Well real quick, if we are new friends let me give you the story. Almost five years ago my husband and I whole heartedly jumped into the adoption process for a little girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo. We received her picture with very little information about her other than the fact that she was deaf. We said yes and then waited and fought for her for the next year and a half. Zoe Danielle came home August 18, 2015. For me to say that she is the sweetest little fire cracker is an understatement. To say that she changed our family for the best is an understatement. To say that the past five years were easy would be a lie straight from the devil himself. So here are some things that I have learned:
My family looks different. We were prepared for some off looks or sideways glances when Zoe came home. I mean we are a multiracial family and in we walk signing, or widely gesturing. Sometimes Jesse and I will try to dissect the reason for the stares, but really most the time we just smile and then kindly ignore. So my lesson from this is, “Get over it Jeanette. Yes, you look different. Maybe those people think you are giving them off looks because you keep smiling at them. Stop being a weirdo!”
People will ask you LOTS of questions. In these moments I am almost thankful that Zoe cannot hear the things people will ask. I am a fairly open book and we LOVE to tell our adoption story. But, asking how much she cost or if her real mom is dead isn’t the best way to get me to open up. I LOVE when people ask me where is she from or simply ask about our story. These are things that are not only appropriate, but so much fun to talk about. My lesson from this: People ask dumb questions. Sometimes I can laugh them off, sometimes I just ignore them.
You will feel abandoned. Let me be totally real. Our community rallied around us in the most amazing way. We had meals delivered to our front door for weeks. We had groceries brought to us, we had cookies delivered, we had people come and just sit with us. We also had the most amazingly fun and lovely Adoption Shower. We were loved on real good. When all of that faded, the newness wore off, and life just started again, it got real quiet around here. That's a little hard to admit because I don’t want to hurt anyones feelings, but I want to be honest. I felt so lonely. The dust settled and life was looking and feeling a bit more normalISH. We were forming a family, teaching a language, learning a language, all the while teaching and showing Zoe love and trust. It was hard and exhausting and I don’t think I knew the words I needed to even begin to ask for help. I just felt alone. My lesson from this: If you feel alone you are not: text, call, ask, and even beg someone to let you come over and if they say yes then you better go! I realize looking back that I was scared to act on our new normal or to impose our new normal onto our friends. I am so thankful that I had a friend that realized I was being a hermit and sort of forced Zoe and me out of the house and into the functioning part of our new world.
Play is the language of all kids. I love watching Zoe play with her group of friends. She can be bossy and that always makes me cringe but they are all playing the same thing and only a few of them know sign language or know more than just a few words. But off they go playing and having fun. I love the girls that she has surrounded herself with, they are kind and so accepting. Zoe tends to make friends everywhere we go and I watch her walk up to new kids, reach her hand out and shake then wave them (or drag them) over to start a new game. It never fails that they just follow her, and join into whatever world she’s got going on. I tend to be nervous for her, or for the new friend: Is Zoe being too bossy, will the new friend understand that Zoe is deaf and will that new friend be kind? For the most part it's yes to all of the above. My Lesson from this: As long as kids are not raised by jerks they will be kind. We have been around a very few jerk-y kids but they haven’t fazed Zoe one bit!
My last lesson is this…
This is hard. Adopting, the process, the becoming a new version of our family... it’s all super hard work. Some days I would lay in bed exhausted, doubting how worth it it was. Then days like the other morning when Zoe came in and laid directly on top of me, snuggled up and dozed off when I know in the deep places of my heart how right this is. My lesson from this: If it came easy you wouldn’t appreciate it. There were times she wouldn’t let me snuggle her, there were times I didn’t want to snuggle her. But years later here we are snuggled up, with consistent “I love you’s”
Two years ago we left the airport with a new daughter. She looked terrified and weary but she was mine. I had ached and longed for this girl. My arms were finally around her and I was never letting her go. She is a Tapley through and through; loud, sassy, funny and even super tall. She is gracious to me in my short-comings and her gratitude is off the charts. I can truly say that with this little girl in my life and in our family I am a better mom.
On a quick side note, let me tell you one more story: We as a family are huge Disney fans, and this past Spring Break we went to Disneyland. While standing in line for a ride, I looked over at Zeke (10) and Titus (8) and asked them what their favorite core memory (From the Pixar movie INSIDE OUT) was. Keep in mind we are in Disneyland, we had just met Mickey! Without even thinking they both said in unison, “The day Zoe came home.” My heart smiled and I remembered that while we were in the waiting process of bringing Zoe home I worried that we would be “messing up our family” or the boys would get less of us because of her or that she wouldn’t like them or they wouldn’t like her or the countless other fears I had that made no sense! I am so thankful we messed our family up. I am so thankful we look different.