Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dear Sugar: Is It OK to Be Grateful for Adoption?

Dear Sugar,

Grateful is one of those words we hear often during the holiday season, especially around this month when we celebrate "Thanks"giving.  

We know that thankfulness and gratefulness have a messy relationship with adoption.  We don't want our children, adoptees, to feel that they MUST be grateful for being adopted by us.  Even though society tells them (via all the random strangers at the grocery store) that they are "so lucky" to have "such great parents."  We have to combat this, constantly, and remind others that WE ARE THE LUCKY ONES.

But what about us, as the parents-by-adoption?  Are we allowed to feel grateful for being chosen to parent our children?  Are we allowed to thank God that our paths crossed with the (then) expectant parents who decided we were qualified to parent our kids?  

First, we parents are allowed to have feelings.  Just because we are parents-by-adoption, it doesn't mean we are immune to being human.   It's not the feelings we have that matter most, I argue, but what we do with them.  Obviously you shouldn't use your feelings to project onto your child how he or she should feel.  You embrace them as an individual and see where their journey takes them, supporting that.   

Second, if are you in the camp of being grateful, I want you to know that you aren't alone.  Being grateful for the OPPORTUNITY to parent our children is very common among parents-by-adoption. Am I grateful for the circumstances in which led their biological families to consider and choose adoption?  No.  Am I thankful that in those circumstances, they had the option to choose adoption?  Yes.  Am I thankful for the blessing of parenting my children?  Absolutely.   

Finally, we need to support our children, the adoptees, in their own feelings.  My friend Madeleine wrote this incredible book.  As an adoptee, she spends every page addressing the parent-by-adoption, offering advice and encouragement.  Do you know one thing she talks about in the book?  Being thankful for her parents and the life that she's had so far.  But this isn't just her attitude about adoption:  she lives her life steeped in gratitude.  But if you have a child who struggles with adoption, that's OK.  Because if you're an ethical, educated parent, you are going to embrace whatever comes your child's way, and you are going to help him or her navigate.  

Like anything in adoption, the answers are often complex and bittersweet.  Being grateful is not an exception.   But also like anything in adoption, you can respond to real feelings with grace, with education, with yes, gratefulness.   

What are you grateful for this month?  Let's chat on Facebook.   

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