A Walking Billboard

adoption_billboardThe countdown has officially started; in a little less than two weeks, Casey and I will be boarding a plane, beginning the last leg of our journey to bring our son home. As you can imagine, we are so excited. We can’t believe that this moment, that we’ve been waiting for and dreaming of for a year, is only days away.

As I fold Caleb’s baby clothes and pack them in a suitcase, reality is beginning to settle in. This isn’t make-believe any more. This time next month we will be home with our little guy; we will be a family of four. And while there is all the thrill and excitement of bringing home a new baby, there is also a bit of anxiety. We knew this would be an adventure when we signed up. And now that it’s time to pack our bags, we feel the need to take a deep breath and prepare ourselves, as much as possible, for the challenges that we will face as adoptive parents.

And one of the challenges we’ve worried about, talked about, and prayed about is the attention and commentary that we will draw as a biracial family. As Heather writes so descriptively on her blog, “When we said, ‘Yes…we will parent an African American child,’ we also signed up to be a walking billboard for adoption and race issues.” Casey and I know this is going to be a part of our lives; we expect it, and it is our greatest desire to handle all comments and questions graciously, in a way that honors God.

However, while we expect crazy comments and questions from strangers at Target, we hope and pray that our family and friends will be a safe haven for us, that they will work with us to protect Josiah from insensitive comments or inappropriate questions.

Discussing adoption can be tricky. Casey and I have both found ourselves tripping over the appropriate words from time to time, and we know that the majority of inappropriate comments come from a lack of experience or understanding about adoption.

So we would like to take this opportunity to ask those of you who are and will be a significant part of our lives and Josiah’s life to take a few moments to think and pray about the following list of suggestions. Will you help us protect Josiah and other adopted children from rude or insensitive comments?

1) Please don’t say things like, “Caleb is theirs . . . and then they adopted Josiah.” They are both ours. We truly believe that from the beginning God has intended Caleb and Josiah, and any other children we may be blessed with in the future, to be in our family. We believe that Josiah has always been a Picker, even though he was conceived in Africa and carried by his birth mother. It takes very little imagination to understand the damage that kind of phrasing can have on a child.

2) Please be sensitive about the kind of adoption questions you ask us in front of Josiah. If you are interested in adoption, we will always be glad to talk to you about it, but we would like for our son to be a normal kid as much as possible and not have to constantly deal with the topic of his adoption.

3) Some of you close to us may know about Josiah’s early situation. Please be very careful with this information. It is something that we will not discuss with people outside of our close family and friends, and it is something that you should never discuss with Josiah. Naturally we will be discussing his origins with him often, but that information will be best handled between Josiah and ourselves. Also, please do not share this information with your children. It is enough to say that Josiah needed a mommy and daddy, and we needed a little boy. We can all remember foolish things that we said as children, and we would hate for personal facts about Josiah’s early life to be used against him as ammunition by his friends or cousins.

4) Another comment that we’ve heard a lot is “He [Josiah] sure is a lucky/blessed little boy.” We’ve struggled with this comment because, on the one hand, it is true. He is blessed to have a family, just as we all are. A lot of times this comment seems to come from a desire to compliment us for being great parents or for doing a great thing, and while we certainly appreciate the parenting encouragement, we want to make it abundantly clear that we do no great things . . . it is God who has done great things. We don’t want Josiah to be viewed as a charity case; he is our son. The truth is that we are all charity cases, we were all once orphans, and those of us who have been adopted and received salvation through Christ are abundantly blessed.

We hope that none of this has been offensive to you, but if it has been challenging we hope that you will take the time to pray about it and discuss it with us. We thought it would be best for us to approach this topic head on, rather than deal with these issues after the fact. We hope to help create a culture of adoption among our family and friends, and identifying appropriate lingo is an important step in that process. If you would like to read more, Heather, whose blog I love, has written an insightful post on the topic.

We are extremely blessed to be surrounded by so many loving people as we embark on this adventure. Please understand that we will all be learning through this process. We can’t wait to see the ways that God will bless all of us through Josiah.

18 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for the lesson! I know sometimes I say things before I think them through and I promise to do my best in the future. We are so excited for your family and we will love Josiah just as we love Caleb! You will be as you always are in our prayers as you make this trip.

    love,
    Grammie

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  2. Excellent Post. It’s a challenge talking with other people at times and you’ll get uninvited comments and questions from total strangers. More like will happen to Mary Beth than Casey. I’ve never had comments but my wife gets them all the time. It’s clear to me that women are viewed as more approachable about theses things.

    Generally, we remove any snark from our answer, specifically because the kids pick up on how you react to probing questions. No need to give them the sense that Mom/Dad view have a problem with these things. Depending on the questioner, tone, location, etc. We’ll decide on the spot on how to address the situation.

    I have been in situations with my mother who, as a social person, was sharing too much and I needed to politely cut her off and remind her that some family stuff isn’t for sharing and that when Bex gets older it’s his story to share and he’ll be the one to make those sharing decisions.

    As for item #4. My response to the “he’s so lucky” sentiment is that, no, in fact, we’re the lucky ones.

    And…remind friends, family, and people who probe…that there are many ways to build a family…and there is no single correct way. Families are built on love and not dependent on blood.

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  3. Casey and Mary Beth,

    Thanks so much for sharing things that will help us to know better how to do and say things for a precious adopted child. We definately want to do what is the right thing. We have several couples here at West Side who have adopted children, and it will be helpful for us to know better how to say things to them also.

    I know God is pleased that you are so concerned to be good parents, and we can tell that you are letting Him lead you in that direction. May God continue to bless you as you love and train your two sons to love God and His Son, Jesus.

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  4. Thanks so much for sharing what will help us when we do and say things to parents who have adopted children. We have several couples here at West Side who have adopted, and we know this will be helpful for us. We know you two will make wonderful parents for you new son, as you are for Caleb. God bless you with happy memories of the first time you see little Josiah. Our love to you both, and God bless you with safety on your trip.

    P.S. We saw a picture today of Carol and Glen Adams little grandson that their children adopted from Ethiopia. He is about a year old now. Their childen live in Virginia (I think you know them).

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  5. We look forward to your return with this baby boy. Thanks for sharing your concerns and Lindsay and I will do everything we can to honor them.

    I think you’re right about Josiah belonging to you as much as Caleb. And in another sense, Josiah doesn’t belong to you anymore than Caleb does. As you pointed out, the only “belonging” that matters is to our Father by whom we are also adopted. Our children are only “ours” in the sense that we are assigned to them and they are ours to serve. It might be more accurate to say that we belong to them, since through obedience and love we give ourselves to their service; similar to the way that we belong to our spouses except that this commitment is one-sided, reciprocated by our Father who has given Himself for us.

    You guys are great and are approaching this just right. It’s a blessing for Lindsay and me to be a part of it.
    Allan

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  6. That was beautifully written. You are right on target and I’m so glad you chose to deal with it now. We could not be more excited about Josiah! I tell everyone I have 3 grandsons and I’ll be so glad when all three are here together. I really admire all the energy, prayer and thought you and Casey put into parenting these precious boys. Praise God who loves and adopted us for bringing Caleb, Jacob and Josiah to our family. I pray that our interactions will always point them to Him and bring glory to His name! love mom

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  7. Thank you for this excellent post!! I was sent to this blog by Heidi. I appreciate your openness and honesty! You put everything that we feel so often perfectly in words. Congratulations on your precious one!! What a blessing for each of you!!

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