My June newsletter, The Importance of Play, is coming out today. If you haven’t signed up to receive my monthly newsletter, go to www.leslievernick.com and sign up. We will send it out to you too.
I am doing a taped radio interview with my friend Susie Larson Tuesday, June 8, on my book, Lord I Just Want to be Happy at 1:15 CST. If you’d like to be part of the listening audience and have the opportunity to ask questions, call 1-877-933-2484 or 1-877-93FAITH. I’d love to hear from you.
Question: My husband and I can’t have biological children, but still feel we want a family so we’ve been talking about adoption. I see in your books you have one adopted child and one biological child. I think there are many cases where adoption goes wrong (but then I suppose that happens with biological children as well), but it’s encouraging to know that a family without genetic heritage can have such a positive family bond together. My question is this: How on a practical day to day level, do you show your adopted child, especially when their ethnicity shows them to be so obviously not your natural child, that they are a valuable part of your family?
We really want children in our family and we live in a country where there are many orphaned and neglected children, but we don’t want to jump into something without thinking through it clearly and making certain that we would be the best parents that we could possibly be for any children that God would give us.
Answer: Adopted children are every bit as much as a gift from God as natural born children are. I can’t imagine my life without my daughter Amanda, who we adopted from Korea at 4 months of age. We already had a home grown son Ryan, and Amanda was a wonderful blessing. With that said however, raising children, whether they be biological or adopted presents challenges for all parents and you are wise to be prepared as much as possible for the sacrifices and challenges that parenting brings.
Let me answer your specific question first. Practically you show your child that you love him or her by wanting to spend time with her. When I was raising my kids, the experts told us that quality time was more important than the actual quantity of time we spent (so we wouldn’t feel guilty working), but that’s not true. You can’t make those quality time moments just happen. They occur in the every day rhythms of family life and that involves spending time together. Whether a child is biological or adopted, he or she will feel unimportant to you and insignificant as a person if you aren’t willing and able to give her lots of your time and energy teaching her, playing with her, talking to her and enjoying being around her.
That doesn’t mean you can’t work if you need to, but are you prepared to give up other things you may enjoy doing in order to spend time with your child? Kids can feel like burdens and bothers to their overworked, frantically busy parents. Adopted children already may be saddled with feelings of rejection from their biological families. All the more reason to show them that they are wanted, valued, treasured and loved by you.
You bring up the question of how we handled the issue of ethnicity. A small child won’t notice the difference. I remember Amanda at 3 telling me that she thought she looked just like me even though we were both staring into the same mirror. But as she got older, it became much more important to provide places where she saw people of her own race and was able to connect with things in her heritage that were meaningful for her. We would attend picnics with other families who adopted a child and we had a close friend who also adopted a Korean daughter.
When our daughter hit her teens, she found herself feeling much more self-conscious about her ethnicity but we had a good relationship and it wasn’t a matter of not feeling like she fit into our family, even as she struggled inwardly to find her place in the larger social circle of the group she hung out with.
However, it’s important to ask God to search your heart about any racism issues that you have before you adopt a child of a different race. When we love our child, we don’t even see him or her as different from us anymore but sometimes we say stupid things without even realizing how they might sound to our adopted child. My daughter told me that she would sometimes hear rude comments from other adults as well as her friends about people of different ethnicity that deeply wounded her and made her wonder if they felt that way about her too. They didn’t see Amanda as a different race, but in those moments, she deeply felt the difference.
Whether you adopt or give birth, there are no guarantees that the child God brings you will always make you happy, do what you want her to do, or make good choices. Sometimes kids break our hearts and I have done more praying and worrying over my children than anything else in my life. God uses the parenting process to teach us how to be less self-absorbed, more humble, more giving, loving and sacrificial than we would have ever been childless.
Parenting is a commitment to a person and a process and if you want a successful family, there can be no turning back once you agree to the job. Honestly, for every family some days are better than others, some years are easier than others but the love you have for your child stays constant.
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