Today marks 365 days from the moment that a judge in a North Carolina courtroom took her pen and legally added a sixth member to the Franks family. It was just under a year ago that I grabbed the cutest co-host ever and posted this video announcing that my daughter Haven was forever a part of our household with all the rights and privileges thereof. Last name? Check. Unconditional lifetime love? Check. Sharing the vast Franks family fortune ($87.22) with her brothers? Check.
If you know our story, you know that we first met Haven in April of 2011 and she started living with us full time in May. But it was that piece of paper – delivered to us by our attorney across his dinner table – that sealed everything. It was that piece of paper that meant we could breathe again and rest confidently that our little girl wasn’t going anywhere. The next time she leaves our house will be when she gets married at 45 years old. (It’s in the contract.)
The last year has been eventful, to say the least. We’ve learned a tremendous amount about ourselves, our marriage, our three sons, and our new daughter. We’ve laughed and cried and worried and fretted and worried why we suddenly used words like “fretted.” This past year has been a learning lab for all six of us, adjusting to the new normal.
A few weeks ago I came across this incredible post by Jen Hatmaker, a mom of two adopted kids. (Go ahead. Take ten minutes and read it. I’ll wait.) She detailed in brutal honesty her family’s adoption journey. Granted, our stories are vastly different: their kids were much older when they adopted. They came from a different culture, a different continent, and they spoke a different language. But Merriem and I identified with so much that she wrote.
So what have we learned? Here are the highlights:
We’ve learned that it’s hard to start over when your other kids are pretty much grown and self-sufficient. We’ve had to readjust to diapers and car seats, to bath times and bed times. We’ve had to reincorporate the term “baby sitter” in our household. We’ve realized that we’re nearly a decade older than we were the last time we did this, and that folks in their late thirties don’t bounce back as quickly as folks in their late twenties. Ouch.
We’ve learned that adding personalities to the mix can be a tough road. If you look up “strong willed” in the dictionary, you should see a picture of Haven. You should, but you won’t, mainly because she grabbed that dictionary off the shelf, ran shrieking through the house with it, ripped that particular page out of the dictionary, and tried to stuff it down the toilet, making it overflow into the living room. Let me be clear: Haven is not strong willed because she’s adopted. She’s strong willed because…she just is. It’s not an “adoption issue,” it’s a sin issue. She was remarkably normal when she came to live with us, and I think we somehow made her this way.
We’ve learned that everyday life is – at least temporarily – no longer easy. When Haven is happy, she’s really really happy. When she’s mad, she’s really really mad. She doesn’t do anything quietly. Everything she does, she does big. For that reason, there are a growing number of restaurants and stores that we can no longer go to until she’s 16 or the statute of limitations runs out. Target employees go on break when they see us pull up. There’s not a shopping cart within a three state area that she hasn’t figured out how to climb out of, screaming as she goes. We’ve had to start tipping 40% in restaurants to cover the mental distress of the waitstaff.
We’ve learned that a two year old takes all the time you have…and then some. Nothing really works the same in our house anymore. Everything we do, we have to do with Haven in mind. There’s no more sleeping late on Saturdays, no more hopping in the car to run a quick errand, no more stepping out of the room for more than 3.5 seconds unless you want to see a Pop Tart go into the DVD player. From the moment she wakes up until the moment she goes to sleep, we belong to her and her incessant demands. Our hobbies are out the window. The year before we adopted her, I read over forty books and wrote dozens of blog posts. Since we met her, I’ve read less than 18 books (unless you count Brown Bear, Brown Bear, in which case the count goes to 4,912). And this blog – as you know – has been shot to heck.
“But Danny,” you say, “that’s so negative. You make adoption sound like a hard thing. I thought Christians are supposed to adopt. I thought when you adopted a child, that child rode in on a magical purple unicorn and their poop smelled like daisies and you got to send out adorable Christmas cards that makes your family look like a walking Benetton commercial.”