Things kind and well meaning people say to, about, or in front of our adopted daughter:
“What a lucky little girl to be in your family.”
“She is very lucky that you adopted her.”
“Aren’t you so lucky to live here?”
“She is really lucky to have you.”
“You are so lucky, Grace. Do you know how lucky you are?”
Things no one ever would think to say to, about, or in front of our biological children:
“What a lucky boy you are that your parents didn’t have an abortion.”
“Aren’t you lucky that your parents kept you!”
“Do you know how lucky you are to be in a family?”
“Your kids are so lucky that you kept them – it must cost a fortune.”
I’ve said ridiculous things, ignorant things, and things I should have just left in my inside-my-headvoice.
Everyone does. Dozens of people have said word for word to or about Grace, our adopted daughter; none of them with anything but intending to compliment me or my husband for adopting. I always know it is meant with the best of intentions and kindness. I typically smile and say how we are the lucky ones. How she has taught us so much about Love and perseverance, and God and believing Him and trusting Him etc. I cringe a little when I hear “she’s so lucky” because honestly it is the last word I would use to describe her.
I don’t really believe in luck, but if I did a “lucky child” would be what I would say to describe our first two children who were born healthy to parents who were married and committed to each other forever.They were each hoped for, wanted, and I took very good care of myself and them during both pregnancies. I sung to them, read to them, played music for them. I took the vitamins, avoided things I shouldn’t, exercised some, rested as much as I could and delighted at the thought of impending motherhood. I lived in a virtually stress free, fear-free, safe environment where my loving husband was present and gentle with me. Each of our first labors and deliveries were a dream come true and fulfilled so many hopes and prayers and wishes. Our children were born in clean, safe hospitals under the care of the chief of Obstetrics, and they were each full term and perfectly healthy. The second they were born they were in my arms hearing my voice and the voice of their father, just as they had for 9 months prior. They were carefully cared for and received sterile, hygienic, state of the art medical care and they were nursed within hours of their healthy and full term birth. When they cried someone met whatever need they had immediately. They never went long without a dry diaper. They never missed a feeding. They were rocked to sleep, snuggled, sung to, prayed over, talked to, read to, every single day until they out grew some of those things. They grew up with parents who love each other and are still married. They have always slept and lived in a safe neighborhood in a cleanish home, and have had excellent education opportunities. They have never gone without food, clothes, shelter, clean water, or love a day in their lives and as far as it depends on me – they never will.
That, is a “lucky” child.
Our littlest one, though…
I don’t know much about her beginning. I know where she was found and it was in a very busy place. Born in a country that limits how many children one can have, is a stark contrast to life here in America. Her birth parents obviously (in my opinion) wanted her to have a chance and I’m certain they realized quickly that she was not born healthy. In her first 19 months of life she was hospitalized for at least 20 weeks – a couple of weeks here and a couple of weeks there. She moved five times in 19 months leaving trusted caregivers behind each time. She had surgery, procedures, dozens of IV’s. She always had difficulty breathing and grew up in one of the worst cities for air quality on the planet. At 19 months she left her friends and her caregivers and her home, having no choice in the matter – to move across the world with strangers (us). Upon returning home, she was the subject of multiple weekly medical tests, procedures, blood-work, and consequently open heart surgery.
Because of the aforementioned events, she reacts and often overreacts to things and her behaviors are often times fear driven. I watch her respond to something in a way she knows isn’t right and she looks at me as if to say – I did it again. Her default response often times is to hit, or to fall to the ground in a dramatic meltdown, or to throw something she is holding in anger. She panics if she wakes up in a room alone. Most people cannot understand what she is trying to say so she is often frustrated and misunderstood. She longs to play with other children, but has compromised lungs which we are working to keep as healthy as possible so they grow healthy new tissue. Therefore, many scheduled playdates get canceled or postponed. This makes it challenging for her to appropriately interact with her peers because Mama and Daddy are her primary play-mates and we are pretty great at sharing. She is improving though…Sunday school has resulted in some teeth marks on friends and we are (please Lord) assured that one can not attend any kind of school if we bite and hit our friends. #thankyouforgraceamen
Someday, she will ask why she doesn’t look like any of us. She already notices that everyone but her has blue eyes. Someday she will see baby pictures of her older siblings in a hospital and ask where hers are. Someday she will wonder, why. Why did my birth family leave me? Someday she might wonder if they are looking for her or if they miss her and then she will wonder if it’s ok to miss them and wonder about them. Someday she will have a school project asking her about the day she was born or have an assignment to bring in baby pictures. Someday a classmate will ask her if I’m her “real Mom” or if that’s her “real Dad”, or just flat out say “they aren’t your real parents”. Someday she might let those questions sink in and take root and stir up more questions like, “do they love me as much since I’m not their real daughter.”
If she only knew… we love her as much.
So when my hair stands on end and I field comments from well meaning people about how lucky Grace is; I want to say all of that. I want to explain how there’s no luck there. Luck takes out intent and action from the equation. Luck takes out the Love. Love for a child we knew was out there but had not laid eyes on, set a fire in our souls to go and bring her home. That wasn’t luck, that was providence and the hand of a redeeming God. Love for a God who is faithful and worth trusting and believing gave us courage in a season of life, to step outside our comfort zone and do some crazy stuff in the name of love and faith.
Hopefully this will ring a bell with you. Hopefully it will generate other things to say to adopted children and their parents, such as:
How wonderful that you have each other to love.
God blessed the broken road that brought you together.
No really…that actually works.
The last thing I want our daughter to grow up wondering is if since she is so “lucky” to be with us – how will she ever be able to repay us for adopting her… That’s what really and truly makes my hair stand on end. She doesn’t owe us anything. She doesn’t have to become anything other than what she chooses and I hope she will choose to be everything God created her to be. It’s our job to love her, provide for her, guide her, and point her to Jesus and to what is true and right and loving in the world.
It’s our job to teach her to love God and to love others well.
So as you love others well, specifically those who have adopted and are adopted – focus less on the luck and more on the Love.
It’s all about the Love.
– photo by Tish Goff