Sunday, December 11, 2011

Top Ten Don'ts

This was done on a whim after my wife and kids were in don't presume this to be comprehensive or significant in sequence.  Enjoy.

#10 - Don't do anything on a whim after your wife and kids are in bed...especially a top ten list. (Nine more to go...we're gonna get through this.)

#9 - Don't minimize your foster or adopted child's sense of belonging when someone asks, "Are they all yours?"  They're yours...maybe not forever, but in that moment your child is wondering if you're going to over-explain the circumstances and implications of that question or just keep it simple.  It doesn't matter if one of your kids has three eyes, an extra leg, speaks Mandarin and is made of glitter...they're yours.

#8 - Don't commit to being the father of a child who is not biologically yours if you're just doing it for your wife.  You'll disengage, she'll get frustrated, you'll both be bitter if or when that child doesn't meet your expectations, and everyone will lose when you were just trying to appease your spouse.  You can however go through training, read some books, meet with some other men who have been there, and then see where your heart is.

#7 - Don't let them sleep in your bed.  It's one thing if they're sick or scared at some point and you make a pallet of blankets on the floor in your room.  It's a whole other thing if you've bought into some hippy "they need to be nurtured" psycho babel, and you find yourself with an 8 year old sleeping between you and your wife when you finalized their adoption at the age of 2.  Don't get me wrong, they need to be nurtured, but that's not nurturing.  It's idiotic and your marriage will suffer for it.

#6 - Don't let them be a thief of time.  They may have moments of misbehavior, illogical antics and tirades that require drywall repair.  Hear me on this...IT'S JUST DRYWALL!  Don't succumb to the feeling that you need to lecture your child for 2 hours about making good choices, self-regulating, not lying, etc. and let every other child or adult go without one-on-one time with the man of the house that night.  (Although, you will probably want to have a drywall repair kit on hand.)

#5 - Don't neglect your family and friends simply because you are overly busy caring for a child who has special needs from being abandoned, abused or neglected.  It is more work to care for a child like this.  Your family and friends may not understand completely.  But you will isolate yourself and ostracize your support network if you don't invite them in and allow them to encourage you from an educated perspective...even if you're the one that has to give them that perspective.

#4 - Don't let your wife get tossed under the bus and then put it in reverse just to make sure she got the point.  Our kids come with some baggage usually related to the feeling that their biological mother did not provide, protect or want them.  There may be little or a lot of truth in those feelings, but they will project those feelings onto your wife because she is now playing that role in their lives.  So, it can be tempting to think your wife is going crazy (and she might be), and when something happens and she acts out of character for you to not take her side.  No matter how crazy she gets...back her up.  Then, help her get out of the house, breathe fresh air, and hang with some of her lady friends without the kids on a regular basis.  Your love life will thank you for it.

#3 - Don't be inconsistent.  Your kids need boundaries, regularity and calming influences.  So whether it's eating habits, hobbies, schedules or whatever, try and keep a routine.  That routine may be a little chaotic at times, but even in the chaos of busy schedules, you still get to choose how much exposure they have to the unknown and limit their anxiety.

#2 - Don't be alone.  This is true on a number of levels, but ultimately, it's about understanding that while God may have called you specifically to're not the only gifted person in that child's life.  Let the Church be the Church.  Invite them to help you with things that are needed whether it's small and you could handle it on your own...or big, and you just aren't sure how to ask.  When someone unwittingly offers you a meal, childcare, etc...take them up on it and make them a part of your team.

#1 - Don't use the return policy.  On every foster or adopted child there is an unwritten, unspoken return policy that people keep in the back of their hearts.  It says, "If this gets really hard or inconvenient, and we can't do it anymore, they are not our biological kids."  There may be hard times you are unprepared or unequipped for, and those times may not come until 4 or 5 years after a child has been in your home.  But do not assume that dissolving the adoption or disrupting a foster placement is the easiest way out.  It could be that you are the first one who needs to change...not the child.  It could be that you need a break every once in awhile.  It could be that you need more training.  Or, it could be that this is was not a good fit to begin with.  But our children are waiting for someone else to reject them holding that same unwritten, unspoken return policy in the back of their hearts wondering if they'll ever have to accept the idea that they do not have a family, a home or someone who will love them unconditionally while they heal and are restored.

As men, we lead our families, and our children and wives are hoping we will stand in the gap for them.  You don't need a Man Card or pep talk to be a better Dad.  You just need an example to follow who is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, loving and faithful, forgiving and just.  Do you know anyone like that?  Read Exodus 34:5-7 if you don't.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

No Cape Required

I have been labeled a Super Dad.  This is not a monicker of my own was a gift bestowed upon me after a number of weekends where my wife was traveling out of town and leaving me at home alone with our seven children ages 2 to 18.  People would routinely say, "Let us know if you need anything...we know you're Super Dad and all, but..."

I enjoy being a dad.  It's one of the greatest responsibilities in the world...and I don't need a t-shirt saying "real men love their wives" or telling me to "man up and love orphans" to uphold that responsibility.

So yes, I can routinely parent 10 children under the age of 10 without a whole lot of threats, screaming or bartering for good behavior.  I know how to do laundry, cook meals, clean the house, put kids to bed and have them stay in bed, vacuum, do a quasi-decent job on little girl's hair and pick out coordinating outfits for my children.  No...I'm not effeminate, I didn't play with dolls growing up, I'm not a stay-at-home Dad (although I work from home so I guess that sort of ruins that point), and I am blogging so that may require me to take a step back and pause for a moment.


Okay, yeah I'm good.  I can fish and fire a gun so I think that meets the minimum requirements.

It's not that I'm Super's that the role of fatherhood and definition of manhood has taken a whipping in America.  A man in America who loves his children, enjoys spending time with them, cherishes them and encourages them is as equally suspect of being a pedophile as he is of being a good father.  I've been a student minister at a small church, so I get the stereotypes and uneasiness people have with men who are "good with kids."

When did fatherhood become such a burden though?  I listen to a local sports talk radio show in Dallas, and the other night, one of the hosts was bashing dads like it was deplorable to add more children to your family.  He even went on to synopsize adoption as a ridiculous notion.  I grant that this station is known for its sarcasm and hyperbole, so I won't belabor the source.  But children have become something we deal with and handle rather than someone we celebrate, discipline and encourage.

The world expects fathers to lust after all things ESPN and sheepishly follow the leadership of their wives (see Phil Dunphy from Modern Family...although that show is really funny and even his character puts to shame many of the dads of today).

Our children need to know that we're proud of them.  They need direction and instruction on how to work, be a friend and choose a friend, and countless other issues.  They need a Dad who will let them fall down and learn to dust themselves off... a Dad who will give them room to grow without being so distant that his voice cannot be heard.  They need to see what it is to be a man, a husband and a father.

I could go on ranting (which is a gift of mine), but we need to rap it up here.  For as much as fatherhood is thrust upon some men, it is ultimately a choice.  It requires a man who will be the last one to bed and the first one up.  It requires us to choose integrity, truth and sacrifice.  I don't know when we became passive as fathers, but when we did our families and communities suffered for it.  We don't need men over-committing to everything in order to fill the current void...just men who take the opportunity to re-engage the hearts and minds of their children today.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I recently learned that the most important factor in whether foster/adopted children feel they belong in a family is the approval and welcoming of the grandparents in that family.  So while children must be granted appropriate access to what led them to become adopted and know that there is not a return policy on their adoptive status, grandparents play a vital role in a child's sense of belonging in a new family.

Which then begs the question, as foster/adopt parents, how do we help our parents become foster/adopt grandparents?

My wife and I are fortunate to have started out with two fairly good, if not great, sets of grandparents to begin with.  We never had to breakdown the barriers of racism for our families to welcome any children during the holidays or vacations.  We were never told to give a child back even in our most difficult of placements.  We did however have to work through underlying issues of favoritism.

At one point, we had three boys from a sibling group of six that were living with us.  Over the summer, grandparents would come to visit and routinely take one or two of our biological kids home with them for a few days to have them all to themselves.  We loved this multi-generational investment in our kids alongside the gentleness and care they expressed...until, the three boys began to get angry, then sad and cry.  Memaw, Grandad, Nana and Pa had all welcomed them when they were in our home, but they were never invited to come spend the night at their house.

On another occasion, we were on a trip to Red River, NM one summer.  And each night, a different set of grandkids got to go stay in the grandparents' room and be unconditionally cherished for an evening.  On this particular trip, we had two foster sons who everyone absolutely loved...but originally no invitation had been given to them to spend the night.  This is when my wife and I began stepping in and not only encouraging them to consider the idea of including our foster kids in their grandparenting plans, but stating that if everyone couldn't have a turn no one would.

Over the years, our parents have grown to understand more of the behavioral and developmental issues of our children, and they have become advocates themselves.  My mom is now a CASA volunteer speaking on behalf of foster children in court.  When our oldest son was adopted, we had planned a deep-sea fishing trip in the Gulf the weekend he first moved in not knowing those two events would coincide.  Years later, when asked what made him feel at home, he responded, "The very first thing I ever did with my family was go on a deep-sea fishing trip with my dad, granddad and uncle.  It wasn't convenient for them to take me with them...they hardly knew me, but they welcomed me as if I was their own.  And, I was."

You might copy pages from books like Brothers and Sisters in Adoption by Arleta James or the Connected Child by Karyn Purvis to give to your extended family ever so often to read.  You might have to go above and beyond to invite your family over to your house letting them know that you are not too busy for them.  You will have to have some direct conversations about why you don't spank, do time-ins instead of timeouts and curb their curiosity.  Ultimately, you will benefit greatly in allowing your children to feel at home even if they aren't at home by encouraging your parents to create a sense of belonging for these children.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


I am currently living out ten different blog posts none of which I have the forethought to write about.  So at the moment, all you get is silence.  No this is who I am or deep philosophical post about why this blog is named after a Greek word no one can pronounce...just silence.

Eventually, I will post one of the ten stories I'm living, and then I'm sure you'll be overwhelmed with my mediocrity.  But today...the day that has now become two weeks, I have nothing to say.  Enjoy the silence.