My husband and I had four children before we decided to adopt. Since that time, we’ve added three more children to our family through international, foster, and private adoption. Just like many adoptive mothers, I worry about the impact our lifestyle is having on our biological kids. Is it selfish to adopt hurting children when it means I won’t be able to give as much attention to the ones I already have? It’s a common struggle. I was encouraged, though, by an unexpected effect on my 12-year-old biological daughter that I’ve only recently noticed.  

I was sitting on the couch, watching the girls at Emma’s soccer party. Emma had mentioned in the past that, while she gets along with girls her age, she never feels like she fits in. It’s not just with the soccer team, either. She feels the same way no matter what group of girls she’s around. She’s not interested in the same things they are.

As I sat watching all the giggly fun of that soccer party, I started to realize why she doesn’t fit in. Most girls her age are in a hurry to grow up. They wear makeup, have boyfriends, text on their cellphones, and listen to popular music. Emma has no desire to participate in those activities, and I believe our lifestyle of foster care, orphan care, and adoption has much to do with that. I was surprised at this realization because I thought our lifestyle would have the opposite effect. I thought she’d be itching to fit in, especially since we, as a family, are outside the norm. Instead, she has managed to keep an innocence about her that is rare for girls her age.

She’s not naive. In fact, she probably knows more about the yucky part of life than most people twice her age. She’s been to a developing country. She’s held orphans and watched starving people beg through the window of our car. She’s welcomed foster children into our home and heard their stories. She’s visited shelters full of women and children who can’t go back home because they fear for their lives. She knows about neglect, abuse, and suffering.

She also knows about redemption and grace. She’s seen the healing effects of family on children from hard places. She understands that we are trying our best to say yes to God no matter the sacrifice, and she’s on board.

Emma’s unique experiences have shown her what’s really important in life. She can still laugh and have fun with her friends, and she can listen to music and watch movies like any other preteen. She still has her bouts of insecurity, just like everyone, but she is able to rise above the silliness and take on a global perspective. The opinions of others don’t matter, and our petty problems pale in comparison to the hardships of others. She isn’t in a hurry to join the adult world any time soon. Instead, she’s happy to stay protected at home for a while longer.

I’m not saying it’s wrong for kids to grow up without experiencing all the yuck. If you can manage that, more power to you! I’m just saying that we don’t need to worry about how our obedience will affect our children. They might be exposed to things we’d rather shelter them from, but God can use those encounters to develop in them a usable spirit.

I wish I had had my daughter’s sense of self when I was her age instead of being so preoccupied with what others thought of me. I didn’t know anything outside of my small town bubble. I’d love to go back and tell that young girl how big the world is and all the amazing experiences she would have as an adult.

But my life growing up was very different than the life my children are living. I’m so proud of my daughter. She will come into adulthood light years ahead of where I was.

She will be a world changer.