Monday, February 8, 2010

In Defense of Ministry Kids. And Intercountry Kids. And Licensed Agency Kids. And, Well, Kids who are Adopted in General

I was having a great morning last week. An EXCELLENT morning. I was at a parent & tots group at the rec centre with my son, and was really enjoying myself.

I started chatting with another mom. I had guessed she was a transracial adoptive parent, but did not want to pry/offend/presume. I gave her the little gift of *not* inquiring about her child's adoption story and instead just talked to her about her little one, if this was her first, and how she was enjoying parenthood, etc.

The mom asked me a question about Noah's early infancy that I couldn't answer honestly without bending the truth.... and I knew if she was an adoptive parent, she'd probably be happy to know she wasn't the only one in the room.

So I explained that Noah joined our family through adoption. I saw the mother's eyes widen a little bit. I'm in my 20s, sitting in ragged gym shoes, and my toddler is running around with his glorious blonde curls, laughing and smiling. I drive a base model sedan with scratches from here to kingdom come. I parked right next to her Mercedes SUV and had waved to her on our way in. 

I could almost see the question on her lips "Where did you adopt him from?"  and the unspeakable follow up, which usually remains unspoken "And how much did his adoption cost?"

The silence was a bit deafening, so I gently asked "did your little one join your family through adoption, too?" To which she smiled broadly, scooped her munchkin up and proudly said "YES!"

We talked about the age at which our babies came home, and she was astounded that Noah was adopted from within Canada at age 7 months. I offered "we adopted Noah through the Ministry" and the silence was no longer deafening, it began to echo. I just smiled at her stupidly, because, well, I love my son and I'm not going to start defending him until I know what other mom is thinking.

I didn't have to wait too long. "Oooh, we looked at the Ministry, too." She commented. "But all those kids are so DAMAGED." 

I looked at the little 'perfect infant' sitting next to her- the little child who, by the very fact that he was an adoptee, and the fact that he was in a transracial family, also had "special placement needs". He, too, would have his own unique challenges and questions in the years that followed. I looked at them and my heart broke a little bit.

I sat there, toying with my options. On one hand, I have to be professional in how I respond. It's kind of my job. On the other hand, I have the right to defend my child and his peers and all the WAITING children in the Ministry program who will only wait longer if the prevailing notion is that every one of them is damaged and unable to be parented. If I go on the attack, I'll never be able to gently lead this lady towards expanding her way of thinking. I took a deep breath. I did a mental inventory of the hats I could have worn: adoption support, intercountry support, enraged adoptive mother, sympathetic listener, and just hung all the hats up. 

I spoke like one proud parent talking to another: "Well, our little guy is doing just great. I don't find him damaged at all. A handful, certainly! But first and foremost a kid." I smiled. 

And with that, my little blond haired angel came running across the room, tripped, fell, and landed squarely on the other woman's baby. 

Way to go, Noah. Not exactly the approach I was looking for, but at least you got your point across. You showed her, by your giggles before you fell, and the horrified look on your face once you got OFF her baby, and how you patted him on the head and said "You okay baby!?" that you were just a KID. Just like her kid, just like every kid. 

You are loved and lovable and deserving of love. And you are certainly NOT damaged. Just like her baby, you needed someone to love you forever, a mommy and a daddy, or one or two of each. You needed someone to pick you up when you fall and wipe your nose when you sneeze. And just love you for who you are and embrace your capabilities and your challenges like we do for ALL our children, no matter how they came to us.

In defense of Ministry kids, and Intercountry kids, and kids adopted from within Canada, and kids adopted by their step parents... and kids who joined their family through any non-traditional means..... the lesson is the same. I'm a KID! LOVE ME!

And Noah, of course, had his own sly message. I'm lovable, BUT.... if you ever call me damaged again, watch out. And he can do that, because he's two. And I'm 28. 

Way to go Noah. I'm proud of you, son.