About adoption

by Rod Smith

About adoption – these matters surface strongly for me around Mothers Day and other holidays…..

I was approached by a woman who changed my life. She requested that I rear her then 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 if you adopt you will meet it at many a turn.

Many people will insist on attaching “adopted” onto every mention of my children (and “black”) as if we all need constant reminders and as if my children are not clearly African-American. I have learned to (usually) ignore this despite finding it quite amusing.

People who are against abortion deny the very essence of their anti-abortion stance if they have not at least adopted a few children. I am sure my reasoning is flawed but I’m going to stick with it. If a person is against abortion he or she ought to be adopting and fostering left, right and center. Before I get yelled at I am also aware that in some places adoption is next to impossible for single people or people over certain ages.

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. This just 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 and in impacting the life of the child. Sometimes I feel that the absent parents wield greater influence than the parents who are present. Sometimes it feels the other way around. These things 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 parent will learn about this connection the hard way, probably in a way that will burn. 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, strollers, cribs) and long-haul (sports, school, homework, university, and so much else both expected and unexpected). This was not, I hope, some arrogant assumption on my part but a decision that was and is essential to our survival. It’s about faith, not self-sufficiency. Who needs an unsure dad? Who needs a hesitant dad when he’s the only parent you have?

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 and not by going ahead. I would stand back so my sons would have to clear their own paths (make their way) 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.

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. Now that they are older I do not do this anymore.
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 strengths rather than spin my wheels trying to improve so-called 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. Last count we’ve been to about 25 countries together (Nate a few fewer since he is younger).

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.

Let me close by answering a frequently asked question: Yes: I do believe children are usually “better off” in two-parent families. Had one stepped forward for each boy and had the mothers chosen those families I’d have willingly watched them go….until the moment the judge hit the gavel and the deed was done….

One Comment to “About adoption”

  1. Beautiful tribute, beautiful parenting

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