Even though our son is now three years old, we still get a lot of questions about having an open adoption. I admit there are times I wonder if it will ever end and I get tired of feeling like we are different from any other family. There are also times when I wonder how our son will respond when asked these same questions by peers as he grows older. I know the time is coming and so I’ve started thinking about what I really want him to gain from open adoption and why we chose it. Therefore, I must choose my responses wisely so that they become teachable moments for him as he grows older.

I will preface this by saying that open adoption is not for everyone, and there are no cookie cutter situations. There are varying forms of open adoption and one should not be compared to the other. The goal of open adoption should be to create a healthy, loving, and nurturing environment for the adoptee. It requires work, just like a marriage, and a lot of communication, commitment, and consistency.

With that said, here are the most important things I hope to teach our son through our open adoption with his birth mother:

1. He is loved and his well being comes first. This is the most important to both his birth mother and I. He was first loved by his birth mother so much that she chose to place him with us, his parents, to provide him with the things she could not or was not ready to at the time. What she did was not easy and came with sacrifice. It came with a willingness to do what is best for him. Her love for him will never change, just like my love for him will never change. And neither of us ever want him to grow up doubting the love that either one of us have for him. His emotional well being comes first in this relationship. It has to and cannot work any other way.

2. Why his birth mother chose us to be his parents. She placed him in my arms to be his mother because she had faith in me. She had faith that I would love, support, nurture, and provide for him in ways that she wanted to but could not do. Faith that I would always do what is best for him. Faith that I would be all the things she wasn’t prepared to be at the time. And faith that I would keep my commitments.

3. How to love others unconditionally. Our son’s birth mother and I come from very different walks of life. I’m nearly a generation older and we don’t always share the same perspectives. We have different beliefs and different views on many things. We dress differently and we talk differently. But just because we are very different does not mean that I can’t love her. Through open adoption I hope to teach our son that we are to love, both when it’s easy and when it’s hard. Unconditional love means respecting others even when they don’t look, think, or act just like us.

One of my son’s favorite movies is The Jungle Book. By now we’ve probably watched it close to 2,634 times! Recently, I found myself relating to this old Disney classic in a new way other than being one of my childhood favorites. In a natural habitat, the main characters (a boy, a bear, and a black panther) would not be pals for obvious reason. The black panther, Bagheera, is mature, strong, and much more serious. And the bear, Baloo, is carefree, loveable, and playful. Yet in their own ways, each loved Mowgli (the boy) and fought for his safety and return to the man village. Just like this movie, many times open adoption brings together people who would otherwise be very unlikely friends. Yet because of their shared love for one little boy, they develop the deepest of bonds.