Where did I come from; the dreaded question that all children eventually ask. As if the birds and the bees weren’t complicated enough, let’s add talking about the fact that a child has been adopted into the mix and not forwarding the message onto the stork.
But, what if it didn’t have to be complicated? How many families these days are nuclear? How often do you actually see an original two parent household? I’m not from one, and I don’t know many people who are. So, what do we do? I’ve got a great idea; let’s stop treating the non-nuclear family as if it isn’t a family in the first place.
Let’s start talking about where we come from and all the people who actually comprise a family through the one tie that binds us: love. You want to know how children thrive. It’s through love! And how do they understand that love; by being treated with it.
Dorothy Nolte was a family counselor who wrote a poem describing this idea: those children learn what they are taught by learning through what they live through. If parents live like adoption is normal, then children will see it as normal. Here is her poem:
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
The main reason that I chose an open adoption was so that my son would never have questions that went unanswered. Whether he asks me or his adoptive parents, we have answers because we aren’t trying to hide the truth. My son is adopted. He has twice the family, which means he has twice the love and support of a child who was born into a family.
If we stop behaving as if adoption is weird, and we stop acting uncomfortable when we talk about adoption, then we will teach our children, whether they are adopted or not, that adoption is totally okay. We will teach them that there is more than enough love to go around. And maybe even more importantly than that, we will teach them that their love is enough to go around.
I firmly believe that adoption should be not only accepted, but encouraged in situations when it is truly the best option. So, let’s stop condemning, and start empowering our children. It’s not just those who have been adopted, but those who see children who have been adopted who need to know that this is an empowering thing. Teach all children that adoption is beautiful and we will raise a generation of adults who believe that adoption is beautiful.
Children know what they are taught to know. If we teach them that adoption is weird, then that is what they will grow up thinking. It is much easier to teach a child something right out of the gate than to re-train your thinking as an adult. We look at the world through filters that we create and that are taught to us as children. It is very difficult to overcome such filters as an adult. And while everyone has to get over their childhood, shouldn’t we start making it a little easier?
Just because we were raised in a generation that thinks adoption is out there, but happens infrequently, doesn’t mean we can’t teach our children that accepting it should come naturally. Imagine what kind of society we would live in if adoption was considered a normal thing.
Consider the fact that is that responsibility of parents to raise educated, empowered, and independent thinkers. Jim Taylor, writer for Psychology Today and Ph.D. states:
One of your most important goals as a parent is to raise children who become independent and self-reliant people. Certainly, in early development, your children count on you. As infants, they rely on you for nourishment, cleaning, and mobility. As your children grow, they become more independent in these basic areas of living, but still depend on you for love, protection, guidance, and support. As your children reach adolescence and move toward adulthood, they become less reliant on you and gain greater independence in all aspects of their lives. This process of separation prepares your children for the demands of adulthood. But this progression toward adulthood is not inevitable and is often stymied by well-intentioned, but misguided, parents.
Parents, what are we teaching our children?
“Children are like wet cement; whatever falls on them makes an impression.” ~ Haim Ginott
Lindsay is a guest blogger for Considering Adoption. She placed her son for adoption 7 years ago and hopes to use her experience to support and educate other expectant mothers considering adoption, as well as adoptive families.