A network of adoptive families, birth families, and adoption professionals which exists to improve the lives of children and others touched by adoption through support and education. UFA is actively engaged in community outreach and advocacy to raise awareness of adoption as a loving option.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Other People's Children

by Jessica Forsgren

Something a couple people have said has been rattling around in my head lately. I've thought a lot about it and I feel like putting some thoughts to print because I feel strongly about it. And I also think it's good for all to hear other perspectives.

Since Mike and I have started down the adoption road of child-rearing, we have heard many comments from many people--family, friends, fellow church go-ers, acquaintances, co-workers, strangers, kids friend's parents, etc. For the most part the comments and feelings are so supportive and positive. I can't complain at all. Sometimes people say things and I'm not sure what they mean or what to think so I take the comments at face value and move on. I don't think too much about what people say for the most part. Generally I am pretty good at judging the intention of the comment or question. And usually the things people say don't bother me. 

The comments I listen to most are those that come from close friends, family or people I really respect. I think this is because I care about them most. 

image by stephanski
We've had a few people refer to our children as "other people's children." So for example they will say, "It's so cool that you guys are willing to take on and raise other people's children." Or in a blessing, "have strength as you raise and nurture other's children." Or, "Do your children know their parents?"

I think people say these things because they have a different family experience than we do. In most families, family means blood. It means you all look alike. It means you all come from the same place. I get that. That's the kind of family I grew up in. But adoption has taught me something more about families. Family should be more than blood. Family is a relationship. Family is love. And family is what you make it.

If you ask me who my children are, I can tell you. I can tell you all about them. Their loves and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, their sizes, what they eat, what they do. I know what will make them smile or make they cry. I know all of that. If you ask my children who their parents are they can tell you. They know who feeds them, who makes sure they get to school and helps with homework. They know who will be making sure their birthday is celebrated, who talks to Santa and makes sure the tooth fairy comes. They know who ties their shoes and reminds them to zip up their zippers. In our family, we know who we are.

When people say "other people's children" it doesn't bother me for me. It bothers me for my children. I don't ever want them to doubt their family because someone else doesn't consider their family a "real" family. I don't want them to think they missed out or didn't have a real family experience. It's pretty real. Come over during dinner or as we race to get to school in the morning. It's pretty real. (Haha. Please don't come over--it's crazy.) It's also real when the boys help their sister climb on her bike. It's real when they make me breakfast is bed or wash the dishes just because. It's real when they've got each other's back on the playground. It's real when we all go camping or spend an afternoon at the beach. It's all very real and in my opinion should not be discounted--not even one bit.

image by Lars Plougmann
We have been very careful to teach and explain to our children how they each became a part of our family. They know where they came from and how they came to be. They know why we adopted them. They know who their "birth parents" are and so far it seems they have a sense of gratitude and acceptance for the life they were given--by their birth parents, and by Mike and I. This topic is revised often--as all important topics are. At every stage new questions, new understanding.

It's true my children will not know their birth parents the way they know Mike and I. That wasn't my choice and that wasn't my children's choice either. That choice was made by their birth parents. I'm grateful for that choice, I treasure my children and I am grateful for the choice their birth parents made. It was our choice to adopt, but we did not choose our children. We were chosen for our children (by birth parents and/or social workers). I would like to draw a parallel here. When a child is born to a family, the parents do not choose that child specifically, nor does that child choose their parents--at least that any of us can remember. (Perhaps that choice could have been made in our prior existence and we don't remember after birth.) It's the same with adoption, or at least in our cases of adoption. Adopted children and adoptive parents are matched by birth parents and social workers. I believe God plays a role in each and every adoption. I know He was watching over each of our adoptions and I know my children were divinely intended for Mike and I. The relationships in an adoptive family are the the same as in a natural-born, typical family; we don't choose each other, but we choose to love each other.

Family is an amazing thing. It teaches you. It grows and develops you. It supports and nourishes you. Family can break your heart or disappoint you. It can rescue you or make your day. Family is where we begin and it is where we look for reference and understanding.

Each one of us has a unique family experience. Each of us add to the unique nature of our family. This is true in all families and ours is no exception.

I love my family very much. I love the family I was born to and the family Mike and I have created through adoption. Some may say blood is thicker than water, but if there's anything I know it's this: Love is thicker than blood.

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