” and “bless you” that it is hard to think he will soon hit the terrible-twos. It is really amazing how he remembers things and can tell us stories about what happened–even if most words aren’t quite intelligible yet. Last week the hubby was getting him dressed when the garbage truck rolled by. They stopped to watch it through the window. Seven was so excited when he came downstairs that he had to tell me all about it. His mouth was going a mile a minute, mostly things we couldn’t decipher but there was a “truck” or “garbage” or “vroom” every once in a while. It was the cutest thing.

He is all boy. Despite our attempts to not pigeonhole him into gender stereotypes, if it’s a truck or a train or anything transportation related, he loves it. Fire trucks are just the most exciting thing ever. He also loves to be outside, taking walks, swinging, playing in the park. He likes to have us read to him and has memorized his favorite stories. Singing and dancing are also big hits.

So that’s my toddler. My 22 month old. My almost two year old. I love you.

Leaning in or out?

During my last visit to my mom’s, we stopped by a local library to donate some of her books.  They also sell used books and my picked me up a copy of Lean In–Sheryl Sandberg’s contribution to the “having it all” debate.  My feminist perspective is largely influenced by my mom and since this book has caused quite a stir, she thought we could both read it and discuss it together. Having read all the media accounts of the book, I was not interested.

You see, I’m not sure women need to lean in. I think both men and women would be well-served by a little leaning out. I mean, I truly enjoy my job and the intellectual fulfillment it brings. But why can’t we just be happy with what we have rather than always striving for the top? Imagine if Sandberg didn’t “lean in” and only ended up an executive at Google rather than COO of Facebook. Or consider that another prominent writer in this debate couldn’t have it all as a high level aide to Hillary Clinton in the State Department; instead she had to, uh, settle as a tenured professor at Princeton. Her version of settling is success to most others. I don’t see how something less than reaching the ultimate pinnacle of success means you are sacrificing your career for your family.

And that’s not even getting into the argument that blaming women for not leaning in completely ignores all the factors that put up major barriers to women reaching those high posts.

So that was my frame of mind when my mom handed me the book. And then I read it. It is too simple to say I ate a bunch of crow, but her argument is more nuanced than the media accounts portrayed. I guess that’s always true about the media. It wasn’t the best book by any means. Still, I found three main things that really hit home.

One–what would you do if you weren’t afraid? I think this advice can apply to everyone no matter where they fall in the work outside the home, work inside the home, stay at home, child free spectrum of choices. The thing about these choices is that it seems lots of women find themselves in one of them without actually feeling like it’s a choice. This isn’t exactly what Sandberg meant, but this advice could apply equally well to a lot of decisions. Maybe you feel you have to work outside the home because you are scared of trying to live on one income. Maybe you have a great business idea but are afraid to take that risk. Maybe you want to retire early but are worried about how your far your investments will stretch. Too often we hold ourselves back because we are afraid of what might come.

So lean in. Or lean out. Heck, lean sideways if you want. But leans towards what you would do if you could do anything.

Two–don’t leave before you leave. The idea here is that even before women have kids, they start making decisions that reduce or limit their career options with the expectation that sometime in the future that decision would interfere with a family. So we might choose a career path that is supposed to be more family friendly. Or we don’t put ourselves out there for a promotion because we want to start a family. But after several years of infertility, I can see how short sighted this perspective is. If I had put myself on the “mommy track” when we first started trying to have a baby, I would have sacrificed 5 years before I was even a mother. Growing our family through adoption further emphasizes the difficulty of leaving before you leave. Just last week, I was talking myself out of leading this potential new project because it would require a lot of work next May. And what if I was on parental leave then with a new baby? We’ve really just begun the wait for our second child and already I’m turning down opportunities because of some potential that may never actually materialize.

There are so many unknowns when it comes to family building. When it will happen, how you will feel when it does happen. Let’s wait until the conflicts are already here before figuring out how to resolve it.

Three–act like you belong here. Sandberg describes how she sees lots of young women (and did this herself) choosing a seat on the outside of a table rather than sit down at the table. But if we’re not at the table, we are sending a strong message that we don’t belong and our voice doesn’t need to be heard. That’s the surest way to ensure that your ideas are not heard or that someone else takes credit for them. Recently I was at a conference and my morning session happened to have an extremely small crowd. As in 8 people. For a room that could fit 25. The room was organized in rows but with such a small crowd, some of us started rearranging it into a small circle. When we were done, two young, female graduate students took seats outside this circle. Since I’m now a Lean In guru, I encouraged them to join the main circle, but they refused. These women had some really interesting work to share, but insisted on sitting behind some of us. If we don’t act like we belong at the table, no one else will either. This plays itself out in other ways where women always defer to others or put themselves last. My grandmother, for example, used to always insist that she preferred to eat her dinner standing at the counter while the rest of us sat around the table. Whether it’s the kitchen table or the conference room table, take your seat and know that you deserve to be there.

I still don’t agree with everything Sandberg has to say. And I certainly don’t think we need to see an elite executive as the only vision of success in life. But I’ve come to appreciate some of what she has to say, even as I apply it in somewhat different ways. Whether it is embracing your career, embracing a minimalist lifestyle, or embracing your role in your family, do what you are afraid of doing and act like you deserve to be there.

Perfect Fall Weekend

We had yet another perfect fall weekend. It was a bit cold on Saturday morning, but that just meant the gardens we went to weren’t that crowded. They had storytime in the garden and a pumpkin patch. It was a lot of fun despite the cold. And then we warmed up by Starbucks, so how could we really complain about that?

That afternoon we went to a Halloween party at a friend’s house. There were five toddlers there and ours was actually the oldest! It is weird to think that he is old enough to be the oldest in the room at times. It was tons of fun with a costume parade and everything. He looked so cute as a little elephant.

Today was eventful as well. Church was packed and so we sat right up front. We’ve been sticking to the back so we could sneak out if the boy starts getting loud, but there we were right in the front pew. And for about 90% of the mass, he was engrossed in the mass. It was so cute to see him pay so much attention to what was going on. He is starting to learn the sign of the cross and he does it with us as we pray before dinner.

When we got home, the kid asked to swing (or, in his words “go weee!”) on our porch. It is funny how this little moment ended up by my favorite part of the day. The kid was so adorable swinging and playing on the porch while my husband and I talked about all sorts of things. He’s been so good at listening to us and (for now at least) is willing to stay where we tell him to stay and hold our hand when we cross the street. It really is the little things that make our life so happy right now. And crossing the street without a meltdown feels like a triumph for now. But we had a terrific day with a toddler who is quickly becoming the sweetest little boy!