Before becoming a foster and then adoptive parent, I never realized how often I would feel conflicted about my kids’ milestones. That the same event could bring profound happiness as well as deep sadness. November 11, 2017 is forever etched in my soul. It’s the day we officially became a family of five. We cried happy tears and celebrated for days.
Fast forward a year.
We won’t be celebrating the anniversary of his adoption; likely November 11 will come and go with little acknowledgement. He knows the date he was adopted. Maybe he will say something. Maybe not. Adoption is complicated and messy and somehow still beautiful. While he certainly gained a forever family through adoption, he lost a link to his birth family who loves him. He has siblings he won’t live with and a history he may never know.
Feeling sad, angry, or conflicted about being adopted doesn’t lessen their love for me.
I hope our kids never feel like they have to choose between their birth family and their adoptive family. When they were little, we celebrated adoption milestones, like the anniversary of the day they came to live with us (their gotcha day). These days received the same fanfare as a birthday, complete with cake and presents.
It’s easy to gloss over the hard parts of adoption. As the boys get older, their questions change. They want to know about their birth family. They want to know the details about why they came into foster care. The answers to their questions are longer and full of “I don’t knows.” They now recognize the complexity of adoption.
Being adopted shouldn’t define them.
Calling attention to their adoptions makes them different and standout in a way we don’t want for them. They are so much more than being adopted. They are smart, handsome, and funny. They are mischievous and curious. They play football and the drums. They hate cleaning their rooms and brushing their teeth. They are also adopted. No single characteristic should define them.
So as we pass these anniversaries, I am reminded (thanks, social media) of the happiness of those days. The joy and relief. But I am also reminded of their birth mother who likely dreads these dates. Our boys are starting to develop their own feelings about being adopted. And we will respect their feelings, whatever they are.