I’ve mostly seen adoption from the other side–from the perspective of the child.
I’ll never forget the look in Boipelo’s eye when we told her. Boipelo, who had waited so long and so patiently. Boipelo, who had asked almost every day for a year when she was getting her “new” family. Boipelo, who dreamed about the princess bedroom her new parents would prepare for her. Boipelo, 7 going on 8, who was classified as mentally retarded with no clear diagnosis. Boipelo, who had seen her other children adopted into families before her. Boipelo, who was deemed by almost everyone as “unadoptable.” Boipelo, who waited.
Amy laid a book before her. A book with wonderful pictures inside and a little story her adoptive family had created to tell her about themselves.
She looked at Boipelo and asked, “Boipelo, do you know what this is?”
A slow smile spread across her face. She breathed, “My new family,” almost casting a spell over the book laid in front of her, at the same time wishing and knowing. Wishing and knowing.
“That’s right, Boipelo. Your new family.”
Light began to dance in Boipelo’s eyes. Dancing a dance of wonder and excitement mingled with the slightest shadow of fear and unknown.
Amy opened the book and turned the pages one by one while Boipelo stared down, unmoving. Her smile unchanging. Only her eyes dancing.
They flipped through the book twice before Boipelo picked it up, set it in her lap and started turning the pages herself.
I think Boipelo knew she was handling a miracle.
The deepest desire of every child is a place to belong– a family. There’s something in them crying out for family and belonging, and when family goes wrong, that something in them gets a little chipped, a little broken. It doesn’t matter how many times I see the scene above; it always plays out in a similar fashion, even with younger children who have not quite figured out what the thing they’re missing is.
And it’s not to say that it will all be roses and rainbows and happiness once everything is final. There were many days before Boipelo went to live with her new family that she changed her mind and told her house mother she was not going to live with her new family. And there were many days, for many months after, that Boipelo would start packing her belongings and tell her adoptive parents she was going back to live with her house mother.
But still, you can see it.
The change from a child who has no place to belong to a child who belongs is almost a physical one. There’s a change in the way they bear themselves. A change in the light in their eyes. Sometimes a change in their whole personality and demeanor. Adoption is their deepest desire met. There will be hard days. There will painful days. There will be easy days. There will be joyful days. But all will be days with a place to belong.