I had a powerful conversation the other night at the Gospel Haven Church in Millersburg, Ohio, with an adoptive mother who is also a part of the Pure Gift of God adoption (you can check them out on Facebook) assistance program in the Millersburg community, and I thought our topic of conversation was worthy of sharing with others. The question around which our discussion was based?
How my parents (adoptive) cultivated within our home and within me (and my adopted sister) such an attitude of love and respect for my biological family. It’s a really good question for anyone who adoption touches (which is pretty much all of us) to ask, but certainly a very poignant one for adoptive parents in particular, so I want to share with you what I shared with her.
How did my parents instill such profound love and respect for our biological parents within us as adopted children? My parents are ordinary people, just like you and me. They didn’t have all the answers, they didn’t have extensive educational backgrounds, they didn’t have much money. But trust me, that is more than okay, because what they did have, what they gave us and cultivated within us, was respect and love for God and others, which is what we needed more than anything.
What did that look like?
Besides the obvious ones of attending church and raising us to know Jesus, there are a few very basic but very powerful things that my parents did that had a great impact on me:
1. They were always consistent. They not only stressed to my (adoptive) sister and I that our birth families loved us, but they stressed that as our (adoptive) parents, they loved our birth families in return. Not only did they say this to us, but this was their consistent message to others, also. Never once have I heard my parents speak negatively about my birth parents, despite the knowledge of what harm other members of my birth family meant for me. I knew that my parents meant what they said: they loved our birth families. It was not just a line, it was the truth.
2. They never kept anything from us, but they were also sure to keep their information age and development appropriate.
Adoption means love was my first really basic understanding of it as a child. They kept it simple. And as time went on, they expounded on this and gave me more information about my adoption as it was appropriate. They didn’t overwhelm me with all of the details, but they didn’t withhold them, either. This not only helped us to grow in our knowledge about our adoptions, but grow in trust that our parents supported us knowing more and asking questions, which leads directly to my last point:
3. My parents have voiced and shown support of me through every step of life, including my search and reunion with members of my birth family. The same was true for my sister, also.
They never once told me not to search, but instead talked with me about why I wanted to, and prepared me for the reality that I may discover things that were difficult or painful.
They never shamed me or made me feel like I was disrespecting them or loved them less by wanting to search. They expressed that they understood my yearnings, that they supported me, and they showed, at least to my face, (I’m sure they had hard moments behind closed doors), that they were strong enough in their role as my parents to know that no one else will ever take their place.
I hope that these basic but very powerful approaches my parents took to raising a home where adoption and biological families are loved and respected are helpful to you or someone you know who has been touched by adoption. I would be remiss not to add a final word of thanks to my parents for creating the home environment that they did. I wouldn’t be who I am today or do what I do if it wasn’t for how you parented me– love you!