What I’ve Learned About Adoption (Part 4 – Adoptive Parents)

I didn’t quite finish my What I’ve Learned series before the end of National Adoption Month.  Life happens.  (Thanks to all of your support for Ayub and his surgery.  He is still recovering, but anxious to get back to eating pizza and bouncing off the walls.)

My final installment…Adoptive Parents.

There are a lot of us.  We all have one thing in common…we’ve adopted kids.  Some domestically, some internationally.  Some infants, some older children.  In the beginning, I searched hard for a link between us.  We must have something in common to have followed the same path, right?


I’ve learned that adoptive parents, the circumstances that led them to adoption, and the way they parent their adopted children are as varied as everyone else.  I’ve also learned that for a community who should be so supportive, we can be very opinionated.

Here are some of the things we disagree about:

  • Some adoptive parents came to adopt because of infertility treatments, some because they were called by God, and some because they just wanted kids (or more kids, as in my case).  Believe it or not, I’ve heard of infertile parents questioning others’ rights to adopt a child because we don’t “need” to.  Ummm…really?
  • Some parents adopt domestically, through open adoption, closed adoption, or foster adoption.  Some parents adopt internationally.  I recently read a blog on transracial parenting where she blasted those of us who adopt internationally because…wait for it…”there are plenty of children right here in the US who need a good home.”  Well, bravo to you for helping them out.
  • Among international adoptive parents, there is frequently a smack-down between those who think you should keep a child’s birth name (“It’s the only link the kid has to his previous life.”) and those who change it (either to fit in easily in American culture, or because they want a family name).  I love this argument.  Since we changed one and kept one, I win no matter what.
  • And, this is the big one of late.  Among Ethiopian adoptive parents, there is a raging war about whether people should adopt from Ethiopia at all.  Yes, you read that right.  People who adopted from Ethiopia now (that their children are safely home) feel that the ethical corruption is too much and that Americans can no longer adopt from Ethiopia without adding to the corruption.  They are very critical of those trying to complete adoptions now.  I totally get it.  I’ve got concerns about corruption in the system as well.  Lots of them.  But I think it sucks when they call out well-meaning families for wanting to grow their family in the same way they did.

The list goes on and on.  You can be judged for homeschooling, private schooling, or public schooling.  You’re graded on how diverse your community is.  People berate other parents for co-cleeping or not co-sleeping.  Feathers are ruffled at the mention of fundraising for adoptions.  Some believe “special needs” adoptions are somehow better than others, ranked by the level of need.  People are judged by how much they’ve done to “give back to” the country from which they adopted, whether their kids have learned Amharic or whether they celebrate Ethiopian holidays.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know that this happens with all parents.  It’s easy to look at other parents and judge them for not making the same choices you do.  I just think that the adoption world has an added layer of judgement.  Maybe it’s because of all we went through to get to this point.

I’ll lay it all out on the line.  I adopted two kids from a system which is probably much more corrupt than any of us would like to admit.  I brought them home and legally changed their names.  I made them sleep in their own rooms in their own beds from day 1.  I sent Ayub to preschool as soon as I could.  I stopped going to the Ethiopian church because it didn’t fit with MY value system.  I sometimes forget Ethiopian holidays until I see someone post on Facebook.  This is me.  These are MY choices.

But here’s the thing.  Even if these aren’t your choices, YOU ARE STILL A GOOD PARENT.  I think it’s time we stopped shouting our positions so loudly and really listened to each other.  Supported each other.  This is hard work.  When you are in it up to your elbows, you need to know that others respect your position.  Of course, I love to learn from the experiences of others, which I why I have stayed active on message boards and blogs.  But in the last month, I’ve reached my limit with the judgmental tone of the dialogue.

Now, on the positive side, I have met some wonderful people and some of my greatest supporters through the adoption process.  Other adoptive parents who have faced similar challenges are some of my greatest parenting allies.  On those days that are darkest, I am constantly uplifted by people who I have met through this journey.  I’ve had Skype sessions, late night phone calls, strings of text messages, and kind comments that have helped me keep it together.  When I look at my Facebook friends, I am amazed at how many people in my list have an adoption connection.  When I have a question, I still turn to the message boards looking for information.  This community is absolutely vital to my mental health.  I continue to marvel at the fact that people were actually able to parent adopted children before the internet.  It is these friends who have gotten me through the last four years.  And when I weigh the good and the bad…there is definitely more good.  I am a better person for knowing these people and having them in our lives.   If I had gotten around to posting this before Thanksgiving, I would have ended with “I am thankful for you.”  And even though Thanksgiving has passed, I think I still will.

I am thankful for you.

[Please forgive me for not having a photo in this post.  It occurs to me only now that every time I’ve been in person with other adoptive parents, we’ve always taken pictures of the kids, but not of us parents together.  That will change in the future.  Note to self: put down the wine glass and take a few photos.]