On Being an Adoptive Dad

June 1, 2015 a father's perspective, Dads, hearing loss, June 2015 Feature - Let's Hear It For Dads, reluctant husband, Sensory System 3 Comments

June is here and as we move into a new month, we also begin a new Feature here on NHBO. In April and May our focus was on attachment. This month, in honor of Father’s Day, our focus will be… you guessed it, Dads. We are looking forward to sharing posts from adoptive dads all month long – and, based upon our recent NHBO reader survey, we know many of you have been wanting to hear more from a father’s perspective, too. So, welcome June and let’s hear it for Dads!

Everything has changed since we adopted Lucy from China.

Being a guy, we are often not the ones who initiate the adoption process. In our case, I wasn’t the one to start the conversation – my wife was. When she first brought it up, I wasn’t very interested; in fact, I was unmoved. If I remember correctly, I nodded my head, smiled, and said ‘yes.’

Laura, being wise and intuitive, sensed my lack of believable affirmation. The issue didn’t come up again for some time.

However, when it did surface, I agreed once again. We actually did begin the process. I was on board, intellectually. Once we started the paperwork (all of that paperwork….), God spoke and moved me to a position where the adoption made sense to me on a personal level.

Not that it was anything particularly hidden, but it was a blindspot to me. My own Dad grew up in a children’s home and was never adopted. I didn’t see that I had an opportunity to give a child a home – a family, physical needs, siblings, lots of love and affection, discipline and guidance – when my own father wasn’t privy to those same advantages. From this point on, our journey to adopt Lucy took on a new meaning for me that was previously untapped.

Again, men aren’t the primary drivers of adoption, in most cases. Much of this has to do with our culture. We aren’t encouraged to nurture, to ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ at pictures of babies, or to take the time to connect with our children. We’re meant to produce, to win, to get the job done and then retreat to our islands once more. Right?

kirkland 1

In my own life, I’ve seen the need to exit the roles we’ve been pre-assigned by our society (or that we feel have been assigned) on many occasions. Those roles are often rigid and don’t account for many nuances. For example, I would be encouraged by all that I’ve seen and has been fed to me that I should wear a Clint Eastwood-style suit as a man. I should be a man of few words. I should be tough as nails. I should tell others what to do and how to treat me. I shouldn’t take crap from anyone.

This simply doesn’t line up with reality or who God created me to be.

First of all, Laura and I must be on the same page. We have to operate with one mind, if you will. If we aren’t, then our lives will be chaotic, as we each try to wrestle our worldview to the driver’s seat of our household. We have to talk and relate. We have to be honest with each other. We have to voice our wishes, our opinions, our hurts, and our fears. If we aren’t doing these things regularly – if the highway of communication is under construction – we won’t be living as the unit God joined together in that ceremony years ago. A living, breathing joint effort meant to bring glory to God.

So, I understand that Laura and I need to be one. That process of dying to my own plans – those individual fantasies of my own mind – has been painful, but so necessary. That process is ongoing; it will never be over. I will always wrestle with that part of me that wants to do my own thing, live on my own island, and bend to no one’s will. Just as we’ve started to live a life that’s melded together – as we are walking in stride – this transforms my walk with God. It’s all part of the same process, interestingly enough.

We’re nearly at the 2-year mark since adopting Lucy. Like I said, everything has changed.

We are in the process of adopting – again. We’re planning to return to China later this year (most likely the Fall) to adopt another little girl, Charlotte. She is deaf, as was Lucy. Lucy now has cochlear implants and can hear. If possible, we are planning to give Charlotte the same opportunity as Lucy and she will have cochlear implants.

In our adoption walk, both of our girls have been deaf. God has led us into this world of the hearing-impaired for a reason.

Throughout Lucy’s doctors appointments, the surgeries, the therapies – I have learned as well. I have been in need of a new way to hear. I have been cut off – spiritually deaf, for all intents and purposes – from hearing God’s voice. By seeing Lucy’s struggles – her frustrations, her fatigue, her seemingly impossible odds to learn language and operate “normally” as we all do, who hear and speak and converse – I see myself. I, too, am stubborn. I, too, don’t want to take the time and work to learn to listen and speak. I, too, don’t know how to communicate.

Brilliantly, God has begun a work in our lives. God has begun to transform the life of our girl, Lucy, both spiritually, emotionally, and physically. God has done the same in me. God has begun resurrecting the wreckage that I previously operated in (that I believed was functional, but in reality, wasn’t at all) and has begun transforming me into one who lives for those I’ve been blessed to walk with in this life. Laura and I walk in unison. We walk in unison with God. Our family relates – not with perfection, but with honesty, love, forgiveness, and hope.

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As we look ahead to another China voyage and to begin a new walk with Charlotte, we have great joy. As a Dad, I have another opportunity to invite another little one into our fold. I have another opportunity to see the grace and love of God poured out in ways unimaginable. I have another opportunity to be stretched beyond what I think possible. I have more need of God.

As a man, this is the place I need to live from.



Sean Kirkland loves to create. Depending on the day, he could be writing a story, shooting and editing a video, or acting in something. He has also been able to collaboratively create an unpredictable adventure of a marriage with his wife, Laura Kirkland, as well as a growing brood of young, distinct personalities: Zoë, Henry, Finn, and Lucy. They are welcoming a fifth child when they travel to China this Fall to adopt Charlotte.

Sean has a video production company, Pursuit Productions, located in Kennesaw, GA. He also writes/posts on Tumblr. You can see more of the Kirkland Family’s story and donate to Charlotte’s upcoming adoption at their Adopt Together site.

3 responses to “On Being an Adoptive Dad”

  1. Sean Kirkland says:

    Important note to add:

    Amazing photography, courtesy of Chris Henderson Photography

  2. Anthony says:

    Sean: Your insights are well stated and of course your writing skills are excellent. I think one day you will need to explore how Lucy has learned to learn how she is loved and how she loves. It would be interesting to see how her growth has been impacted by being in a family where she has been shown she is loved. Would love to get her perspective one day. I suspect you, Laura and the rest of your family have done an extraordinary job with her. Enjoyed your article.

  3. Doug Riggle says:

    Great to get a dad’s perspective! I adopted my son as a single dad…nothing has changed my life more! Thank you for sharing! More dads need to share to encourage other dads.

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