Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Paying it Forward?


I have heard the term 'paying it forward' quite a bit since adopting our sons.  When people ask what led us to adoption, I usually begin my answer by sharing that I was adopted. I believe, that having grown up as an adopted person, I was predisposed to think about adoption as a way to form my own family.  I often hear praise, to the effect of, "That is so cool.  Your parents did that for you, so you are paying it forward by doing that for someone else!"   When I hear comments like this, I realize that many people consider adoption to be an act of kindness.  I know when I am praised for 'paying it forward' it is meant as a compliment. Although it is not accurate, I usually just smile and nod.  I can't change someone's perception of adoption in a quick conversation at a cookout or at the library.

Luckily, I have a blog.  Maybe I can clear it up a bit here.

My parents were 22 and 23 when they got married.  They wanted a family and began trying almost right away.  It didn't happen.  They kept trying.  It still didn't happen.  They were heartbroken.  All around them, their siblings and friends were having babies seemingly without any trouble at all.  They consulted specialists.  There appeared to be no reason for their inability to conceive. They continued to hope that it would eventually happen.  It didn't.  Over a decade after getting married, they decided to adopt. They adopted my brother and two years later adopted me. (Two years later what seemed impossible, finally happened and my sister was born.) Adoption wasn't their first choice and they didn't do it to be nice. They did it because they wanted to be parents.  Frankly, they needed us more than we needed them.  There are always more families that want babies than there are babies who need families.  If they had not pursued adoption, my brother and I would not have languished in an orphanage or foster care. We would have gone to other families.  Don't misunderstand me, I had wonderful parents, I was deeply loved and I loved them right back.  However, I do resent the fact that  there are those who think we adoptees should be grateful in a way that our non-adopted peers are not expected to be.  Anyone who has been blessed by amazing parents should be grateful.  A person is not more deserving just because they born to their parents.  Everyone deserves loving parents.

Our adoption story is different from that of my parents.  Infertility did not play a role in our desire to adopt. I got pregnant easily and by the time we were 27, we had 2 daughters. Over the years, Kurt and I talked about the possibility of adding to our family by adoption. We were motivated by the very real fact that there are millions of children, all over the world, who need parents.  The idea of adopting a child who was waiting for a family was appealing to us.  Not because we are nice or have big hearts, but simply because we love being parents. We loved the idea of another child to love.  It was a win win proposition if ever there was one.  We felt that God led us to Ethiopia and directly to Mikias.  Two year later, we felt that leading again and returned to Ethiopia to bring Jemberu home.

My parents did not adopt as an act of kindness and neither did we. My parents were amazing because they were amazing, not because they adopted us.  Like my parents, Kurt and I adopted to have the pleasure of  raising more children.  To give and receive love. My motivation was not to 'pay it forward'.  I love a compliment as much as anyone else.  But adopting our boys shouldn't make the list of of nice things about me.  My motivation was purely selfish.  Being a mother is the pleasure of my life.












9 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this Alison. Coming from you- this carries far more weight.

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  2. When people say that to me, I respond with, "We're not saints; we're infertile." Usually shuts 'em right up. ;-)

    Thank you for sharing. It is such an important message.

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  3. Shannon and Carlea, Thanks for the encouraging comments. This post has been brewing in my head for months. It was a hard topic to articulate. You make me feel like I got it right. I appreciate that.
    BTW Carlea, I love your comeback, it's right to the point!

    Alison

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  4. You got it perfectly on target! I understand having a post "brewing" for awhile, and I think you made your point well. I feel the same- my choice to adopt was everything except selfless.. I definitely did it for me- not for my son. People often "compliment" me as well, and I smile/nod like you say you do, but I also know that they are very wrong ;)

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  5. I get frustrated with those kind of "compliments" too. And I hope our kids never feel that they are required to feel more grateful than other kids. We're having a hard time right now, but I have a feeling that years from now, I'll see that my kids taught me a lot and made me better.

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  6. Thanks Nikki!

    Shannon, hang in there. I know from reading your blog that you are a wonderful and caring mom. I agree that you will feel that way and I am sure your kids will feel that you taught them and made them better too.

    Alison

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  7. I have raised one daughter that I birthed, then raised five foster kids, (who are now in their 20's) and am helping to raise my stepdaughter who is 10. Children come into our lives for a variety of reasons - but we are the lucky ones who get to be their parents. Whether they are born to us, adopted, "borrowed" as my foster kids would say (You're our 'Borrowed' Mom. We get to borrow you for a while!) or stepchildren from marriages really doesn't matter. They are children. They are ours. We are their parents. Being able to touch a child's life in a positive manner and later have that child come back to you and say "You made a difference"....there's just nothing like it. I love being a parent too - and love that you wrote this post. Thanks, Alison.

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  8. Thanks for writing this Alison. I've been getting a whole lot of this type of reaction from people at my sons' school. Several moms have actually said to me 'he is going to be so grateful to you when he gets older'. Of course no one ever says that about my bio son! Maddening.

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  9. Thanks for this post, I've tried talking on my own blog about how adoption is not an act of humanitarian aid, and that it is a selfish desire to parent and some folks just do not get it. Glad I am not alone!

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