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How Parents Can Instill Healthy Boundaries in Adopted Children

I Wish My Adoptive Mom Wouldn't Blab About My Adoption Without Asking Me

While openness in adoption is a healthy foundation, your child needs to know that you will not reveal his adoptive status indiscriminately. We’ve already discussed the value of acknowledging and appreciating your child’s uniqueness as an individual, but you’ll want to be careful not to set him apart from the family or make him “different” in the eyes of others. All kids long to be just like the other kids. In their minds, being “weird” is the kiss of death.

I recently had an encounter with an adoptive mom, a casual acquaintance who I knew had adopted a son four years before. When I greeted the two of them in a store, she unabashedly announced, “We are really open with Josh about his adoption. I tell everyone I know that he’s adopted.”

My heart sank. I’m sure the mother never dreamed that she could be fostering negative feelings and beliefs in her little boy, and I don’t know for sure that she was. But to a child, such a public, almost cavalier announcement of his adoptive status can cause him to feel uncomfortable, exposed, and different in a weird sort of way. The parent’s disclosure can unintentionally translate to the child as, “You are different from the rest of the family members. Because you are different, you don’t really belong.” It can also put pressure on him to perform, be “special,” and live up to his “chosen child” status. 

Beverly, an adult who was adopted as an infant, said: “I was never introduced as their adopted child, but if I would have been, I wouldn’t have liked that at all. I don’t like being special, different, or singled out.”

Just as you would not introduce a child of divorced parents as “a child of divorce,” or a child of a single mom as “a child of a single parent,” identifying the child who has joined your family through adoption as “the adopted child” can be damaging. It can reopen scars and slap a stigmatizing label on a heart that may already be fragile.

Mary Watkins and Susan Fisher explain in Talking with Young Children About Adoption: “When a preschooler shouts, ‘I don’t want to be adobeded!’ the parent must remember that she is not attacking the institution of adoption or criticizing her parents but is telling us one of the central facts of her preschool world: that she does not want to be different from her peers in any way (unless, of course, the difference enhances the way she is seen by her peers–for example, if she is the only child with a pony!)”  

Reverend Richard Gilbert, adoptee and bereavement specialist, said in an article for Jewel Among Jewels Adoption News: “Whenever I am introduced to a family, and the parents single out one child as ‘the adopted one,’ I cringe, and wonder what scars are floating in the heart of that child.”

So what can you do to make sure your child’s differences are valued without “marking” him as adopted in a way that might cause damage? Secrecy for secrecy’s sake is not the answer; that just plays into the dysfunctional cycle played out in many adoptive families for generations. But privacy is definitely in order. Your child’s adoption is not something that should be announced without great sensitivity to his need to be a full-fledged member of your family and his right to confidentiality where his history is concerned.

Respecting Confidentiality

Confidentiality implies privacy, intimacy, and trust. To say that confidentiality between an adopted child and parent is vitally important is not an exaggeration. Upon this foundation is built trust, honest communication, and freedom to express personal thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

I believe the reason most adopted children feel discomfort when they are introduced as adoptees is that there has been an overt violation of their personal boundaries. Being adopted is a very private matter to most, and many share it with only a chosen few. It is my personal belief that the only people outside your extended family and circle of close friends who need to know about your child’s adoption are her physician, psychiatrist, or counselor. Her teacher need not know unless a special project about families, such as a family tree, is assigned at school. 

Here are some specific ways you can communicate your respect for your child’s privacy regarding her history: 

• “You have my word that I will not tell others that you are adopted without your permission.” In the case of transracial adoptions, you could say that you will not discuss the fact that she is adopted or the details of her adoption.

• “You call the shots about who you want this information to be revealed to.” 

If your child’s adoptive status is obvious because of her appearance, you can still assure her that the details need not be. Your child is still in charge. Remind her often of this.

• “I will tell your doctor about your adoption. He/she needs to know so that you can talk to him openly about adoption. I would like your permission to share this with him/her ahead of time.”

• “I promise to never introduce you as my adopted child. We cherish the day you became our child, but we don’t want to make it sound like you are any less our child than a biological child would be.”

Making these promises to your child ahead of time will give him confidence about himself when you’re with others. He will be able to trust you, knowing that you have settled the issue of confidentiality where his history is concerned. After all, you are his journey mate and a tremendous source of comfort and encouragement to him each step along with way. He needs to be able to trust you on every level.

What Parents Can Do

Talk About Adoption in Safe Surroundings

Teach your child that there is a time and a place for everything. Help her learn the places that are most appropriate to bring up adoption. “It’s best that we talk about adoption when we can be alone together.” “Let me know ahead of time that you want to talk about it and I will make some special time just for us.” Teach your child the concept of privacy by modeling it for her.

Handling Inappropriate Questions

You may have already discovered that it is not uncommon for your family to be on the receiving end of insensitive or overtly cruel remarks about your child’s adoption. “Was she adopted?” “Is she the adopted one?” “Is he the one you got from Ecuador?” How you handle these remarks will model to your child how to set boundaries with other people in the future.

Below is a Q and A chart that will give you comeback ideas for inappropriate questions. Model them and teach them to your child. 

Question:  Your child accompanies you to grocery store and an acquaintance comes up and asks, “Is she the adopted one?” 

Answer:  Instead of acting offended and defensive, remember your promise to your child to keep confidentiality. Demonstrate to him graciousness in the midst of brashness, boundaries in the midst of pushiness. In a kind and gracious way, you may say, “Why Mrs. Purdee, why do you ask?” Then simply change the subject. 

Question: A secretary from the church calls you about your baby’s upcoming dedication. After getting your child’s birth date, she asks whether or not you want it announced that your child was adopted. 

Answer: Politely explain to her, “Thank you, Mrs. Smith. We appreciate your sensitivity, but we would like our child’s announcement to be just like the others.” Use such conversations as opportunities to teach others about adoption through your attitude and response.

Question:  Twelve-year-old child comes up to your child in the school cafeteria and asks, “Were you adopted?”

Answer:  “What an interesting question! Where did you come up with that?”

If your child does not want to let this particular child into his private life, then he can draw an emotional barrier and refuse to talk further about it. If the other child pursues the topic, then your child can remove himself geographically. 

Question:  A peer asks your child, “Who are your real parents?”

Answer:  “The same as yours–the ones I live with every day with.” 

This response  would be appropriate for the adoptee to use with acquaintances/strangers, or others he doesn’t want to share his history with. The adopted child doesn’t need to shroud his experience in secrecy and innuendo unless he chooses to in certain situations that don’t feel safe or appropriate.

Question: Kindergarten children in the school yard have formed a circle and won’t let your child in. They taunt, “Jill is adopted! Jill is adopted!”

Answer: “What’s that to you?” Jill may respond as she simply opens the chain of hands and joins in the play.

Question: Your child’s second-grade teacher asks him during a class lesson in social studies if he would like to share his unique family tree with the class. (Your child has already told the teacher about his adoption.)

Answer: “I don’t feel like I want to talk about it today, Mrs. ____, but thank you for asking me.”

Honor Your Child

Adopted children feel different because they are different than you, biologically speaking. They are also different because of the way they became a part of your family. These are facts of life–facts you cannot change and facts you cannot fix. Your child is not the same as you, no matter how you slice it. But accepting, honoring, and appreciating her differences is a far cry from broadcasting them to the whole world. 

Modeling healthy boundaries will be a treasured gift to your adopted child. You will be saying to her:

• “I respect your privacy.”

• “I am considerate of your boundaries.”

• “I will be there for you in the painful times when you feel like you don’t belong.”

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Who Can Identify The Five Faces of Adoptee Anger?

This Adopted Young Woman Believes Her Anger Results From A Character Defect

Envision a multi-dimensional circular, multi-colored feelings chart, including every emotion humans could ever experience. Such a chart reminds me of the diversity of reactions adoptees have about the emotion of anger in regard to being adopted. 

Some say they have no anger while others wonder if it’s a life sentence. Some say it’s not a struggle, while others secretly worry that it’s proof of a character defect. Some say it doesn’t exist, while others are overwhelmed by its presence.

Why is this? Why the disparity? Why is it that many struggle and some don’t? Why are some the lucky few? Why do some find it impossible to control?

Personally, I used to fit into the “impossible to control” category, for I’ve spewed anger over every person in my life. I’ve tried praying it away, counseling it away, exercising it away. However, nothing worked. One of my many counselors told me to just scream when I felt angry. So, the next week, when I felt angry, I screamed, and she jumped three feet.

Could the polar differences amongst adoptees be attributed to individual differences and resiliency? Could it be that anger is buried deep within the traumatized brain of some and not others? Could it be that not all adoptees feel angry about the great loss they’ve experienced and endured?

It’s important to remember as we discuss this that anger is a good emotion. It’s part of who we are. Our anger can’t be separated from the frail, cell-based, DNA-informed, providentially-placed essence of who we are. It’s a God-given emotion to alert us that something’s not right, that something needs healing. It’s like the proverbial light on the dashboard.

Separating Love from Hurt

Many adoptees, and rightly so,  love their adoptive parents and in many cases, their first parents. This is wonderful. In addition, many feel thankful that they were adopted. They can see how its all worked together for their good.

However, if we put that love and thankfulness aside, is there not hurt? Is there not hurt in the heart of the newborn, the toddler, the teen, and the adult who lost the most beloved loved one? 

I propose that we can love both sets of parents but still have hurt and residual anger. Would you be open to that proposition, fellow adoptees? I’m not asking you to not love your life. What I’m asking is that you not deny the wound of relinquishment.

However, anger still exists for many adoptees. How could it not? For these adoptees, to deny it is to deny an important part of the equation for their healing: loss=anger=resolution=healing.

Anger About Adoption and Relinquishment Are Different

Because adoptees are so loyal to their parents or their faith, they aren’t able to consider that there indeed is hurt beneath the many layers of life. And, I respect them immensely. I feel that gratitude and love now, but it has only occurred with healing.

So, I’m asking my dear fellow adoptees and those that love them to consider these faces of anger to see if you identify. Start with the most obvious manifestation of anger and then go deeper. This is what I mean: Would you believe that jealousy, selfishness, frustration, furiousness, irritation, and skeptical are all manifestations of anger? And, if you take it a step further, this is how it anger is manifested inwardly: hurt, hostile, angry, rage, hateful, and critical.

What is needed is that we can learn to recognize anger, for it has many different faces. This was surprising to me, as it may be for you, but because anger manifests in complex ways, we must learn the core emotion and how it surfaces in behavior and relationships.

The Five Faces of Anger

The following categories are the five faces of anger. The different emotions are drawn from a feelings chart, so keep that in mind. The second words are how these manifestations of anger show up in everyday life.

  1. Misplaced to Confused

Anger is a common reaction to being hurt. That anger dissipates when the issue is resolved.

However, if the cause of the hurt isn’t resolved, anger gets misplaced, usually onto someone who had nothing to do with the hurt.

For example, say a guy at work got chewed out by his boss. Since he left for home that evening with the issue unresolved, he takes it out on his wife and kids. Of course, they didn’t deserve it, but they were the only ones available to dump it on.

Misdirected anger happens when there’s a hurt but no resolution to that hurt. I can’t help but think that this is characteristic of many mother/child relationships in the arena of adoption.

Prior to adoption, the child has been hurt by losing the first mom. Even though the child loves first mom, she’s usually not available to resolve the hurt. In fact, even in the best case scenario, even if she were available, the hurt wouldn’t resolve. This is a hurt that only God can heal.

I’ve seen first parents who reunite with adult children who actually apologize for hurting them. This opens the adoptee’s heart more than anything. What is the worst possible scenario is adoptive parents, or first parents, who say that the child was placed because of love. Please note the response of many adoptees, “If that’s what love, I don’t want anything to do with it.”

Because the first parents aren’t involved in the parenting responsibilities, this is another loss for the child. “She would have done it right. If I only had her as a parent, all would be well.”

Adoptive moms long to be a haven of love for their adopted child where they can heal from pre-adoption wounds. But, instead of becoming this haven, they often become the brunt of their child’s anger, and they are the least deserving of anyone.

You know in your heads that it’s not about you, but the wounds are deep. Oftentimes, your woundedness is kept secret because your attachment-disordered child acts charming at school or your place of worship. These judgmental people know nothing about the true realities. 

My heart goes out to you, moms.  I’ve seen youir exhaustion and had the privilege of wiping away your tears. In my world view, you are the Marines of motherhood.

PS–Is it any wonder adoptees are confused about their anger?

The next face of adoptee anger is sad to depressed.

2.  Sad to Depressed

Anger is often connected to another emotion, such as sadness or fear. Sadness leads to depression, and depression is like an unwanted guest who won’t go home after three days. 

Depression can drain you of hope, paint black over every pleasant memory, and reduce you to skin and bones. I speak from personal experience.

When younger, I used to judge people who were depressed. All they needed to do was pull themselves up by the bootstraps.

How absolutely humbling it was for me at midlife to be hospitalized for clinical depression, not only once, but twice. The first time involved a major trigger for me as an adopted person–a geographical move. Everything that was familiar, everything I loved, was taken away and I found myself in a strange place. After ten days in the hospital, I was able to go home, but it was a long recovery.

The second hospitalization was what they call “partial hospitalization.” That meant that I went until mid-afternoon and then drove myself home. This, too, was the result of a major adoptee trigger for me–rejection by my first mom after what at first appeared to be a fairy-tale reunion.

There’s something from that experience that might be valuable here. 

While in the lockdown unit, I passed the rooms of patients who were on IVs. When I asked the nurse in charge what was wrong with them, she said that they were suffering from depression.

How shocking. They couldn’t eat? They could only have IVs? They were dying of depression? Isn’t depression just being sad? Isn’t it something everyone gets over? 

No, depression can take your life.

Because of that experience I am grateful that I can now walk beside others who are hospitalized for depression. God doesn’t waste anything. 

The next face of anger is rage to furious.

3. Rage to Furious

Many adoptees and foster kids are so wounded that their rage is acted out in violent ways. 

Behaviors that result from this manifestation of anger are: violent rage for no apparent reason, stabbing the family dog with needles, putting on to doctors that nothing is wrong. Not being a therapist, I can’t diagnose, but you can bet that this could be a deadly experiential combination of all forms of physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, attachment disorder, and FASD.

I take the side of the wounded, acting-out adoptees and foster kids. Never, will I condemn them. For them, it may feel like they’re swimming in a river of rage that’s all encompassing. I wrote this poem to describe it:

There’s a river of rage rushing through our adoptee veins, like freight trains butling along, fueling anxiety, and stoking us to hyperalert.

Even though the raging river never stops, we aren’t aware of it because we’ve secured our Bose earbuds.  We’re far from understanding or even caring that our parents say the raging river’s rip tide is sucking them under.

But, truth be known, it obliterates their trails, washes out bridges, and tosses dead logs to the bottom for them to slip on.

During times of drought, the raging river may appear dried up and others might have the courage to wade into it’s shallow waters. But, then suddenly, it splashes them in the face, blocking their view of what lies around the bend—a huge waterfall, which can only be survived by treading water.

This concludes the rage to furious description of anger. Now, let’s move on to hatred that actually manifests in being irritated.

4. Hateful to Irritated

I’ve been waiting to share this unknown truth for a long time. It has been a game-changer for me.

To begin with, hate is Biblical: “there’s a time to hate.” (Ecclesiastes 3)

The late author Lewis B. Smedes says in his awesome book, Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve, “Hate is a tiger snarling in the soul. Hate is our natural response to any deep and unfair pain. Hate is our instinctive backlash against someone who wounds us wrongly…We must not confuse hate with anger. Hate is a sign we are sick and need to be healed. Anger is a sign that we are alive and well.”(20-21)

It’s like hate creeps in, undetected by the person who’s been hurt, hoping that anger will disguise him.

Many adoptees may believe that they’ve been wounded wrongly by the first mother. They deserved a mother whose breast they could suckle or whose jail sentence they could erase.

So, hate might be a quick reflex toward our first mothers, but honest to gosh, no one ever told me about this reality and how anger and hate grow side by side. Could hate grow beside anger at our first mothers, sucking away any possible love?

Another possibility is that adoptees believe they’ve been wronged by God because they were relinquished. After all, a loving God doesn’t make people hurt, right? 

All humans are hurting and the cause of it is our own brokenness. We are not hurting because God hurt us but because we hurt God.

Many adoptees and first mothers, especially those in the family preservation movement, believe that the human institution of adoption is wrong. Therefore, adoptive parents are wrong and anything that facilitates their belief is applauded. They can’t accept the belief that physical adoption is God ordained.

As an adopted person, I believe that every single day of my life was planned before any one of them ever came to be. (Psalm 139:16) So, how can I declare that human adoption isn’t from God? How can I deny the fact that He was creating me in the womb? And, that He knew me before birth? (Jeremiah 1)

He is a sovereign God, which means He will do anything and everything to bring glory to Himself and good to those who love Him.

Another source of hatred could be at adoptive moms. Adoptees may just hate you for who you are and consider you an enemy.  I considered mom my number-one enemy and did everything possible to hurt her. 

In conclusion, we must remember the old axiom–”you become like who you hate.” So, do adoptees hate God? Do they hate their adoptive moms? 

That concludes hateful to irritated and now we’ll discuss yet another form of anger and it’s manifestations.

Enough about hate. Now, on to jealousy.

5. Hurt to Jealous

The hurt for the adopted child is examined  in the last post of this blog. Please take time to read it?

Hurting can lead to jealousy–I can certainly attest to that.

It means always wanting to be like your best friend, thinking she’s pretty and you’re not, wanting to wear her clothes instead of your own. 

When I was preparing to graduate from high school, I really liked the dress that a girl named Pam wore for her senior pictures. Maybe if I put her clothes on me, I would be pretty and popular like her?

I not only borrowed the dress but got my hair cut in a pixie, like hers. Unfortunately, nothing worked. I may have tried to jump out of the pit of hurt, but I couldn’t get out. 

And so, moms, this concludes the five faces of adoptee anger. Now, it’s time to apply and to build you up. This was quite a heavy read.

What Moms Can Do

Offer an anger assessment tool to your child. You may need to take it, too, moms. This is really an act of self-care. Here are some symptoms of anger.

How many can you identify with?

    • My cup is half empty most of the time
    • Others are intimidated in my presence
    • That bottle of wine isn’t enough to numb my pain
    • I use drugs to escape my problems
    • I smoke like a smokestack
    • I  feel guilty all the time and constantly apologize
    • I’m can’t lose weight and I’ve had it with diets
    • I’m out of control and don’t know what to do
    • My anxiety, especially in social situations, cripples me
    • I have physical symptoms, but docs don’t give diagnosis
    • It’s impossible to get to sleep and stay asleep
    • It feels good to cut myself
    • I am a people pleaser
    • I am loyal to a fault
    • I’ve had several speeding tickets
    • I use inappropriate humor
    • I am sarcastic
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Conflicts in primary relationships
    • Anorexia or bulimia
    • Chronically late to important functions
    • My temper flares easily

Share A Feelings Chart with the Family

This is a wonderful way to open up conversations when you’re together as a family. I know of one family whose kids made it the picture on their Iphone screens.

The best way to find the chart of your choice is to use Google or Safari search engines and put in the words “feelings and emotions chart.” There’s a multitude available and many are free downloads. Pinterest is also a good source.

Soak In A Bubble Bath

There’s no substitute for a great hot, relaxing bath, filled to the brim with bubbles. I’ve found an inexpensive Bubble Bath at Home Goods that I love–Pecksniff’s, ENGLAND, LUXURY  BATH SOAP. It cost only $5.99.

I also love Asquith & Somerset SCENTED SOAP. It’s wrapped in flowered paper, so lovely. Only $3.99 at Homegoods.

This concludes our discussion on the seven faces of anger. It clearly is multi-faceted and I hope you’ve identified your child’s angry face.

There’s so much more to learn about adoptee anger-it’s beauty, goodness,and majesty. We can look forward to this in the next post.

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What Creates Hope for Discouraged Adoptive and Foster Parents

What Can Adoptive Parents Do When All Seems Lost?

There’s a three-fold secret I discovered during the search for my first mother that may bring hope to discouraged adoptive and foster parents.

Parents, I know the Marine-like challenge you’ve undertaken to parent a child through adoption. Sometimes, you’re on the verge of complete exhaustion or panicked about what is happening in your child’s life.

I was once like your child. Frankly, I don’t remember being conscious of anything with RAD. It was like I was unconscious. Numbed out. Just flinging here and there.

Without one doubt, my parents experienced the gamut of emotions in raising me. As a RAD kid, I rarely showed love, except when I scratched that very message into their fine furniture when they were playing golf one day. Would you believe they kept that dressing table until their dying days? I assure you that my parents did everything humanly possible to demonstrate love to me, but that was the last thing I wanted.

I’m not sure if I’ve told you lately that besides being an adopted person, I’m an adoptive grandmother, and what interesting dynamics that’s created for my grand and me. I’ve seen the lives of my late parents lived out in our adult kids who are parenting.

Let’s set the stage for what might be a hope-filled message for you in this post.

While searching for my first mother, I turned over every rock, searched every phone book (back in the day!), and read every old newspaper looking for clues.

One day, I decided to contact Dr. Miles Filllinger,  the doctor who delivered me but his office was but a memory and his files, a mystery.

It was during this phase of my search that I received the greatest of reveals, which I’ll share with you now. Keep in mind that I’m just one person and I’m not speaking for others, especially adoptees. We are each unique, like fresh-fallen snowflakes.

God Works In the Unseen

The big reveal is what Dr. Fillinger’s granddaughter said, “My grandfather was an orphan himself and cried at the birth of every baby he delivered.”

How shocking. How breathtaking. How unexpected. How miraculous. There they were. Fresh. Filled with my first-ever vitamins. Freely delicious.

No one knew about the doctor’s tears. Oh, his granddaughter knew that tears were her grandfather’s normal reaction to delivering babies, but she had no idea about the significance of his tears over me…and my first mother, nor of her words to me. Mom and dad never knew, there was no written record of them, nor no photo taken. No one knew, even the nurse attending my birth.

My late first mother had no idea of the doctor’s tears over me. But, as she gave that final push that landed me on planet earth, perhaps she saw the tears also. I hope so. They were for both of us.

I wondered about the significance of Dr. Fillinger’s tears. Were they saturated with hope? Were they bright lights at the end of a tunnel, or seeds to be harvested later in life?

Research shows that we cry for both happiness and sadness. With Dr. Fillinger’s tears, could they a blend? Heart-wrenching orphan grief with ecstatic joy for life.

I like what Washington Irving says about tears:

‘There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” (Brainyquotes.com)

I believe the tears were proof to this unplanned, unwanted newborn that my life was planned and wanted–by God. I believe they were also proof to my first mother that I’d be alright.

God Works in the Human Details

On top of all this, to be welcomed into the world by an orphan doctor renders me speechless. This is because the basic need for adoptees and foster kids is a sense of connection. If I had any sense of connection with my first mom before birth, it was certainly severed when they wheeled her off and took me to an incubator for ten days.

Then, at birth, to have my first human connection be with a fellow-adoptee/orphan was beyond beyond.

How I wish mom and dad would have known about the tears, but they did know that Dr. Fillinger came to visit me every week until I was five years old.

For years, I’ve wondered why. Perhaps because I was a failure to thrive baby? Perhaps that I was a failed abortion? I don’t know, but God does and that’s all I need to know.

Parents, even in the most dire of circumstances with your adopted child, trust that there’s Someone invisibly planting love in your child’s heart, ready to be harvested when conditions are right.

And, just the doctor’s tears were life-giving for me, yours can be for your child. Sometimes, that’s the only gift you can give. Just remember that they’re sacred, even if your child has no idea of the significance.

God Provides for the Orphan

As I look back on this, my seventh chapter of life, I can say without a doubt that God has cared for me in all the intricacies of life.

  • He does what is necessary to preserve the orphan’s life (Jeremiah e49:11)
  • He gladdens the orphan’s heart with the bounty of Providence (Dt. 24:19)
  • He feeds them from the sacred portion. (Deut. 24:19-21)
  • He hears even their faintest cries (Exodus 22:22-24)
  • He becomes a Father to them. (Psalm 68:5)
  • He provides what the orphan searches for: love, pity, and mercy. (Hosea 14:3)
  • He has a unique plan for the orphan in history. (Esther 2:15)

Someday, your child will know this, too.

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Does The Beautiful Braid of Adoption Apply Today?

Does the Braided Ribbon Metaphor Still Ring True?

November is Adoption Awareness Month and this is my offering, as controversial as it may be. This post contains the truths I’ve learned in seven plus decades of being an adopted person. I’ve used this art for many years, but I’d like to think that my updated version is still applicable to those touched by adoption.

Back in the day, I envisioned adoption like the beautiful art you see above, created by my niece, Emily Eldridge. That was my faith’s interpretation, based on truths from the Bible, such as “God knows every day of my life before any one of them come to be.” (Psalm 139:16) and “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered (Luke 12:9).

I strongly believe that adoption, both physical and spiritual, are God’s idea, yet at the same time they are different entities that must be worked through by parents and adoptees if the child’s healing is to occur.

When parents liken physical adoption to spiritual adoption, it is extremely upsetting for adoptees, like running our long nails over a blackboard.  Spiritual adoption is when a person chooses to place their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Physical adoption is when a parent or parents make the decision to take a child into their home that is basically homeless and needing love and safety.

All would agree that identity is huge for adoptees. After all, we’ve got two sets of parents–first and adoptive. Some of our parents might not accept the fact that they are one of two sets, but the truth is that we indeed do, and it’s very confusing.

For me, I still like to envision how God sees adoption, realizing that in our broken world, His original plan is totally crushed by our waywardness.

The following article is what I believe about adoption. It came straight from my heart years ago. You don’t have to agree, or even read, but here it is…

Long, long ago, in eternity past, God created a beautiful braid and named it “Adoption.” The braid would showcase his grace in forming families. The braid wasn’t his second thought or Plan B. It was His idea before I ever drew a breath on planet earth.

Ribbons That Make My Beautiful Braid

There are three colored ribbons that comprise my beautiful braid. To the trained eye, they’re not a Walmart special, but instead, shining, gleaming, and lustrous.

GREEN RIBBON

The green cord represents my late first parents, whom I have full history on now because of Ancestry.com. The green reminds me how they chose life in the womb and after the womb. For some reason, their biology became my birth, since there are no mistake lives. No matter how wounded or lacking they were, their genetic make-up blended to make me.

PURPLE RIBBON

The second cord is purple and represents my adoptive parents. Deep purple stands for royalty, distinction, eminence, greatness and nobility.  They dreamed of adopting a child when infertility slammed the door on their shame-filled faces. Dad always said, “You were so tiny that I could hold you in the palm of one hand.” He told me that til his dying day. They would have done anything for me, yet in the midst of their home, I experienced neglect from mom and abuse from dad.

RED RIBBON

The red cord is symbolic of me as an adoptee–a unique weaving together of nature and nurture into one marvelous human being, with unlimited potential. When God created me, he may have said, “I will take a little bit of this DNA and personality from the first parents and this type of nurturing and love from the adoptive parents to make my child.” 

GOLD CORD

Around the three ribbons is a thicker cord, woven within, around, up and down. The gold represents God Almighty. Good Father. Shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one lost lamb. 

When we blame God for the pain involved in adoption, its misplaced blame. He doesn’t hurt us. We hurt because of our brokenness.

For healing to occur, we must accept that God is sovereign–that He works everything together for good for those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28) We must also believe that He’s good Himself, as the popular praise song says, “You’re a good, good Father….yes, you are, yes you are.”

BROKEN, TORN, FRAYED, OR CUT RIBBONS

The metaphor above is what I believe physical adoption was created by God to be. Healthy parents, both first and adoptive. Parents who always put the needs of the child first.

The reality is, however, that some mothers don’t deserve to be called mother and some dads don’t deserve to be called dad. From a human perspective, they wouldn’t be chosen to parent a vulnerable child, yet they were. Such was the case in both paternal and maternal sides of my family. My first mother was raped.

I’ve struggled with saying anything negative about parents because of my faith, but a wise counselor taught me that honoring my parents means telling the truth about them. What freedom that has brought.

The adoptee’s beautiful red ribbon declaring the awesomeness of who we are has been cut up by broken parents who have to give in to foster care for their beloved child. Our ribbon is sometimes thrown away by adoptive parents who send their vulnerable child away on a plane never to be seen again. And, our ribbons are frayed when the only belongings we have are a garbage bag filled with necessities for the tenth foster placement. And, our ribbon is stained by our tears that we can’t stop crying because we carry a deeper-than-death wound.

May I ask you….

  • What is the condition of your ribbon?
  • Is your ribbon frayed, or shiny?
  • What is the condition of the other ribbons in your braid?
  • How close are the other ribbons to you?
  • Is there openness and honesty with both sets of parent, the green and purple ribbons?
  • What choice can you may to enhance truth telling and authenticity?

So, this is where I’m at this year of 2019 while considering it the Beautiful Braid of Adoption metaphor is still applicable.

Where are you? Are you:

  • Encouraged?
  • Ticked off?
  • Confused?
  • Judgmental?
  • Turned off?

Whatever your reaction, I invite you to leave your thoughts at the end of this post. If you’re experiencing negative thoughts because you don’t agree with me, I encourage you to sift out the gold and throw the rest away.

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