Eight years ago I was having a conversation with someone about parenthood. I told the person we were planning on adopting one day. “I couldn’t love another person’s child like my own”. I was taken aback at the time. Maybe I inferred from what they said that the relationship I was going to have with my child would not reach the same level or be as significant as the one they had with their biological children.
I’ve had a few more of those discussions in the years since. During one discussion the garden variety “why are you adopting?” question was asked. This person has several children and made the “loving someone else’s kid” comment, adding that I was a better man than he. I don’t know why it makes me a “better man”. I don’t think people who adopt are better. We’re just like everyone else who wants children. I’m sure there are people out there that adopt for charity, I just hope and pray there aren’t too many.
Adopting doesn’t make us any better or worse (unless you believe in karma). Adoption was the way we decided to have a child. I wasted two years taking horticulture in high school. One of the few things I remember from the class is grafting. I remember fascination when our instructor took the limb from another plant, shaved it down, and inserted it into a wedge he created in the host plant. When I think of it now it reminds me of our family. Penelope was grafted in.The day we held her in our arms, Penelope was our daughter.
From the outside looking in adoption may seem like charity. “Oh, that child is so lucky to have you as parents!” is something we hear from time to time. I’m quick to point out Jenn and I are the lucky ones. We wanted a daughter and now we have one. I’m dreading the day someone makes the comment when Penelope is with us. We don’t want her thinking or feeling she deserves pity because of her adoption. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Another person’s child” reveals the thorny side of adoption. Whether adoptive parents admit it or not, we enter a world of uncertainty. Regardless of whether it’s an open, closed, or international adoption, there’s another man and woman who produced the child we love. Those people will always be a part of the equation. Maybe this is the part that causes people to say “I could never love someone else’s child”. Will the child’s love be divided, as if it’s a limited reservoir that has to be shared with strangers? “My child loves me about 75% today. I’ve got to watch it though, she may start loving her bio mom and dad more!”.
When we adopted Penelope we knew another set of parents existed in China. Her feelings for those parents will not change our love for her. If the experiences of others is any indication, exploring Penelope’s emotions about her bio parents will not be easy. If she were to question our love for her because she is “another person’s child” it would compound the difficulty.
One last thing; for those who feel they can’t love another person’s child, thank you for not adopting. The last thing any child needs is to feel less important than another child. They deserve the best.