Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"They Come Through You"

Welcome to the April 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Household Chores
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, lore, and wisdom about family history. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

My family history is complicated. I am adopted. I've been told my story is heavy, but I believe it's worth telling.

What makes my story unique is that I didn't learn the truth about where I came from until I was 33 years old. A wife and mother to two children, and foster mom to one. I appeared to have my identity firmly in place, deep down though built on shaky ground. As my mom struggled to put her words together, I already knew what she was going to say.

I was thinking, "she needs me to just sit here, patiently. She needs to say it out loud." And when she finally said it, all I could say was "I know."

I knew. However unconsciously.
I had dreamt it. I had felt it. I had spoken it in whispers my whole life. The times I had dared to question it out loud, to the knowing adults in my world I was told to stop being ridiculous. The message that I was surely crazy to question where I came from. My transgression was giving heed to something I could feel in my body.

This is why, a year and a half ago when she finally managed to put truthful words together for me, all I could say was:
 "I know".
"Your dad is not your biological dad. I was pregnant when we met."
 "I know"
"How could you know!?"
I could sense her shock.
"I know the way anyone knows anything. I've always known it. Right here. In my gut."

Okay, I'm half-adopted- this was no less devastating. In the following year and half, I spent massive amounts of energy questioning everything I thought I knew; trying to piece together the importance of heritage, genetics, roots.

The answer I've come to is Genetics are in fact very powerful, and knowing where one comes from is invaluable.

Taken as a granted for so many people, it wasn't until I realized I had no clue that the privilege of KNOWING became a treasure!


I never fit in with our family. Never. I always felt like a misfit. Intuitive, moody, empathic, creative, and willful. In most ways, this news felt like a relief ~ I could BREATHE again with the understanding that I AM ME, and I was valid in my feelings of misfitting.

To a large extent we, as a family have gone our own way. We unschool, with focus on creativity and spirituality. The greatest learning has always been about discovering WHO we are, and WHO we want to be in the bigger picture. I am a birth doula, massage instructor, a potter, and a student studying counselling, youth work, and art therapy. My husband has been a care aide, and a stone mason. Mostly though, he has been one heck of a husband and father. Together we have worked hard to build a life we can be proud of.

As an adult who now knows my history, I can see the ways my genetics and unconscious roots have helped to create who I am.

I was a healer* and an artist before I knew we had any history of that.I have also been a mother, not just to my own children, but to some of my friends children, and my children's friends. My heart and door is wide open because one thing I have always believed is that FAMILY is made up of those we LOVE. Blood or no, family is made up of the people we choose. Is this a belief I have because of my disconnected, hidden roots? A side-effect of feeling like a misfit in my family? I have had an altered ability when it comes to forming attachments- sometimes much easier than one would expect and at other times struggling much, much more to have what I would believe should be instinctive.

(*when I say Healer, I am not referring to faith healing- I am referring to personality traits and the caring professions I have mentioned. The women in my heritage were described as "healers", a very broad term imo, implying that they were empathic, intuitive and caring women.)

One gift I can give my children is the truth about our history- both the known and unknown.

I can choose to pass on the positive stories and pieces of identity. I can spare my children the trauma I experienced when I had my world turned upside down. They can grow up with the self-knowledge I lacked. Our family has include artists, and healers, horse trainers, gypsies and musicians. They can know that some in our family history went on to have a great deal of education and became very successful in their fields. Maybe they will identify with some of those things and maybe they won't, but they will be able to grow with their internal world intact. There's also something kind of special in not knowing everything, a certain amount of mystery and story-choosing... heck, maybe someone in our background was a mermaid! :D

They can have freedom knowing we respect and love them whoever they are or choose to become. They can have the gift of FREEDOM to be who they are now and to grow into whoever they please.

Over the course of this last year two things have been the most influential for me: 1.) my husbands outlook, 2.) the words of Kahlil Gibran.

My husband says I should give no one credit for my identity. He questions why I would choose to give away my power in that way. He says I am who I am because I have worked hard to be who I am. I have lived through a lot of trauma, I have faced it, I have worked with it, I have let it fuel me. I am me because I am me. I credit the Creator and myself. I strive to be true to who I am and to live an authentic, joyous existence. Ultimately this is what I want for my children too (minus the trauma, of course). I want them to BE. To GROW and LEARN. To feel EMPOWERED to create their identity. Just as I knew in my gut who I am, they do too.

And now I close with the words of Kahlil. His words "they come through you not from you" brought me peace at a time when peace seemed utterly impossible. His words ground me in my role in my children's life. 

Our heritage, though powerful, is only as important as we choose to make it. 

This is literally posted on my wall as a reminder:

On Children
by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.


You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.


You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.


 You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • "They Come Through You" — Aspen at Aspen Mama shares what her late-discovery adoption means to her and her family.
  • The Shape of Our Family: Musings on Genealogy — Donna at Eco-Mothering delves into her genealogy and family stories, observing how the threads of family reveal themselves in her daughter.
  • Hand family stories down to the next generation — Lauren at Hobo Mama asked her father to help her son learn to read — never expecting that Papa's string of richly storytelling emails would bring a treasure trove of family history into their lives.
  • Saving Family Stories — Holly at Leaves of Lavender talks about why she thinks it's important to preserve fun and interesting family stories for future generations.
  • Serenading Grandma — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama started playing violin in the fifth grade, her grandma and mother were the biggest part of her musical cheering section. Her grandma urged her to keep playing and reminded her that someday she'd be thankful for her talent. As was so often the case, her grandma was right.
  • Family legacy ambivalence — With a family history of depression and suicide, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama frets about her children's emotional health.
  • Seder and Holy Week: Family Traditions, Old and New — As an Episcopalian whose children's ancestry is five-eighths Jewish, Becca at The Earthling's Handbook values the annual Passover seder that connects her and the kids to family traditions.