Monday, November 14, 2011

The Ups and Downs of a Diverse Family

Approximately four and a half years ago, the number of kids in my family doubled overnight. Five years ago my parents decided to do something cross cultural; they adopted three kids from Liberia, Africa. Adoption had been something that was implanted in both my parents minds as kids and young adults. A magazine, “Above Rubies”, highlighted four Liberian orphanages that caught my Mom's attention. Soon after seeing the magazine article, my parents began to consult friends and family about adopting, but most importantly, they were praying that God's will be done in their family's life. After a lot of paperwork was filled out, a home-study completed, and easily a hundred pictures were emailed, we chose the kids we thought would best fit our family. Valentines day 2007, my parents received their travel dates to go get the kids! My parents spent a week in Liberia, and when they returned, neither my two brothers, nor I expected the gravity of the situation.
March sixth 2007, is a day that I will never forget. It was the first day that my new brothers and sister were officially home. Kennedy was six, Mary was five, and Justino was two, everything was new and exciting. The day began with excitement and complications like a small language barrier. Sadly, by the end of the night, everyone ended up crying. Kennedy missed his family back in Africa, Mary knocked her head on the banister, and Justino was crying because Mary was crying! Eventually the three biological kids snapped and began to cry as well. It was an incredibly emotional situation because we finally all realized that we were stuck together. There was no going back, we were a family.
It was a real struggle for me, being the oldest in the family, to cope with the fact that we were different than other families. We would take trips to Wal-mart and get plenty of looks from other shoppers. First of all, a large family in America is typically unheard of, and secondly we were a biracial family. I'm not exactly sure if I don't notice the strange looks that my family may get, or if I just don't care anymore. Through this life-changing experience, though tough at times, I have grown tremendously in responsibility. Whether it's helping kids get dressed for church on Sunday, planning meals, or switching a load of laundry around, a family unit cannot function without everyone.

In this day and age, teenagers are encouraged to deviate away from the family and home life. While, I'm not with my family everyday, all day, I do enjoy spending time with them. A large family allows for a lot of fun! Before my three younger siblings came home, I thought I was familiar what “never a dull moment” meant with two brothers. I had no idea what I was in for with four brothers and one sister! This “bump in the road” has caused tears, heartache, laughter, and many happy memories. And those are the things the stick with me, all the good times. I have done a lot of growing up during these past four and a half years, and at the end of the day I am very thankful, because my new family environment helped develop who I am.
I've learned so much about how to deal with and relate to people in these last couple of years. Many arguments have been resolved, brothers pulled off each other at least a dozen times, and little ones comforted after a bike accident. Having three black children my family has made me aware that a person is still a person at his or her core. Whatever past history, ethnicity, or lifestyle, people long to be nurtured. I've grown in responsibility a lot as the oldest of the family as well. I have to take initiative, and I am the example. I never fully grasped that younger children looked up to me as much as they do. There will always be good times and always be rough times, of this I am sure. All these experiences are bricks that are building my family base. We will all look back and remember stressful days as well as the fantastically memorable days. Because the tough times made my family stronger I, along with the rest of the gang, will distinctly reminisce about the happy times. “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade”, but without sugar that lemonade would be gross. My three younger siblings are the sugar to my lemonade, and I'm so thankful for all the maturity that their arrival developed in me.