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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: