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‘About the adoption option…’

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Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows. Isaiah 1 vs 17 (NLT)

This is us, the Kynies – a rainbow nation mash-up. My husband, Ryan, and I are proud parents of two of the best kids. Ilan is three and enjoys ‘dancing like a Zulu’, imitating his sister and riding his bike dangerously down hills. Kira just turned one and is a real busy body – she can handle cuddles in a maximum of five second increments at most, has a deep belly laugh and has eyes only for her brother. We’re a family pieced together through adoption.

Ryan and I discussed our shared heart for adoption before we got married and when we felt ready to start a family, adoption was our number one choice. It helped that we’d seen adoption played out in other families and that we were able to discuss adoption with parents who had pioneered into the world of social workers and courtrooms ahead of us. Even though we felt under-qualified as first-time parents-to-be, we were reassured that ANY family is better than NO family for a child who needs a family.

Our concerns and questions about adoption made me realise that many people – whether it’s something they are personally exploring or never really considered – are also apprehensive when talking about or even approaching the topic. So, having said that, I thought some of the lessons I’ve learnt in my journey so far could be helpful advice to everyone out there – you don’t need to be a Hollywood celeb to broach the subject of adoption.

Celebrate with us!
Please rejoice with us when we tell you that we’re starting or expanding our family through adoption. Please continue to celebrate adoptive parents-to-be in the same way that you’d celebrate a pregnancy announcement – baby showers and meal rosters are very welcome. Please don’t deflate our moment by asking us to explain our motives.

Jumping through (many, many) hoops
So. Much. Admin. We’ve learnt that adoption admin is not for the faint-hearted! Adoption screening is not easy, nor cheap and you never know how long it will all take but all of this fades into the background when you get ‘the call’ to say that you’ve been matched as parents of a precious little one. When you meet your baby for the first time it really feels like you deserve to be there – the home visits, prying interviews and psychological assessments were so worth it. What a gift it is to parent one of God’s very own special ones.

The story
As difficult as it is to keep this information to ourselves, our kids’ stories are not for us to share. Their history doesn’t belong to us. We aim to tell them the best version of their stories in an age-appropriate way as they grow up and if they choose to share it one day, then that’s up to them. South Africans must pray that our collective heart breaks for the issues that break God’s heart. We need to pray that the cycle of poverty and injustice in our country is broken. The reality is that God is building families through adoption despite a fallen world and it is by the grace of God that we don’t find ourselves in the same position as our children’s birth moms. Adoption means understanding, not judgement.

Bite your tongue
Let’s try and choose our vocab carefully. Adoption is such an overused word. Ilan is not our adopted son, he is our son. Plain and simple. Own is also an overused word that is not well received amongst adoptive families, please rather say ‘biological’ if this is what you mean. Our kids are our ‘own’ and yes, now they’re related. Lucky is another oneour kids are not lucky to have us, we are the lucky ones! Please try your best to avoid these words and forgive us if our knee-jerk reaction is to cover our kids’ ears when you use any of these words around them.

African hair, yes we care
We certainly don’t have a whole lot of experience in this department, so if you are someone who does, then help us out! We want to know which barber is going to rip us off and what hair products to use for our kids’ hair. Take it one step further and help our family celebrate our racial differences, see the world in colour and help our kids figure out what it means to be black in South Africa. Adoption is a team effort and we need you on our team.

This blog was originally posted on the Common Good Blog.

It’s the weekend, baby!

Weekends no longer mean sleeping in and I don’t see this ever happening again. But this is ok, because weekends now mean kid cuddles in mommy and daddy’s bed. This is probably one of the best things in the world, believe me. Ilan is a real cuddler and when he’s not playing peek-a-boo under the duvet then he’s giving some loved up squeezes. Recently he’s started summoning us for ‘family cuddles’ which I will enjoy while he still thinks it’s cool. Ryan has also taught him to say ‘It’s the weekend, baby’ with Gareth Cliff’s exact intonation which basically makes Ilan the coolest kid on the block. Ilan also likes to unexpectedly pipe up with tuneful phrases like ‘I got it from my mamma’, ‘wake up, little Susie’ and ‘wiggle it just a little bit’ which comes with a little wiggle of the bottom too. He didn’t get the love of late morning snoozes from his mama, unfortunately.

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Saturday mornings start earlier than I’d like, but on the plus side there is no rush to get up and ready for anything because ‘anything’ is likely to start at 09h30 at the absolute earliest which means about three hours of pj mooching before the rest of the world starts surfacing.

Our weekend morning tradition is to read some books and then hide under the covers and then tease Kira to make her giggle and then hide again and then pretend that we still can’t find Ilan even after he’s hidden his head under the pillow for the sixth time in a row. No my dear boy, we can’t see you at all when you’re hiding your head. We can’t see a single part of you. We also can’t locate your voice that shouts, ‘I’m hiding under the pillow.’ Bless.

I love my life, I really do but my advice to those of you who plan to become parents one day – start banking those precious Saturday and Sunday sleep-ins as they won’t last forever. For the rest of us, let’s relish in the memories created with spilt milk on our clean bedding and being asked to read the exact same jolly book out loud, week in and week out.

Some days are like this and other days are like that

This boy. Ilan is clearly very pleased with himself. Me, not so much.
This boy. Ilan is clearly very pleased with himself. Me, not so much.

Some days I want to pull my hair out.

Ilan doesn’t want to nap. He jumps on the bed. He tests my patience in the hugest way. Some days (yesterday), I hear a little noise from his room and pop my head in to investigate. He’s not in his bed. He is behind the curtains with my ball point pen and has left an ink trail in his wake. He’s ‘coloured in’ my desk and some of his books and has given himself a moustache. Artistry of this magnitude must have taken him ages, but he did it all so quietly that I didn’t have a clue.

Deep breath. Take a photo. It’s actually quite funny.

Nothing beats this.
Other days.  

But then, there are other days like this – spontaneous ‘Can I give you a hug quickly, Mommy?’ during supper or a gentle stroke on my arm or a ‘Just one more cuddle, ok?’. Or, if you’re lucky, you are rewarded with five minutes of cuddly sleepy kid on your shoulder on the walk in from the car.

Parenting is a mixed bag of this and that. A mixed bag of blessings.

Truth.

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My babies, one day we will have to explain this to you. It will be so hard, but you will survive it and so will we.

God knows what He’s doing. When he pieced our family together, he made something beautiful from something so broken. You are beautiful! You are perfect. You are loved. We love you from the depths, depths, depths of our hearts. You actually have no idea.

Cow equals wedding.

This week I showed Ilan a photo that his faraway (up the West Coast for work) father sent to me. It was this picture of two cows.

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The cows of love

Ilan looked at the two ordinary looking cows standing beside an ordinary barbed wire fence and said, ‘It’s a wedding!’ without prompting of any kind. I thought this was strange and laughed, ‘It’s not a wedding, it’s cows’. Next photo.

Then I thought about it some more. Ilan’s been to quite a few weddings in his lifetime, often at spots a bit of a drive away with farm animals en route. Could this be it? Or could it be a subconscious understanding that cows equal weddings and that he knows that this could mean lobola for him one day? My little Zulu warrior. He’s extremely gifted, you know. I wouldn’t put this kind of insight past him. Obvs.

This odd connection puzzled me and I dropped the story into a few conversations during the day. Moms like to share the funny things their kids say. Even if we’re the only ones who find them funny. It’s one of the best parts of our day to talk about you see. No one wants to hear about an extremely gross nappy or eczema patches, really.

And then I walked in to the room that night where Ilan was kissing his mirrored reflection. This kid knows how to love himself. He actually likes mirrors. He likes checking himself out. I suppose you do have to love yourself first before you think of loving someone else and dating and cows on the way to weddings and cows paying for brides. Kids get it right, don’t they? That’s the take home message, folks.