To Share or Not to Share: Adoption Stories

Our shopping styles clash at the grocery store. I prefer to quickly toss what looks good and useful into the cart, while my husband is not at all in a hurry. He often feels compelled to remove my items from the cart to compare them with other options. By the time we inch across the checkout finish line, we have a cart full of very carefully considered best deals. This slow process can frustrate me, because I prefer to pop in and out of the store and not agonize over every item. But I’m learning from my husband that being more mindful of what we buy and what we don’t helps our budget in the long run.

Likewise in our adoption journey, I have learned from others along the way to be more mindful of what I share and what I don’t share. I’ve realized that more carefully considering how and why I share our boys’ stories will be better for them in the long run. I don’t want to quickly toss out words about them for public consumption—that seem good and useful to me—but would actually be better left on our own private shelf.

What I do want to share:

  1. I want to communicate my joys and struggles in a way that speaks into the world of other adoptive/special needs parents. This journey can be so isolating! Our first 1 ½ years as an adoptive family, we were in a remote environment in central western China, and I deeply missed community support. Reaching out through technology’s channels, I found an outlet when I was craving connection. I received encouraging feedback that my blog posts enabled friends and family to better understand our situation and to know how to pray for us. Now that we have been back in the U.S. for four years, with better supports in place, blog writing is still the way I find most helpful to process my journey with adoption and special needs. But my writing in this season of life comes more from a desire to minister to others who are on similar journeys.
  2. I want to be an advocate. Our 13 year old has a mild-moderate intellectual disability as a result of a severe brain infection just before his adoption. Putting my fears into words of him starting middle school this fall, I wrote several blog posts giving voice to his struggles. This morning I sent one of those posts to his team of teachers so they might better understand his learning challenges, as well as (hopefully) be inspired by his perspective on wisdom. I believe that part of God’s calling on my life is to be a voice for my son who will never fully be able to express himself, to affirm his dignity and to invite others to do the same.
  3. I want to honor those who have made a difference in our sons’ lives. Sometimes I write about the impact of speech and physical therapists, doctors, teachers, friends, a rock climbing assistant…our world has opened up tremendously through adoption and we have been blessed not only through our two boys themselves but through many others we’ve gotten to know because of them. I hope that others will be inspired by their examples to see how simple acts of kindness can spread amazing ripples.

What I’ve learned not to share:

  1. I never want to paint myself as the hero of my children’s stories. I have heard from adult transracial adoptees that it can be difficult to reconcile the idea that “It was God’s will for them to be adopted” when they wonder “Why would God choose for me to be separated from my birth family in order to bring me into this family who doesn’t even look like me?” There is a general warm and fuzzy feeling out there about adoption being so beautiful and Biblical and that the “poor” children who get adopted are so blessed by the “wonderful” families who sacrifice so much to bring them “home.” That narrative can be incredibly hard for adoptees to swallow. And I’m always aware that this angle of saviorism is what I am resisting when I write about adoption.
  2. I never want to write something that I wouldn’t want our boys to read. Whatever I write I want to reflect well on them. They are the heroes. Early on in our adoption journey, there was very likely some oversharing on my part, because protecting our boys’ stories was not at the forefront of my thinking. Now that I have a better understanding of how adult adoptees feel, I am committed to doing a better job of filtering what I write about our boys through the lens of how they would feel to read it, or have it read to them. I want to highlight the ways they overcome their challenges, like a post I wrote after our 14 year old’s difficult recovery from major surgery on his club feet.
  3. I never want to assume that I have arrived. Taking the posture of a learner is very important to me, in all areas of my life, and I recoil at the thought of coming across as a know-it-all. I need to be continually learning from other people who widen my understanding and perspective. I’ve found that there is so much for me to learn from my boys themselves, from other adoptive parents and adoptees, and from other special needs parents and adults. Finding and developing these relationships have helped me to grow tremendously.

Now that we are at the grocery store checkout together with a cart of items that have been sifted through, what are your thoughts? How would you add to or modify these lists of what to share and what not to share? Would love for you to join the conversation in the comments.

Some blog posts from Jodie for further reflection:

Early on

Oversharing

Saviorism

Others’ Impact

David’s post-surgery courage

Post for Daniel’s teachers

7 Comments

  1. Bayta Schwarz October 28, 2019

    I very much appreciate your considered approach, Jodie! It is so easy to fall into the “all good vs all bad” trap. I’m thankful for the way you reflected on your own need for community, of using your experience to minister to others, and of being an advocate for your kids – all while considering (as best you can) the longer-term implications. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Jodie October 28, 2019

      Thank you Bayta. I’m thankful Sarah asked me to write this post because I don’t feel like I’ve always told my boys’ stories well or that I am expert on this topic at all, but it helped me to put into words what the journey has been like. And I love that Velvet Ashes is a community where we can learn with each other and spur one another on in our journeys–in the ways that they’re similar and also different.

      In addition, there’s a private facebook group I recently joined, called Transracial Adoption–Community of Learning and Support, that I wanted to share as a resource for adoptive parents. I was in a different one a couple of years ago, with frequent heated discussions, and it ended up disbanding over conflicts. This one feels a lot friendlier so far than that one did.

  2. Monica F October 28, 2019

    This is so, so good Jodie. Thank you for sharing your insights and ongoing journey with what to share and what not to share. I really appreciate it friend!

    1. Jodie October 28, 2019

      Thanks so much Monica. Can’t wait to read your post on Thursday!

  3. Jodie October 29, 2019

    I wanted to share an example from a movie our family watched last weekend called The Blind Side. Clearly, the hero of the movie is the white adoptive mom. It left me wondering how Michael Oher, the black NFL football player, felt about how he was portrayed in the movie.

    Wikipedia says: “While the film was based on a true story, this fact did not prevent The Blind Side from being criticized as presenting a white savior narrative in which Oher, an African-American male, is unable to overcome poverty and personal failure without the guidance of adoptive, white mother Tuohy.”

    A site called Tiebreaker goes into more detail: “One of the biggest reasons Michael Oher isn’t a fan of “The Blind Side” is because of the way people started to see him after the movie was released. Before the movie, people saw Oher for who he is: a hardworking athlete, doing his best to succeed at the NFL level.

    Michael Oher is disappointed that few people see him how he wants to be seen. His story of achieving a seemingly unreachable dream in becoming an NFL athlete is enough of a story in itself. But since the movie was released, he now feels people just recognize him as the football player who had a movie made about him.

    In order to let his fans know the whole truth, Michael Oher did everything in his power to correct the errors that had been made in “The Blind Side.” To do this, he wrote an autobiography titled “I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond” in 2011.”

    I feel like Michael Oher’s example can teach us a lot about stopping to consider how adoptees want to be seen and not just making a feel-good blockbuster movie at the expense of the real hero of the story. The title of his autobiography “I Beat the Odds” makes him the subject instead of the object of his own story. That’s what I want to strive for in having my children’s stories be their own and not someone else’s.

  4. Michelle L Heed November 5, 2019

    As a newish adoptive mom, Ive been thinking about this all week. Am I sharing our journey in a way that brings healing or shame to my daughter?

    1. Jodie November 5, 2019

      That’s such a great question to ask, Michelle. Thanks for sharing. Praying for you and your family on this journey.

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