As an adoptive parent, I get asked a lot of questions. Questions about my kids and their birth parents, questions about how we came into the world of adoption, and sometimes, dumb questions that I do not care to answer. Even so, I could talk for days about the complexities and beauty that I have seen in adoption over the years and I love sharing our story with anyone who will listen.
You probably know families who have been through the adoption process too. Most of them, like myself, would love to talk to you about their journey. But before you have that conversation, there are a few things that most adoptive parents would want you to know:
1. We are not super heroes.
Adopting a child and giving him or her a loving, caring, supportive home is a wonderful act of kindness. It’s an adventure full of ups and downs and is no easy feat by any means. But I think I speak for most adoptive parents when I say: We are not super heroes. We do not need to be put on a pedestal or given a parade. We are no better parents than you, nor do we have everything figured out. We are simply people who long to be parents and provide a family for a child. So don’t make it awkward–just treat us like normal people.
2. Our adoptive kids are our “real” kids.
While no one ever means any harm by these comments, referring to our biological kids as our “real” kids or asking about our adoptive kids’ “real” parents brings a lot of complications into our lives and just isn’t accurate. Though one of my daughters and one of my sons did not grow in my womb, my husband and I have raised them and are their parents in every sense. Using phrases like this not only creates an uncomfortable environment, it can also cause damage and discouragement depending on what ears are listening in on the conversation. So before you speak, think.
3. We don’t have all of the answers.
There are a lot of unknowns in the world of adoption. Most of the time there is no knowledge of family medical history, little-to-no understanding of the birth parent’s experiences, and definitely no grasp on how each child will respond to their own story as they grow older. A lot of times we feel like they are walking in the dark and playing a guessing game. So ask questions, get to know your adoptive family friends, and seek to understand their situations, but know that sometimes the answer will just be, “I don’t know.”
4. Some days are really hard.
Trauma. Emotions. Pain. Struggle. These are just a few of the daily experiences that adoptive families walk through with their children. Not every day is doom and gloom, but many days carry a weight that cannot be ignored, even in moments that appear to be perfectly fine. In most cases there have been poor choices made in the past that, to no fault of their own, deeply affect adopted children. Choices that they reap the consequences of and have to figure out how to live and cope with. So give them grace. LOTS of grace.
5. Adoption is Not a Fad
Over the last 10 years of our involvement in foster care and adoption, I have heard “Oh I want to do that!” or “We would love to adopt one day!” more times than I can count. Some of those statements have been truly genuine, while others have been fluffy desires of joining in on the latest fad (like the bread baking trend of 2021). Adoption is not a fad and should never be treated as such, even in passing comments. It is real. It is taking someone’s life into your own hands. It cannot be treated lightly.
In summary: ask questions, join in the conversation, learn all you can. But be mindful and respectful, full of care and grace.