And Logan’s (in the orange). He was 3 1/2 when we adopted him.
I’ve often thought that adoption day should have a vow ceremony, much like a wedding ceremony. It is, after all, a conscious choice to take another person into your life—a person with character traits that may not match your own, with hang-ups and flaws and insecurities. Although it is ‘just’ adding a child to a family, it is VERY different than bringing home a newborn. Newborns are on the same learning curve as their parents. Newborns are cute and cuddly and totally dependent on you to meet their needs. Newborns sleep lots and don’t get into things. Newborns smell delicious. Newborns express their dislike of things but don’t throw tantrums or toys or food…or worse. No, adding a 9 month old or a 3 1/2 year old should come with an exchange of vows. Ours would look something like this:
We, Mom and Dad, take you to be our child. We promise to love you and protect you, even from yourself sometimes. We promise to provide you with everything you need, and we promise that you will not receive everything you want. We promise you food, shelter, clothing, and the best medical care we can afford. We promise the same high expectations of behavior that we had of your older siblings and the same high hopes for your futures that we hold for them. We promise that the road will not be easy and smooth but the journey will have plenty of love and laughter. We promise to share with you the things we love—camping, reading, playing games, being together—and the things we can’t live without—one another, an extended family, a church family, and the love of Jesus Christ. We know that there will be ups and downs in this relationship, but we want you to know that for better or for worse, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, we will be there. We promise that we will never leave you. We love you.
In return, their vows would go something like this:
I, Ryan, take you to be my Mom and Dad. I promise that you will learn new things about raising children. I promise that I will test your words about always loving me and never leaving me. I promise that I will try to plumb the depths of your commitment to me as I struggle with daily night terrors. I promise to raise the bar my siblings set, challenging you to help me reach my full potential. I promise to keep you on your toes as you seek to keep me academically challenged. I promise to work hard to be an even better, more natural athlete than any of my older siblings. I promise to fill your world with laughter and wonder and the joy of childhood. I promise to love you fiercely and unconditionally, and to be your baby forever.
Then there’s Logan:
I, Logan, take you to be my parents. If I have to. I promise to view the world differently than anyone else in the house, and to be more curious than any child who has ever lived here before. I promise to make Google your new best friend! I promise to expand your horizons, to challenge you to a depth of medical knowledge you never knew you wanted, and to present you a balled-up mess of medical issues so intertwined it will be hard to know how much each affects my learning, daily life, and development. I promise to challenge every decision you make until you start second guessing yourself. I promise to do my own thing, regardless of how many times you remind me that you are in charge. I promise to plumb the depths of your commitment to me as I strive to make every day as difficult as possible. You see, I want to be the alpha male here. I promise to challenge everything you ever knew about childrearing, and every book you ever read about adopting toddlers and preschoolers. I promise that I will test your words about always loving me and never leaving me. Every day. Multiple times every day. I promise that I will make sure you truly understand the words spoken so glibly by many: "Love is a choice.” And, I promise that if you stick by me and fulfill your end of the bargain, I will learn that you are trustworthy. I will also learn that I am valuable and loveable. Those are things I desperately want to believe. The question is do you have the inner strength to get me there? I promise to test that inner strength, and I pray that you don’t fail me. If you don’t fail me, I promise to love you fiercely and to always remember the love and commitment you faithfully modeled, even when I was at my worst.
We’re going through a very rough patch with Logan again. He has decided that he doesn’t like having people make decisions for him. His impulsive behavior is worse. His curiosity can be overwhelming at times. He doesn’t like speech therapy and has started refusing to participate. (We’re taking next week off to give him a short break.) He has given new meaning to the whole ‘love is a choice’ maxim. It’s a choice that we are making multiple times a day right now. It’s not fun…or pretty. But we made a commitment, so we take a deep breath and hang on. The sign in our hallway over the stairs reads:
Penned by William Borden, these words exemplify how we want to live our lives. They serve as a great reminder that the sacrifices and the costs are worth the prize.
The question is…do I have what it takes? I don’t know…but I will die trying. Giving up is not an option. No matter how I feel.