In my previous post, I talked about the falsehoods and misunderstandings surrounding foster care. I want to further address a few of those we feel are most relevant to our situation. When we completed our foster and adoption training and learned so many things we were previously unaware of, we set our minds to approach our experience as a teaching opportunity. We KNEW the time would come when people would say hurtful things or cause offense to us or our children, with or without realizing it. We knew we would have to bite our tongues or choose our words carefully in order to share what we had learned in a way that would be honoring to all involved. We are not particularly concerned with political correctness as a whole and sometimes find that excessive sensitivity is annoying and counter productive. For that reason, we want to clarify that this is not an issue of altering language simply to appease people, rather, it is an issue of accuracy. When it comes to children and families, we should use specific language that is honest.
As parents, we aren’t an exception to the norm. We aren’t superheroes, nor have we set out to do a “good thing”. We’re just trying to honor the Lord and pursue the passions He has placed in our hearts. For us, that just happens to include foster care and adoption. We are 100% certain that He has built our family and sustained it solely by His grace and (without a doubt) in spite of our shortcomings and failures.
To clarify, I am not a perfect mom. I love parenting, and being a Momma is positively the best thing I have ever been. It’s what I love more than anything. I do believe I am a good Momma. Some days, I’m a great Momma, but some days I’m terrible. Sometimes I’m both in the same day…or in the same hour.
My husband is an amazing Daddy who has dreamed of being a Dad since he was itty bitty. He’s great at it. It highlights his strengths and suits him well. He would also tell you that it tries him and tests him like nothing else he has ever experienced, and he shares my paradox of finding in parenthood the greatest of successes and the greatest of failures.
We have six unique and wonderful children, some of whom are biological and some of whom are adopted. On one hand, we are happy to share their stories because each one is beautifully painted by the hand of God. On the other hand, we are thrilled when people have no idea they don’t all share our DNA, and we often choose not to answer questions or comments that rob our kids or their biological families of the dignity and respect they deserve.
We love that our adopted children look like they “could be” ours. They are ours. With that said, it is fun to hear people note resemblances that are not in the least bit genetic. Some have even said they could be our REAL children. [Just to review, all six of our children are real. None are imaginary…except maybe batman. I have definitely heard (on more than one occasion) claims that he lives in our home. I am fairly certain that this is imaginary.]
We are permanently tied to biological families whom we love dearly. These “birth parents” as we choose to refer to them, love the children we share tremendously. They live with regrets and heartaches of their own, but they also have the promise from us that we will always honor them and make sure their kids know they love them. The situation will always be complicated, but we face it head-on because we want our kids to know that we grieve with them in their losses and rejoice with them in redemption. This means acknowledging all parts of their stories and celebrating the beauty of having them home with us. (Cue the internal music *God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you*)
Our path of parenthood has been just as unexpected to us as to the people around us. We didn’t set out to follow this path. We were actually pretty oblivious to the tremendous need for foster families, and while we had talked about the idea of adoption since before we were even married, we had a very romantic and uninformed view of what it truly entails. Just over five years ago, all of that began to change and the Lord started unraveling the threads of our self-woven plans. He wrecked our hearts and shook us to the core.
He blessed us with an amazing support system of grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, and extended family, church family, and friends who also had their worlds rocked and their hearts wrecked through our journey. They’ve stood by us, loved us by loving our children, and helped us in ways too numerous to explain in this post. Of course we’ve had our share of misunderstandings, foolish remarks made with good intentions, and hurtful words from strangers and friends alike, but we hope we’ve been able to share some of what we’ve learned with the people around us. We, too, continue to learn and adjust our thinking accordingly. (As Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”)
Again, knowing the correct terms for complicated family relationships isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s an issue of dealing respectfully and honestly with real-life issues that foster and adoptive families face. It’s a way to honor the people you know who have non-traditional families and a way to celebrate the beautiful lives of the children most heavily impacted.