When my husband and I started the process of becoming parents through foster care, I must admit that part of my motivation was to fulfill my needs. I understood and supported reunification. I worked with biological parents and was an active member of the team, but it would be remiss if I did all of that out of purely selfless desires and wishes.
Our foster care journey led to adoption, and I am thankful to say that I am a mom to three children. Here we are, several years later into parenting, and I look back on the beginning of this experience with the full realization that while I wanted to share life-lessons passed on to me, I am the one who has been taught. My children are the ones who have gifted me with lessons. Here are just a few.
1. Children have the desire and right to know where they came from. Adoption is a part of our language. Despite the openness or maybe because of it, our children feel comfortable about asking us questions. They know we may not have all the answers, but we welcome their questions. My kids taught me that history is important, and it is okay (more than okay) to want to seek it and understand it.
2. Children don’t expect perfection. They yearn for presence. I have found myself comparing the parenting of others to my own. I have carried guilt and grief over not showing my best side all the time to the kids. The truth is that my children do not expect the “best of me” all the time. Instead, they just need “all of me”—my time, my love and my presence.
3. Resilience matters. My children did not have the best start at life. They each suffered less-than-ideal womb experiences (and describing it that way is being gracious). They each have struggled in various settings, socially and academically. We have had multiple specialists, medication regimes, and evaluations. Despite a few odds being against them, they are all incredibly fierce in their own ways. My children have shown me resilience, and I do my best to show it to them as well.
4. Love is greater than biology. I know that seems like a no-brainer, and if you are a parent through adoption or provide foster care, you live in this truth. It is hard to fully explain to people, who question the ability to love a child not born of them, how deep and true loving an adopted child is. Sure, there are areas and kinks that must be worked out. There might be lots of behavior problems and attachment issues, but sometimes, these things only deepen the feeling of love and protection. I have experienced this and continue to do so as my children get older.
5. Parenting does not have a one-size-fits-all standard. In our family, we allow certain things to fly. Our schedule is different. We are stricter about bedtime than other parents we know. We must advocate in a different way per the needs of our children, and we discipline in ways that others may not understand. It is not wrong, and it may not be completely right, but it is what our children need.
6. Adoption is a humbling experience. The statement, “Those kids are lucky to have you” often stops me in my tracks. Sure, they are safe, and we do our best to provide them stability and love, but I do not consider what they have experienced in their lives to be lucky. Instead, the reasons they needed adoption are heartbreaking. I know that while my husband and I strive to be the kind of parents our kids need, we will never be able to replace who their biological parents are, nor do we want to. So, yes. Adoption is humbling.
When describing my children as beautiful, outside appearance is the last thing on my mind. (Although, my kids are darn cute!). Instead, beauty comes from the richness of our life experiences as a family—the good times and the bad. I set out to teach lessons to my children, but they are sure teaching me a whole lot more.
What some life lessons your children are teaching you?