This title is funny. I mean, that’s a crazy request, right? Well, it's one I wish I could make, almost on a daily basis.
As a foster-almost-adoptive mother, sometimes I feel like a second-rate mom. Sometimes you get the vibe that if you didn't give birth to a child and are a foster parent your relationship with them is less than legitimate – not quite “real”. I had many people say to me when I got Isaiah: "Now you get to be a real mother." Depending on the day, I might have responded: "Oh, if I had known I wasn't a real mom before, I probably would have done it differently" or "Oh, so I guess those diapers I changed weren't real, the vomit I cleaned wasn't real, the tears I dried weren’t real, and the bedtime stories I read weren't real?" And if I was feeling more merciful: "No, now I get to be a forever mom." And even as an adoptive mother, I get the old standby: "Do you have/want any children of your own?" The only way I can describe this is like being cut with a knife.
I look down at my precious son and I think: How could any child be more my own? I have prayed for THIS child for as long as I can remember. I have dreamt about THIS child for years. THIS child is the one the Lord promised and delivered to me. THIS is the child I thought about as I jogged through my neighborhood before dawn with tears streaming down my face as Queen’s “Somebody to Love” blared on my iPod.
How could any child belong to me more than he does? He is truly a miracle (read his story here). He is MY son; God brought him to ME. He IS my own.
As a loving warning to those who know (and even love) adoptive and foster parents: I will say this now: PLEASE remove from your language those questions and statements which identify the obvious differences between our children and us.
I know that most of the time, the intention is not bad. But the words cut deeply into a mother’s spirit. When I think about Isaiah being old enough to understand those questions aimed at his identity as my son – the one God provided, I'm horrified at how they will make him feel. How will they make him feel about himself? How will they make him feel about me as his mother? About us as a family? As good as the intention behind the questions, the words seek to divide and separate me from my son.
Please understand, and be sensitive to the fact that adoptive families are different. And we are well aware of our differences. Adoption, by nature, is born out of the loss of, and gain of, an identity. We, like other foster and adoptive families, are seeking to reconcile and redeem these children to an identity as loved and loving family members and as children of God. And kids who have been removed from their home have experienced trauma that highlights already obvious differences. They will probably behave strangely at times. They will almost definitely be delayed. They will almost always have some poor coping skills. As a result, people – strangers and friends alike – let show with their faces and words that my family is different. I do not let my kids get away with stuff simply because of their subtle and obvious differences, but I also parent from the understanding that they have endured in the last 4 months, 6 months, 18 months, 2 years, and 4 years, things that you and I can't even begin to imagine. So, they may suck their thumb longer, have issues with men, may disrespect women, may shovel their food in their mouths, and sleep with all the lights on. It may be different from “the norm” – but really, don’t we all come from families closer to dysfunction than perfection? Trust that we are working on undoing the damage done and praying against long-term effects and renewing with hope what is good.
Remember these little ones are survivors, and regardless of differences, if we had been exposed to the things that they have, sucking our thumbs would be the least of our worries