Husband: “Honey, I think we should buy a house.”
Wife: “Sounds great, how about that one? It’s $675,000.”
Husband: “Perfect, let’s see if we can sign the papers this afternoon!”
Do decisions in your marriage work that way for you? Ya, me neither. How about this?
Husband: “Honey, I think we should buy a house.”
Wife: “No way! That’s crazy! Absolutely not!”
Husband: “Too bad, I just bought one. Live with it.”
Nope, that’s not it either.
I’ve had encounters that made me wonder why adoption is viewed so differently than any other marriage decision. Most major decisions are initiated by one person, not both. It’s rare that both people decide it is time to buy a new car at the exact same moment. And, on top of that, you’ve individually and simultaneously worked out how much you can afford, financing, the exact vehicle you both want, insurance, and so on. Not in this universe. In the real world, you work your way through every detail. Can we afford it? Will we pay cash or obtain financing? Do we want a truck or sedan? What color? Safety features. Down payment. Where to buy. New or used. On and on until you figure it all out. Together.
Most of the time, one person shares an idea. Then the couple discusses it. Researches it. Prays about it. Eventually they decide together. Yes, no, maybe, wait, later. Adopting a child is a decision that couples make together. Sure it usually began as one person’s idea, but it doesn’t stay that way. You figure it out together. Just like all your major decisions. Jobs, homes, schools for your kids, pets, vehicles, home renovations, grad school. Heck, deciding on dinner can be a monumental task. The idea of adoption may start with one person just like the idea to go out for Italian food starts with one person. But you both have to be on board. You don’t just end up there by accident. You both work toward it.
Ask anyone who has been through the foster or adoption process. No one can drag you through that against your will. The paperwork, finger prints, TB tests, physicals in which your doctor tries to determine if you’re physically and mentally able to do this. And then there is the home study. “How do you resolve sexual conflict?” And it goes downhill from there. The process is enough to cause the most committed couple to run away screaming.
So here are basic tips and thoughts for the spectators of adoptive or foster families when it comes to the question “Did they both want to adopt?”:
- Don’t assume that it’s your daughter/son-in-law’s idea – Just because no one adopted in your family doesn’t mean your offspring won’t consider it. Our world is changing. People are more aware and are compassionately opening their homes.
- Don’t assume infertility – This is the assumption that biology forced you to adopt. Maybe it was a factor. Maybe not. I have one living breathing example that my hubby and I can conceive. Yet we have four children.
- Don’t refer to the children as “his” or “hers” to imply only one person was on board with the adoption – Again, you don’t get here by accident or force. Its a long hard journey that you make together.
- Frustrations don’t equal lack of will – Adopted kids can be hard. They have needs that most bio kids never have. They have deep hurts. There are tough days or years. My exhaustion or tears or breakdowns don’t mean my husband pushed me into adopting. It just means it’s hard. End of story.
- Trust that we communicate – When you act like only one of us wanted this, you imply that we operate in separate universes. Give us more credit than that.
- If your spouse isn’t excited about adoption or is unsure, don’t assume its a dead deal – It took us years to agree on the house we built. We weren’t always on the same page. It took a lot of time to get to the point that we could build the house that WE BOTH wanted. Some people jump on new ideas and some avoid change. Give yourself or your spouse time. Be open and honest with each other. Remember to be kind and loving.
- Ask questions….appropriately – Assuming your know someone’s story because you saw an episode about adoption on Jerry Springer or Oprah isn’t the brightest idea. If you don’t want me to publicly ask you what brand of tampon you use, don’t publicly ask me about my ability to conceive children. If we know each other, and you have real questions (you’re not just being a gossip), then let’s sit down and discuss it privately. Don’t ask me if his mamma smoked crack or if she’s “special”. I’ll ask the same about you. Everyone gets to adoption on their own road. No child is like another. Every family is distinctive. Our stories are all unique. It’s okay to wonder. Most of our lives aren’t made for TV, so what you see on TV isn’t a good representation of real life. Remember: Appropriate Time, Appropriate Place, Established Relationship.
- Voice your concerns….like an adult to an adult – Don’t boss me around or order us to do anything. We won’t think much of any of your advice after that. Don’t tell us we can’t or shouldn’t do something….or that we must do something. NOT.YOUR.BUSINESS. My parents had questions before our first adopion. Concerns they tactfully and privately voiced. We were able to talk through them. Hopefully, I answered their questions. As my mom said, “The moment I met him, all my concerns disappeared.” Before she met him, however, the preconceived ideas she had about adoption had been challenged with facts. It made meeting him easier and more exciting.
- Have faith – We have a little clue of what we’re doing. In fact, we’re doing the best we can. We read up on raising children from hard places. We go to classes and gather with parents walking this adoption journey. Second guessing us only hurts. It will not build up ANY relationship.
- Be excited – This is exciting for us. Scary. Maybe expensive. Stressful. But OH, SO EXCITING!!!! We walked this journey together, and we want you with us!