Adoption

by Rod Smith

Things I’ve Learned – about adoption

I was approached by a woman who changed my life. She requested that I rear her unborn son as my own.

The rest, as it is said, is history.

Adoption is a beautiful institution. It’s as old as humanity and can be as enduring as the best and most powerful expressions of love. I find it impossible to believe that somehow I would love my children more were they biologically my children.

I think this kind of thinking is nonsense but you will meet it at many a turn.

Many people will insist on attaching “adopted” onto every mention of my children as if we all need constant reminders. I have learned to (usually) ignore this despite finding it quite amusing.

Children are quite comfortable talking about adoption, if the parents are. My sons freely tell people they are adopted and appear to have no idea that there was a time when people tended to keep such things secret. Our openness, of course, may be fostered somewhat by the fact that I am Caucasian and each of them is not.

In every adoption there is a set of biological parents and the adopted parent(s) – all are very powerful in the life of the child. Sometimes I feel that the absent parent wields greater influence than the parent who is present. Sometimes it feels the other way around.

These forces are not static.

Birth moms and dads usually remain intimately connected to the child even if they never see the child again. This is an invisible connection that defies distance and time, and, if the adopted parent tries to ignore this connection, or even extinguish it, the adoptive parent will learn about this connection the hard way.

Rather acknowledge it than try to deny it or get rid of it.

I had to immediately decide I was sufficient for the immediate (the nights, diapers, bottles, illnesses, teething, potty training, strollers, cribs) and long-haul (sports, school, homework, university, and so much else both expected and unexpected).

This was, I hope, not some arrogant assumption, but a decision that was and is essential to my survival.

It’s about faith, not self-sufficiency.

Who needs an insecure and unsure dad?

I had to decide that I was enough for each child.

While far from perfect, the role is mine and I was, and I am, and I will be equipped to play it.

I decided very early in the process that I would protect my children from behind. I would stand back so my sons would have to clear their own paths rather than my submitting to the pressure of going ahead and somehow doing life for them.

I believed and subsequently saw that parenting, nurturing, and knowing what to do would download into me in the manner software can be downloaded into a computer. I would have it (abilities, understanding, wisdom) whenever I needed it.

Given that my children are black I decided that at the slightest hint of racist attitudes or comments made by anyone ever in their circle of influence, I would remove my children from the ugliness no matter what the source of the bigotry.

This has (almost) never been necessary.

I resolved that each son’s future would always be in his own hands: that I’d offer each the very best of what I was capable but that ultimately the success of each (and potential failure) was always in each boy’s hands.

I decided I would focus on encouraging our strengths rather than spin my wheels trying to improve our obvious weaknesses.

I decided I would lead my children from my strengths and my love of adventure rather than through a coddling empathy or a misplaced sympathy that could emerge within them for having been adopted by a single man.

I knew I was taking on a mammoth task and that I was doing so alone. While the help and support and love of an immediate community and family has been irreplaceable and essential, I had to remind myself that if all was lost, if all were unavailable, if all ran for the hills, the joys and responsibility of rearing my children would remain mine and mine alone.

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