Wednesday was another banner day at our home, and no, you shouldn’t read that with any kind of sarcasm. I mentioned in a post earlier this year (clear back in January) that my step-son had asked for me to adopt him. Well, it took nine months and a lot of frustration, but that dream became a reality on Wednesday, and my son is now legally mine.
The word “adoption” plays a big role in our family. Both my husband and I were adopted by our parents when we were infants. In my case, when I was just four days old, and in his, when he was just a few hours old. We have many friends who were also adopted. My dear friend Melinkers (not her real name, of course), our close friend the Asian Bombshell (again, not her real name), my writing friend Carolyn, and the husband of my good friend Chrissy were all adopted children.
Being adopted comes with its own unique set of issues and insecurities, but it also comes with the guarantee that you were a chosen child, a child for whom your adoptive parents may have waited years. Most of us, though certainly not all, were raised with the knowledge that we had two mothers who loved us, not just one.
In many ways, my son is a lot more like me now. He knows his biological mother loves him, but he also knows that her mental health doesn’t allow her to act ways that fully demonstrate this love. That’s why he made the choice he made: to show that he understands what love and security are and that he chooses to be identified with a family that offers him that full-time.
My oldest daughter made the same choice when she was 15, though we realize now that her choice had less to do with her biological dad being crazy than with her step-mother at the time. Unfortunately, her biological dad sided with the the insanity over his own flesh-and-blood daughter, so she made it known that her world and her well-being required more stability than that, and she asked her step-dad to make official what we had known since she was four-years-old.
(I’ll post the picture of my son’s adoption when I get them from my sister-in-law) The day of her adoption, our family celebrated together – even my parents who were divorced and could barely stand to be in the same room together united for this event, which demonstrates how powerful and significant a decision it was.
The same was true on Wednesday. My son’s maternal grandmother – my husband’s ex-mother-in-law – came to support our family. At one point the judge even asked her to give testimony about her daughter, about the damage that her daughter’s mental health has caused to their relationship. With the exception of calling her mother to tell her that her son was being adopted and would therefore no longer be her grandson, this woman hadn’t heard from her daughter in nearly 11 years. That’s a long story best saved for another blog.
I think our society has a tendency to throw the word “adoption” around in a way that really undermines its significance. We adopt an attitude, or we adopt new rules or policies, but when using the word to apply to human beings, I think a more spiritual and a more thoughtful tone need to be in place.
What changed for my son and I this week was nothing, and it was everything. It didn’t change how I love him, because I’ve always loved him as if I had given birth to him. I don’t feel any differently about that now. What is different is that the word “step” no longer applies; not on paper, and not in any other form. I never felt as if I were his “step” mother, and I never treated him as if he were my “step” son. That term didn’t apply to my daughter and my husband either. He was her full-time dad, and she loves him no differently than if he were biologically related to her.
My husband and I have often talked about the fact that our parents are our parents, despite their lack of genetic contribution to our existence. I’ve had the opportunity to meet members of my biological family, but these people didn’t raise me. They are sweet, and loving, and I am blessed to have them in my life, but they are like close friends, not necessarily like relatives. I wasn’t raised with my biological sister, and as much as I love her and her family, I don’t have the bond with her that I share with my adoptive sister.
It’s an odd set of realities for those of us who, either by choice or by fate, belong to a family that doesn’t bear a biological connection. This is where faith and science intersect I guess; the whole “nature vs. nurture” debate moves to center stage. While science informs us that our biology gives us a genetic code and predispositions us to certain aspects of life, it doesn’t give us love. Those who bear our genetic makeup do not automatically meet our need for affection and caring. Adoption is the evidence that blood is not always thicker than water; that in fact, water that is the gift of love pours forth with much greater power and intensity than many blood ties together could achieve.
So Wednesday was another banner day in our home. It further strengthened our family, but as evidenced by the silly behavior of all three of my kids, it changed very little at all.