Audrey was in fine form. Nothing the restaurant offered appealed to her. Sitting in a high chair is so lame. At one point during the meal she grasped a lidless plastic cup of water and gripped the edge in her teeth. Her parents had simultaneous visions of the entire contents cascading down her shirt and they both lurched forward, prying her little fingers off the cup and trying to pull it out of her teeth without causing the very spill they aimed to prevent! Finally they let her run around a bit after other diners cleared out. But who wants to wear jeans anyway? Off they came in short order. Her parents, some of the best we know, were patient but firm. And exhausted! As her Nana, I watched bemused (okay I about choked from laughter over the cup incident) and asked my son, “So what’s the current wisdom about dealing with strong-will! ed kids?” “Ummm, adoption?” he answers. Glad to know he’s kept his sense of humor!
Today is Michigan Adoption Day 2013. Observed every year on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the Michigan Supreme Court Administrator’s Office (SCAO) celebrates and gives thanks for families made possible by adoption. Michigan’s event is consistently the largest Adoption Day observance in the nation. (See SCAO’s press release here)
I have assisted in numerous adoptions and it is the highlight of my practice. Much of family law is not cause for celebration so I look forward to those occasions when I can be a part of “making a family.” I’ve spent New Year’s Eve in the labor and delivery department so that papers could be signed soon after the birth and adoptive parents could take the baby home directly from the hospital. I’ve comforted birthmothers (and birthfathers) as they make the bravest, hardest, and best choice for their babies. I’ve fought back tears as I listened to an adolescent, who desperately wanted to be the daughter of her adoptive parents, explain to the judge why they were already her parents in every way but a legal one. I’ve visited the pig exhibit at the fair for a 7-year old whom I held on my lap at his adoption hearing as an infant. I look every year for the little boy whose parents often bring him by my office at Christmas, and! remember watching the nurse at the hospital give his new parents instructions about proper car seat installation. I remember every adoption I’ve ever handled and feel somehow parental myself when I think about those children!
Maybe you haven’t been touched by adoption but few things are as meaningful to a birthparent than knowing a happy home awaits his or her baby. And few events will ever have more meaning in the lives of a childless couple than being handed an Order of Adoption. So what can you do? Here are a few ideas:
1.Be intentional about language. Babies and children aren’t “given up for adoption.” They are placed for adoption. The first implies a lack of caring. The latter suggests a plan based on caring.
2.Recognize the profoundly good parenting that is exercised when birthparents, who may be young, single and not prepared to parent, place their baby or child for adoption. Affirm them as parents if you have the opportunity and support their journey of loss and grief as you are able.
3.Speak of the adoption option when appropriate. Removal of children from their homes, and placement in foster care, would be necessary far less often if parents unable to parent were encouraged to consider making an adoption plan for their children when appropriate.
And this Thanksgiving season, give thanks for and celebrate the families that you know who were completed or touched by adoption. (And no, Audrey is not available–most days!).
Wishing you wisdom