Thursday, September 27, 2012

of love and trust, part 2

how good am i at enduring mean-spirited mocking from a child?  at dealing with having my buttons intentionally pushed?  (children are good at discovering these quickly.)  

in their ignorance, at times they'll argue vehemently that things are one thing when i say they're another, or they'll fight tooth and nail to try to get us to go one place while we're trying to take them someplace else that we know they'll like even more.  they'll draw a random line in the sand over something insignificant (since the real point is to put me to the test) and refuse to back down.  they'll test me on, "don't do that again." they'll also try to get me to play favorites, buttering me up when the other has been naughty, or throwing one another under the bus by tattling when one of them has done something naughty out of sight.  and when they're hurting in some way (physically or emotionally), they may or may not cry out, but they're watching to see if i care and, if i do, how i will respond. i could go on...

another element in all of this is that i have boundaries in dealing with my girls that are completely different from those i have with my boys.  my options are limited in how i discipline them because of what their lives have been.  responding to my girls in certain ways that would be completely acceptable in fathering my boys would be quite harmful in fathering my girls (and incidentally have nothing to do with the differences between fathering girls and boys).

For example: my wife or i might have given our boys a little swat on the backside to get their attention after an outburst of misbehavior/naughtiness; we would not use this same type of discipline with our girls because of the physical abuse they've seen or experienced. similarly, while we might have given one of our boys a "time out" as a disciplinary measure, my wife and i don't consider this a viable option for our girls.  Put extremely simply, we're working as hard as we can to build healthy ties between our girls and us that are stronger and longer-lasting than anything they've previously known.  Isolating them as a form of discipline would work completely counter to that aim.  Discipline for our girls has to operate, and is informed by, the context of the very different nature of their lives to date versus the nature of our boys' childhood.

in all this they're finding out: can they trust me?  can they entrust themselves to me?

i wake up every morning knowing this is a tall order.

i also recognize that (to be blunt) i'm inheriting someone else's problems.  i'm willfully taking on the troubles (don't misunderstand: i am NOT calling the girls "problems" or "trouble") that have been created by a messed-up world.  and then i'm struck again with the thought that this is what God did. what He does.  we mess up this world and we mess up ourselves, and yet He as the ultimate Father chooses to be in the midst of it all and offer the way to un-mess things. He does that in my life.

the parallels don't stop there.  for example: how often have i - in my own ignorance - fought or argued with God about wanting something one way (or wanting something the way it used to be), when of course He knows much better and has much better things in store?

i'm grateful that beyond my own grandest desires to see my girls completely healthy and whole, the Heavenly Father desires that even more, and is willing and able to help me be the father they need.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

of love and trust, part i...

2/4 blog posts by Guest Blogger Jon Simpson

the issue of fatherlessness - whether through physical or emotional absence - has been popping up on my radar over and over again for a long while now.  not just in the context of my family's adoption journey, though it's only reasonable that the intersections there wouldn't be lost on me.

about a month ago i watched the justin hunt film absent, which examines this issue.  One thing that stuck with me is its assertion that boys and girls universally and instinctively look to their father for the answer to a small set of questions.  One set is unique to boys: "am i good enough? do i have what it takes? can i be a man?" The other is unique to girls: "am i beautiful? do you love me? am i valued?"
you can check out the film to get more details (i'd recommend it) but one of the aspects that's so brutal to me is the difficulty (that word may be a gross understatement) with which the fatherless are subsequently able to have decisive, satisfactory answers to those self-defining questions. when our fathers don't provide positive answers to those questions, we're hardwired to continue to seek out the answers...usually over and over again.  Thus:
  • adult males still act as children, trying to prove their manhood in one achievement or confrontation after another; 
  • women look for affirmation of their worth in multiple, sometimes self-destructive, relationships or other ways... 
and the outcomes of these attempts, even if "successful," are only temporary.  it seems the key setting for a child's best chance to have airtight, positive answers to these questions are from his/her father, in the earliest of formational days.  as absent posits, the father is the very first external human to accept or reject a child.

i can't get away from the role of trust in all of this. it occurs to me that a father gets one "gimme" on trust when it comes to his child.  a baby in her/his helpless state offers herself/himself to a father.  after that, the father’s got to earn it.

humans are imperfect. including fathers (yes, thank you, no applause necessary for that little earth-shattering gem of knowledge).  we screw up. and even after the trust of a child is given to a father, that trust has to be maintained and cared for (and maybe rebuilt to varying degrees) by the father.

so what happens when a child has had absolutely no father during those critically formational years, is still a child, and - whiplash - now is put into a situation with a man who is resolved to be that child's father? what does that mean for the child? what does that mean for that adoptive father?

if you haven't figured it out yet, let me be clear: what does that mean for me? honestly a few expletives come to mind, but i'll do my best to continue with a clear head in my next post...

Jon Simpson: singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, really cool friend and colleague.  I invite you to explore Jon’s website or blog, for more on the "thoughts and happenings in the life of a musician, singer, songwriter, traveler, father, husband, brother, son, etc., etc."

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Guest blogger Jon Simpson...singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, cool dude, thinker, friend, colleague, brother in Christ.  Putting his money where his mouth is, as best as he is able.  And blogger at layin’ it down, where you can read "thoughts and happenings in the life of a musician, singer, songwriter, traveler, father, husband, brother, son, etc., etc."

Jon's thoughts and happenings this summer have captured those of us who know him and his family.  When Jon began blogging about fatherhood, I asked him if I could post a couple of his blogs.  And so we have a series of four (for now), and another perspective on fatherhood that I think you'll find interesting.  Have a read:

Saturday, July 14, 2012 

happy beginnings...