This conversation was yet another reminder of how important it is for me to always seek to understand adoption not just from my perspective as an adoptive parent, but also through the eyes of my children. Viewed in that way, “how much did I cost?” is a perfectly logical question, and one that deserves more than a quick, ‘textbook’ answer.
We talk about adoption in our family quite a lot. Not in the “let’s sit down and have an important talk” kind of way. It’s simply a part of who we are as a family – our past, our present and our future. So naturally the topic comes up not infrequently, and when it does we talk about it.
As a result, I like to think that there aren’t many adoption questions or topics that surprise me any more. So imagine my shock the other day when my six year old daughter, Kate, asked me out of the blue, “Daddy, how much did I cost?” Wow! I wasn’t expecting that one as I sat minding my business reading a book.
Her question truly caught me off-guard. I believe my response was along the lines of “Uh, do what?”
“How much did I cost? You know, how much did you pay to adopt me?” she asked again. Recognizing that she had caught me without an immediate response, she began to smile and continued playfully, “Did I cost . . . $1,000?” Oh for the days when $1,000 was truly a LOT of money.
She really did just ask me that, I thought to myself. Immediately I recalled one of those terrific ‘textbook’ answers. You know, the answers to adoption questions that are virtually certain to be so profound and multi-faceted that they leave the questioner both perplexed and satisfied, all at the same time. So I trotted it out like a pro. “Oh sweetie, you were priceless. You are worth more than all the money in the world,” I replied.
“What does that mean?” she immediately retorted.
“Uh-oh,” I thought. So much for that approach. By this time her eight-year-old brother had joined in on the action and was pressing for an answer to the same question. As I soon found out, they had been drawing pictures and making some sort of craft and had gotten into a conversation about – you guessed it – how much each of them cost. Not a typical conversation among most siblings, but a perfectly understandable one between a brother and sister who were both adopted and know enough about adoption to realize that there are many aspects to the adoption process, including the financial cost of it. And once again I was reminded that being an adoptive parent brings with it all of the “normal” joys and challenges of parenting, as well as some equally joyful and challenging ‘extras.’
“Guys, do you want me to explain why we and other parents have to pay money in order to complete an adoption?” I asked. They nodded ‘yes.’ So I spent the next five minutes having basically the same discussion that we’ve had with hundreds of other people as we explained the basics about adoption and the financial cost that goes along with it. I explained that parents do not ‘buy’ children (“that would be illegal and not right”), but rather they pay for services and other costs that are a necessary part of completing an adoption. I explained that those services and costs include things like a home study (“to make sure that Mommy and Daddy would be good parents”), medical costs, legal costs, travel expenses, agency fees, court fees and on and on.
Equally important, I went on to explain how adoptive parents sometimes don’t have all of the money that they need for an adoption, so they choose to trust that God will provide it. This means that some people turn to their church or their friends and family for help, while some have a garage sale and others sell t-shirts. There are so many different ways that God chooses to provide the resources needed for a family to adopt a child.
“So adopting a child is not like buying a car. That’s why I can’t answer the question ‘how much did you cost’ because both of you are worth more than all of the money in the whole wide world. There was a cost for the adoption process that we went through to bring you home – and Mommy and Daddy would do it all again.”
By the end of our short conversation I think they were both fairly satisfied with my answer. Looking back I can readily understand where their question came from. This conversation was yet another reminder of how important it is for me to always seek to understand adoption not just from my perspective as an adoptive parent, but also through the eyes of my children. Viewed in that way, “how much did I cost?” is a perfectly logical question, and one that deserves more than a quick, ‘textbook’ answer. It is important that my kids understand that no question or subject is out-of-bounds, and that if it is something they wonder about then it is something we will certainly talk about.
I’ve often imagined that one day, when my kids aren’t kids any more, we will sit around and talk openly and honestly about the realities of adoption. I hope that day comes because I have a lot to learn and no doubt they, being experts on adoption because they have lived it from a perspective I will never be able to fully grasp, can teach me a great deal. But I hope and pray that I have also taught them something along the way – including the fact that they are truly priceless.