Friday, March 20, 2009
Adoption, Defined ...
Not long ago my daughter bought a Webkinz (yet another in a long line). No sooner did she get home than she logged into the Webkinz website so she could "adopt" her glassy-eyed critter. Perhaps I'm hyper-sensitive, but it seems I hear the word 'adoption' thrown around quite a bit these days. I even heard someone I know mention his two "adopted" kids. Turns out he sends money to an organization that helps feed hungry children overseas. Hmmmm. That one made me stop and think.
What's that you say? You want to know what I think the word 'adoption' means? Alright, alright, I'll tell you. But first let me tell you what I think it's NOT:
*sprucing up a section of highway
*providing funding to help save a whale
*buying a pet
*sponsoring a child overseas
*creating a Build-a-Bear
These are all wonderful ways to open our hearts and our wallets (and in the case of pets, our homes). However, I have to say when I hear that someone has "adopted" a highway, or even a child in a sponsorship program, my hackles are raised, and I'm not even sure what a hackle is precisely. I guess this is because adopting a child, really adopting a child, is such an undertaking that anything else by the name of adoption pales in comparison. It is a huge commitment of our hearts, our time, and even our wallets to take a child into our homes and families, love them, nurture them, educate them, play and laugh with them, wring our hands over them, cry with them.
You must know of course, when I use the words commitment, and undertaking, they are not synonymous with "effort" or "difficulty". Just as a parent helping a child learn to ride a bike would find it a commitment rather than a time-sucking chore, so too adoptive parents jump through all the hoops set before us to complete the adoption process. It is work, but it is a labor of love.
Once we adopt a child, we bring them into the fold and make them our own. Any boundaries that would separate an adopted child from a child born into a family biologically are erased.
And I suppose that's the main difference. For most of the things we speak of adopting, we simply keep up an on-going sponsorship. But with a child, adoption refers to the paperwork process of making them all legal-like. After that it simply becomes raising a child.
I guess I'll probably remain overly sensitive. Knowing what my kids have been through to get to the point where they could join our family, it has become an emotionally charged word. But don't worry. If I hear you mention you're adopting a bog turtle, I'll do my best to behave myself. Down, hackles, down.