Oftentimes, outsiders looking in on the adoption journey can begin to hail you as a ‘hero’ or an ‘angel’ for choosing to adopt. It’s awkward. But sometimes, it’s unending. How then, should you respond?
On a sunny spring morning in April 2002, we walked into church for the first time after bringing our firstborn adopted daughter home from the hospital. We were sleep deprived and clueless about what we were doing, but 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, someone really asked us that!) Are you going to tell her she’s adopted? Why did you decide to adopt a newborn baby? On and on the questions came. Some were appropriate, and others were well-intentioned but wildly inappropriate!
One woman walked up to us and gushed all over us. “Oh my Lord in heaven,” she gleefully blurted out. “You two are just angels for adopting this sweet little girl. Wow—saints, I tell ya! I mean, where would she be if you had not come into the picture 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.
If you feel uncomfortable reading that last paragraph, I can assure you…it was doubly uncomfortable for us. Admittedly, a piece of it felt good. I struggled with not wanting to pat myself on the back. The truth was, we weren’t heroes who swooped down and rescued this tiny baby from certain demise. That’s 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.
Have you ever wondered how to respond to these people in an appropriate way? Here are some suggestions:
- Keep your distance. Many people who think you’re a saint for adopting will quickly turn away from you when your child pulls a crazy stunt or melts down in public. These people are disconnected from the reality of your situation, your life, and your family. Thus you need to be cautious as you share your story with them.
- Share the calling, not the intention. Redirect those who praise you. You felt called to do this. You’re nobody special. You didn’t adopt to show the world how awesome you are! And you certainly didn’t adopt because you needed to check “superhero” off your list of life goals. You are simply called to this journey.
- Ask them politely, out of earshot of others, to stop. 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. Invite them to see a new perspective.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. 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 her journey and the moments of deep grief over her traumatic past. You’re a mom or a dad who has chosen to love deeply!
To the best of your ability, live at peace with others, even if they make your face turn red in public at times. Remember, at the end of the day, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. This is your family, and these are your children. Lead them and love them to the best of your ability. Be kind but firm to those who sing your praises. But remember why you chose this journey.
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