So, a sweet friend recently asked “how can we support you in this journey and are there things we should/shouldn’t say or do that would be helpful to you?”
In an effort to start that conversation with all of you, I decided to compile a list of things that are helpful/not helpful to bring up as we forge this new territory. We are new at this too, so hopefully with grace, we will all learn how to be the best supporters of Duo that we can.
Consider asking us these kinds of questions….What have been your favorite times with Duo so far? What have you learned about his personality? What have you noticed about how Noah, Jude, Evy, Piper and Clementine are responding to a new brother in the family? What is it like having SIX kids!? What has the been the hardest part so far? What has been the best part so far? and even….Can I pick up a couple kids for a playdate and bring them back in a few hours!?
Email to let us know what you are doing/up to in your life so we can stay connected even without getting together for a while.
Let us know when we come to mind and when/what you’ve prayed for us.
Bring us a meal! For those who know me well, they know cooking isn’t my favorite thing to do. I’m sure I’ll much rather be playing with Duo and the kids
From the very beginning we felt God asking us to be very open and vulnerable during this adoption process. We hope that we can share the truth/beauty/hardships behind adoption so that God will receive all the glory for what He has/will do. Part of being open about our journey means we welcome questions. However, some questions can be hurtful and harmful. A few questions to avoid:
“How much did he cost?”
This question goes in the non-helpful category. Duo is a person and people cannot be bought. Though this is obvious, sometimes this slip of the tongue happens. The adoption process is expensive because of many reasons. Most reasons are put in place with the intention to protect children. Some are just extra red tape to satisfy who knows who and there are surely inefficiencies. This often means adoptive parents go through the ringer, using a lot of government time and multiple social workers, all of whom need to be paid for their services. Many people take years to save for these costs. Some fundraise. All in all, he is worth whatever other sacrifices we need to make.
“How did you get a boy from China? I thought they threw away their girls, not boys.”
First off, I have heard this many times. The country itself has been a very complicated history and the international adoption scene has been changing. Statistics show that an equal amount of boys and girls are abandoned in China, however, girls are adopted three times as quickly as boys are. Thus, the orphanages and child waiting lists are full of BOYS. Amazing boys. Boys that are not thrown away but are in need of someone to choose them. And abandonment happens for many reasons. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ issue. Many children are placed in orphanages because their parents cannot afford the medical care these children so desperately need. Let us have compassion for the complexity of the country and birth families. And yes, I am a lucky momma to a boy from China!!
“Do you know anything about his ‘real’ parents?”
Two things here. First thing: Kyle and I, along with all adoptive parents are real. Second of all, it is a very natural inquiry. I have often wondered about the connection between children and their birth families as well. However, just because I wonder about it, doesn’t mean I need to ask it. Think of similarly to asking someone “Why do I never see your dad around? I heard he left your family?” It’s a pretty personal question that requires a special time and place to talk through. It also should not be asked in front of the kids. So, if that special time arises with you and our family, we can potentially share more about Chinese social dynamics.
“He seems so attached already.”
Attachment is a journey. It’s not a black and white ‘he wasn’t attached, now he is.” Children take baby steps towards attachment and we hope to see those baby steps start soon after he joins our family. I saw a comment on someone else’s Facebook picture of the day they met their son. The child was smiling. The comment said “Look at how happy he is to be with you. It’s obvious he trusts you so much already!” While that sounds great – there is really no way he can trust these strange people he just met. And while there is a chance the smile may be honest happiness, it is more likely’putting on the charm’, because that is what has always gotten him what he wanted in the orphanage. If Duo clings to us, it does not necessarily mean he’s securely attached. He could be afraid and nervous and we are the only thing familiar in this crazy land called Oregon. And just because he holds my hand or gives us a hug (which I sure hope he does), does not mean he is securely attached. It all means he’s learning. Baby steps. We’ll get there and will be intentional about forging attachment with him for many years.
“Is it different than having your own kids?”
This one will be hard for me. Probably ‘own kids’ and ‘real parents’ are the phrases that cut the deepest. It shows a misunderstanding of the permanency and covenant of adoption. It undermines the authenticity of the relationship that ALL parents have with their children and assumes there is something ‘less’ about being an adoptive family than a birth family. For those of us who believe in Jesus’ message of including the Gentiles in his promises, and not just the blood line of the Jews….we should know on a very deep level that both Jews and Gentiles who trust Him are fully Christ’s ‘own’.
If Duo hears these phrases as he grows it gives subtle suggestions that he is not ‘one of us’. It implies that he doesn’t really quite belong. That Noah, Jude, Evy, Piper and Clementine are our ‘own’, but for some reason he isn’t. My heart would break if he ever started to believe this. Duo is being given to our family as a gift, just like Noah, Jude, Evy, Piper and Clementine were given to us. They are all our own. We will have six children soon. Not five and one adopted. We will have six children and they are all our own children. I realize, I’m repeating myself. It’s just a really important point. Most people do not intend to insult with this comment, I realize. It’s just a big one and the more people that can be mindful of the painfulness of this terminology, the better.
“He’s more special, you chose him!”
While the intentions behind this thought are to be positive and affirming, it again, sets Duo apart. And what does that make our first five kids? Not as special? They were pretty much chosen too….by God! And Duo was chosen by God as well. He’s not more or less special because he is adopted. It’s just his story. All our stories are valid, unique and important. I’ve also heard calling adopted children ‘chosen’, puts an unnecessary burden on them to live up to the ‘extra special’ category they’ve been assigned. It’s probably best we put ALL of us in the ‘extra special’ category, because that is how Jesus sees us.
“He is so lucky to have you. You are so awesome to do this.”
Something we are very mindful of and want to communicate always is…we are not Duo’s savior. There is only one person who can fill that role. There are millions of orphans and to hear the stats on how only a fraction of those children are even available for adoption is staggering. That means, even when children are not adopted….God has promised to meet them. Thankfully, God is bringing Duo into our family and he will be an orphan no longer. However, we are going to be just as blessed to have him in our family. It will be a mutual blessing. It would be affirming to our family if you would help create a culture of this perspective in Duo’s world. So, he never gets the impression he would have been abandoned by God if he hadn’t been brought into our family. This happens to be the way God is providing for Duo and we are SO glad to be a part of it.
“Does he have any special needs?”
So, this just boils down to being a very personal question. Some special needs are easily visible and some are not. Either way, a child should have the authority to share details about their life when they are ready. In general, it is their story to share. Just think of how awkward it would be for someone to walk up to your family and say “So, does anyone in your family have bladder control issues?” (just a random ‘special need’ chosen for the sake of this example). You might be taken aback, and rightly so. As with any child, there are a spectrum of needs. In general, you can also assume all adopted children will all have some sensitive needs because of the number of losses they have experienced at such a young age.
“Can I hold him?”
This is one of the most natural things to ask when you meet a friend who just had a baby. While I don’t anticipate many people asking us this as Duo is 9 1/2, I thought I’d just take this opportunity to share how it’s different with children coming into families via adoption. As most understand, all adopted children come from a place of loss. An infant born to his/her mother has been with her 24/7 since conception. A brief moment of separation from her for someone to hold and coddle will do no harm whatsoever. And it’s fun! The infant will then return to mom and recognize that she is home. That is a good cycle. With an adopted child, they do not truly know on a visceral level who mom and dad are yet. In a sense, those first months with them/us need to simulate a pregnancy where we are together ALL the time. So, Duo will know our scents, our motions, our voices, our tendencies, our everything. Allowing others to care for him too soon puts him in a position of having to question “Is this person going to take me away now too?” For this reason, it is widely accepted in the adoption world that new families go through a time of ‘cacooning’ together. This is limiting exposure to new people, new toys, new foods, etc. until the child seems to be settling in. The hard part of this is that we WANT to share Duo with our friends and family. And we DON’T want to isolate ourselves and have all of you feel afraid to reach out us. This will be a delicate dance as we all seek to do what is best for Duo and his attachment.
The last thing we want to do is scare off friends and family who want to invest in Duo and our life. Don’t be afraid to interact with us and be interested in this piece of our life. Just know we are going to be learning as we go – as far as knowing what is good to share and what is good to keep private for Duo’s sake as he grows.
Thanks, mostly, for reading this and being willing to take a step in understanding some of the unique dynamics of adoptive families.