As an adoptive parent, I feel obligated to write a post about adoption this November–National Adoption Month. And since the month is about over, the post is going up even though I don’t have a lot of warm fuzzy things to say about adoption right now.
It’s been a difficult few days in parenting world for me–well, a difficult few days in the midst of a difficult several years. I won’t go into details since this is not an anonymous blog and since all three of my children are now literate. I’ll just say that parenting is the hardest thing I do, and that many of the hardest parts of parenting are connected to the pre-adoption experiences of my oldest children. (Adopted from foster care at ages three and five.)
So, rewind for a minute to Thanksgiving break, when I was excited to see the Cary Grant movie Room for One More on the TV schedule–one I had not seen before! Now, let me be the first to say that watching Cary Grant for an hour and a half is always a pleasant experience. (I told my husband that they have to do “sexiest man alive” awards because without the “alive” part, Cary would win every year.) Still, the movie itself was a bit of a disappointment.
Actually, not so much a disappointment as a frustrating misrepresentation. In this movie, Cary Grant’s character and his wife take two orphans into their already full family. One of the orphans is an 11-year-old girl who has moved around a lot and was eventually abandoned by her mother. The other is a school-age boy who has a physical disability and a nasty disposition.
Both children are disagreeable, defiant, even hateful when they first move in with the family. But after a brief time in a loving, stable environment, they become model children–they boy even makes the rank of Eagle Scout in record time!
Yes, this is an old movie. But there are certainly more recent examples of this cultural myth–no matter how badly a child is hurt, a loving family can make it all better. While these stories of “redeemed” orphans are uplifting, I think they can ultimately do damage–especially to adoptive parents.
I’ve (mostly) gotten over the guilt phase, but earlier on it was easy for me to see and hear stories like this and wonder: What am I doing wrong? Maybe we wouldn’t be having all these problems if I just loved them more . . . if I was just funnier . . . if I was just stricter . . . if I could just get them all to form a choir and sing Broadway showtunes . . .
The truth is, my children’s problems from early childhood are not all solved. Our family life is often far from lovely and harmonious. But I’m doing the best I can. And my kids are doing the best they can. And maybe–sometimes this one is the hardest–maybe my kids’ birth parents were even doing the best they could.
It’s just that sometimes our best does not get us to Eagle Scout. Sometimes our best gets us to the counselor’s office, or the principal’s office, or the pastor’s office. Sometimes our best barely gets us through the day.
I warned you, I don’t have a lot of warm and fuzzy things to say about adoption. Because, despite what Cary Grant would have me believe, adoption is really not all that warm and fuzzy.
But adoption is good. It is good for the children who need to a safe, loving, nurturing home. It is good for the birth parents who, for a variety of reasons, cannot provide such a home for their children.
And it is good for me as an adoptive parent. It’s not warm, fuzzy good. But it’s good for growing in God. Good for practicing love and patience and peace and turning the other cheek and setting boundaries and getting over myself. Good for learning to let other people help. Good for resting in the grace of God.
And good for the laughter and smiles and successes and joy that glimmer in the midst of this difficult journey. (See, I CAN be warm and fuzzy.)
So happy National Adoption Month, everybody!