I know what you’ll say when I show you a picture of my family: “Wow – what a big family! Your oldest is adopted?” The pause that follows signals me to the direction our conversation will take.
A brief pause means that I’ll hear about what a beautiful family I have. We’ll laugh at my 3 year-old son’s long hair or chuckle about how we managed to get everyone to smile in unison.
A slightly longer pause will be followed by a few questions about how we keep up despite being drastically outnumbered. You’ll tell me that you don’t know how we do it or that we have our hands full.
A long pause takes the conversation to a different place. It signals a subtle apology that will provide the bridge to talk about my adopted son. I secretly hope for this extended silence.
I’ve grown to welcome those long pauses while disliking the pity party that typically ends them.
To break the silence, the adoption related questions will usually start with, “not sure how to ask this” or “this might be too personal.” I want to tell you to stop right there – I appreciate the interest and don’t want you to apologize for it.
The truth is, I want to tell you about our adoption process. I need to arm you with knowledge to share with others that might benefit. I need you to spread the word that adoptions create strong families with great kids.
I need to tell you that adoption changed my life – that adopting my son created a new, better version of me. Adopting Yosef made me a Good-Bad Dad.
The pseudo-apology that started our conversation reminds me of the subconscious sadness commonly associated with adoption. The idea that adoption is linked to sadness prevents too many important conversations from happening.
Focusing on this sorrow will prevent far too many prospective families from exploring adoption as an alternative. If you focus on his early misfortunes, my son becomes a charity and not a treasure.
I will not ignore the fact that there are sad realities of adoption. Many adoptions you may know of are connected to issues that are devastating – infertility, social injustice in foreign countries, famine and extreme poverty. For many families, adoption is a backup plan after the hope of having biological children fades.
When you apologize for asking me about adoption, you re-connect my son’s story to the sadness that forced him into care. I’d rather focus on the memories we’ve created and not those which brought him to us.
The embedded sadness vanished when we saw Yosef’s picture. The hurt no longer existed when I held him for the first time.
When I tell you about the courage of my son’s birth mother, our long journey to Ethiopia to meet him or the fact that we ran out of diapers on our last connecting flight home, I will be sharing the story of how the big family in the picture came to be. I’ll do so gladly and as openly as I can.
I’ll share our story as long as you are courageous enough to ask.
Our story involves no sadness so don’t feel badly. There is only joy, opportunity, courage and love.
So, again, please ask me unapologetic-ally about my adoption journey. The story has a happy ending.