Sympathetic Resonance

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Our eldest daughter has been noticing things lately… .

“Mom, is anyone else in my class adopted?”

“How about anyone else in my school?”

“Mom, I’m the only one in my class with darker skin.”

“Mom, I’m the only one in this family with dark skin.”

As much as our culture applauds individuality and following your own path (as long as that path fits in a particular box), doesn’t it sometimes just totally suck to feel like you’re the only one?

A few days ago Ana was particularly upset. She flung herself on our bed and wailed loudly. When she did that, my guitar, which was hanging on our wall untouched, responded with a sound to match. My guitar, WHICH WAS HANGING ON OUR WALL UNTOUCHED, responded to her cry with a sound to match.

The note startled her out of her despair. She looked at me scared. The whole situation just about had us both running right out of the house.

I did a little research, and it wasn’t a ghost… .
It’s a thing. It’s called sympathetic resonance. It’s when a “formerly passive string responds to external vibrations to which it has harmonic likeness.”

What for a moment was beyond creepy, now became one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. That dang guitar, usually just literally hanging out doing nothing, internalized our daughter’s pain, identified a likeness, and responded to her with its own note of mourning. Ana felt scared, but I imagine she also felt heard.

1. Is this the craziest thing ever, or what?! 2. Does this strike a chord for you as it did me?!? (See what I did there?) It’s so easy to feel like we’re the only one… no matter what it is we’re going through. You’re not the only one. I promise. And it feels good to match pitch. So let’s not be passive strings. Let’s tell our stories. Let’s show up for each other.

I love you friends.

Shame and Shushing

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A few months ago our family hung out with a new family for the day. About an hour into our time together, Ana called out to get my attention… “Mom!” The eight-year-old-ish son of the people we were with was startled and confused. “Wait,” he said, perplexed, “You’re her mom?” He paused. “Why is she… Indian?” His mother’s mouth dropped wide open. She looked HORRIFIED. She tried to shush him but not be obvious with her shushing.
Aside from him being oceans off on our daughter’s ethnicity, I was unfazed. “She was adopted,” I told him. His mother remained uncomfortable and continued her not-so-covert attempts at getting him to shut his cake-hole.

Our daughter just kinda watched it unfold. …… Last month we took our family to the homeless shelter to help serve dinner. Please note that I said HOMELESS shelter. More than the actual serving I was hoping our kids’ eyes would be open to different people, different ways of life, options for how to love well, etc.. Well our little chatter box @solanagilbertadventures made herself right at home there. She plopped down with a bowl of stew at a table with the men and started asking easy questions. “Why don’t you have a house?” was her intro.

I felt an unstoppable urge to shush her or chime in. “Well they might have houses,” I said to her. (Um, what?) I looked at the guys. They ignored me and carried on, telling our daughter how they hunker down in sleeping bags and then roll themselves up in tarps to stay warm during freezing nights. …….. I’ve seen situations like this unfold, and also been the shushing mom, anytime kids get near anyone with a disability. “Mom, why is that boy in a wheelchair?” “Mom, why is that man missing an arm?” “Shhhh.” As if the person with one arm is unaware of their situation. ………. I think it’s so curious how we assign shame to other people where shame does not, and need not, exist……….

Thoughts for the day. I love the girl in this picture something so fierce. There’s no shame in her game. Can we all stop the shushing?

Foster Care: Things that Make You Go Hmm

Ana and water

The other day Ana and I were playing at the park with friends. Her friend took a sip from his water bottle, then passed it Ana’s way. The dad chimed in, “We only share our drinks with family, son.”

The logic made sense to me. It also brought me back to those first few days when Ana came to live with us…

Ana moved in and it was just a day or two before she was reaching for my spoon, my water glass, and my ice cream cone. Her simple and unspoken requests were innocent enough. She was hungry. She was thirsty. She loves ice cream.

Her toddler hands reached.

My adult brain hesitated.

I was mid-gulp of water and caught off guard. The same thing our friend said out loud at the park manifested as a brief internal struggle for me. I too only like to share my glass and my spoon and my ice cream – especially my ice cream – with my family.

The appeals were small. The implications of my response were not. We had just met this child and didn’t know how long she would be with us. How were we going to define this relationship? Was she… “family?”

These are the things you don’t think about when you sign up to be a foster parent. These are the things they don’t train you for. We could not have guessed that something as insignificant as sharing a glass of water, could represent something as meaningful as sharing a life.

The hesitation was fleeting, though this wasn’t the last time I hesitated. Simple things “normal” families take for granted, like cleaning off a child’s bloody boo-boo, and taking family photographs, begged the question be answered again: “How would we define this relationship?”

I tipped the glass up and helped Ana’s little head swig back a mouthful of my water. I handed over the ice-cream cone and watched as a tiny tongue smeared saliva all over my treat. With these seemingly insignificant gestures, we were family.

XO,

Kara

Daughter, This is Who You Are

A story about the honest, imperfect, messy love in adoption.

Hugs for Momma on Adoption Day. Photo cred to Adam Gilbert

Daughter,

It is the middle of the night. Your newborn brother is sleeping soundly next to me. I should be taking advantage of that by trying to sleep myself, but I can’t. There are things you need to know. Things you might wonder about when you are 12, or 15, or 20. Things I need to say before time turns the answers to your questions about memories and conversations and reasons why into foggy hues of grey.

November 24th, 2014 was your adoption hearing. You would no longer be “Little A,” a number in the state’s foster care system, or a child in limbo.

November 24th was the day we would be recognized for the family we had become.

November 24th was one of the best days of your daddy and I’s life.

November 24th was the day you would get a new name.

I had visions of the perfect celebration for your adoption day. I should have known. Instead, your adoption day turned out a lot like how adoptions really are.  It turned out a lot like how life really is. It was messy. And honest. And imperfect.

And it was beautiful.

Adoption Day!

“You wish to change your daughter’s name to Solana Alejandra Gilbert?” the judge inquired from the front of the courtroom.

You had skipped your nap that day and you were loaded up on a party weekend’s worth of sugar. There was a substantial audience of state workers present to witness our new beginning. We had tried to explain to you in advance what was going on, but it had to be more than a bit confusing. Any of these things may have thrown you off that day. Or maybe it was just the fact that you were two. At any rate, it was a court proceeding to write home about (or maybe one to keep a secret!).

That day your dad and I sat at the same desk your bio mom had occupied throughout her involvement with the court. The judge hammered us with questions about ourselves and our intentions and our family. During this time you made it your mission to distract us and everyone else from the business at hand. You fidgeted and squirmed, whined and loudly demanded your way, and splashed drinking water all over the expensive wooden desk. The floor beneath you was littered with your deconstructed paper cup. You paid zero attention to the judge’s questions or to my pleas for you to behave.

And then the judge came to the name change question.

“Adam and Kara, you wish to change your daughter’s name to Solana Alejandra Gilbert?”

Your over-stimulated little head shot up from your busy work. “I noooooottt Solana Gilbert,” you proclaimed to the world loudly. You said it with conviction. You looked the judge in the black robe straight in the eye.

Well… Crap.

I flinched.

The judge raised an eyebrow.

Your daddy kept his composure. “Yes. We do.”

Only a few months have passed since that day and you have already embraced your new name. We know this because when Santa Claus called out “Solana Gilbert” at your preschool, you bolted out of your seat and ran to his lap to retrieve your gifts. Your dad smirked. I know what he was thinking. “Who’s Solana Gilbert now?”

Your reaction in court on adoption day probably sums up adoption pretty well. It’s not lost on your dad or I that one of the best days of our lives may carry with it some heaviness for you. While your adoption day is a day to celebrate the making of our family, it is also forever a day that will represent the loss of your bio family. Your dad and I get that. We want you to know that however you feel about it throughout the years, it’s okay. And your feelings do not have to be a secret. You already made them clear when you were two. :o)

A messy beautiful adoption day in all its realness.

I am not sure if it was “Solana” or “Gilbert” that you were reacting to in court that day. I don’t think you were sure either. I do want you to know that changing your first name was a tough decision and one that your dad and I struggled through making. We spent months talking it over. Ultimately, here is why we did what we did…

Let me start by saying it really makes no difference what your name was yesterday, is today, or will be tomorrow. We love the person you are, the heart you have, and the fact that we get to call you daughter. Your name does not change YOU.

But…. we did reason that perhaps your name would impact the way you saw yourself. We wanted to give you a name that we felt fit who you were. We wanted to give you a name that would tell you what you meant to us.

There is a story in the Bible where God gives the gift of a name to a dude named Simon. Jesus says to Simon, “now I am going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.”

I’ve always been a little jealous of this situation.

Some people… many people… spend their whole lives trying to figure out who they “really are.” Simon was lucky enough to have it stated for him by the freakin’ God of the universe. God said, “you are a rock,” (the rock on which I will build my church) and Simon left the conversation with a new name and a sense of purpose.

We chose the name Solana for you because it means sunshine. That is “who you are, really are.” (Unless that is not who you want to be and then when you are old enough we will talk.)

You are our sunshine

We also felt a new name would befit your new future.

Throughout our interactions with your bio parents one thing struck us. We could not help but notice how consistently alone they were.

In one particular meeting I watched as your lawyer delivered unpleasant scenario after unpleasant scenario to your bio mother. Your mom sat by herself on the lonely side of the room in a cold metal chair. She was told that she had made progress towards getting you back but that it probably was not good enough. She wiped a tear away. Nobody was there to hold her hand, pat her knee, or pass her a tissue.

My eyes were looking at your mother in that chair, Ana, but my heart was seeing you. Like a scene from A Christmas Carol, what could have been your future played out before us. Your papa and I left there that day determined. The lonely side of the room was for the girl you were and could have been. The lonely side of the room was not intended for the girl you were going to be.

Your father and I know we cannot control the decisions you will make as you grow up. You are your own person. But here is the deal. If as you get older you find yourself in a mess… a mess that involves a cold metal chair… my darling you better pull up two more. The girl named Solana will not be sitting by herself. Your papa will be holding your left hand, your momma will be holding your right, and daughter, I dare someone to tell you that you aren’t good enough.

This is who you are. Really are. You are Solana. You are our sunshine.

We love you,

Your Parents

 

gilberts adoption day