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This time last year – not showing, still glowing

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So, I was reminded the other day that this time last year we were eagerly anticipating the arrival of our daughter. This time last year we hadn’t met you yet, dearest one, but now we’re family and I am your Mom and Dad is your Dad and Ilan is your besotted brother.

December 2013 was a flurry of home visits, interviews, book reviews, psychometric tests, police clearance requests and the tricky family profile (‘how to self-promote just a little, in a creative way’. Super tough.). Then suddenly you arrived on the scene, lovely littlest one. Our agency phoned us one Thursday afternoon in January to say that you were turning three months the next day and that we could meet you that weekend. We could meet you! We had to wait six forever weeks to meet your brother, but we could meet you that very weekend! It all happened so quickly, so very quickly. I hardly had time to wrap things up at work and we hadn’t even told many friends that we were ‘paper pregnant’ yet. So quick, but so perfect. God’s timing is perfect and He knew what he was doing.

It was the strangest feeling in the world to drive to visit you that Saturday. We picked you up and took you to see the monkeys (well, your brother was really the one interested in the monkeys and you liked sleeping). It was hot and it was surreal. I carried you in a wrap on my chest. You were so teeny and as light as a feather and I held you close to my heart. Strangers told me how cute you were and they were right.

Our love grows for you every single day and although you are still so tiny, you are now a walking, talking, sandwich-gobbling, ‘hey, that’s my toy!’ kind of fifteen month old. When will you say ‘Mama?’ I keep asking you little one. Ilan says ‘Friday’ and maybe he is right.

So much love precious pie.

x

How to get hugs from your three year old

mrtickleI love hugs. Who doesn’t? I have a super cuddly three year old who lavishes me with cuddly love and I know I’m one of those lucky moms in the hug department so I shouldn’t really complain, but I’d still love MORE. Little boys grow up too  fast and so I need to capitalise right this very minute while hugging mom is still sort of cool. I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to this, so I thought I’d share what I do to get my little one to hover in my embrace for more than a second. Here they are:

1. Hold and release. Enjoy a good deep squeeze and then loosen on up. No one likes to feel trapped in a hug, least of all a little boy. Release him before he wriggles way and you might buy yourself some time.

2. Secrets. Tell him you want to whisper a secret into his ear. He has to come close for this, he probably has to even sit on your lap. Bravo, now you just need a nice loooong secret to keep him there.

3. Be the hug monster. Little boys love monsters and moms of little boys like hugs. There we go.

4. Be the tickle monster. A fit of giggles can be very exhausting. Your child may need to collapse in your arms to recover. (Bear in mind that being a tickle monster can also be very exhausting. Especially if this game is played on repeat.)

5. It’s all about timing. Hugs happen best when your little one is sleepy or when he is trying to buy some time before bed or when you are hiding under the duvet together and waiting for Dad to come and find you.

6. Start a family hug tradition. This is the flavour of the the week in our home at the moment. Ilan summons us for a family hug by shouting, ‘Family hug happening now’. We are often summoned at inconvenient times but I’m game if it means I get a hug from my boy.

Voila. There you have it. The easy peasy guide to getting hugs from your three year old. (Sometimes they work, sorry no guarantees!)

 

A Transracially-Adopted Child’s Bill of Rights

Adapted by Liza Steinberg Triggs from ‘A Bill of Rights for Mixed Folks’ by Marilyn Dramé

-Every child is entitled to love and full membership in her family.

-Every child is entitled to have his culture embraced and valued.

-Every child is entitled to parents who know that this is a race conscious society.

-Every child is entitled to parents who know that she will experience life differently than they do.

-Every child is entitled to parents who are not looking to “save” him or to improve the world.

-Every child is entitled to parents who know that being in a family doesn’t depend on “matching.”

-Every child is entitled to parents who know that transracial adoption changes the family forever.

-Every child is entitled to be accepted by extended family members.

-Every child is entitled to parents who know that, if they are white, they benefit from racism.

-Every child is entitled to parents who know that they can’t transmit the child’s birth culture if it is not their own.

-Every child is entitled to have items at home that are made for and by people of his race.

-Every child is entitled to opportunities to make friends with people of her race or ethnicity.

-Every child is entitled to daily opportunities of positive experiences with his birth culture.

-Every child is entitled to build racial pride within her own home, school, and neighbourhood.

-Every child is entitled to have many opportunities to connect with adults of the child’s race.

-Every child is entitled to parents who accept, understand and empathize with her culture.

-Every child is entitled to learn survival, problem-solving, and coping skills in a context of racial pride.

-Every child is entitled to take pride in the development of a dual identity and a multicultural/multiracial perspective on life.

-Every child is entitled to find his multiculturalism to be an asset and to conclude, “I’ve got the best of both worlds.”

Yes, they belong to me!

Adoption is a funny thing. Blended families are everywhere you look, but our existence can still raise an eyebrow or two at, for example, Cavendish. I am quickly going to recount two laugh out loud moments that have recently taken place at this popular mall down the road.

One. Let me set the scene. Ryan is trying on jeans at Woolies. I am collapsed on the couch that is strategically positioned at the entrance to the changing rooms. (Woolies you read my mind. Taking Husband shopping is far more exhausting that one can imagine.) The pram is wedged ‘out of the way’ (a pram is always in the way) and Ilan is running sprints down the aisle towards the Woolies cafe and turning around every few seconds to check that I’m watching his fabulous display of very fast running. The security guard is hovering at the entrance. A concerned shopper walks slowly past Ilan who is now rolling on the floor. She looks around. She summons the security guard and they look around together. They’re looking for Ilan’s mom. Where is she? I am five metres away. This is too amusing so I let them look a little bit longer before I give them a wave. Embarrassed shopper scurries away. Ilan runs back to me. We all go home without jeans.

Two. It is possibly the second time in my three years of mom-ing that I spot a vacant ‘Moms with Tots’ bay and I can’t believe my luck. What a good start to the day. Little Miss and I hit the shops, load the pram with groceries and head back to the conveniently-close-car. I manage to find the parking ticket and am pleased to find that the car keys are in my Mary Poppins bag and not forgotten in the car door. There are a few steps leading down to the car and so I leave Kira in the pram, a mere four steps away, while I pack the groceries into the boot. A dear old lady is standing next to the pram as I return for yet another transfer. She asks if I know where this gorgeous little one’s mother is? She’s right here I say. (I really was right there).

Life is is interesting when you don’t look like your kids and they don’t look like you. Yes, we don’t look the same but we belong together.

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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.