Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Truth time

Truth time: the second blog entry has me more nervous than the first. Now I feel like I have to keep the readers entertained and present something even more compelling than the first one. I joined up with a blogging group that meets weekly so people take the time to get their blogs done (who knew such a thing existed, honestly people, who thinks of these things?!)  I spent the first 30 minutes of the two-hour blogging session organizing my Dropbox box and then had to check my email since it had been 42 minutes since I left home and had my last glance. Well, and then I had some Facebook notifications that I just had to read and then I had to get my ear buds out because the women across from me are having a superficial conversation and it’s irritating me and then I needed another Splenda for my coffee and…I’m fairly sure I could keep thinking of things preventing me from sitting down and starting. I must start. But so nervous! 

That was all 100% true. Wasn’t that honesty nice and refreshing? Did you identify with that? Did that make you feel a little bit better to hear that Nikki doesn’t have her junk together? Anyone? I’m pretty sure it did because tables turned, honestly, I would feel so much better if I was on the receiving end of that word vomit. So if that does make us feel better to purge the feelings and also to hear it, why are we not all just more honest? I’m not going to be able to get into a dissertation of societal norms, mainly because I don’t really care and that’s not the type of blog I’m going for. But what I am going to get into is honesty in adoption, why it’s important, and make you think about why we don’t open up that can of worms more often.

Truth time: I ask my husband to make the bed if we’re having any company of any kind possibly coming over. Our bedroom is on the second floor of our home and we, like most normal people, rarely entertain company in said bedroom. He thinks it outrageous, and grumbles whilst making the bed, but the good-natured man does it. I ask him to do this in the outside chance that such company (let’s call her Jane) ends up coming upstairs to look at something, quite possibly completely unrelated to the bed itself. And in the rare event that Jane does come up the stairs, why should I care if the bed is made or not? I mean, really, is Jane’s bed made at her house? And is it a big secret that I sleep in my bed? Am I doing anything different than every other person out there? Pretty sure I’m not. But the thought that Jane may see my unmade bed is so horrifying; I can’t even wrap my brain around that thought. But if it happened, I’m pretty sure Jane might feel just a little bit better as she thinks about her unmade bed at home, and probably wondered if I had stashed my pile of laundry in the closet (which I did) because she too has unfolded laundry. I’m glad I took a little stress out of Jane’s day because I normalized her situation. I made her feel better. But in that friendly visit situation, it’s not my job to make Jane feel better. But when I put on my adoption social worker hat and come to your house, it is my job. So why not allow me to do my job and start being more honest?

Now well into year 31, I think I’m becoming more aware of the fact that people don’t feel like they can truly reach out to their social workers for help. Oh my lands, I can look back now and see my blissful 22-year-old days of ignorance when everything was just perfect and I looked at marriage and family building through the rosiest of rose-colored glasses. I’ll never forget one individual home study interview I had back in 2006 when I asked the woman what she most loved and admired about her husband and she straight up started weeping, full on crying, just thinking about her love for this man! She said he was just so wonderful she found it hard to talk about him without getting emotional. Oh, and he wasn’t serving our country in Afghanistan or anything. Nope, he was just at home, she was near 20 minutes away from being arms wrapped around the darling man. At the time, I was so enamored with this sweetness; I was so hopeful that one day I would get married and experience an emotional reaction anytime someone uttered my future husband’s name. I’m basically still a newlywed and I love my husband, but the mere mention of his name does not send me into near hysterics. And now I’m thinking, “lady, are you kidding me?” Really?

It’s an interesting job I have, being an adoption social worker. I am aware that my clients both love and fear me.  I know you vacillate between wanting to be my best friend and being more scared of me than any person you have seen in a dark alley. You know that I have the knowledge and ability to help you, but the sheer terror of what might happen if you open up and tell me your inner most worries and secrets is too much. But yet, I can’t help if you don’t tell me. I’m not clairvoyant, or quite frankly, that intuitive. I’ve spent a lot of money for a lot of education, and for licensing requirements; I attend at least 20 hours of continuing education annually specifically about adoption. And, I’ve fostered a great network with other adoption social workers and therapists that are way more clinical than I am. Let me use my knowledge. As much as I do enjoy hearing that your kiddo likes watermelon or can rock a game of candy crush on your iPhone, that’s not really intellectually stimulating for me or helpful for you.  And I think, if you just dig a little bit deeper you might just see that the fact that your 3-year-old wakes up four times a night might just be some bonding struggles and not just his sleep pattern, or personality, or the fact that he’s still adjusting to the time change between China and the U.S. (because, let’s face it, you’ve been home four weeks now and you know that’s not true). 

So let’s start to be more honest, shall we? When I’m in your living room during the home study, please tell me your concerns. Are you worried that you won’t love this child as much as your biological child? Great, let’s talk about that. Did your spouse “convince” you to adopt a child older than you are really comfortable with? I could rock that one. Does your adoption agency know how fantastic of an adoptive family you are and is trying to convince you to adopt two children, but you really only feel the Lord calling you to one child? Good thing, sharing stories of other families who have struggled with this is my specialty! Are you so irritated with the home study process because you think every other 17-year-old can just blink and get pregnant but you have groomed yourself to say you are open to the adoption of a two-year-old from Africa when you really want to just feel what it’s like to be pregnant and birth a newborn child who has your nose because you don’t have any other options?  Oh yes, I can help with that too because I have a cousin who was you. Do you think deep, deep down in your heart that your adoption agency might be doing something strange and you think something is amiss, but you sort of maybe don’t think you really care because you just want a baby and you are already this far along in the process? You, along with hundreds of your closest friends are going to bed every night thinking about that very same thing. I promise you I won’t judge you and I can help you to think/pray through that (and encourage you to read this blog post).

And after you are home with the wee one, did you fall into some post-adoption blues that came out of nowhere? Do you not really feel that you can talk with your girlfriends about this stress because, after all, “It’s what you wanted. You could have had another biological child that would have been a lot easier and cheaper.”  Are you resentful of this new child who has turned your previously calm family on its head? Did a lady from your church adopt just a month before you and looks amazing every time you see her, hair done, eyes bag free, pretty sure looks like she had a recent pedicure, and well behaved child who is smiling and speaking full English sentences, yet you feel a medal should be given to you just to have dragged your family into the sanctuary, albeit 17 minutes late and without brushed teeth? Are you a little bit more than a little bit worried that your 8-year-old Ethiopian daughter is starting to develop and despite telling yourself that it’s possible for 8-year-olds to develop, you think she’s really 11 and you have no idea what to do with that information? And as cute as it is that your child goes up to everyone she sees, smiles, and raises her arms to be picked up, you know that’s a bigger problem than little miss just being friendly….please reach out to me because that’s what I’m here for.  And although, now well into year 9 of doing this work, I can still praise the Lord and say that not one child on my caseload has been diagnosed with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), people, that’s not to say that nobody has had attachment challenges. Or probably more truthful (since that’s what I’m all about today) is that nobody has gotten the appropriate diagnosis yet.  But along the way, I am here for you, I can help you, I can connect you with others who share your struggles, and I can connect you with specialists if you need.   

Truth time: I don’t have a car seat in my car just ready to scoop your child up if, two-weeks after you are home you tell me that you don’t love your child just yet. So maybe next time you are stressing out about my post adoption visit and your sink full of dishes, stop and think about how I can help you and do my job at the same time. Win/win.


  1. Love this!!! From a family who dumped truth on you and did ask for HELP! Truth can help and heal...or at least locate more resources for the life long journey of adoption, attachment, and becoming a family. (You're doing great blogging!)

  2. Miss Nikki-
    The world is a better place because of YOU!! Your blog is wonderful - as is the work you are doing!!
    God smiles on YOU!!
    And I am blessed to know you- sweet thing that you are!
    Hugs, Pam McNicoll

  3. So true, Nikki! We have opened up to you on more than one occassion about our not so perfect family and it was the best thing for us. You are a wealth of information and have always led us down the right path. I can't agree with you more or over stress the importance of this blog topic. Part of being a good adoptive parent or parent in general is realizing when your child's not so glamorous behaviors just might be bigger than your range of knowledge or experience and require some help, and then acting on that realization. It's nothing to be ashamed of, for sure. I love you and can't thank you enough for your help over the years in helping me bring my babies home and giving me the resources to be a good(not perfect!) mommy to them.
    Toska Tiemann