Adoption suffers from a bit of media craziness in our culture. It’s either portrayed as a horrible, terrible thing, as with the woman who sent her child back to his home country on a plane a few years ago, or it’s portrayed as a “superhero” effort by “savior” parents, superhumans who swoop in to rescue needy children. Both extremes are harmful to adoptive families, and neither portray with any accuracy what it means to live daily life in America as an adoptive family.
Arturo and I are reading Sherrie Eldridge’s 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed, and it’s a GREAT book. It’s designed to be read in a group or with a reading partner, and we are loving the discussion questions and practical action items at the end of every chapter. I highly recommend it!
In the second chapter, which discusses how to look at life with “adoption savvy,” Eldridge addresses many of the common misconceptions about adoption. I mentioned two such misconceptions at the start of this post. Both of those concepts are fairly easy to spot as untruthful, but others are not so clear.
For example, how does this statement strike you? “Just love your adopted child and all will be well.” It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Love your child, and your love will cover all their problems and everything will work out. However, this concept ignores the fact that many adopted children have experienced serious trauma in their short lives. They need much more than a blanket profession of parental love to heal their wounds. Being an adoptive parent is absolutely about loving your child, but it’s also about nurturing your child even (or perhaps especially) when your child is rejecting you, scheduling therapy appointments when they’re necessary, and seeking the professional assistance your child needs to grow and thrive. Love is the most important part of the equation, but it’s not the only part. This seemingly simple statement is deceptive. It sounds nice enough, but it’s a cultural concept that can ruin an adoptive family.
The second chapter of Eldridge’s book addresses many other misconceptions about adoption, and it was eye-opening to see how many cultural ideas we, who consider ourselves relatively aware of adoption issues, had accepted as truth. Talk about a wake-up call!
Eldridge concludes the chapter with a list of questions to help adoptive parents discern the truth about adoption, as they encounter cultural concepts of what adoption is and how it works:
- Does it imply that good can come from adversity?
- Does it build me up and encourage me?
- Does it give hope for the future?
- Does it give life or take it away?
- Does it deny differences or celebrate them?
- Does it set my spirit free?
- Does it respect everyone involved?
- Does it make me bitter or better?
- Does it incorporate sound research and current information?
- Does it take into account the big picture of adoption?
- Does it ask for personal accountability versus blaming?
- Does it help me look forward to the next step of growth?
- Does it make sweeping generalizations?
- Does it help maintain my emotional and spiritual balance?
- Does it incorporate archaic adoption stereotypes?
- Does it rely on pure sentimentality?
- Does it prompt me to appreciate and love others more?
Arturo and I read these questions together and were struck by just how powerful they are. They will be invaluable as we evaluate the cultural concepts about adoption that our children will encounter on a daily basis, but their usefulness doesn’t end there. These questions are also helpful to consider when evaluating all sorts of “truths” in our modern life. What in your life doesn’t respect everyone involved, makes you bitter instead of better, or doesn’t help you look forward to your next step of growth? Perhaps it’s time to take steps to change that circumstance, discarding the unhelpful situation in favor of one more full of truth.
The adoption research and preparation we’re doing now will undoubtedly help us deal with the difficult situations we’ll face with our children, but it’s also shaping us into more mature and discerning adults in the meantime. Already, the adoption process is giving us back more blessings than we could have ever imagined!