Becoming More Real to My Kids
“What is real?” asked the Rabbit one day . . .
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
This conversation is captured by Margery Williams in her children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit. The Rabbit wants to become a “real” rabbit and early in the story it encounters the Skin Horse, a well worn and wise veteran toy in the nursery. Skin Horse offers his profound insight to Rabbit – and to us – about what it means to become “real.”
It’s likely every adoptive parent has encountered the dreaded “real parent” comment at some point. My children are mine and I am theirs. We are every bit a “real” family. I am their “real” dad, my wife is their “real” mom, they are my “real” kids and they are all “real” brothers and sisters. Believe me, we have the ups and downs, highs and lows to prove it.
Still, each of my children have a history that pre-dates me – some of it known, much more of it unknown. I am not a part of that past, but I have the opportunity to embrace it and to help my kids embrace it.
All of my children are on a lifelong journey that is physical, emotional, relational and spiritual. I cannot travel this journey for them but I can choose to travel it with them— following their lead and compassionately guiding them when needed.
This journey will not be short and it won’t always be easy or comfortable. It is not tailored for those who need to be “carefully kept.” If I will embrace their journey as my own, however, I have the opportunity to experience a deep and lasting connection that comes from making each step of their journey an inextricable part of my own.