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    16 Things You Learn As An Adoptive Family

    You can only save a child once. After that it's called parenting.

    1. You will stress out.


    Adding a new life to your family is always a huge adjustment, and adoption is no exception. Sure, you may avoid the pregnancy waddle and stretch marks and hormones, but those stressors will be replaced with mounds of paperwork and anxiety as you wait for “the call.” And then you will wait some more. But oh, how it’s worth it.

    2. You will never forget “the call.”


    Or the email, in some cases, when you first hear about the existence of a child that has been matched to your family.

    3. You will know what a “real mom” or a “real dad” is.


    A real parent changes diapers and catches puke with her hands and helps with homework and worries about her kid every day. A real parent keeps their child’s best interest at heart, and supports and loves no matter what, and that has nothing to do with biology.

    4. You will feel a unique kinship to other adoptive families.


    You will take note of other adoptive families in your community. You might even be intentional in pursuing those friendships more. When you see another adoptive family at a restaurant or in the grocery store, you'll fight the urge to go give them a fist-bump because you're sharing a unique journey that is sometimes isolating. You will value the community of adoptive families that you form in the process.

    5. When you adopt transracially, you do not become the parents of a minority child. You become an interracial family.


    Adopting transracially affects the entire family unit, and this means that the whole family must adjust to make sure that a child of another race grows up with a sense of belonging. Adoptive parents must open their eyes to racism, instead of burying their head in the convenient sand of a mythical post-racial world.

    6. You will become a conspicuous family.

    You may not “match” the way people expect you to match, which will lead to people looking you over. A lot. At first you will be aware of it, but after a while you will forget about your family dynamics and wonder if people are looking because you have something stuck in your teeth, or because your kids are being too loud. And then you’ll remember… oh. Yeah. THAT.

    7. You will field all kinds of stupid questions.


    People will ask you how much you paid for your child. Or if they speak African. Or what happened to their "real" parents. You will now be the center of everyone's inappropriate curiosity, from the grocery store to the soccer field. No question is too personal… and you will get really good at making a face that quietly communicates, "I need you to shut up now."

    8. You will be a regular family.


    Your kids will get on your nerves. Your children will adore each other and fight and defend one another and fight some more. You will worry about their grades and whether or not they are overscheduled. You will have weird inside jokes. You will be a regular family with regular family quirks.

    9. You can save a child once. After that, it’s called parenting.

    While it's certainly true that adoption can save a child from a life of living in an orphanage, adopted children should not be required to bestow special gratitude to their parents. Adoptive parents are regular, imperfect people. Adoptees have the same rights as biological children to be resentful, annoyed, or ungrateful toward their parents, without being reminded that they've been "saved" by their parents.

    10. You will be appointed weird hero narratives.


    People will assume that you are a hero parent because you adopted. They will tell you how amazing you are. They will comment on how gratifying your life must be for having adopted. And you will cringe, and politely correct them, because adoptive parents are just people who are parents, the end.

    11. You will be the poster child for adoption education.

    Did you know how poorly understood adoption is by the general public? You will now… because everyone will expect you or your child to explain all aspects of adoption to them.

    12. You will value the experiences of adult adoptees.

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    You will pour over blogs and books and documentaries and you will listen to those who have walked this road in the hopes that you will avoid all of the potential mistakes. And, like parents everywhere, you will still make some. But hopefully your child will know that you've tried your best.

    13. You will think about adoption always and never.

    You will have the same hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities as any mom: How are they doing in school? How are they doing socially? Are they kind and compassionate? But you will also always be cognizant of the potential feelings your child has around adoption, both positive and negative.

    14. You will be open to talking with your child about hard things.


    Gone are the days when adoption was a secret swept under the rug. Parents have learned that being upfront and open about a child's adoption story is the best way to help them develop a positive sense of identity.

    15. You will understand that personality is determined by DNA, but character is determined by nurture.


    Some people might express concern about how you "don't know what you are going to get" when you adopt, but that is true for anyone who decides to become a parent. It's a joy to see how each child's personality develops. All parents would do well to give their kids the freedom to be who they are. However, character is shaped by parenting. So while you may not have much influence in regards to how extroverted your kids are, you can certainly shape them to be kind, compassionate, and confident individuals despite your differences or similarities.

    16. You will strengthen your conviction that every child deserves the love of a family.

    Most of us know this intuitively, but as an adoptive parent you will know firsthand the difference that living in a family can make. While it's wonderful that there are settings that can provide an at-risk child with food, clothing, and shelter, you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's in each child's best interest to have a loving parent whose goal is to provide the love and attention that only a family can afford.

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