Do adopted children feel like your own?

“Which ones are yours?”

Often, when someone finds out that some of my children were adopted, the question asked is, “which ones are your real children?” Awhile back, I was sitting outside with a few of my kids and that question came up and I turned to Ania and thumped her on the leg, “Are you plastic?” I asked.

People who innocently ask that question do not understand true adoption. The concept of adoption was not man’s idea, it was God’s before the foundation of the world according to Ephesians 1:4,5. Since I often quote this verse, I will paraphrase it for the sake of time. He foreordained for us to be adopted into His family before the foundation of the world.

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Each of us were not an after thought in the family photo. It was planned before the world was formed that we would be part of the family. It was His intent from the beginning. We are His real children.

This is not a new debate. It was the debate of the newly formed Christian church shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven…

“As pig-flesh eating Gentile believers-formerly goddess worshipers and Caesar magnifiers and all the rest began confessing Jesus as the Messiah, some Jewish-Christians demanded to know, “Are they circumcised?” This meant of course, “Are they really our brothers?” Russell Moore, Adopted for Life

Here we Christians are a couple of centuries later running around claiming our inheritance, our sonship, the outpouring of grace as if it were truly ours and there were no arguments about it to begin with. We claim not to be plastic, but real children of God and we are accurate in our belief!

Here’s the deeper, real issue. We Christians love to compartmentalize things. We say things like, wait, a minute, that is spiritual. That idea fits perfectly on my theology shelf, right next to the dusty Concordance. Real life is flesh and blood children that we adopted from an orphanage/foster care/adoption agency. We know they are not our real children. They came from a different womb. A different culture. These children had to learn to eat our food. Live in a house, trust us. Hmmm. Sounds like just what I was talking about. Us. We Gentiles. Different culture. Different color skin than the first adopted children. When we compartmentalize or refuse to think on these things, we set ourselves up for faulty thinking. Screwtape says to Wormwood (demon to demon):

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

“We thought of having our own before we adopted.”

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I have heard this statement out of the mouths of so many wanna-be adoptive parents. I get it. It is just semantics. Just a phrase. Instead of saying, “I want to birth a few children before we adopt” people tend to say, “Ahhh, we’ll have a few of our own first.” And that is fine, as long as the meaning is clear and it is not a mindset. A mindset could lead to trouble further down the road. If you are always calling bios as ‘your own’ than the distinction can trickle down into your attitudes and actions. You know. Favorites.  Which ones of us who were raised in families with favorites liked it (if we weren’t the favorite). “Why can’t you get better grades like your sister?” “Are you wearing THAT? You should get some fashion sense from your sister!” I’m not inciting communism. I am asking for unified families. Brothers and sisters who share equally in parental love and discipline (when needed). Everyone is chosen. Everyone is approved.

“I don’t know if they will feel as if they are my own.”

I wonder how someone feels like my own. My husband feels like my own. We have been married for almost thirty years. When I first met him, he seemed…well, different, strange, for lack of a better word. He has an overwhelmingly outgoing personality. I am an introvert. I like to talk to small groups of people. He wows everyone. EVERYWHERE. It took awhile for me to get used to. But, I did. Now he feels like my own. And, to put it in its place, it is just a feeling. Not a fact.

When we moved into the orphanage fifteen years ago, to spend time with our potential Guires, the food was weird. The language was different. The habits were different. My children were new to me. It took me awhile to adjust to them. I remember the second morning of our stay. I was fresh out of bed, my hair frizzing out in its morning way. I hadn’t had my cup of coffee so my brain was flat and sluggish. One of the caregivers brought tiny Gregory to the door of our apartment, “he wanted to see his new Momma,” she explained and left. My first thought, I don’t want him to see me yet. My hair is a mess and I have no make-up on. He was six years old. I don’t think he cared. But, he was new to me. I wanted to impress him. Be the best Momma ever.  The truth is ‘feeling like my own’ takes time. Connection takes time. Especially with older children who have come from hard places. AND….. at the same time, it is a mindset. I loved them from the moment I saw their blurry photos, no before that when I was journaling to them. But that feeling that they were my own took a stack of experiences together. Memories. Stacked upon memories.  They are Guires. They are my own.

If you are thinking seriously about adopting/fostering and you have the FEAR the children will not feel like your own, don’t throw the idea of adoption out the window. Adoption is a process similar to any relationship. Even birthing a child through your own womb does not assure instant perfect connection. I remember bringing my first born home from the hospital and thinking, those nurses are crazy to let me take her home. I have no idea what I’m doing! With time and experience I learned. I learned to recognize her kinds of cries. The same is true with adopted children. We parents have to learn their ways and they have to learn ours. It is a process. They are our own before we feel (or they feel) as if they are. Feelings are fickle. Don’t rely on them. Rely on fact. On truth. Don’t let fear stand in the way of your destiny.

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