Around the holidays and especially with the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, the subject of love is predominant in the media. TV shows, commercials, and Hallmark movies romanticize love as happily ever after. It is fanaticized as bliss without issues and we are drawn into that world of feeling good. But love can be and is a complicated emotion. It is very complex and it doesn’t always result in a happily-ever-after solution that is seen on the television. This article will discuss love and what it is, how we can show love to our children, and how love is viewed in the field of adoption.
Merriam-Webster defined love as, “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties, an attraction based on sexual desire, and affection based on admiration, benevolence or common interests.” We see the word love in all facets of our society: there is a new Netflix show entitled “Love”; Taylor Swift has a song entitled “Love Story”; and there are books to help us discover our love language. The idea and necessity of being loved by others are very prevalent and ingrained in our society and our world. Why? Personally, I feel it is because it is in our human nature. We want and need to feel loved, valued, and appreciated. An article described love as, “a force of nature. However much we may want to, we cannot command, demand, or take away love, any more than we can command the moon and the stars and the wind and the rain to come and go according to our whims. … Love is bigger than you are. You can invite love, but you cannot dictate how, when and where love expresses itself.”
There are many ways that we can transmit and display love to our children. Our children need to be viewed and loved equally and respected equally, whether they are biological or adopted. I have been asked and I know other friends who have also been asked if they view their biological and adopted children differently. The answer should be a resounding no and it provides a tactful opportunity to educate the person who asked about adoption love. I heard a speaker suggest that you need to value a child’s heritage and background, but adoption should not be the word that solely describes them. For example, you never should introduce your child as your adopted son or daughter any more than you would describe another child as your brown-haired child. It has no relevance in the introduction to him or her as a person. Not labeling them or segregating them in that way is a small but powerful way to show love.
It is also important to note that children that have experienced a traumatic past will probably have different needs and may need to be shown love differently. For example, if your family’s nature is to display love through physical touch and lots of hugs, that would not be the best way to express love or affection, at least initially, with a child who has a history or past of physical abuse.
Several ways and ideas to show love, care, and respect to your children are presented in this article. The article says to look them in the eyes, make physical contact, compliment them, thank them, sit and read with them, make bedtime special time, prioritize one-on-one time, let them cook with you, teach them, do something out of the ordinary, get excited, make up a game together, ask them to tell you a story, encourage them, and create traditions. What I appreciate with this list is that none of these ideas relate to money or purchasing things. They all relate to showing them that you are stopping what you are doing, giving them your undivided attention, showing you care about what they are saying or showing you. Giving them your time and your attention gives them the confidence to know that it is okay to come to you. They will then feel important, which builds their confidence and is one of the biggest attributes of love we can give our children.
My adoption love story started when I was in middle school or early high school. I knew then I wanted to be a mother. I still remember sitting at lunch with friends in high school and a friend telling me she saw me as a soccer mom, with a minivan and lots of kids. I had a great childhood, with loving, caring parents, and I wanted to share those attributes with my children someday.
Due to a diagnosis, I couldn’t become pregnant. However, even before that, adoption was always something that I knew I wanted to consider. When I was dating my now-husband, we talked about families and he was also very supportive of adoption. When we had been married for about two years, we started the adoption process for a domestic adoption at a local adoption agency. We were both excited and while we knew the process was long, tedious, and emotional, we knew it was going to complete our family. A few months into the adoption process, we were matched with an expectant mother who was due in a few months. During those months, we shared texts and seemed to establish a good relationship. We shared potential names and concerns. The anticipation of holding our future son and becoming a family was overwhelming; the nursery was ready. A day before the birth mother was due, we were told she had changed her mind and decided to parent her child. While it was very hard for us, we knew that this was her choice; however, it did feel like our son had just died. I think it is hard for those who have not gone through this experience to understand that it did feel like a death. Our crib was empty.
We were fortunate to have a short wait. Four months later, we were contacted by my previous pastor at my family’s church who knew of our failed adoption. A member of the church had come to her saying she wanted to place her newborn daughter for adoption. The baby had been born at 26 weeks and after three months in the NICU had just been released from the hospital. The birth mother, because of her circumstances, did not believe she could adequately care for her daughter and, because of her love for her daughter, wanted to place her with a family that could provide for all the baby’s needs. We were connected through our adoption agency.
Love can be hard. When we were communicating and learning more, it was hard not to fall in love again with someone we had not met. It was hard for us not to fall in love with this mother that was in the middle of making a very hard decision for her daughter.
We were officially matched and our adoption agency worked with all of us to get everything officially signed. Our daughter is now seven years old and is spirited, joyful, and determined.
I remember holding her the night that the adoption paperwork was signed. I remember being nervous and excited but also full of love for our new daughter. The love a parent has for their child is unlike any other love. It is a love that drives them to do anything and everything for their children, no matter what it takes. It was such an experience to watch her grow, accomplish new milestones, and grow into the person she is today.
Not Always Easy to Love
Too often, parenting love isn’t easy. Loving your child doesn’t always mean that happily-ever-after solution. It also means making hard decisions for them to keep them safe. It also means saying no to them at times; it is often no fun being the parent. Loving your child also includes letting them open their wings, letting them learn, and even allowing them to make mistakes on their own so they can learn, grow and thrive.
Becoming part of Anna’s life didn’t only include her; it included her whole birth family. We have an open relationship with her birth parents and siblings. It is an experience in which we are constantly growing and maturing. Is it always easy? Just like any relationship, no. But it has grown my love for her birth mother and the decision she had to make when placing her daughter for adoption. It was a choice she made for Anna, not one for herself. Open adoption is not always easy, but the more people Anna has to support her and love her, especially her birth mother, the more she will grow in her confidence and her strength.
Our adoption experience with our son was very different. He was a toddler who had just turned three in an orphanage in China. It made us aware of the importance of love to children at an early age. He had primarily lived in a crib for three years not because of any neglect but because of China’s volume of orphaned children. We had witnessed all of Anna’s firsts: first time eating food, crawling, walking, and the first word she said. We were not able to experience the first three years of Micah’s life, but we were slowly able to experience the firsts of his life: the first time he walked on grass, the first time he saw a car, the first time he touched the cold of snow. He is still very developmentally behind, but that doesn’t impact our love for him. To see a little step in him overwhelms our hearts. He is our daily reminder of how love can overcome obstacles, how love gives strength.
Is it hard to love your child at times? Maybe, but that is probably not love knocking but frustration. Some days are going to be very difficult. Maybe because unknown issues come with parenting a child from a hard past. It may be hard because parenting a child with a diagnosis will add layers of doctors, testing, time, and money. I want to tell parents that it is okay to acknowledge rough days because there will be rough days. It is okay to feel overwhelmed because some days will be overwhelming. But what is important to remember is that this doesn’t mean you love your children less; it means you are human and you want the best for your children.
Love for children with an unstable background is especially crucial and often may seem like walking on thin ice. That is why it is so crucial for us as parents to surround ourselves with supports and resources. These supports can be parents, friends, small groups at church, or neighbors. Resources can include schools, speech or physical therapists, pediatricians, or early childhood interventionists such as First Steps. It is so valuable to have and utilize these supports and resources. We had arranged some of our supports before our adoptions so we would not feel overwhelmed when we got home. Not only are supports and resources valuable for you as parents but they also show your love for your children and give them the most opportunities to succeed.
Everything is easier said than done. On those sleepless nights or days that are full of behavioral issues, it is a parent’s love for their children that keeps them motivated day after day. It is this deep love that helps parents push through the hard days. It pushes parents through paperwork, phone calls, and evaluations to get their children the services that will be most beneficial and provide them with the best life possible.
One additional article shared the top ten ways to show your kids you love them without words. It listed the following: wake up with a sin-covering eye, eat meals together, use a soft tone, have a sense of humor, listen attentively, play, get physical, make the environment loveable, don’t expect perfection, and smile. I value this list as it shows us that children don’t need items or much from us to thrive and feel loved. They need our presence, our undivided attention, and our acceptance to make mistakes.
We as parents are going to make mistakes. We might forget an event or appointment, we might raise our voice, or we might overlook an opportunity to give our child our attention when we are too busy. It’s important to remember that we are going to make mistakes. It is also important to remember that our children are not going to remember a gift we buy them but they are going to remember the dinners we ate together and the games we played together. That is love.Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.