Parenting Minus/Parenting Plus
This is the fourth post in our series, The Reality of Adoption: Confronting Common Myths. To read the overview of the series, click here.
Myth: If I adopt I will miss out on so much.
Reality: Some see adoption for what it doesn’t offer, but in reality, adoption is parenting plus so much.
When my wife and I began considering adoption as a means to start our family, I admit that I gave serious thought to what we might be missing out on. In my mind, adoption became “parenting minus _____”–parenting minus pregnancy, parenting minus trying to decide if our child had my wife’s nose or mine, parenting minus some sort of mystical DNA-driven biological bond that is supposed to exist between a parent and child. Personally, I wasn’t sure if I was willing to give up those things.
Let’s face it: the adoption journey isn’t pregnancy. Where pregnancy is a time-honored process of biology and emotion, adoption is often a process of bureaucracy, paperwork, and, of course, emotion. In addition, the adoption journey tends to be peppered with loss, financial issues, and indefinite timelines, among other things. Waiting for a child to be placed with you is not the same as being pregnant, and there’s no way around that. If you want to insist that adoption is parenting minus pregnancy, I won’t argue. But let’s not leave it at that.
Pregnancy is only nine months of the parenting experience. Hopefully, your adoption wait isn’t too much longer than that. (Of course, an elephant is pregnant for 22 months, which is about how long our adoption process took from start to finish. But I digress …) This might be a ridiculous oversimplification, but please don’t allow the prospect of missing out on nine months of pregnancy or how you imagined your family might start keep you from the lifetime of joy and grace that comes from adoption. Besides, you’ll likely find that your community of support is just as excited to celebrate your adoption placement as they would be to celebrate your pregnancy. They’ll buy gifts for your child, host a baby shower for you, and demand to see pictures of how you’ve decorated the nursery. The reality is that when your child comes home–whether via the delivery room or an adoption placement–you’re just getting started. Or as the Carpenters taught us years ago, “we’ve only just begun.”
What I mean by that is adoptive parenting is largely parenting. An average day in the life of an adoptive parent is basically the same as the average day of any other parent: get the kids up, get them fed, get them dressed, and so on. Yes, adoption-related scenarios arise from time to time, but you address them as a family and you grow together in love. It’s also worth mentioning that adoptive families can face a variety of medical, behavioral, and developmental challenges. To deny that would be naive or disingenuous. But the last time I checked, parents of biological children face those same challenges. It seems best to classify those as parenting issues, not adoptive parenting issues or biological parenting issues.
The reality of adoption is that parenting a child who was adopted is parenting plus, not parenting minus. Adoptive parenting is parenting plus an exploration of identity and healing and grace. It’s parenting plus an exploration of loss and culture and redemption. It’s parenting plus an exploration of hope and the gospel and wholeness. Adoptive parenting is parenting plus, and I think you’d have a hard time finding an adoptive parent who would tell you otherwise. It may not always be easy, but it’s worth it.