Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Prepping for Parenthood

I've been D'Assisi's parent for a week now, and I still can't believe it's real.

First photo of us right after the adoption hearing
We have a one-month waiting period for the adoption papers to be totally finalized. Then, the nuns and I decided that D'Assisi will start spending weekends with me for a couple of months, and then he'll move in with me when the end of the school term ends in December (we didn't want him to have to transfer schools in the middle of a term). The nuns and I wanted to have a slow transition period to make sure he's not shocked by moving out of the convent overnight, and it gives me a bit of time to prepare. I'm looking forward to our first weekend as family this coming weekend.

There are a massive amount of things I'm trying to prepare for, jotted on a note in my phone in stream-of-consciousness gibberish whenever I remember one, which is often in the middle of the night.

  • Where will we live? Look at options
  • How to get health insurance and meds for D'Assisi (does work cover it?)
  • Changing his last name? Do I want to change his name or not? 
  • Get a US immigration/adoption lawyer for US citizen process
  • Visa process/bringing him home for Christmas
  • New clothes for D'Assisi (how do boys' clothing sizes work?)
  • Childcare for when he's on school vacation and I'm at work
  • English tutoring? Should he learn French? 
  • Look up parenting advice on interracial adoptions living in child's home country
  • Look up parenting advice in general
I don't think I've ever examined my life as intensely as in the past week. What parts of myself do I want to pass on to my child? (my love of dancing and cooking, being Catholic, a fondness for being outdoors and in nature) What parts do I want to make sure he doesn't adopt? (my lack of patience and intense frustration at incompetence, forgetting that people are watching me dance) What do I want him to be able to decide for himself? (being a vegetarian, whether he calls me Mom or keeps calling me Claire or Mahoro, my Rwandan name) What do I need to change about my current life to make sure he comes first? (reserving dedicated family time, making sure I'm really present and not checking email or being on my phone when he's around, probably going to bed a lot earlier). 

I'm both elated and pretty nervous about being a first time parent. I know there are going to be challenges, and I'm trying my best to prepare for them. But I guess becoming a first-time parent is a bit like boxing. You can train for endless hours, but you don't know where the punches are going to fall until you're in the ring. 

I'm most apprehensive about how D'Assisi is going to take the adjustment, and how my relationships will inevitably change. Even though I've been in D'Assisi's life for the past four years, it's different than living with me. I don't know if the transition will be natural, or if he'll really struggle not living in the convent. And I know some of my relationships will probably change. I don't have very many close friends who are parents here, and my usual weekend social life has not been playing Chutes and Ladders and going to bed at 9 pm. It's absolutely a sacrifice that I would always choose to make, but it does make me a little nervous. 

Ultimately, I'm trying to channel the Rwandan parents I knew in my village, who seem infinitely more relaxed about parenting than Americans do (and most definitely more chill than I am about it). The modern American parenthood preparation checklist is about 10,000 things long, costs a couple million dollars in unnecessary expenses, and has too many recommended parenting books to be reasonable. Rwandan mothers gave birth (silently! Rwandan culture is crazy sometimes) at our rural health center, laid on the simple metal beds packed into the maternity ward until they regained their strength, and then took the swaddled baby home perched on the back of a motorcycle or bicycle taxi. They made sure their babies were clean, dressed, had food to eat, and then just loved their kids. Fancy baby strollers and Mommy and Me classes be damned. 



  1. You've had a lot longer than the usual nine months to prepare for this, Claire, and you love him with all your heart. The rest will fall into place. You'll make some mistakes (every parent does!), but you'll mostly do everything just fine. What a remarkable life you've lived so far--and now you have someone else to live it with and for. It will be wonderful.

  2. I think this is beautiful and I wish you and your family the best of luck. Not to sound preachy, but it would also be of importance to speak with other adoptive and black mothers about how to raise a black boy/man in America especially with the current status of our country...its not a lighthearted subject but it is necessary and very important for both you and your child....i just wanted to bring the subject up and encourage this subject on you.