Love for a child.

Three years ago, my wife and I made the decision to adopt a child, and in learning to love her, I’ve never been more disappointed in myself. It all started when my wife encountered a little girl in her kindergarten classroom. One and a half years later we were compelled by circumstances to step in and attempt an adoption. We had always talked about adopting a child in that “one day we should…” kind of way. However, due to the nature of my wife’s job, she became privy to the way this little girl’s life was shaping up to be, and it began to weigh on her heart. With this child’s situation thrust into my wife’s face, she brought home the story looking for comfort.

If this blog doesn’t make it self-evident, then believe me when I say I carry an uncomfortably large ego. From my perspective, it’s not malicious, but at this point, it must be clear that I fully realize the role my selfishness plays in my life. I cannot abide the feeling of helplessness. In my career and life, I struggle with listening without conceiving potential solutions. This is a terrible trait in a husband/friend who’s job -at times- is to listen. Just listen.

That night, I listened, had an empathetic conversation with my wife, and proposed a solution. “We’ve talked about adopting, let’s adopt her,” I said. I even remembered saying “We can be the kind of people that talk about it or the kind of people that do it.” She suggested we foster with intent to adopt.

One of the best things about my wife is that she can look past the hubris I display by thinking I can fix something after a short conversation and ground our decision-making process. I am not trying to be hard on myself, but when it comes to my half of this decision, Ego and Hubris are what drove my thinking because anyone with a heart would have been moved by this little girl’s situation. However, I wanted to be this little girl’s hero, but more than that I wanted to be my wife’s hero. For my wife, the course of action was still less clear, I think. I imagine that for her it was easy to say let’s adopt the little girl if she only considered what was best for the little girl, but much harder when she considered what was best for our family. Specifically, our two biological children. When I think back on it, I feel she drew on my confidence about adoption as a key factor. I suppose I should ask her someday.

Over the next few days, we reached out to a foster care agency we had previously learned about through the State Fair. Through them, we learned about the process involved in fostering and adoption and what we would need to do to get this little girl moved from one foster care family to us. As with any process, there are long ways, and there are shortcuts. After getting the details it was clear the shortcuts had risks, so we decided to stack the odds in our favor. We completed a specialized six-month course called MAPP. We institutionalized our home for Foster Care. We had many meetings and evaluations and interviews. All in all, it took us a little over a year to have this little girl placed with us as a foster child and six more months to adopt formally. Once we started, the momentum and stubborn determination were not going to let us stop until she was part of our family.

For the record, my wife and I are not stupid. We both had no visions of love at first sight. We knew this was a decision and I remember us saying that we needed to approach this like we approach our marriage; there is no exit strategy, there is no divorce, and so far, this has been exactly what we’ve done.

It’s difficult to admit, but I ping-pong between regret and triumph more than I feel I should. I didn’t expect for this little girl to arrive and invoke such discomfort. I took for granted that my biological children are “of me”. As such, I have a powerful natural and self-centered connection with them. I took for granted that they smelled like they were mine, they think like they are mine, and they have every compulsion and desire to be loved by me. This little girl walked into our house a stranger. On some level, I expected that, but on another, I presumed the more our home became her norm, the less foreign she would become. I’ve never been more wrong in my life. This isn’t about surface behavior. That’s easy enough to manage because well… we are adults and we are smarter than her. It’s about who she is. Through no fault of her own, she has built her personality around what you have to do when your childhood to date is structured around monthly meetings and living with multiple people who she had to call mom. All of them saying they love her (and maybe they did/do), yet pushing her out when things got difficult. One of them going so far as to medicate her. For her, love was rendered meaningless, beaten to a bloody pulp long ago. For her, forever has a shelf life. Ultimately, this has shaped a little girl whose concept of a relationship is based on the best way to get what she wants from you. She has allowed herself to become so profoundly numb that nothing is worth investment. Summarized, we opened our home to a human in desperate need of love and consistency that had already given up on it in an unconscious way. Imagine the freedom that gives a kid to lie, sneak, manipulate, hoard, steal, falsify their way through life.

She has allowed herself to become so profoundly numb that nothing is worth investment.

We never thought she would be perfect. We never thought it would be easy. We did think we would establish a connection quicker. It did not happen that way. Albeit that every day our connection grows stronger, at times it feels like that progress has come at too high a price. Like the time my youngest was introduced to a very adult concept of a penis far too early. Or how my oldest can at times hide because he cannot stand the manipulations acted upon him by her. That’s the regret that creeps in now and then. Other times, the progress feels like an explosive triumph. Like the look on her face when she asked my oldest if he loved her more when she helped him with the dishes and he replied with “I love you all the time. I just like you more when you are not a jerk.” She was goofy happy for a day after that.

When it comes down to it, I think my oldest captured what I have been struggling with the most. We have grown to love this little girl very much. She is ours. I just don’t like her very much when she is a jerk, and this was a new feeling for me as a father. To date, I have not felt that way even once about my biological kids. I think my wife and I carry copious amounts of guilt because of it. Funny though, this little girl seems to treat the guilt a little every day.

The plus side of all of this is that she has loving parents, home, caring siblings, loving grandparents, and a life that has and is creating memories that will make her smile. So if you know me and you want to help. Please transition your mind to a place where your empathy for her gets shoved into the darkest corner of your basement. She is definitely deserving of your empathy and the special treatment it engenders, but it’s not practical for her healing. We cannot remind her of what made her numb. We cannot let her tragedy define her. We are filling her cup with joy, fun, and success. Now it’s time to help her rise up, and that means, that for everyone else she is just your average kid with nothing holding her back. Not even her past.



  • Tami Lewis

    Luis, thank you. Thank you for sharing the hard stuff, and putting into words what we’ve felt.

  • Kaylee Francis

    Thank you for your honesty and wisdom. We have just “graduated” from the MAPP class and getting closer to the steps of fostering. We are nervous, excited, terrified, confused…but we know God will help us.

  • J

    To a family i admire more than you may relize.

    See i understand and can relate to more than most could, without the adoption/fostering piece.

    I can relate to everyword and emotion conveyed in this recent blog entry. Only i feel the exact same way only in a different wrapping.

    I met your wonderdul wife and you 10 years ago. Durring our ongoing nightmare that still has residual effects on my family. Members even to this day. It has impacted each and everyone of us in different shades of love and brokeness. These stages of love alloed some blending with the pigmemts of Red for agape love, green for jelously, Pink for embarrassment. Black for hate. Yes, i said hate. Purple for hope and the Yellow for cowardness. I felt so often and white. That was not feeling worthy. So many times i had came to the point of ready to just fold it all in. I could not do it.
    I was an empty shell of a human being. That used to believe in all things perfect. Loved Disney and always giving people the benefit of the doubt. Trying to look at things from their perspective or lack there of .

    And forgetting i needed something or someone to understand where we were at as a family that came from another alien planet..a broken. Divorced. Alienated and hurting family.

    No one really understood. Although. Many tried to empathize or sympathize with the situation /nightmare that we were living.
    I heard encouragement. Which was helpful for those days it was so hard to rally to be thankful and positive and remain hopeful for a better tomorrow…heck i was even at many times just hopeful for the next 5 minutes to get through the tornment with a smile on my face and with the love i had in my heart to remain a positive force for my son “name insert”.
    Many seen me and would say how sorry they were. They knew the other couple. And these were “great people” in the community. And for the longest time i defended their beliefs or understanding with their premise as more important than mine or ours.

    It was on most days i tried my damndest to just focus. Getting through the day being enough just to get by. My husband did all he could but he did not understand. All he seen was this once vicarious life and loving person now crumble at the mention or a hopeful glimpse of that certain pink humanbeing.
    Shades of this girl….my little girl that was missing from our lives for so long. And who broke the hearts of the ones in this house thatbwere left behind like discarded memories or toys that were no longer desired or cared for or broken .

    I often thought that God hated me.

    We were being punished because of …

    i really don’t know why…
    maybe it was because i came from a broken family…
    my father didnt want me….
    or never reached out for contact…
    my mother who died when i was young…
    i couldnt offer grandparents…
    or was it because i was poor.
    I dont know.. I just know thats what i thought for so long.

    I that at one time i only wanted a family and stability..with unconditional love.

    Not to be the wayward child.

    I loved the fact that i had 4 amazing kids. And with that the simple truth that out of the 4 children i was blessed to be the mother of:
    2 of my body
    and 2 in my heart.
    That it was a blended and always not so blended family.

    i was a great mom , stepmonster and human that was broken.

    I was manipulated and tested, blamed , used and punished by 3 children and sometimes yes even by my husband. Because if the term and meaning of his mine and “not ours” life we shared or not shared. Began to fester up.

    It was a living hell.

    I remember how. people would say they were so sorry when i got up the energy to share. Often i would only share with ones that i needed to be sure to have them clue me in on signs. That my “name insert” was showing signs or hurting… Thats when the strong me would revel herself.

    Your wife was the first person i trusted with our hell. I did not want my child hurt. I could protect thisnone. But not the other or the 3 in it self. We didnt have them all time.
    I did have this all the time.

    I remember hearing people talk about me as i walked up to them and theyd change the subject .
    I remember thinking about the Dr Suess quote, “those that matter don’t mind and those that mind don’t matter”. It became a mantra in our home as well as “Our family may not have it all together but together we have it all. ” and even OHANA from Lilo and Stitch.

    The town we live in has no culture and less class than a 4th world country. They are more worried about gossip then they are about being genuine.

    Many sign up for this and that as a status quo than of doing it because they enjoy doing it for the right reason.
    I still find it humorous that many in the small minded -white based pallet bubble living , Jones’s living , wife swapping, mid life identy crisis ridden , bed and breakfast community (everybody lived there but no one worked there) mentality would believe the lies told about me and my family, and pass judgement on the ecspecially the children, both blood and none blood children.

    I didnt carebwhat these people thought. And i still do not care to this very day.
    I do us.
    I do our family.
    I do real, imperfect and screwed up.
    It is what life is un chartered for our story and where it is to.

    I dont care what others think of me. I do however dont mind placing the proverbial foot in their arse if they mess with the youngest, my son. Then it’s full contact on like donkey kong. I am the protector of all 4 but the only one that chooses my place there is the youngest.
    So , that is my focus during this chapter that is being written so imperfectly done in runon sentences spelled wrong words…sentences full of prepresential phrases and a noun i would love to insert that can be a noun, verb , pronoun and an explicit.

    My family is not fixed. It will never be perfect. Have i failed as a parent most divinely yes.

    Fortunately, like you do, i keep on trying to keep my family from going any further within my power as the broken and dysfunctional …crazy to the brink of being Powerless. Protection from the impacts of a life we were not able to protect the ones we love easily and the ones we have been given the duty to love and protect that come with all the baggage and hurt, shame and damaged heart, soul, an outlook at life in general. They are willing to just give up on it all because yet again the breaking point had been met, and they want to see if we have what it takes to go the distance in loving and protecting them.

    i for one could not see an end to any of this mess of what family was supposed to mean. But im still here.
    God willing he allows enough breathes in me to help prove that mindset wrong.

    The only things that really matter are you (i) and. Our families.

    Just stepping up into the spot that was labled “not for the weak ” we did it unknowingly…joking about it at times does truly helps. Cussing alot helps..but do it where the kids can’t hear it or that will be a new lesson to learn

    Just remember, time is our enemy. It steals from us precious moments that we allow the theif to take. Be strong in your armor. And do the right thing…even if your heart and brain fight about it. Because in the end of this life what matters most is we loved the ones that needed it most, and some of them are damaged beyond our imagination. Imagine if you had to switch places with the one you are struggling with and try to see what they have faced alone. And see that the test as sick as the test is and the unmentionable and unfathomable things that make your skin crawl is honestly and ernestly waiting to see if you cam share the true meaning of unconditional love. Agape love. It is the most powerful love on this earth. It is exactly as the love that Jesus Christ and our Father God has shown us in their teachings.
    Its ok to doubt.
    I know i have.
    I thought God hated me and was punishing me for being the person i was .
    I wanted a perfect life, but that is not what he wanted for me.. He wanted genuine love and no lip service.

    I see he loves you all in that household enough to want the same measure from you.

    i believed that i wasnt good enough for the family i fought so hard to have and wanted.
    That a life. Of blended multitudes of family levels with horrific scaring became the back drop to finding and blended into the color of Red for agape love.

    We still are not so blended at most times as a family astraged and alienated broken , glued , shattered and unrepairable im some senses. But do what you can with what tools god presents you with. Protect the innocence of all levels and magnitudes in your home. You are setting the standard for the path they will look to and follow. You may not be able to repair all the brokeness but remember that repairs dont require. Perfection, and seeking it is the biggest theif of time. (The devil is a liar and will still your joy. Let what ever light even the dimist be the light that scares away the nightmares that haunt your newest little one.)

    I wish i would have. Had a different life.
    But then again as we embark onto this next chapter. Im thankful for all the trials we did have and that god has not made anyone of them a finalized moment.
    We still have all 4 lives on this earth. We gave all we had and do the best we can with the tools that we are given.
    In my case :
    We had a mixed,
    broken and alienated family.
    It robbed my happiness poured on guilt. And made me swim in the universe of being an alien amongst others.
    I let the devil win for a time and he stole things i can never get back. But God shed light on a future i did not want to give up. And that is the best thing for us i believe.

    I hope you dont mind me saying this.

    You are made for greater things.
    God trusts you to set the standard for your family
    Your household
    And your future.
    You got this. Do not be afraid and know he is with you all the days of your life.
    Lean on him
    Seek him
    Have a daily conversation with him.
    And know it will all be okay.
    He has an amazing plan for you and your family.
    It was written many years ago. When he wrote your name into being.


    With love, and sincerity
    Your friend in reality of true life. And family in Christ.

    Sorry for the book.

  • J


    When you look into your new daughters eyes. Try to find simularities of what makes you look alike it helps with the sence of belonging.

    We have many family members that have been adopted from other areas in the world in addition to horrific. Homes that lead to foster care.
    My nephew. Whom is african american does not see color so far in his life and today that amazing young man is 17 years old. And over came fetal alcohol syndrome, abuse physical, mental and sexual. .
    Know you are not alone there are active support groups in ICT. That can offer life toolboxes for daily grind family issues. Best wishes.

  • Jeff Johnson

    Thanks for putting your heart out there. It’s amazing how often there are other people in the same boat. We have 5 kids (4 adopted and 1 biological), and like you, we jumped into it like marriage, there is no divorce, there would be no outs. My oldest (was 15 at the time) threatened to smash out all our windows in the house. This was right before the adoption date (she’d been with us for about a year). So turned around, walked outside, picked up a large landscaping rock and carried it back in the house. She gave me the most interesting look when I stood in front of her holding the boulder out. She went from completely out of control punching herself in the face, threatening to break everything, to crying as she took the rock in her hands. I told her she could smash out every window in the house, and there’d be consequences, but we were still adopting her next week… So we did go into this knowing it was going to be tough….but man, we did not necessarily think that every there seemed to be progress or connection, something else would happen. There has always been progress, but it’s been much slower (and we expected slow) then we had expected. And not only that but sometimes progress was really hard to recognize as progress. She’s 19 now and still struggling, still trying to find someone to throw all her anger at (it’s usually us), but she is doing better. Despite all the problems that I’m confident she (and us) will still have to deal with, I’ve gotten some interesting encouragement through clients I’ve met in my busines.

    I’m a Realtor and over the last 5 or 6 years I’ve met a whole bunch of grown up kids who were adopted out of foster care. They were successful, holding steady jobs, married, etc. Most of them looked more successful and professional than I did myself. And it wasn’t a show…I could tell. Something had happened to them that made a difference. Why is it that 80% of prison inmates were in foster care at some point in their lives? And yet I could see it in these young adults eyes…something was different. So I point blank started asking. I always talk about foster care because it’s something I care about deeply, but I started being very pointed. The ones who had confidence and success in their eyes all had the exact same answer. I could almost quote them all together with just one line. They all had one person in their life who loved them and never gave up on them. Oh they said they had fights with their parents, left home, became drug lords (literally), tried to kill themselves multiple times, and the list goes on and on, but when I asked them what made the difference. Why are they ok now. They all said, they had at least one person who never gave up.

    That of course is when I start crying in front of my clients. And the main words of encouragement they gave me was that when they have someone who loves them no matter what (doesn’t mean you enable), they may have a crap ton of problems, but they usually come back. And love doesn’t mean you tell them you love them. They have to feel it inside that you like them and that you think they’re actually cool or special. You can’t act like they disgust you and in the same breath say you love them. That’s the tough part sometimes. When you’re not interested in the same things and they’re fighting you all the time, you know you love them, but how do you make sure they feel it inside. The thing I realize with my kids is when they hit that low in their life, they need to be able to look back and know that their dad thinks they’re cool… That’s the bottom line for me.

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