Friday, October 19, 2012

The Dreaded Question

You know those moments in a long van trip when the kids in the back seats are screaming, "Howww muuuch loooonger???" with a long, drawn out whine that completely makes it's way under the thick skin of a mom....(insert complete Mommy shutter and wince at the sound your ears just heard, eye-roll, and screams plea to just BE PATIENT!)  Yep, I thought you might know what I was talking about.  Well, to be honest and hopefully not rude, I wanted to say for the record in my personal perspective, that being asked the same question about our adoption process makes me feel much the same way under my thick adopting-mom skin.

Given this adoption "trip" is a long one, the number one thing people ask me is "How much longer will it be until she comes home?" or the slightly different question with the same preface "Why does it have to take soooo long?"  Just like I dread that question being asked by the kids in the back seats of the van, I have to admit I dread it in this adoption too.  With this second trip being on the calendar now, it seems this question is once again being asked even more frequently.  I am constantly having to tell people "No, this is not our "take-home" trip.  We still have an estimated 6-9 months more to go." which ALWAYS leads to...THE dreaded question above.  So, I've decided to take some time today to help explain why these questions are so dreaded and to give some alternative ideas for those of you who find yourself asking them to me or anyone else adopting.
  • I can not make this trip any shorter.  I love my kids and I know they are not TRYING to be annoying when they ask me why the van trip is taking so long, but it really does become frustrating to hear that question when there is nothing I can do to make the trip any shorter.  Unless my van (with rust and all) can magically become a jet plane, there is no way I can make the trip any faster.  To hear the complaints along the ride makes me feel like I'm not driving well enough, that I am not meeting their needs, that I am making them suffer through something (even though I know the end result will be enjoyable), or that somehow I am responsible for their misery in the van.  It becomes very hard to detach my emotions from my responsibility.  As much as I would LOVE to have the trip shorter too, I am just the driver of the van, not the determiner of time it will take us to get there.  Now, similarly, I love my friends, family, and supporters in this adoption and I know you are certainly NOT trying to be annoying when you continually ask me about a time frame for our adoption, but just as it is hard to separate my responsibility from my feelings in a long van trip, it is hard here as well.  The truth is I have no control over the adoption "trip" I am on.  I am simply the person driving the van (saying yes I'll do this adoption) and I, unfortunately, do not have a magic potion that will make our journey become shorter.  When you continually ask me how much longer it will take to get Nora home, I find it hard to separate my responsibility from my feelings that I am the cause of all the misery on the journey because I said "yes".  I tend to feel as though I am not meeting your needs or simply disappointing you when I can not answer your question with what you really want to hear.  Which leads me to my next point...
  • I wonder if your question is really reflecting your "truth".  In the van scenario, the kids are asking their questions for more information (How much longer will it take to get there?), but their "truth" is an undercurrent desire to just be done with the trip and enjoying their final destination.  To them, it's really not so much about what has to happen to get to their ending point (their question), but that they simply want to be AT the ending point...and quickly (their truth)!  When the trip is taking longer than what they deem acceptable, they become squirmy, restless, discontent and ready to get answers from someone.  That "someone" will undoubtedly be the person driving the vehicle because surely they will know exactly how to get them what they really want...not the details of the journey, but the enjoyment of the ending.  Truth be told, even if I gave them a GPS-like detailed read out of each and every turn it will take to get the van from point A to point B, it would not make their trip any shorter.  Unfortunately, these facts don't seem to appease the real desire--to just be done with the trip.  Instead of asking "How much longer?" or "Why aren't we there yet?" my kids should really just be saying, "Mom, I wish we were there already" or "I'm tired of being in this van.  I can't wait to be out."  That would be their truth and I would be taken out of the equation since I would not have to answer a question they really don't care much about anyway.  And so it is with our adoption.  I'm doubtful, at least,  you really want to know the detailed answer to the question of "why does it take this long" when you ask it (your question), but instead you are really just trying to express your desire to see us at the end (your truth).  Because it is taking a long time, however, you are getting squirmy and restless with your unmet desires to have us done with the adoption and are trying to get answers from someone in the driver seat of the adoption (which happens to be me).  Also, like the van example, if I answered your question with a GPS-like answer with all the twists and turns and narrow pathways our adoption has to take to get to the end (so many it would make your head spin), it would not make the time of the trip go by any faster.  The fact is there IS a reason this adoption takes this long.  The process is grueling--not just for us, but for our orphanage director and lawyer doing all the work on the other end.  It is mind-boggling, but knowing all of that does not make the "trip" any shorter.  This all leads me to believe, in my opinion, when you ask me your question:"why does it take this long?" the answer (that won't make the trip any quicker) is not really what you are looking for.  Instead, you really wanted me to know your truth: you want the adoption to be done for us (or maybe for themselves) so we could be enjoying the end of it.  Yes???  So, if you are a person known for asking this question to an adoptive family, I would advise to ask yourself a simple question first...what are you really wanting when you ask "How much longer" or "Why does it have to take this long"?  Do you really want to know all the details of the trip or do you just want to tell me you wish we were at the ending point of the trip?  If your answer is the former, I would love to give you more details of the this adoption as long as you know that by finding them out, it will not make things go quicker--it will just make you understand it better (which I would truly LOVE for more people to have because it makes the miracle of adoption so much more clear).  If your answer is the latter, I would kindly ask you to rephrase your question to reflect your real intentions--your truth.  Perhaps instead of asking "How much longer?", you could ask, "How can I best be of help to you during the wait?" or "What new things have you been learning about Nora recently?" or "I sure wish I could make this time go faster for you, but I know I can't.  Is there anything you want covered in prayer?"  Those kind of questions speak your truth--your heart--your care for me and this adoption--and would do wonders for my heart.
  • We don't have an ending time.  In a van ride, I could at least tell the kids what time we were expected to arrive at the final destination. I could say, "It should be 4:45 p.m. when we park the van for good", but, again, it still would not make the actual time in the van go quicker.  The knowledge of a concrete ending time may make the trip "feel" quicker, but it won't make the tires turn any faster.  In our adoption, unfortunately, we will not know what that "4:45 p.m." will be until the very, very end of the trip.  When you ask me how much longer it will be, it reaffirms something I see as a frustration of this reaffirms that I can not answer your question...that I simply do not know when the end will be here.  That is a very hard reality in any adoption.  This does not make me feel encouraged or sympathized with, which I would bet was your original goal.  We do have some best case scenario time frames (6-9 months), but nothing that can give a stamped day, hour, or minute of when Nora will be on US soil or in our own home.  I encourage you to think about this scenario from my perspective for a moment: how would you feel if you were continually asked the same question you had no answer for (nor could you have an answer for)?  For example, what if every day or several times a day you were asked when your phone will ring.  It's something you know will happen at some point, but you would never be able to really answer that question because it is impossible to actually know.  After a while, you would probably just get tired, frustrated and a wee bit cranky when the next person asked, "Hey, when is that phone of yours going to ring?  I, too, tend to get tired, frustrated, and a wee bit cranky when faced with the same question of how long it will take to get Nora home because I just don't have the answer.  I regret that anyone has to be the person at the other end of my crankiness...that is not my desire at all.  So, instead of asking me a question I can not answer, I would encourage you to ask questions I CAN answer.  Questions I can answer will go a long way to making me feel like I have the ability to be involved in an ongoing, positive, and uplifting conversation about our adoption.  Questions I can answer could be focused on anything in the past or the present, but not in the future.  I, unfortunately, can not predict the future for this adoption trip no matter how much I would love to.
  • I need others to be patient too.  Lastly, do you remember the final part of my initial response to the kids in the van scenario?  It was a scream plea to just BE PATIENT!  When you are trapped in a van for a long period of time with kids questioning each minute when this ordeal will be over, it proves they are not having patience.  One of the traits, if you will, we adoptive parents have been labeled with by others who have yet to adopt is that we must be incredibly patient to go through this process.  To some degree this is true, however, there are also plenty of moments in the past year where "patient" could have been replaced with "manic" in my book.  The truth is we do have to be patient as we wait for Nora to come home, but we don't have to be the ONLY ones having patience.  The long time frames in a van would be oh so much more smooth if the kids were being just as patient as the driver, don't you think?!?  The long time frames in an adoption would be smoother, too, if we were ALL willing to shoot for the same level of patience as the adoptive parents are, for whatever reason, expected to have.  Folks, always being questioned of an end not yet in sight by people acting more impatient than myself is not going to do a whole lot to help my own patience might challenge it even more, but believe me, the last thing I need added to my plate right now is another reason to practice patience-ha!  Please do me a favor and practice being patient as you await WITH me for the answer to your question.  Come up with other things to do WITH me during the trip instead of focusing your questions on an end I do not know.  In van rides, for example, our family likes to play games like "I Spy", sing songs, or even watch movies to pass the time of the trip.  Those things do not speed the trip up necessarily, but they do make the trip more enjoyable.  Doing things with me along the trip to pass the time will be much more supportive than focusing on the unknowns or an end that is not in sight yet.
Does all of this make sense?  I know your hearts, friends, are meant to be supportive and sympathetic to me when you ask the "dreaded question" but I hope with this post, you will understand why I dread that question as well as how to better express your care to me during this time.  And, as I said above, if it is the details of the trip you actually want to know--feel free to ask me when we have enough time for me to tell you all about it.  It would take time, but I could talk your ear off and enjoy every moment of it...just ask my poor hubby.  Thank you, friends, for caring for me.  Thank you for caring about Nora.  Thank you for talking to me about our adoption.  I am sorry if you have ever had to suffer the consequences of my frustration with your question of how much longer it will take to get her here...may grace abound on each of our ends of that question, eh!?!  Blessings.

**I encourage those who have read this post to see my updated answer towards this question posted on February 13, 2013.  Here is a link to that post. Thank you!**


  1. This post doesn't really pertain to me because I've never asked you this question, nor have I asked anyone adopting this question. But to be honest, when people I know are adopting, I think this question a lot. Mostly because they are talking about the frustration of their waiting journey so often... so the only logical question is "I wonder how much longer they have to wait?!?!"

    1. Thank you for your honesty in return to my own. I think the point I was trying to make here is that although your logical question is "I wonder how much longer they have to wait?!?!" the point you may have overlooked is what the person is talking about...their frustration of their waiting journey. Instead of talking to them about what you are wondering, I would encourage you to listen to what they are saying and talk to them about what they are frustrated with. I can almost guarantee it is NOT the end date they are frustrated with--it is something they are going through RIGHT then. Speaking for myself, at least, I don't mean for this post to scare people away from asking me or any adoptive parents questions about my adoption...ask me MANY, MANY questions because I'm just dying for anyone to talk to me about it. I just don't want to talk about the fact the ending date is still so far off...I want to talk about everything happening now. Hope that helps you understand what I was saying better. Thanks again for your honest--I really appreciate it!