As a parent of a child who came to your home by means of adoption, more often than not over time you forget how you became a family and instead focus on being a family. As a waiting family, all you do is live and breathe adoption. Even afterwards, while you are introducing your little one to the world, much of your time and discussions revolve around adoption.
I’ve heard adoptive parents say that adoption was a one-time thing and so they always make a point to say that their child was adopted when it pertains to the discussions.
But then, from listening to the voices of adoptees I would guess that the majority of adoptees feel as though adoption has impacted their lives forever and so thinking of themselves as an adoptee and not someone who was once adopted may feel more accurate.
Different terms are appropriate for different purposes.
As a mother, I don’t want my child to feel as though his whole identity is solely centered on adoption. But as a parent, I need to understand how my son may feel now and as he grows older as adoption as a part of his story. I don’t want to chalk everything in his life up to the fact that he was adopted but I also don’t want to assume that none of his struggles are adoption related either.
So what’s the right answer?
Well, it’s a balance. Just like marriage begins one day marked by a wedding, it’s also a lifestyle and commitment to someone else’s needs as well as your own? So is adoption. The act of adoption has several specific days associated with the process however being adopted or being an adoptee is lifelong and becomes a part of one’s identity. It’s a part, a piece, of who someone is.
I believe one of the most important and maybe hardest parts of parenting an adoptee is allowing space for ALL his or her feelings surrounding adoption. The good and the bad. Adoption is tough and unless we are adoptees’ ourselves, we cannot fully understand what our children are feeling. However, we can create an environment of open dialogue. Where our children feel ok sharing their feelings without worrying about how their own feelings might impact us.
The last thing I want is for my son to hold back his true feelings because he is worried about how I might feel about his feelings. He needs to know that my love for him is stronger than any uncomfortable conversation. That, to me, his feelings are just as important as my own.