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Posts Tagged ‘This Is Us’


This past weekend we started to watch This Is Us. It stirs up lots of dust, lots of emotions, particularly as an adoptive parent.

It is a show that just sucks you in as they slowly reveal the truth. Some of the truth is about the lies we tell ourselves, or the lies we’ve been told. Sometimes the lies are driven by fears, and sometimes the lies create fears.

The show shifts back and forth between two time frames; childhood and the present for three siblings. One of those siblings was adopted, a black boy in a white home before it was common. One of his struggles was the longing to know his biological parents. He didn’t love his adoptive parents less but he wanted to understand who he was. Understandable.

His mother struggled to connect with him initially. She was mourning the death of one of her triplets. Desperate, she seeks for the man she saw lurking at the hospital. She stays in touch with him, but prohibits him from contacting her son. She bonds so well with him, that her biological son feels left out. When he’s discovered to be a gifted student it only aggravates his brother’s wound and the sibling rivalry that tears apart their father’s dream of the Big Three.

There are those moments when black moms offer help. We’ve had those moments, like one in Hartsfield Airport near midnight. Some people are kindly about it, and others not so much. You feel judged as incompetent, uncaring, a “great white hope complex” etc..

As parents we struggle with these fears, these tensions, longings unfulfilled. We have our own wounds from childhood and are afraid they will have the same problems we do.

We want our kids to be close not just to us but one another. There are those beautiful, magical moments when they all play outside together. The laughter is as beautiful to me as a brilliantly composed and played symphony. I cherish those moments. There are times I’ve just pulled up a chair to watch and soak it all in.

Then there are the other moments, those ordinary sibling moments that my fearful heart can easily blow out of proportion. There are the stages as they grow older to pull away from us, from one another.

It gets back to this: I often feel like a wholly inadequate father. It is like they want what I don’t have, and don’t want what I do. For instance, I want to share sports with them. They really aren’t interested in watching a game with me (they are missing the beauty of Dustin Pedroia play defense, or Tom Brady leading the offense). One those rare occasions when they want to toss the ball around, it is so hot outside I struggle.

I’m not a handy guy; I’m more of an intellectual. I read. I think. Thankfully we live next door to a neighbor who works on his truck often. The boys are drawn like a moth to the flame. He’s able to scratch an itch that I cannot. Nor should I begrudge my neighbor for the time he spends with the boys because it isn’t about me, but them.

I love my parents, even my mother who can’t remember who I am. They are from a very different generation. They did the best they could, but there were …. gaps. For instance, they wanted me to control their anger but couldn’t show me how. My mother was an angry, fearful person. They really didn’t know how to process grief. When our dog was hit by a car on Easter Sunday, my father had to pull over the car on the way home. It was the only time I remember seeing him cry. We didn’t get another dog. I never had another pet until I was a young pastor living alone.

Kids, especially adopted kids, can expose those wounds, those gaps and those inadequacies. It is humbling. It can be paralyzing, like it was for the mother in This Is Us. Our kids can’t perceive the fear we have. They just see the anger and control that the fear produces. It can teach us to be patient with our parents’ shortcomings. We can finally put ourselves in their shoes.

Hopefully my kids will show me a similar mercy in years to come.

I will have to trust God for the future. I will have to trust for the outcomes: whether they will share our faith, love each other well, discover, cultivate and utilize their gifts. I will have to trust that they will choose to call one another, hang out together. I can’t make it happen, only provide opportunities. Yes, you often feel helpless. Welcome to parenting.

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