Tuesday, September 25, 2007


A recent, kind commenter called our family courageous. In customary fashion I tried to mentally brush the word off. It seems a bit over the top for what I do...most of which involves copious amounts of dirty laundry and dishes. But I got to thinking about the word for a few minutes. In fact, I got to thinking about it for long enough that I decided to look up a definition. Here's what I got:
Courageous: able to face and deal with danger or fear without flinching
I like the definition, because when I just searched for courage, it spoke of an absence of fear...and I knew this just didn't seem entirely right. But note this definition. There is no absence of fear, but an ability to face fear. I think this is terribly important, because fear is a very huge part of what we are doing here. I remember going to our birthing classes years ago, and under all the hope and happiness was fear. Fear of what can go wrong, fear of failure, fear of the future. I remember going to our adoption preparation classes, and under all the hope and happiness was an enormous fear. Much greater than the fear at birthing class.

Those teaching the classes foster the fear. They talk of "worst case scenarios" in an attempt to not leave you unprepared. But fear is not preparation. We begin to ask ourselves questions, and they all begin with two words. What if...the children don't like us? What if they have needs we cannot provide for? What if they feel like outsiders...don't attach to our family? The questions get harder, and we often dodge them at this stage, telling ourselves, "This is only hypothetical... this wouldn't likely happen to us." What if the children are destructive? What if they hurt or kill our pets? What if they are sexually active? What if they hurt my bio child? What if my marriage begins to suffer? Then the children come home, and in the whirl of settling in you ask no questions...you only put your shoulder to the wheel because there is just so much work to be done. You are happy to work. This is what you signed on for.

But in time the dust settles. The work becomes a routine, and the quiet questions begin somewhere in the back of your mind. Now the questions are very specific. What if this one has FAS? Will they ever be able to care for themselves? What if one child is preying on another behind a closed door? Can I live with the destruction of our family's belongings? What if my husband loses his job because of one of these children? What to do about the spouse who gains thirty pounds in only a few months because of stress? How do I deal with my bio child sobbing, saying, "I just can't deal with this noise and craziness anymore."? Now the fear becomes very real.

I think the fear is what separates us from the rest of the world. If all I wanted to do was be charitable and help someone, I could have done a hundred things; all of them noble, and useful, and good. But very few of them would require courage. I could leave the sanctuary of my loving home every day of my life and work for the good of others. I could be well paid to do it, or give it away for free. But some families choose to offer up the very best they have. They open up that sanctuary called their home, their family, their marriage. Some go in with eyes wide open, and others not so much. The common denominator is fear. Absolutely everything that might go wrong, can and often will.

Here are the courage questions to ask yourself. Can I love a child who harms and destroys that which I love? Can I change my expectations and not be bitter? Can I live with a pervading sense of failure? Can I live in "fear without flinching"? And of course when I am honest with myself I know I cannot. I don't even want to. Courage sucks. Being courageous means there must be something to be afraid of to begin with, some risk to be taken. I think most of us living our comfortable, secure lives don't want danger to knock on our door. We only take challenge when it is thrust upon us...and yet we are so uplifted by stories of courage. We hear them and have a vague sense that there is something we are missing.

I have had it said to me along the way, that my new daughters are very courageous. I agree, but not for the reasons most are referring to. It does not require courage to be tossed into a lifeboat by force. What my daughters truly do know, is fear. They have crawled into every dark hole to escape from their fear. What demands courage, is to allow yourself to be coaxed out of the hole. It demands courage to decide to live above an animal level, existing only for your bread and a safe place to lay your head. It requires courage to even want more. I see my daughters' courage when they choose to rise above their apathy and work hard, and believe there will actually be a payoff in the future. I see their courage when they do wrong and choose to tell the truth, trusting that this strange parent-creature will deal fairly with them. Their courage feeds my courage, and mine feeds theirs.

I realize that the battle we wage is not so very different... and a battle analogy is apt. Some of us have signed up to be soldiers, and others here got drafted. But we all have to go through our training, become fit for battle, and learn courage. It requires us to take risk, travel light, be flexible. We must face our fear without flinching...so yes, I will take "courageous". I sure like it better than "saint" or "crazy"!


Anonymous said...

Well said. Well written, well thought out. You put down, what I could not put into words, only felt in my heart and live in my life.
You need to share this with the foster parent asso. in your area. It truly cuts the bottom of what most foster parents can not put into words.But live with everyday, every minute.
May I share your words with my asso? ddashby16 (at)hotmail.(com)

Anonymous said...

you are not a whiner! you are a fighter...for the right people (kids)
thank you

Anonymous said...

hey I updated, spread the word :-]

Anonymous said...

oh yeah that's me E

Nobody said...

Looks yummy. Did you put cheese on that potato? Your Frito pie was yummy but it did a number on my tummy. Dad was avoiding me this morning. :)

Jess said...

That's fantastically well put. I'm going to link this to my blog.

Blondie said...

O.M.G. You have put into words what I have been feeling recently. For the past few months, since we were approved, I have fluxed between excitement, desire and total fear of being a mother. I have cried and screamed and yelled and not coped with situations that I should be able to cope with simply because of FEAR and its not until after the fact that I have realised that this fear - of failure, of the worst case scenario, of not being able to cope with adoptive kids - is what is making me crazy every now and then... I have to go away and blog about this now -- so much of what you have said i can relate to (except we don't have our babies yet - and wont for some time)... I would like to link to your post if I may...

:) Blondie

Anita said...

Hope you don't mind if I link this post on my blog.