Love

This is a weird one. Everyone will see this differently.

[If you read this and think I’m picking on you… see * below.]

I honestly considered having my mom post as a guest author, or maybe I’ll ask her to write a follow-up or something, as someone who has had and raised biological children, whose sister has adopted and raised children, and who now has a foster grandchild. Or maybe my AUNT will guest post or comment? (Laurie? Whaddaya say?)

Anyway, there is a perspective that I come across with some regularity that I want to bring up, and it sometimes takes one of these forms:

“I could never adopt because I could never love that child as much as my own child.”

“I don’t really like kids except for my own kids.”

“I don’t know how I could ever attach to an adopted kid.”

“There’s just a bond that you have with your own** kids, there’s nothing like it.”

Or something along those lines.

Some of you may not know this about me, but I have in fact never given birth to a biological child. Pick your jaw up off the ground; it’s a shocker, I know. So I can only speculate, really.

I can tell you this. When our little man was delivered to our house, he was with an older brother who walked and talked and ate banana pieces and smiled at Dane’s goofy faces. The little (bitty) man was either asleep or doing a pretty good approximation of being asleep. Honestly the first 3-ish hours of the placement I hardly noticed him at all, because the brother was a little bit more immediately in need of snacks, laps, playing, taking-sharp-objects-out-of-his-hands, etc.

Then the brother went home (within a few hours of the placement, for those of you who don’t know), and we were left with a tiny, 10-lb baby. That I had just met.

We had a doctor’s appointment two days later, who referred us to a surgeon to address a problem that he had. Both of them asked things like “How much does he eat per day?” and we would tend to be like “He had 4 oz at 6am, then 3 oz at 10am, then at about 12:30 he ate 3 more, then 4 oz at 4:00 and at 7:30, on Sunday. On Monday he ate…” because we didn’t KNOW. We had no idea “how much he ate,” as in, normally. We knew about 48 hours of history on this child, so we told every single thing we knew.

Same with sleeping. “He went to sleep at X, woke up at Y, I think he slept for about 15 minute in the car…”

The surgeon actually asked us at one point “So… have you ever seen a baby before?” because we had such strange half-answers to all of his questions. We then pointed out the fact that we had literally had this child less than 72 hours, and had known his NAME for about half of that.

I might forgive him for that one day, maybe. 🙂

But my point is: We did not know this child. He was a complete stranger to us. I was thanking GOD that he was a few months behind my niece and nephew, which meant that actually this was one of the very few ages that we had recent experience with, in terms of diapers and feedings and how-do-you-hold-the-head, etc. etc.

He is now MINE.

Look, I know he’s not mine, in like, the legal sense. But the thing is, I remember hitting a point several months ago, not an actual measurable point in time, but a period where I started to realize that Dane and I know this child better than anyone else does, and he knows us better than he knows anyone else.

When the vacuum cleaner turns on and he freaks all the way out, I am the solution. When he is standing up against the entertainment center and falls backwards and bonks his head but not really very hard just mostly it scared him, I am the answer. When he bends down to pick up a toy while standing/holding onto the coffee table, he looks around to make sure I saw it. When he is so tired that he can’t possibly go to sleep and it’s so frustrating that it just makes him more and more wound up, it is my shoulder that his face needs to be buried in, in order to calm down. When I walk in the room first thing in the morning to get him out of bed, he literally jumps and squeals with delight, and then squeezes my neck as hard as his little arms will let him.

I am his mom, and he is my kid. I know that that means nothing at this point in terms of permanence, but I can tell you – right now, he is my kid.

The thing is, I think a lot of LOVE is KNOWING. In large part, the people I love the most in the world are the people I know the best. As I get to know people, almost all of the time, I love them more the better I know them.

There are a lot of things that Dane and I know about each other that literally no one else on the planet knows. And he is the person I love most in this world, hands down, even though just 8 years ago I didn’t know him at all.

When you know your kid, bio or adopted, better than anyone else on the planet, they are your kid. Plain and simple.

It’s not genes, people. It’s just not. Unless, like I’ve ever so subtly alluded to before, unless what you love about your children is the ways that they are the same as you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t love things in your kids that are traits that you share, I’m just saying if you love them BECAUSE they are the same as you… I don’t know. I’m gonna let you draw your own conclusions there.***

For those of us that call ourselves Christians, I would go so far as to say that, at least I believe, it is not adherent to our faith to say that we couldn’t love a child born of another mother as much as our own biological children. I mean, I could show you all of the scriptures talking about being adopted as heirs etc. etc., and all being sons and daughters together… But I think the most important argument for this is pretty overarching, and that is that God had just one SON son, and he actually gave him up to die for the rest of us.

Am I saying that if you love your kid more than that random other kid pushing your kid off the swings at the park right now, you aren’t Christian? NO. No no no. Your child belongs to you, and you to them, you are their safe place, they are your joy, you know what they’re afraid of and what they’re allergic to and their favorite position to sleep in.

What I am telling you is that my friends and family who have adopted – their children belong to them, and they belong to their children, and they are their children’s confidants, and counselors, and boo-boo kissers, and they know everything about their children… it’s not all genes. Is what I’m saying.

You think of what it would be like to adopt a kid from some far-away or at least seemingly far-away different background or place, and of course you love your biological child more than this nameless, faceless, idea of a kid. Of course you do.

But it will come. If you let it. And it will be RICH, and life-altering, for all involved.

——————————————————————–

*Firstly:

What I want you to understand is that things I put on here that people say – if it’s on here, that means a lot of people have said it. If one person says something that strikes me as kind of funny or something, I often mention it to the person at the time, or I don’t really care, or whatever. So if you have said something that I mention on this blog, I’m not talking to you PERSONALLY. I’m not picking on anyone. I’m just noticing trends in the way people think, and sort of addressing a group.

Also, I fully recognize that a lot of people might have thought about fostering/adoption for a fleeting minute here or a minute there, or not at all until they are talking to me about it. Different people have different stuff going on, I realize that. But we think about it a lot lately, so I just like to try and cull down what we are learning for those of you that don’t necessarily have the cause or occasion to think about it in quite as much depth.

**Their words, not mine.

***I would also argue that the really important traits that you can hope to pass on to your children have nothing to do with biology. As someone a lot smarter and more concise than I am said once (paraphrased): Personality may be dictated by nature, but character is determined by nurture. Honesty, integrity, kindness – these are taught, not inherited.

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Posted in Fostering, Posts by Abbey
4 comments on “Love
  1. Susanna says:

    You know, it’s kind of like what I was talking about on mothers’ day, the latest studies in “nature vs nurture” show that most of the genes that shape who we become as adults all start out dormant when we are young, and certain genes are “unlocked” by the environment and people we are regularly exposed to. Even some of the genes that start out “unlocked” will become less predominant in the presence of the other genes that are becoming unlocked throughout our lives. What this means is that even if a child is born with a completely different genetic code from the people who raise him/her, the time and care put into bringing that child up will genetically shape him/her- so that the child genetically becomes a reflection of his “present” parents, DNA notwithstanding. The readers digest version of what I just said is that Nurture shapes Nature, and adoptive (and even foster) parents have PLENTY of impact on their child’s genes, and in fact, the child they raise will be equally reflective of the parent as any “biological” kid.

  2. Cheryl Meiers says:

    I met Tim when Evan was 13 years old. Tim has introduced Evan to music, to metaphor and poetry, and modeled being a gentle and strong man. We were calling Evan’s son Dylan “a shaving off the chip off the old block”, I asked Dylan “who’s the old block?” Answer: Peepaw. Sounds good to me. Like science fiction, our legacy has gone beyond DNA, and we are the ancestors of and forming influences for some whom we did not physically spawn. Such a good thing. And I feel a little Latino because of my grandson, so heritage flows both directions.

  3. Catherine says:

    Abbey – I loved this post (as always)! I have never really thought about fostering and/or adoption for our family, but your experiences are broadening my view quite a bit. Thank you for sharing your experiences with a new baby. I was surprised at how your comments mirrored my own feelings with two biological children. When both of my kids were born I remember looking at them right away and thinking first, “Newborns are kind of ugly and beautiful at the same time,” and then, “Who is this stranger?” I think as children grow up you realize more and more that they are little people you are constantly getting to know.

    Also, the whole nature versus nurture thing is *very* interesting. At age 3.5 I can tell my oldest is basically my carbon copy (in boy form). It is both mildly satisfying and completely terrifying (so far he seems to have both my best and worst traits). I loved the *** comment – as parents, our job is to help cultivate our little charges’ character in the presence of both their best and worst natural personality traits. Parenting any child is not for the weak of heart 🙂

  4. Laurie says:

    Abbey,
    I love reading your blogs and your insights into life with your little man. He is so fortunate to be the recipient of you and Dane’s unconditional love and affection, and you are fortunate to have that precious child in your lives.

    I understand where you’re coming from with the comments that seem to come from people’s mouths that sometimes make you wonder if somewhere in their brain has got to be a “did I just say that?” Even after this many years being a parent, and someone introduces me and says “she has 3 adopted children”, I just want to laugh and say “after 31 years, they haven’t become just ‘my kids’ yet?”

    Many years ago, I was in a Bible study group and the leader (who also happened to be a pastor) was talking about how mothers were particularly bonded to their children because they carried them in their bodies for 9 months. I knew that the leader was aware that my children were adopted, so I was rather dumbfounded that she would carry on about it with me sitting right there. But before I could even get my thoughts together enough to come up with a response, my good friend, Sara, spoke up and said that she knew as an absolute truth that it did not require carrying a child in your body or giving birth (and she gave birth to 5 children!) to love your children in a way that mothers were meant to love. She said that she watched and felt the absolute love that I had for my children and knew that I could not possibly love them any less than a child I had given birth to. While I was hurt that the leader was insensitive, I felt so good that I didn’t need to defend my relationship with my children because people who really knew me and my family knew that there was no difference.

    I know that I haven’t dealt with the foster parenting part of the process, but I know that much of the process/feelings are the same. You wonder why you have to prove that you will be a good parent when others can just pop out babies whether they are qualified or not; you are subject to people’s unwarranted commentary on your situation; you often feel like you have to explain why you became a family in the way that you did. I have found that a number of things have helped me deal with these feelings about people’s attitudes.

    First, I have to remind myself that some people just don’t really think before they speak or that they are people who don’t try very hard to get to know and understand others. They lack empathy. But more often, you will find people who do understand and appreciate you and your family. Those are your real friends and they are the ones who appreciate that you are a “family” and won’t care about the logistics of how you got there.

    I also found it important to spend time with people who were of a like-mind to me. If I hung around people who were bitter about having to work harder to have a family, or people who thought they always needed to defend or take issue with how their family was formed, or with people who spoiled their kids rotten because they felt like they “owed” them for making them a family – then I would find myself getting caught up in those thoughts and feelings. Not to say that going through the adoption process with other people who were also going through the same thing wasn’t helpful. It absolutely was, especially during the waiting period when you have to go through so much that most of your friends wouldn’t fully understand. But on a day to day basis, especially after I had a baby, it was so much better for me to hang out with moms and kids (whether they were people I knew from the adoption group or other friends) who were just doing the” mom/kid stuff” like story time at the library, play dates, etc. Family origin didn’t matter so much when we were just doing the mom/kid thing. Not to say that sometimes things were said that were hurtful, but it just didn’t matter as much when it wasn’t my focus.
    When you focus on loving your family, enjoying your time together, kissing away the boo-boos, noticing the daily changes and growth, enjoying each new phase your child goes through —those comments that people make just pale in comparison!

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, those were just some thoughts I had. Enjoy your adorable little man!!

    Love,
    Laurie

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