Will the Real Parents Please Stand Up?
All across the nation parlor games are being played with adoption. In the past era, in the vigorous pursuit and emphasis on rights, the adopted child has been thrown into the arena with minority groups with their bared teeth and clenched fists raised against those elements in society which supposedly have oppressed or denied their rights.
The claim is that adoptive parents, agencies and courts have connived — either knowingly or unintentionally — to obliterate the true identity of the child and to strip him of his heritage in keeping his natural parents' identity secret. Groups — almost militant in their zeal and whose leaders usually are victims of unhappy adoptions — have been organized with the sole purpose of searching out biological parents for adopted children or vice versa.
In more subtle ways the media with television specials, newspaper articles, books and magazine articles — many times with the young person as target — capture audiences in an emotional web as "real" parents are revealed or reunited with adopted children.
Agencies yielding to the current of modern waves have been quick to form groups for discussion or planning for dealing with the child's "right to know." Some agencies have gone so far in pre-adoption counseling as to ask the biological parent if she would want to make contact with the child in the future and to ask prospective adoptive parents if they would be willing to allow a future contact to be made!
One Set of Parents
The simple fact is that adopted children have only one set of parents. The adoptive parents by virtue of adoption are the real parents. Personally, I think it takes of lot of love to endure a nine-month pregnancy, give birth and then for whatever the reason — but knowing it's for the child's sake — give up that child. I have a deep sense of gratitude to those who gave life to my four children and released them. I have an even deeper gratitude to God who spared them from the decision of whether or not these babies should even live. The tragedies of our day are the thousands of children given life and given up physically to foster homes and institutions but never emotionally released, and the millions never permitted to live.
As we prepared to go to court to legalize our first adoption, the term "adoption" was still shrouded with some mystery. I am grateful that our lawyer explained adoption to us in a way no one else ever has. Simply stated he said he would make three petitions to the court on our behalf:
To abrogate the natural, biological relationship of parent to this child, taking away the parent's family name from this child;
To establish a new relationship with us as parents, and this child — our child — the same as if this child were our natural born child, giving this child our family name;
All rights from the former relationship having been abrogated, to give to this child bearing our name all the rights and privileges of our family, the same as a natural born child, including the right of inheritance.
To the Christian this depicts beautifully our adoption as children of God. Christ, as our advocate, pleads our case before the righteous judge in the heavenly court. Not being the natural born sons of God, on the merit of his redeeming work, he abrogates that old relationship and establishes a new one with God as our Father, changing our name to reflect our new familial relationship. Now we share as heirs with Christ all the blessings and treasures of God and are granted all the rights and privileges of the household of faith. Read the Scripture passages on adoption: Romans 8:14-17, 23; 9:3-5; Galatians 4:1-7; Ephesians 1:1-14.
We are Real Parents
Even with that first baby cuddled in my arms and in my heart, the reality of being her mother — her "real" parent — took time. In those early weeks I remember practically biting my lips to refrain from blurting out "She's adopted!" to all the compliments and exclamations new babies attract. This new role didn't quite fit yet. It hung loose on the shoulders and dragged on the ground. I had to grow into it. And grow I did.
The greater joy has been ours, and also the greater pain. We prepared formula, changed diapers, rocked to sleep, sang lullabies and chanted nursery rhymes, nursed when fevers raged and bandaged scrapes. We agonized while teeth were being cut, tied wiggly teeth with string attached to door knobs or around handles of pitchers, and forever admonished, "Brush and floss your teeth!" We coaxed first steps, pushed wobbly bikes, sat in the passenger seat through practice turns — and then waited nervously while first solo trips were made. There were countless visits to the doctors for immunizations, mysterious rashes and for acne and routine examinations.
Children have been sent off to school, private and public, packed off to summer camp and trips. There have been hours on bleacher benches yelling and rooting with lumps in the throat over first attempts to swing the bat, grand slam hits, "holding that line," track meets and cheerleading in all kinds of weather. Our ears have been bombarded and soothed with screechy violin, recorders, blaring trumpet and trombone, piano, radios and records. There have been innumerable field trips, Sunday school programs, recitals, graduations, parties and parent-teacher conferences. Enough cookies have been baked probably to make a chain of cookies that could encircle the globe, and we have probably consumed a herd of beef cattle in hamburger meat.
Punishments have been meted out in spankings and restrictions; children have been coached, coaxed, pleaded with, warned, lectured, advised and corrected. They have been cuddled, romped with, squeezed, teased, hugged, kissed and told "I love you" with words and in every way we know how. There have been good years and excellent years, bad years and horrendous years; tears of greatest joy and gratitude and tears of sorrow and shame. Birthday celebrations, Christmases, Easters, Halloweens, Thanksgivings, camping trips and travels crowd our memories.
It is not merely a legal document that binds us; it is love and shared experiences. We are not surrogate parents, life-long baby sitters, benevolent humanitarians. We are not understudies on the stage of life with "real" parents waiting in the wings for their cue to enter. We are parents — "real parents."
The Right to Know
Now what do we do about our children's past, about their individual backgrounds, about their "right to know?" Well, our children have a right to know that they are adopted, because they have a right to know the truth. From the beginning we used the term adoption in a loving context with our children. Sometimes their bedtime stories included personal tales, and they were tucked into bed with whispered good-nights of "You're our precious adopted baby," or as an older child was told, "If we could search all over the world and could choose any child to be our own, we would choose you." Questions have been answered truthfully according to our knowledge and to the child's understanding. Biographical details were never shared with anyone other than the children. They understood that many facets of their physical makeup and personality came from another's genes, and each one brings a rich heritage to our family in being of Italian, Polish, French, Swedish and Spanish descent. It is in these things that their heritage consists — not in former relationships.
I can no more explain to them why they are adopted than I can explain why I was born to a family of all brothers, have a high forehead, have a tendency toward obesity, and am married but can't bear children. These are ultimately matters relegated to the will of God.
As for those who gave life to our children, I pray that God will confirm to them the rightness of their decision and give them peace about the destiny of these lives entrusted to us. When the children were young we did not refer to them as parents or mother and father, to avoid confusing our children with thinking they had two sets of parents or fostering interest and curiosity about them. Now that they are older, we can refer to them as birth parents, natural parents or biological parents without compromising our position. These lovely children, our precious adopted children, are our children — our own children — and in the providence of God we are their parents — their real parents.