Adoption is unconditional love.
“Adoption is awful!” Her eyes were wide with feigned terror. “My mom always tells me she’s gonna give me up if I don’t start acting right.” Her little friend sitting next to her laughed along with her.
“My mom told me that kids who don’t have mommies are daddies get adopted. It’s not good. I would never want to be adopted.” The other littles sitting in the circle shook their heads in agreement.
My heart sank. It was a Sunday school class and I just introduced a Christmas lesson. The lead-in question was, “Do you know what it means to be adopted?” The main idea of the lesson introduced the often forgotten fact that Joseph adopted Jesus as his own son. It is an act of unconditional love. However, the only thing the group of kindergarteners and first graders could share was their horror at the thought of adoption. You don’t have to be religious or an adoptive mother to appreciate my despair.
Adoption is only part of the story.
I wondered what it would have been like if my little munchkin were old enough to be in that Sunday school class and had heard these kids talk about adoption the way that they did. Would it break her little heart, or would she come to me afterwards in tears asking a million questions? Would she question me about all the things we’ve taught her up until that point on the beauty of adoption? Could she still believe us when we told her how much we loved her? In that moment I knew I wouldn’t always be there to protect her.
This lit a fire in me to want to help my child see the beauty of where she came from and where she is going. I want her to know that her worth is not tied up in circumstance, but in who she was created to be. It’s my job as her mother to make sure I teach her what to value in herself and in others. And I think it’s so important that we teach all our children about adoption and help them understand adoption is only part of the story. It’s not the whole story.
As parents, we have the opportunity to help make our children’s lives flourish like a beautifully planted garden. If it is well tended, they can reap a bountiful harvest of passion, determination, grit, wisdom, and kindness. These are the qualities I will strive to instill in my child so she can face any challenge with her head held high.
The conversation needs to change at home.
Conversations have improved over the years in schools about special needs, race, culture, poverty, and differences. In fact, our kids are better at acceptance of others than most of us adults are. But at-home conversations about adoption still need improvement.
The talks need to be age appropriate. It’s helpful if parents are open and matter of fact about adoption. Our children should learn from us, at a very early age, that families come in all shapes and sizes. One is not better than another.
Here’s the thing, I won’t be able to protect my child forever. I won’t be able to take away the feelings she may struggle with one day or answer all her questions about adoption. But what I can do is equip her to be strong, courageous, and confident in who she is. I can teach her to respect others no matter what their story is, where they came from, or how they fit into their family. You can help your children do the same. So when they are in a group setting and they are faced with questions about adoption, they can champion on behalf of another or stand up for themselves.
I believe that these conversations with our children need to be ongoing, not just during adoption awareness month. It is so important for us to emphasize and model to our children that people shouldn’t be reduced to a single word, a single act, or a single choice. I hope that we can teach our children together that our identity and our worth come from the people who love us, combined with a myriad of moments, choices, and influences over a lifetime.
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