We are living in a world that, for the most part, drastically misunderstands the ‘why’ behind adoption. This can often bring on unwanted praise and adoration from outsiders. How do you handle this when the point of adoption is not to receive accolades?
On a sunny spring morning in April, 2002 we walked into church for the first time after bringing our firstborn daughter home from the hospital. Through sleep depravation and absolutely no clue what we were doing, we held our baby girl close as we opened the door and stepped into the foyer. You would have thought the Pope had come to town. They almost had to start the church service late because everyone had gathered around us to get a glimpse of this precious gift we held in our arms. I stood behind Kristin and she cradled our sweet girl close to her chest.
People asked us a ton of questions. Where did you adopt her from? Do you have a relationship with her birth mom? Did her birth mom do something wrong? (yes, actual question!). Are you going to tell her she’s adopted? Why did you decide to adopt a newborn baby? On and on they questioned. Some appropriate, some well-intentioned…but wildly inappropriate!
One woman, in particular, walked up to us and just gushed over us. “Oh my Lord in Heaven,” she gleefully blurted out. “You two are just angels…ANGELS I TELL YOU…for adopting this sweet little girl. Wow! I mean, where would she be if you had not come in and rescued her?” This went on and on for weeks. Every time we saw her she hailed us as the greatest heroes in the world! At church, at the grocery store, in the park, even as Kristin was walking into a doctor’s appointment. She was like the butler in the Adam Sandler movie, Mr. Deeds. She just appeared out of nowhere….everywhere!
If you feel uncomfortable reading that last paragraph, I can assure you….it was doubly uncomfortable to live through it. Honestly though, a piece of it felt good. I struggled with not wanting to pat myself on the back. Who wouldn’t? You want people to gush over you every now and then, don’t you? But the truth was, we weren’t heroes. And we weren’t some superhero who swooped down and rescued this tiny baby from certain demise. Just not true. And it wasn’t even what we were called to do as adoptive parents. We were called to love and lead this child to the best of our ability. We were appointed by God Himself to care for this vulnerable child.
The truth is, you will encounter people who praise you for adopting. They will hail you as heroes. They will call you saints. They will gush all over you. And you will feel embarrassed. It happens because most of the world just doesn’t understand why we do what we do. But have you ever wondered how to respond to these people in an appropriate way? Here are some suggestions:
- Keep Your Distance. I want to say this right out of the gate because I think it’s an important piece of advice to give you. With many people who think you’re a saint for adopting, they will often be the first people who turn away from you when your child pulls some crazy stunt, or melts down in public. These well-intentioned people may be informed on adoption, but really have no working knowledge of the journey itself. At the end of the day, they are separated from the reality by a wall of glass. The people who hail us are disconnected from the reality of our situation, our life, and our family. Thus, you need to keep your distance from them and not overshare information, or invite them too deep into your journey.
- Share The Calling, Not The Intention. Bring up the subject with them…that you felt called to do this. Let them know you’re nobody special. You didn’t adopt intending to show the world how awesome you are! And you certainly didn’t decide you needed to check off “superhero” on your list of life goals, and adoption was how you chose to do this. Nope. You are called to this journey, plain and simple. This is not about accolades or recognition. This is about sacrifice and unconditional love. Make that clear to them. Not rudely, but humbly and clearly.
- Ask Them Politely, Out Of Earshot Of Others, To Stop. Fact is, you don’t have to be rude here. These are well-intentioned people. They’re just clueless. Most of the time anyway. It’s okay to pull them aside and ask them to stop saying this about you. Let them know that you don’t see yourself as a saint, or a hero. You just see yourself as a human being who decided to use your resources and your heart to care for a child who needed a forever family. Some people are just not clued in to the things they say and do. They need enlightenment just like you and I have needed enlightenment in our lives over certain things.
- Love and Lead Your Children Wholly And Don’t Be Afraid Of Failure. You are the greatest example of how non-super hero and saint-like you are by the way you love and fight for your child, even when it’s a difficult season. That may sound contradictory, but it’s true. Your example to the surrounding world will show them what is true and right about the foster and adoptive parenting journey. When you fail, pick yourself up and keep moving. As they say in Meet The Robinsons, “Keep moving forward!” Love your child through the hardship of their journey, and the moments of deep grief over their traumatic past. This will show the world you’re not a hero. You’re a mom or a dad, who has chosen to love deeply!
The truth is, maybe you did step into a volatile situation and provide a safe and loving environment for a child who didn’t have one. But let’s be clear….you’re doing this because of a calling, not because you’re a megastar. You are doing this because your heart beats for vulnerable children. That should always be your focus, and it is something you can kindly explain to those around you who constantly sing your praises!
Question: Have you been the subject of praise from others? How did you handle it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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