Tuesday, September 29, 2009

After a Day to Calm Down...

Well now, maybe I can post about this in a more calm and rational manner. I mentioned in yesterday's post that I was very angry about something and I decided to let some time pass before I put anything in writing...if I decided to at all. I hesitated mainly because it is a bit embarrassing, but decided to go ahead as it may be helpful to someone else out there who might someday go through the same thing so that they wouldn't feel so alone.

You know, it is not often when I am dumbfounded or left speechless. I often have a snappy retort or a quick comeback, but what I encountered yesterday left me literally with my mouth hanging open, and I am still kicking myself for being unable (or maybe unwilling, haven't quite fully analyzed that one yet) to articulate my thoughts well in this situation.

Let me begin with a little background. We live in a small country neighborhood, a cul-de-sac on a gravel road where there are 8 modest homes, each on a little bit of land which at the time we all bought was dirt cheap. We have several retired couples living here, and most of us have been here since the development was built 13 years ago. We all know each other, we visit when we are out in our yards, and there have been mini skirmishes typical of any neighborhood over the year but nothing all that serious and thankfully nothing much involving us.

In every neighborhood there is the one woman who tends to enjoy keeping track of the comings and goings, who likes to sit back and comment when she feels something is amiss or if she thinks someone might need the "benefit" of her experience. In our case it happens to be a retired couple who are both this way. While we have experienced moments of minor annoyance in the past, Dominick and I would both be the first to say that they also have had moments of being kind and going out of their way to help us, so we tend to try and smile our way through the rougher conversations and quietly forgive them their trespasses (I say that both figuratively and literally as we drove up to our home one day and found him sneaking tomatoes from our garden and trying to hide it!).

I have thoroughly expected a visit soon, as Matthew and I have been "spotted" taking a morning walk to the mail box for our mid-morning break. A neck craning a couple of days ago was all I needed as a signal that a knock would be coming, and yesterday it did. We haven't visited in months as they were gone for the summer, but we've waved as we pass one another on the road. Well, as I expected, an excuse was made to come over and have me look something up on the internet for her but the real reason was apparent almost before she set foot in the house as she began to grill Matthew about what he was doing home, why he wanted to be homeschooled, if he missed being with other kids, if he was sad, etc. While I stood there gritting my teeth I realized Matthew was handling it all with aplomb so there was nothing to worry about, and I would handle it the way I always have in the past...with a grin and a nod in person, and shaking my head as she walked away. Talk turned to our impending adoption and the usual skeptical comments were made...not at all a surprise since each time there has been a pretty negative reaction as they simply can not understand why we would go so far away to bring home kids. We have purposely not said much around them so she was in the dark about it all but now that we are soon to travel I figured it was time to go ahead and share a bit. After 30 minutes or so though, she was on her way and we were on with our day having once again decided to just look beyond it.

Matthew and I then took our morning break and headed down to the mailbox, when we encountered her husband who pulled up next to us and turned off his engine. Expecting the usual inane banter I walked up to the cab of his pickup, a smile on my face and a "How're you doin'?" on my lips. I no more had the words leave my mouth when he yells at me...not quite at the top of his lungs but barely a notch lower...:

"How in the hell do you plan on feeding and clothing 5 kids? How in the hell do you think you are going to send them to college? What in the hell are you two thinking???"


My face turned crimson, I could feel it. Matthew was standing right there, hearing this, and he turned and quickly walked back to the house.

And I was left standing there, feeling strangely humiliated, as if there was some reason for shame.

I stammered, I offered some lame explanations of how we felt called to do this, of how whatever we could offer even at the barest minimum would be more than they currently have.

And I felt like a total idiot. A very angry idiot.

You know, I am not perfect. I have surely hurt others unintentionally in my lifetime. I have made gaffs like everyone has. But I have never, ever spoken to someone like that before, and never would.

I didn't know how to handle it. And if I am honest, perhaps it is because it touches that fear that resides not all that far from the surface that we KNOW this is a lot for us to take on, we KNOW it could turn out to be very, very hard...and not just financially but emotionally as well. That fear, I think, is what kept me from responding.

I am so mad at myself, and that is where some of the anger is coming from as well. Angry that I didn't stand up for us, angry that I didn't tell him to...well...you know what I am thinking.

But a tiny part of me also recognizes that for me, my own reaction or lack thereof showed me that I have indeed changed, that I am gradually maturing enough to recognize when it is pointless to argue or justify. I am not one to throw around Scripture, I didn't memorize it as a child growing up outside the church and don't have it handy in my memory banks. But today I turned to my "Rule Book For Life", Proverbs, and found Proverbs 18:2 "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions."

Besides that, I know full well that what we are doing in many areas of our life doesn't make sense to the outsider. How can I explain our decisions to any rational person? What we are doing IS irrational!!

Through the years I have been backed in a corner over our decision to marry so young, our decision to leave steady jobs in California for unstable and unknown self-employment in Colorado, our decision to adopt internationally versus domestically, our decision to adopt a second, third and now a fourth time, and now our decision to homeschool one of our children. I find it fascinating that people are so vocal with their opinions, that so many people must live their lives so perfectly that it is now time for them to turn outward and offer their advice to other poor saps who are floundering along, sinking in the quicksand of life without their Vast Knowledge.

But in all the years and the hundreds of comments, I have never been attacked like this before. I have had snide comments, side comments, and behind the back comments, but never a full frontal assault like I received yesterday.

Man, I was sorely unprepared and you'd think after all these years of practice I would have been in top form. I am more than a little disappointed in myself!

Why do I share this here? Well, maybe it will make just one person think before they open their mouths to offer undesired opinions. Maybe it will help others see that families who are a bit out of the norm for whatever reason...be they adoptive, gay, step or rainbow colored all still have the right to live their lives however they see fit without fear of someone verbally assaulting them. Maybe it will serve to let those who love us know just how much your support means in light of the words and deeds of others.

I spent yesterday in a bit of a haze, so angry was I. When I walked back in the house Matthew said "Mommy, you should have told him to mind his own business.". Maybe I should have...

But as always, God's arm reaches out to snugly enfold us in our times of frustration or pain. That afternoon I received a couple of packages from people who care. This morning I received an unexpected invitation to have a lunch date and visit at the park, and the love felt there was...as always...nourishing and understanding.

Thankfully, the world is not filled with those who will never understand what I can't quite explain myself. The world is also inhabited by those who don't expect an explanation but will love you no matter what.

Is he right? Time will tell I guess. Will I let it eat at me? For awhile, if I am being honest. Kind of hard to shake it. Will we let it stop us?

Not on your life.

A little criticism isn't worth giving up what I am surrounded with every single day, in fact, it is that which surrounds me which makes taking the criticism worthwhile.

And I repeat my new mantra, as if to convince myself:

"I have faith in the tomorrow I can not see."

Oh please God, let that faith not be misplaced.


Betsy said...

What a horrible encounter! I know that feeling of being mad at both the person to blame and mad at yourself for not being assertive and saying "all the right things".

Know that there are many of us who support you wholeheartedly and are cheering for you from afar!

Fioleta said...

How rude! Horrible! and totally pointless! I doubt that anything you could say would make any difference to that person, as his desire seems to attack, not to understand.

You are doing what feels right to you and your family and the only people, who have any right to question your actions are the people directly affected by them - your family. All the best of luck to all of you.

wilisons said...

Only one response is needed for ANYONE who wishes to offer their unwanted opinion in this matter, 'This is right for OUR family at this time!'

When, as a single, I opted to adopt a 2nd child even though my first was, and will always be difficult, that was my response. And you know what, it was right for us. My youngest daughter offers us the much needed laughter and endless love. She could not be a better fit for OUR family. Yes, life is harder with 2. Yes, things are hard financially and we sacrifice. And yes, our home is filled with more love and joy than ever before.

Here's to your next adoption and the love, life, and girl energy you are bringing into your home. Here's to your wonderful, loving family who will teach these girls about living in a family. Here's to your sons who will embrace their sisters and show them how to enjoy childhood. And here's to your girls who will offer you life through their eyes as they become your daughters. May it be everything you hope it will be!

mom to 2 Kaz daughters of her own

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

Why does this come to mind?? We've had family tell us because we've made our decision on Nick that we don't know how to raise boys and perhaps we shouldn't be getting another boy....what's that verse about throwing pearls to swine?
Cindy, you heard from the Lord when it comes to this adoption. When we follow the Lord, there is suffering. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but He's behind you 100%.
Matthew 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a]drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.
11"Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Shake those sandals, baby and know God WILL provide!!

Anonymous said...

See, it was a day not to answer doors, ya shoulda just ignored the doorbell! :-) You can't argue with ignorance, just grin and ignore it!

TheHappyNeills said...

I say your husband could go over to answer those questions, and to tell Mr. Inappropriate that questions like that need to go through him from now on, not you his wife!! Seriously, would he have said those things to another male? Seems like people "go after" the moms much easier and more often... So inappropriate on so many levels, especially a man directing comments like that to a lady, let alone while her child is there!!!!

Send Mr. Lajoy over!

Heather said...

I think I would definitely go over speak to him again; not expecting him to understand, but expecting him to listen to how rude and ignorant he was. I then probably would not speak with him again after that....at all. How ignorant can he be! He thinks it better to have children sitting in orphanages? I'm guessing he has done nothing in life worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Here is one:
"Thank me, I am keeping your social security solvent!"

"Unlike some people, our family has a plethora of love to share."

Anonymous said...

"Last I checked, I wasn't in hell"
"How in the Hell is this any of your business?"

Can you tell this has made me as mad as it did you?

Dee said...

Good grief, what a JERK! That's awful. I am so sorry about that. I would write a note and put it in their mailbox just saying, in a polite way, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS, then not have anything to do with them again.

Talking to ignorant people like that is useless, but the letter might make you feel better.

Lindsay said...

When ignorance speaks its mind, it certainly shows the dumber and ruder side of life.

I'm sorry this happened to you. No-one should have to endure such crude and nasty verbal abuse. And especially in their own front yard. And in front of one of their children.

As for how you and Dominick plan to raise and educate your children - that is a decision for you and Dominick. But I imagine part of your answer will be that you will manage it the same way you manage the rest of your lives together: thru hard work, personal responsibility and a hand willingly held out to those less fortunate.

Your neighbours really belong in this latter category. Who can be less fortunate, more deserving of our pity, that someone incapable of celebrating the absolute joy that is a child being united with their family. Someone who measures the success of a family in the income, not the love, expended on the child.

Who knows why your neighbours are this way. Perhaps they don't approve of your multi-racial family, perhaps they envy your happy, busy home. To a great extent it doesn't matter what lies at the root of such bitterness. What is important is to not let it seep into your own home and lives. You have no need to blame yourself for the way you reacted. Why should you have a pre-scripted answer ready for bigots and idiots?

About a year and a half ago, when Hannah was 14 months old, a man spat at her in the street (because she is Roma). Like you I was speechless and left in shock. When that wore off I blamed myself for not having responded. I don't any more. I understand now that the reason I didn't have a response, was incapable of even thinking about making one, was because the wound that was caused was very deep, more so because of the fact it happened without warning. That kind of thing causes a shock to our psyche every bit as stunning and incapacitating as a physical blow. We need time to assess the damage done to us before we are ready to take action.

Being on the receiving end of bigotry is profoundly unpleasant, shocking and horrible. So it's ok to be profoundly upset and shocked and horrified. Especially when your children are involved. You have nothing to feel embarrassed about - on the contrary you remained cool, showed Matthew it is not necessary to defend every thing about your private lives to others, and gave this dreadful man an answer based on the importance love, not money, in family life.

I don't think you would ever be able to have a rational conversation with someone like this, and frankly I wouldn't even be interested in wasting the effort or time on it. That's not to say I wouldn't raise what happened with the neighbour: I would. I just wouldn't be having a coversation based around justifying your decision to adopt more children. I would be having a conversation about how you will deal with any further incidences of verbal abuse, and the action you will take if he ever speaks to you or your children in that way again!

In our family we've always had the mantra: if you've nothing nice to say, say nothing.

Hilary Marquis said...

Whoa! I understand that frustration when you've "missed" your chance to just level someone that basically insults your family, beliefs, parenting, etc. But, sometimes I think that God in His wisdom puts His hand over my mouth to stop me from doing more damage...I think you handled things just fine. Your neighbors probably wouldn't respond nearly as well to hearing your side of things. But, they will have to WATCH as your newest adoption unfolds! People who haven't been to a country like Kyrg or Kaz haven't got a clue what life is like for so many. Once you see that, you're never the same again. You and Dominic are honoring the call and your blessings will be great.

Anonymous said...

As I read your blog entry I could feel the anger building in me. Then as I read through to the end and then to the posted comments I was moved by the comments of others and the truth in the words of all of your extended family who support you, have faith in you, pray for you, and love you. I am sorry for this man and woman who are unable to "feel the love" of knowing you and your family. It has been such an honor and inspiration for me since the day we met! I am in such awe as I watch your family grow to the size it is intended to be! I wonder if they'd be interested in reading these posted comments. Probably not! I say to them - "hogwash!" And on to the most important upcoming event - your daughters are coming home soon! Let the celebrating begin! With love, Miss Joan

Pat and Alli said...

You're right to focus on the love and kindness in your life. Its not easy to do and encounters like this don't help. But you and your family are better for it. God wants us to love. We were made for this purpose. You're doing Gods work by caring for His children. Many people chose to sit on the sidelines but you have chosen to join the dance. Don't ever feel bad about that.

I wish you all the best.


Kimberly said...

Cindy - thanks for posting this story - and for being so vulnerable - while I haven't had an encounter quite as attacking as this one, I fully expect to - in fact I think I have that same fear lurking in my own heart - that fear that I must be crazy for adopting two kiddos on my own without a husband. I keep waiting for someone to verbalize it. Your post made me realize that even if they do there isn't much need for a response - someone who speaks in this way isn't looking for an explanation they are purely looking to share their "perceived sense of wisdom and knowledge".
If I had you had it all figured out and new exactly how you will provide and just how "easy" it will be it wouldn't require any faith and building faith is clearly a goal of the Lord's so I just can't imagine He would have you moving forward with your family in any other way - but stepping out in faith as you have been doing all along.
You go girl!