Written by: Amy Bates
My family is big into celebrating! Halloween decorations go up as soon as the sweaters come out. April Fools is an all-day event rather than a one-time joke and birthdays require a breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu. Celebrating adoption during November, the month set aside to do so, has always been an easy decision. Our family has grown, not just by children, but with lots of loving extended family, through adoption. Being called mom by those precious children is one of the greatest blessings in my life.
Amidst my extreme gratitude and joy is the awareness of the complex, difficult, and, at times, sad our union can also bring. Legally separating a family, regardless of the pure intentions of those involved, is never taken lightly and deserves proper acknowledgment. Finding a way to honor the hard, as well as the happy, has been a journey that I am grateful to still be walking.
I have found the most success by first recognizing that two seemingly opposing thoughts can be true at the same time. Adoption can be an incredible miracle for all those involved, AND it can create a huge hole in the hearts of many that can never be completely healed. In leaving space for both ideas, I have been able to help my children and myself get to a place where the hole, although still there, doesn’t affect our daily lives.
For this to happen, I am mindful of how I talk about the parents who created them. Recognizing that much of their self-esteem, as well as their eye color, comes from them. Honoring that relationship as an important one decreases the need for them to feel torn between two worlds. When appropriate and safe, allowing visits, phone calls, and other communication supports the healing process. Constantly cognizant of the immense sacrifice these parents have made, willingly or not, softens my heart and makes room for love to grow.
Extended family has been crucial in our journey as sometimes their parents have not been in a place where visits are possible for various reasons. By allowing other family members to share their roots and then become grafted into our family tree, I have been able to give my kids a gift I didn’t previously have access to. In my mind, there is no downside to more people showing up for and loving my child.
Keeping the door open for hard conversations and negative, conflicting feelings that may arise during various developmental phases has increased communication and connection for all of us. Learning and teaching the concept of two truths being equally true has allowed them to experience felt safety in the love that all their parents have for them.
As families grow and change through adoption, celebrating is a natural and special way of honoring the unique and amazing way some families are formed. Honoring the family that came first only adds to the extraordinary event, so celebrate away and find ways to enjoy National Adoption Month!