I overheard a conversation the other day one of my children was having with an older, married couple. They were talking about our life, all of the brothers and sisters they have, and how fun it must be to grow up in such a big family, and then the woman turned to my kid and asked,

“Who are your real brothers and sisters?”

My child responded with the biological names.

Then the woman said,

“Is that your real Dad or your real Mom?”

My tongue began to hurt as I bit down hard upon it.

A year into our marriage Ryan and I finalized the adoption of each other’s biological children because we didn’t want our kids to feel as if some of them were real to one parent and some of them were not, and we’ve done a pretty good job of eliminating any labels. We have never allowed a pick and choose buffet – it was an accept them all of none of them.  This also applied to extended family, and they have responded beautifully to this desire. Our children usually feel confident in their identity in our blended family until outsiders ask an ignorant question which then has the undesired result of making them doubt themselves and who they are in our family unit.

The definition of real is this – being an actual thing; having objective existence; not imaginary.

We are a real family; we have an objective existence – which is not imaginary.  We aren’t a step family.  We are a blended family.  We take real ownership of what we are and what we aren’t.  We don’t pretend that I gave birth to eight children, but I am the real, active mom to each and every one of them and Ryan is the real, active dad.

Questions such as the one this couple presented, although asked without malice and probably in ignorance, are not appropriate. Not only are they not appropriate, but they have the potential to be extremely hurtful and often have the additional tendency to imply that the children are not involved in a real family situation. Instead, the implication suggests, it was their unfortunate luck to get a fake family.  These questions also enable the construction of boundaries (real or imaginary) between the biological members and the adopted members as the children begin to question their identity and place within this perceived unreal family situation.   Kids in situations such as ours, or adoptive children in general, already have many questions in terms of their identity, where they fit in the world, and where they fit in their family. They also have a tendency to harbor doubts about the structure and security of their new family unit that don’t need to be amplified by strangers.

I would guess that the majority of adopted or step parents feel offended by the implication that they are not a real parent or the siblings are not real to one another.  If you need to address any family in such a way, or if it is merely for curiosity sake you wish to know who are biological or who are not, present the question in a respectful way, but please be careful about asking when the kids are present.  I won’t (unless heavily pressed) say who my biological children are and who the adopted ones are in the presence of my kids.  It’s happened before, and I didn’t like the looks of quiet, almost shame like induced shadows that crossed some of their faces seeming to suggest that they weren’t as good as nor as wanted as the biological ones.

It is a sensitive issue for our family and for families like ours.  Our children have one earthly mom and one earthly dad. We acknowledge that there was another parent, a parent who loved them fiercely, but he or she is gone, and our faith tells us that he or she is in Heaven where they no longer hold the title of earthly Mom or Dad.  Neither one no longer plays any active role in raising them, and therefore, in our family, they are referred to as Mom or Dad in Heaven. Ryan and I are the God appointed, active and engaged parents, the one and only. No one is subbing in, we don’t have every other weekend to ourselves, and we don’t get breaks.  We are two people who try day in and day out to be the best we can possibly be for our eight kids. To suggest that I’m not a real mom or he’s not a real dad is hurtful; especially when we participate in all of the real aspects of parenting such as discipline, family meetings, devotions, driving to and from practices and school, cooking, lazy river days, laying out school clothes, haircuts, snuggles, heart to heart talks, tears and laughter, and the list could go on and on and on because a parent’s to do list is never complete.

We do the REAL WORK of raising REAL KIDS so that makes us REAL PARENTS.

My prayer and hope for this post is to educate because you can’t fix what you don’t know.  Ignorance is not always bliss. I may have said something similarly hurtful to someone in the past before I understood how delicate of a situation adoption or blended families can be.  Please be careful with your words and even doubly careful in the presence of children.

We are really invested in each and every one of our children in a unique and special way because we are a God appointed REAL family.

Just keep livin!!

 

Disclaimer – This post is looking at broad, societal generalizations of two strikingly different personality types.   It is merely my understanding of how these personalities interact together on a very small scale of life otherwise known as the Ronne household and how we can successfully mesh them together to create a peaceful and harmonious environment beneficial for all of the family members involved.   

The writing was on the wall from the day I married this man and became mom to three new children.  

It was always there, right in my face, prominently displayed upon our fireplace mantel for the whole world to see, but I never saw what the picture was really saying, speaking to me in a still, small, quiet picture voice.  You see, if you look closely at this picture, you will notice mostly subdued, tired, calm looking children, with two subdued, calm looking parents, that’s what will catch your eye, mostly… except for two of the beings in the picture.  Two children who I would be adopting within the year and becoming legally mom to, two children who I would choose to love as my own, regardless of the lack of bonding I had with them during the early years, two children who would cause me to repeatedly bang my head against a wall in despair and guilt over feeling like I was failing them as a mother because I could not for the life of me figure out why they ticked the way they did, two children with so much joy, so much life, so much exuberance, so much energy, and SO MANY FREAKIN WORDS ALL THE TIME.

I have researched, labeled, prayed, and attempted to reason with these blessings from above in an effort to wrap my mind around how they tick, why they are wired so differently from anything or anyone I’ve ever mothered or experienced before, and I’ve come to the realization, almost three years into knowing them, that it all boils down to two words, two words that have freed me from the confines of guilt within my inner soul in ways I never knew possible and opened my eyes to a realm of possibilities, those two words being so simple, yet so profound:

INTROVERTED – ME

EXTROVERTED – THEM

This moment of revelation, where the Heavens opened up and rang down answers, was a day that happened quite by accident when I stumbled across one woman’s blog entry about being an introverted mom raising an extroverted child and how challenging it was for her and then the fire was eternally stoked. I knew in an instant that I had unearthed the deep mystery of my reality as well and it all started to click.   I spent hours that day researching anything and everything I could find on this very eye opening discovery.  Tate and Jada are extroverted –straight up extroverted, and I am straight up introverted, as are the other 5 children in the family, including the four who have come from my very own loins and as frustrating as it has been for me, I have to imagine these two children have been equally as confused and frustrated, especially ten year old Tate who had a whole new form of motherhood to contend with and adapt to.  A mom who didn’t want to talk about everything, a mom who needed to decompress often, a mom who would jam head phones into her ears to avoid speaking or interacting for periods of time, a mom whose eyes would glaze over in the morning as he bounded down the stairs eager to fill her ears with every single thought that had passed through his mind during the evening.  These two children love to talk, need much less sleep than the rest of us introverted souls, and always, always want to be doing something social.  Their batteries are recharged through going places, seeing people, seeing the world, flinging decorative throw pillows around the room, getting reactions, negative and positive reactions doesn’t matter as long as it leads to someone or something acknowledging and conversing with them, constantly pestering their siblings for the same type of reactions, expressing every single feeling very vocally and very externally, and attempting to fix the funk their introverted mother appears to be in occasionally by doing what they would love to have done for them in a similar situation –BY TALKING, whereas I’m screaming in my head, PLEEEASE…. just give me two seconds to THINK.    

Introverts do very little of any of this because most actions exhaust us after a certain amount of time.  Introverts process almost everything internally and by the time something comes out of our mouths we have thought it through, completely and thoroughly, including any implications that may be involved, and we have deemed it worthy to be vocalized or written to the world as something we stand behind and give our stamp of approval upon (thus many introverts are writers). We are very much homebodies, avoid small talk (it doesn’t seem worthy of the energy), need a significant amount of sleep, and have a much lower need to be social, but that’s not to say we don’t have friends, we are very loyal people and once we actually allow you into our realm of trust, you will be there for a very long time, therefore our circle of intimacy is usually quite small.

The world, especially our American world, is much kinder and more welcoming to extroverts.  We as a culture encourage stress, constant movement,  making all the friends and social media contacts as can possibly be made, loud, inhibition less actions,  excessive congregating and forming groups for this and that and attending  this class, and that Bible study and if you don’t, Why in heavens name wouldn’t you? Don’t you want to grow spiritually with other believers?   Are you struggling spiritually?  Are you backsliding?  What in the world is wrong with you?

Extroverts give the appearance of being much more loving and giving as people than the introverted crowd, generally  basking in the joy of being social, giving back, setting up charities and organizations, hob knobbing with all the people of the world about the next big fundraiser or activity planned and while this is a true characteristic of an extrovert, there is also something inherently and often times unconsciously selfish in these actions in that the acts themselves fill something inside of the extrovert; they fill a void required through this outlet of social stimulation. 

Now contrast this with the introverted perspective on life. No, I probably don’t want to go to every activity and class out there, not even probably no, just straight up no.   My brain needs a lot of time to decompress, alone, or with a single person, either a close girlfriend or my husband.  I enjoy reading something, simply and quietly in the privacy of our home.  Introverts aren’t necessarily rude people although our behaviors are often misinterpreted as rude, we are just very intense people who need to get away from it all and reenergize ourselves; in contrast to the extrovert who gains energy from people and a constant social life, introverts loose energy at pretty rapid paces when we are called upon to be always socially available, not to mention it can cause some massive headaches because it’s just not how we are wired.   It’s not even that we don’t want a social life, we just realize that it will drain us, and we will pay for it with hours of down time and medication later.   Ryan and I love date night and 90% of the time it’s just the two of us, in a quiet place, chatting about life.  Occasionally we double date with people who are very dear to us, and although we enjoy it, the time leading up the event can cause some anxiety because we both realize how much more  it will take out of us to double date, this feeling of being “on” for other people.  Introverts totally understand this, extroverts think we’re nuts because we can’t and won’t stay out until midnight, soaking in the moment, chatting and dancing the night away.  If we did this, we would need to regroup for a month.  It’s exhausting to feel like you need to be on all the time and introverts feel this especially in the presence of an extrovert. 

Bottom line, I love these children fiercely.  Being introverted, I will take some time to process this, claim it as my reality, and then my first born nature will kick in, and I will make it as right as I possibly can by our family. I hope to have some practical suggestions to share in the next post for other introverted parents struggling as well or if you have suggestions, please let me know in the comments.  Ignorance can seem to be blissful for a period, but knowledge is ultimately the most powerful force.

I’m exhausted, time to decompress with a nap…

Just keep livin!!


In honor of Mother’s day I’ve chosen to recognize 7 little people who have made motherhood a reality for me.  Caleb, Tate, Lucas, Mya, Mabel, Josh and Jada – you literally get me up in the morning and keep me on my toes (with lots and lots of coffee!).  Each one of you has brought such joy to my life in unique ways, and although I’m not always the greatest at remembering to tell you how much you mean to me, know from the bottom of my heart, that you kids are my heartbeat. 
 
Caleb – My first born son, named after one of the Biblical spies allowed into the Promised Land, a sign of God’s blessing upon our family.   You arrived in my life when I was merely 25 years old, and  I bore you with a great amount of pain and determination, but you were so worth it.  You were my “little beaner” and we were buddies from day one.  You have seen way too much in your short 10 years from your brother being severally handicapped, to your stressed out mom during many of those hard years, to accepting a new brother and two new sisters and embracing the fact that your mom would be spread even thinner than she already had been, to finally being the one to discover that your birth father had left our family to journey onward to his forever home.   I am so proud of the little man you have become.  I pray that you continue to find beauty in this world, continue to push yourself past all limits and continue to ask the questions that no one else will ask.  Always open your heart even when this world will send numerous blows your way. Continue to trust in HIM son, he we make all of your paths straight. Dad and I love you so much.   
 
 
 
 
 

 

 Tate, my son.  You ran circles around my brain for about the first year I was blessed to be called your mom.  I’ve never met a child like you who could literally talk all day long!  You always have a spark for life that has never faded, even when your own birth mom passed away and you were left with a gaping hole in your heart.  You, Tate, gave your dad hope so that he could move on and pursue love again, and you paved the way for your family to step out of grief and embrace the gift of a new family that God had sent their way.  Thank you Tate for being bold enough to speak it like it is.  Thank you for your tender heart and for accepting and loving me as your mom.  Thank you for always being cautious of not hurting my feelings or the feelings of others by speaking of things that would only be painful.  Tate, you have not let the hardships of life keep you down and instead you have risen to any challenge and have actually risen above and beyond anything we could have ever thought possible.  We love you buddy. 

Mya – You bonded to me immediately. We mirror each other in so many ways and that has made our relationship easy sailing at times and at other times some pretty rough waters.  They say, what bothers you the most in others are your own worst personality traits and tendencies, and I would have to say that is an accurate statement!   You are my wingman just as I was called upon to be a wingman in my youth, and that makes you helpful, a know it all, dependable, and absolutely necessary in my life as a mom.   You, my daughter, carry a special role in our family as the oldest girl, weight is put upon you that is not always fair but you never balk at what is needed or asked, you just fulfill your role quietly and respectfully (usually).   You have an old soul brought on by heartache and life but right now, in this moment, I’m so thankful that I get to be your mom.   Thank you for accepting this role so easily and readily. Thank you for loving me and welcoming me into your heart.  Keep your eyes on Jesus and he will direct your path. I love you Mya Dru. 

Mabel Grace.  Oh sweet pistol girl.  I wanted you so badly.  Actually I wanted a daughter so badly and when you were lifted out of my stomach and the doctor said, “It’s a girl!”  I just wept.  You have brought a smile to my face during some of the darkest moments a person can walk through.  Sweet girl, you were so oblivious to the pain surrounding your first three years of life, your birth daddy being diagnosed with brain cancer months after you were born, chemo, radiation, Luke’s brain surgeries, another terminal brain cancer diagnosis and finally the death of your first father.  I’m sorry I didn’t have any better answers for your little three year old heart when you awoke to find him gone the next day.  I’m sorry for the confusion and the pain that you’ve endured in your short 6 years.  I’m sorry that I checked out on everything for those three dark months after his death. I thank God every day for sending you a new daddy and for the bond of love you have with him.  Keep your fire my little pistol, it will serve you well (most of the time) throughout your days.  Along with that fire, carry your sword of the spirit and nothing will be able to sever you from your path.  I love you sweetie. 

Joshua  – my sign of a promise, named for the other spy who could enter the promised land.   I had no idea why in the world I would wind up pregnant during the worst possible time in my life with your birth father on chemo and radiation.  It seemed like you had to be a sign of a promise for my life, and you were actually a sign for something so far beyond anything I could have comprehended or conceived in those moments.  You provided me with something to live for during those months when your birth father could live no longer.  You gave me hope and a promise for a better tomorrow and that better tomorrow has been fulfilled for me, you kids, and your birth father.  I look at you today, all little man of you, at 3 years old with a gun shoved down your pants just like your big brothers and marvel at what God pulled together in your life.  You now have a sister you couldn’t’ live without and a brother who is not your blood but probably more your brother than any other family member, and a daddy who you love and who loves you.   Little boy, God knew what he was doing when he placed you in my womb.  Thank you Joshua Isaac for something you have no comprehension of right now, thank you for being born for such a time as this and allowing your mother to believe again that there would be beauty from the ashes.  I love you crazy boy. 

Jada –You dear little girl, I love you ferociously but at times, my goodness….  You have a stubborn tenacity that would be hard on any woman. I didn’t have the chance to bond with you in my womb, and I didn’t bond with you in your infancy either.  That was a gift you gave your birth mother, and I’m sure you made her final days here on earth full of peace and joy while cradling you in her arms. In fact, you came into my life during the “stinker” years of 1-3 and those aren’t easy for any mother, let alone a mother who hasn’t had any initial bond with a child. I have prayed, many, many prayers of patience and understanding during these last two years.   We, little Jada Alexis, are finding our sweet spot finally.  I am thankful to be your mom, and I’m thankful for the stretching and pulling of my faith and life that you have brought.  I’m thankful that you have sent me to my knees repeatedly in an effort to seek God’s will for my children. Jada, you are my princess girl.  Always remember, I love you, I want to be the mom you need more than just about anything, and that I chose you because of that unconditional love.  I love you princess. 

 
Lucas Aaron Ronne – you have changed us all for the better.  People wonder what the purpose of your life is and it is such an absurd question.  You find joy in every single day.  I don’t think many people can say that.  You find joy in school, in family, in movies, in music, in food, and in chocolate milk.  Every day, these things bring joy to your life.  You don’t wish your life to be different, just as I don’t wish my life to be different.  We are all in God’s perfect will just exactly where we are and that’s the best life you could ever live – smack dab in his will.  You, little boy, are such a blessing and in fact, I believe that your life isn’t even necessarily about you, your life is about everyone around you and how we each change because you miraculously live.  You dear boy, are a miracle.  My beautiful family is a miracle and just as you don’t wallow in your limitations, we also don’t wallow in our loss, and instead we rejoice in what was created from the loss.  Here’s to you Luke, “let’s give ‘em something to talk about….!” 
 
 
 

Apparently using the word “replaced” in reference to adopting my new children has caused some concern.  First, I’m going to clarify what the dictionary has to say about this word,
 
Replace : to assume the former role, positon or function of; substitute for (a person or thing)or to restore; return; make good.
 
According to these definitions it is a very appropriate word to use in reference to what happened when I adopted my three children.  I assumed the former role, position and function of mother, I became a substitute for a deceased person who was no longer capable of playing the motherly role, I played a part in restoring a broken family, and I helped to make something bitter and sad good again by accepting the role of mom to three motherless children.
 When I use that word I am not referring to an idea that I replaced who their birth mother was as a person.  She was who she was, a unique individual made by our Creator to serve as their mother for an allotted amount of time; just as I am also a unique individual made by our Creator to now serve as their mother for an allotted amount of time.  What I am referring to is the fact that I did replace her in the role as an active, functioning mother. Yes, they have a birth mother in Heaven and they will always carry that in their hearts and in their memories, but the fact is, she doesn’t live here anymore so she can’t do any of the motherly things that I do on a daily basis.  I think maybe it’s a different perspective that I hold that makes this hard to grasp for some people.  I don’t live very earthly.  I try to see the bigger picture of it all, and I try to make sense of it all in the grander, spiritual realm that all of this really encompasses. Within this perspective, I don’t believe that either one of us ever really owned these children.  We have this false idea as mothers that by birthing them they are ours when in reality they are all owned ultimately by their Father in Heaven who gave them to each of us during a specific period of time to raise them. I openly acknowledge the fact that I did not raise them their whole lives and that I did not literally birth any of them.  They had a different woman as a biological mother but she is no longer here to serve any purpose as a mother outside of whatever memories they may have of a woman who did love them dearly for the time she had with them but just as she was allowed to be their mom without any pretenses, allow that same grace to be given to every adopted mom who is also mom in every sense of the word.   
Just keep livin!!