Adoption is an important part of my life.
Over the past year, I've noticed a lot of "is this ok?" posts online from novice adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and additionally, be-all-end-all statements/responses/declarations on all-things-adoption and raising adoptees from all triad members. Dos. Don'ts. Rules made and (sometimes blindly) followed in the hope of guaranteed adoptive parenting success.
The problem with legalism is this: we are never good enough. It's impossible to keep all the rules. And rules do not guarantee success. The following of rules makes us not too pleasant to be around. Self-righteousness, uncertainty, wavering---these can all set in. It's exhausting to attempt to live up to ever-changing standards created others. And it requires a focus on self and others, not on the young ones this well-intended "advice" is meant to benefit.
As in the words of my friend Madeleine Melcher, mama by adoption and adoptee, shared on adoption.net:
It is my hope that as parent who has adopted, you will always listen to your own adoptees’ voice before all others. Adoption is not all black and white, and with the amount of gray involved, whether you read this book or any other relating to adoption and adoptees, understand they are glimpses of what CAN or MAY be. No two stories are exactly alike and no two people are alike.
Yesterday, I was at my local YMCA with my three kids. My daughter came out of her gymnastics class, and I was showing her hair to a friend of mine who I often sit and chat with. She is from Ghana, and her daughter and my daughter have the same hair braider. I remarked how my daughter's style was looking rather frazzled and I needed to take her braids out soon.
My friend thought a moment and then said, "You know, kids are going to be kids. It's ok."
And I thought, She's right! I need to chill out!
As a mother through adoption (obvious!) and a mom who is cognizant of the importance of hair in the Black community, I often worry about how we're perceived as a family, particularly by those who share my children's race. I want my children to be accepted by their racial community. I don't want them to grow up and hate adoption and feel that we, their parents, really screwed up.
I want my kids to take pride in their looks, talents, gifts, and quirks. I want the content of their character to shine radiantly, from the inside out.
I also want my kids to be kids. To run and play and dance. To try a hundred things and a hundred more. To relish in the beauties of today and not worry about tomorrow.
I don't want them to be reduced or confined based on someone else's rules.
Though I take my job as a transracial, adoptive parent seriously, I am recognizing that I (and many, many others in the adoption community) sometimes put too much emphasis and too much importance and too much priority on the experiences and opinions of others. And this can be detrimental, not beneficial to the child.
Children should have one job: to be children.
And parents, well, no matter how our children come to us, no matter what challenges we face, and no matter the color of their skin, their ability, their gender, or their age, we need to give ourselves permission to enjoy parenthood, applaud our own strengths, listen to our gut instincts, and listen carefully to our children.
It's impossible to receive beauty and blessings when our fists are clenched, when we are tense and trying and grappling at "rules." But when our hands are open, open to learning with limits, open to hearing what our children say and valuing that over the stranger online or the stranger we cross paths with at the store, open to enjoying our lives as parents honored to raise our children, we can receive.
The beauty is there, waiting.
So Sugars, where are you today: fists or open-hands?
Give yourself permission to be discerning in whom you listen to. Give yourself permission to receive. Enjoy the precious children you have been entrusted to raise, nurture, and love.
You are your child's greatest teacher.