November is National Adoption Awareness Month
Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings. (From The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings by Thich Naht Hahn; Excerpted from Learning True Love: Practicing Buddhism in a Time of War by Sister Chang Khong. © 2007 Unified Buddhist Church. Copied from Shambhala Sun, September 2007)
Every once in a while you hear about some celebrity adopting a child from some faraway land. At first, the reaction is often, How nice. S/he is giving a less fortunate child a home. Certainly these thoughts and feelings are justified; it is great that they are adopting, but my first reaction is often: Yeah, that’s great, but what about the children here who are waiting for someone to adopt them? The power of the press release seems to be quite a lure for the rich and famous, to the cost of our own future.
There are over one hundred thousand children in foster care in the United States waiting to be adopted, most of whom are between eight and eleven years old. Some of these children will be fortunate enough to be adopted; many more will “age out” of foster care without ever finding a family. Yet the focus of adoptions often tends towards infants, toddlers or children from other countries.
Being adopted from an adopted person’s point of view. To put it as best I can, it’s like someone pumping your blood out as they pump someone else’s in. If not for my father, I would be lost. He has been there for me as a father and a friend. More importantly, to adopt older kids, you’re helping them become wanted. If you adopt infants, they grow up with you so they have more of a chance of getting out of the system. When you adopt kids out of the U.S., you are condemning kids in the States. (Aaron, adopted when 12, now 19)
Parenting is an enormous undertaking, not for the faint of heart, and in many ways that’s especially true for those who choose to adopt an older child or older children. An older child comes with a “history;” overcoming that history can be one of the most challenging tasks for an adoptive parent, and in my experience, it’s a task that is well worth taking on. There are moments when I think, Okay, that’s it… there’s no way I can do this. But there are far more days when I am thinking, Yeah, this parenting thing isn’t easy, but it’s so totally worth it. At the end of the day, when I hear “Good night, Dad, I love you,” my world is somehow set right, no matter what else has happened that day. Besides, if parenting was easy, just anyone could do it. Anyone can be a parent (if Britney can figure it out, anyone can); not everyone can be a mom or a dad.
I was ten years old when I was adopted by my dad. Before I was adopted, I was two years old when I was sent out because my mom and dad got in a roaring fight. All I remember was my dad and mom screaming and my mom came in my room with a bloody nose. After that I was sent to foster care with my brother. The first four years I was in agony and pain and my life was only good because my brother was there. After that I moved back with my mom. She could not afford us so we went back to foster care. My brother was adopted and after one year I moved away from him to another foster house. My foster mom said to start hanging out with a guy because they were going on a vacation. The guy was nice and after that I went back. Two weeks after I was told I was going to live with the guy I met and stayed with. I was so shy and scared to move in. I got to know him and his sons. After six months, I was told I was going to get adopted and was happy as can be. I got adopted and my life changed from hate and misery to love and happiness. I now live with my wonderful dad and my wonderful brothers. This is how my life was in foster care. (Kyle, adopted at age 10, now 14)
A while back single people couldn’t adopt, but that’s no longer true. Many states have realized that a child can grow up in a single parent household and do just fine; in fact, some children do better with one parent than with two. In many cases, if an adoptive parent or adoptive couple is willing to consider adopting an older child, the adoption agency may offer the parent(s) a wide variety of services, including health care and counseling services for the child. Ultimately, you need to consider why you want to be a parent. What is your motivation? How important is it to pass on your genetics? Is parenting about you or about your child?
Most importantly, make sure that you have a sense of humor, loads of patience and a willingness to learn. In the first six months you’ll learn more about yourself and your humanity than you ever thought possible; and that’s only the beginning. When it comes to being able to perfect compassion and love, there is no better way I know than the four children that have chosen me to be their father.
Todd, Aaron, and Kyle have been together as a family for several lifetimes. Even when it gets intense, none of them would want it any other way.