Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What Doesn't Kill You

We five Caprons, do not, thank God, live in 1930’s Germany, or, thank God, Rwanda in the nineties, or, thank God, Syria in 2013.  We do, however, seem to have a lot more discomfort than most of our direct peers.  Our direct peers, of course, are highly educated, highly privileged, gorgeous, fit, middle-aged white folks.  They, like we were just a few years ago, are pursuing their careers, raising their children, sure working to varying degrees to keep finances afloat, to keep marriages afloat, but generally, life here in Marin is pretty fine.  Our problems are first-world problems, to be sure.

We five Caprons live in the perfect storm that is Hurricane Mihiretu (and yes, I include him in the number being oppressed by his behavior, much of which he can’t control).  We are awakened at odd hours by screaming and tantrums, we are in constant terrorist negotiations, we’re giving everything we have to this needy boy and it’s still not enough.  No it’s not Hitler’s Germany but it’s tough.

I’ve been feeling guilty lately about how all this domestic conflict is affecting the girls.  They didn’t ask for another sibling, they certainly didn’t ask to be tortured by said sibling.  But I heard something recently that gave me a bit of perspective.  It was NPR, part of the white noise of my day, I have no idea of the context but here’s the essence: Just because it’s not making you happy doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

I think we privileged white people get really caught up in our own happiness.  If we’re not happy, we’re failing.  I’ve been feeling like quite the failure lately.  But this mothering I’m doing, this non-stop chore of loving a boy that often does everything he can to repel that love, it is worth doing.  And, for all my faults, I am a good mother.  I have that to give to the world. 

A friend read a recent post and shared her experience of growing up with an adopted Columbian brother – a boy who came to her family at six with plenty of history.  She said that, yes, being his sister has had its challenges, but that the experience has taught her so many things, deepened her in a way that she might not have been otherwise.  She’s a doctor now and she said that her brother taught her compassion, which is essential in her work, essential to her life.

Perhaps my girls are learning lessons they wouldn’t have learned had we not brought Mihiretu into our lives.  We are giving them depth if nothing else.  They know what hardship is – theoretically from Mihiretu’s story before he came to us and realistically from living with him.  They know, first-hand, what malnutrition is, what global inequity is, that really hard things can happen, even to kids.

So maybe we five Caprons are a bit miserable at the moment.  Maybe we’ll continue to be for years.  But maybe that’s not the worst thing that could happen to a person.


  1. Love, love, love this. "Just because it’s not making you happy doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing."=SUCH A GIFT! Thanks for writing, you!

  2. I pray that all of you will also get to enjoy the peace of one another and that your lovely son comes to know the things you do for love.

  3. Very Inspiring Liz. Sending you all my support. This reminded me of a one of my favorite stories on This American Life http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/317/unconditional-love

    Act One: "Love is a Battlefield" is the particular story. Every time I think of it, listen to it, share it with someone, or even now, while looking for it online it brings tears to my eyes. When the boy finally speaks about his experience.. just gets me totally.. I don't know if it will be inspirational or supportive for you, but I hope so. It surely moved me. You are doing the most important work in the world, loving... loving unconditionally as only a mother can. Stay strong, it is worth it.

  4. Just lost a comment here...not sure what I did wrong.

    I wanted to thank you for this post and the last one - I can so relate to them. Our Ethiopian-born son is 7.5 years old and has been home with us for about 19 months. He is hard for me. Very, very hard. The exhaustion that comes with it comes and goes and lately it's been coming hard at me. I think I needed the reminder that the goal isn't mere happiness, and that doing something of value is enough in and of itself...at least to get through some of the hard times.

    I also worry about the impact on my other two children (one of whom is also ETH-born). My oldest (bio) is struggling immensely and I wonder if he'll ever make the adjustment to his siblings - the one is so terribly needy. It's been so hard watching our oldest struggle with this stuff.

    So thank you for telling your story here...I LOVE coming here to read when you post.



  5. Ladies, just want to say that these comments got me through my week. Thank you!