Engaged yet not..my break from Facebook.

It’s been a month since I actively sought to engage with facebook.  A month in which I have been less intense, less distracted and less caught in the complex relationships, in my head anyway, that evolve with friends as a consequence of watching their online engagement around issues.

According to my husband, there is more peace in me.

My personality seeks, strives and yearns for intensity; for intense engagement.  It drives me. Facebook offers multiple ways to feed this.

It also makes me less available in moments.  It creates stress in me when not channeled appropriately.

I have had to ask myself some hard questions this last month.  I am grateful for friends who have navigated this ahead of me.

Do I like who I become as a result of my facebook engagement?

Am I able to separate the way I perceive people responding to issues & comments on facebook from the way I engage with them off facebook?

Does my perception of people result in me making judgements about them? Do I want to engage with people whose interactions on facebook leave me not liking what I am seeing in them – not necessarily only their responses, but also their terms of engagement?

What is my role as advocate, as professional person and as personal person in social media spaces?

Does my family have a responsibility to respond or share our processes around navigating things & issues that impact us or are those sacred spaces that need other questions around them?

There is much that I love about social media and facebook specifically.

I love celebrating with people.  I love the opportunities facebook gives for generosity and engagement.  I love that it does connect me to people who if we are honest, we would lose touch with in the crazy seasons of life we are all in.  I love that we get to offer support in the hard seasons too. I love that some of the people who I engage with regularly IRL – IN REAL LIFE – are people I met through social media.

I appreciate the groups, spaces and posts that challenge me to refine my own thinking and positions on things.

I have realized though that, for me, there is a cost that comes with the above.  The cost being not seeing the underlying anxiety that it was creating for me until it was no longer part of my day to day life.  The cost of the time I spent saving things to read or watch later until that list has exceeded 40 saves and to be honest, I am not sure I am ever going to read or watch them, not while I am working part time and parenting a exuberant joyful 2 year old, while helping and supporting my husband in growing his business.  Not because the topics don’t matter to me, but the previous 3 mentions are significant and matter to me.  If I don’t honour these parts of my world, then all the knowledge gained through those 40 something saves isn’t going to matter very much at all.

I have realized that I spent a huge amount of emotional energy, even if not on facebook itself, in managing my own responses to things.  I have realized I started becoming wary of posting in case it was misinterpreted, or triggering, or deemed too radical or not radical enough or not PC enough or too PC – in which case I had people publicly and privately explain why I was wrong & not always in a honouring, respectful way.  Which led to my own wrestling with how to respond.  Should I respond?  Should I leave it?

Sometimes posts that weren’t aimed at anyone in particular were taken personally by people and while that is not my responsibility, if relationships matter to me, I need to think about how this matters too in terms of impact of what we are saying, regardless of my intent.

I realized that the echo chamber of facebook was exclusionary and that people who were on journeys around some justice issues were encouraged on their journeys of discovery but others were shut down as they explored things.

Some people who were repeatedly asked not to engage in certain ways around certain topics persisted and it all became too much.  Topics regarding adoption, race, justice and regarding whether or not my son was critically ill as consequence of being vaccinated (while we were in hospital with doctors exploring every avenue & being informed that his vaccinations prevented things from being far worse than what they were a year ago).  Too much for me.  Some of my friends thrive in this space. I am not one of them.  An inability to each see our own biases in stories makes online engagement as a catalyst for communication a hotbox for judgement, self-righteousness and mess really.

So for now I am wrestling with the above questions.  Our family is a conspicuous one, formed through adoption, needing to ask questions about race, diversity, raising our children to know who they are, were they come from and how much their own stories are valued, but this is a sacred space which only needs sharing in public spaces when there is an overwhelming conviction that to do so honour’s both my family and the bigger picture.  Else my family’s story ends up being a case study in itself and that’s not what we want.

I stand by public statements already made re: adoption and the racial things we have had to address regarding our language use.  Things like not calling our children ‘monkey’ or using adoption of pets as metaphors. Things like the fact that I am raising a man who is racially different to me which means I need to ensure that we have mirrors, mentors and many moments in which we reflect and normalize what this means for our children in a South African context, so that as they grow, they grow into the fullness of themselves and can stand their ground as South Africans with their own story – the present, the past and their origins.

I am standing down though from sharing too much of our own story in this as we navigate this all. In my personal capacity.

And here the challenge is – how do I share and navigate spaces that are professional spaces for me but have a personal impact to and do this in a way that honours and protects the integrity of both.

For this next season this means, far less active engagement on facebook (twitter and Instagram have been populating my facebook for now); a decision to continue figuring our how facebook serves me, us as a family, rather than me being a slave to serving it.

Over this past month, I have read books, been less tired & tied up, written reflections, gone for long walks, played games and been a lot less irritable about being interrupted when trying to read or follow something on a screen… not that the content wasn’t important but the relationships that are around me are & I need to be honouring those.

I have started dreaming again about reading more than candy floss for my brain and asking questions about professional growth spaces.

I know that often we engage with social media and feel like we have tackled issues.

I am asking myself what tackling those issues mean within my family space. What does it look like to live a life of justice, with Jesus as my teacher, without needing facebook to be a part of it? I still want the issues I have engaged with in the past so publicly addressed and will respond when appropriate, but I am doing this while being Alexa, being a wife and a mother.  While making sure that we keep wrestling with the tension of who and what we have in terms of our privilege without becoming a social justice experiment.  My children need a mother who can mentor and be present with them in lots of areas of life.  They also need to know that not all lives are as privileged as ours.  They are one day going to be the people who wrestle hopefully with other issues – but for now, WE get to hold the tension of both spaces.

So ‘still on a break with “facebook” & checking in every so often.  For now anyway.

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Fierce protection and the things people say

A friend recently said to me:
“I wish I could just be my daughter’s mom rather than always being seen as the adoptive mom” – she is part of a transracial family.

She is her daughter’s mom. My heart aches at the fact that people struggle with this based on the appearance or how it started. Regardless of the reasons she chose to adopt.
Then I look at my friends who are in transracial families by virtue of marriage where my paler or blonde friends have coffee skinned dark haired babies. Or my coffee skinned friends have blonde babies –simply because of the way their genes mixed to produce their beautiful kids and I wonder if they get asked the same questions at times in terms of being conspicuous.

My heart aches at the fact that we need to think through how we are going to protect our children from ignorant, uninformed or unhelpful statements. My heart is already fiercely protective of my not yet known child, whose life challenges and growing up is going to be in a family that can’t wait to have him home and yet also has to recognise that by virtue of the fact that he is adopted, he is going to have extra work to do as a part of his life story.

My fierce protection extends to wanting to say the following:

Please don’t tell me that as soon as we adopt, then we will fall pregnant: We can fall pregnant. Yes, we have publicly shared about miscarriage but that doesn’t mean we have given up hope or can’t have biological babies. The medical reality is that we can fall pregnant and there is no known reason why we can’t have biological children if we choose to – but we choosing to go the adoption route first. This has always been part of our choice for our family. When you tell me that as soon as I adopt I will fall pregnant, the unspoken message I hear isn’t encouraging – in fact it makes things awkward. Awkward because I already want to protect my child. I hear and worry that my adopted child will hear: Being adopted is a second prize plan and my bio baby is the first & that’s not something any of us would want to be – a second prize.

Our choosing adoption is part of the first prize for our family. It always has been.

Please don’t make assumptions about our fertility as potential adoptive parents – some of my friends already have bio babies and have chosen to adopt. Some of my friends can’t have bio babies and have chosen to adopt. Some of my circles chose to adopt before even considering bio babies – not because they are somewhat noble or holier or something more than other mothers – simply as this is the story that they have chosen for their families. When we make assumptions about this – people are left needing to defend & protect themselves and their children – when people choose to fall pregnant and grow their families that way, we celebrate the new life. As a prospective adoptive parent, my choices are wrapped in layers of recognising that I potentially will be a mom but that there are challenges and losses amidst the celebration of family and life – perhaps ask if there is freedom to do so rather than assume why I am doing so & if there isn’t enough depth of relationship or I haven’t volunteered why I am doing this, then maybe we aren’t in a space to want to engage around this.

Good moms and dads want to protect their children against things that aren’t helpful to their growth and give them skills to manage the challenges that are a part of life. I never want my child to think that they are my 2nd prize – regardless of whether their younger siblings arrive from my tummy or through an adoption process. We all know life shoves enough at us along the way without adding that into the mix. Please help my child never feel obligated to me – we will belong to each other – not owe each other infinite gratitude for having each other. My gratitude is to God who models adoption for me. My gratitude is for a husband who was pro-adoption before I met him and in figuring out what we wanted life to be about as a family had adoption in the picture too. My child isn’t going to be lucky to have us. We are going to be blessed to have each other.

We are excited, and planning, and dreaming, and nervous as we continue with the screening and prep process. We are aware and processing some of the challenges of parenting – we have to do this differently simply because we get asked and assessed and guided and need to think things through that some pregnant parents do but many don’t.

I am grateful for a gracious husband. He gets this right in a way I struggle with. Often.

I am having to learn to say things differently, to listen more and work out whether humour, information giving to simply choosing not to respond is the best way forward in protecting my family and future family – rather than just seeking battle always.
I am grateful for the friends who pave the way before us and for those doing this with us and for the beautifully mixed world we get to live in.