To all of my kids,
We are living in a time where we are becoming more aware of labels. The labels we have put on others, and the labels that have been put on us, knowingly or unknowingly. It is easy to be prideful and say you are not a person who puts labels on others, but I want to challenge you each to have a mindset of humility and growth and recognize when you are putting labels on yourself, and others.
Prior to being a foster and adoptive dad, I must admit, I put labels on pretty much anything related to foster care. I labelled the kids in foster families, the parents (bio and foster), and I even put labels on myself. I heard people say, “foster kids are bad/scary” or that “your bio kids will be cheated.” I saw foster parents walking around with small armies and driving around in giant vans. I thought they were crazy. I told myself that would absolutely never be a part of my story. I made some of those same assumptions and put labels on things I knew nothing about, and I could not have been more wrong on every front.
As I think back to life 7 years ago, our household was made up of 5 humans and a dog…and it felt like complete chaos. The thought of adding anymore chaos seemed crazy, especially when it was “unfamiliar or unknown” chaos. Our household is now made up 9 amazing humans (plus the same dog and new tortoise) and we have had many more kids become part of our lives through foster care. While the chaos is still there (especially in high volume levels), my heart is full. I could not imagine life without it.
The world is experiencing chaos on so many levels, it is easy to focus on – and get lost in – all the huge problems. But if we choose to only see the hard, and the hopelessness, we will miss the small steps we can each take to make this world a better place.
When Mom (Jihae) and I first felt convicted to become foster parents, we were presented with a “HUGE” problem in our community that we did not previously recognize. It seemed overwhelming to both of us, but we decided to take the next right step. That step led to a series of small steps that brought big change in our lives.
You are each so incredible in unique and amazing ways and I am beyond proud to be your dad. My hope for you all is that you do not pay attention to the labels others put on you. And that you do not put labels on yourself. Unless, of course, those labels are: you are lovable, you are precious, you are valuable, you are good, you are not your circumstances, and you are not defined by the choices of others. When you find yourself overwhelmed with life, feeling labelled or judged by others, or other negative feelings – tune out the noise around you, remember who you are, and remember that you can take the next right step. And never forget that I am right here beside you, holding your hand, and always cheering you on!