This is a guest post from one of our staffers, Nancy.
Lest We Forget –
Join me in a little fill-in-the-blanks exercise?
“Is that your _______ answer?”
“And that’s ___________!”
_____________ resting place.
The word for all three examples, of course, is FINAL. It’s a simple word, quite versatile, actually, forming phrases which connote possibilities of second-guessing or backing out, standing steadfast, and is even a synonym for “last”. But when it comes to a ________ization hearing decreeing an adoption, the word holds different weight! (For adoptive parents, words such as JOY, ECSTASY, and even DISBELIEF that they are _______ly parents, comes to mind.)
November is National Adoption Month. Members of the National Adoption staff are scheduled to attend Adoption Day celebrations, fairs and expos to bring adoption awareness and encourage this option to begin or grow a family. Typically, during this month we get more calls about how to adopt, as the wonder of adoption is on the minds of many. There is a buzz of excitement in our offices in anticipation of attending finalizationhearings which highlights this pinnacle in forming forever families.
With the holidays just around the corner, newly formed families are excited to give thanks together for the first time, create new traditions, and bequeath family heirlooms, recipes and traditions to brand new generations. Truly, adoption positively transforms houses into homes, couples into families. An adoptive parent myself (21 years and counting), I hope families whose adoptions are made permanent never forget the joy of these moments. This is a milestone to celebrate! But…
…lest we forget, there is another aspect to adoption decrees—just as _________. The other side of the coin, just as real and life-changing, is the impact of __________izations on birth families. Finalization, for them, terminates their parental rights. For some, this could be a much sought relief, but for others, the beginning of lifelong grief.
Ours was an open adoption and we kept in fairly close contact with our child’s birth mother for a number of years. Our gratitude to her was (and still is) beyond what words can ever express. Because of her decision, we had the fortune to create a family and share our lives with an amazing daughter. My husband and I had the idea to honor our child’s birth mother by sending a small gift (along with pictures) on our child’s birthday each year. We spoke about this with our daughter to the degree we felt she could understand as a further way to explain adoption to her.And part of our discussions centered around our gratitude to her natural parents.
Some people might say the gesture was merely a token. I understand that sentiment and in some ways can agree. Some might say the gesture was insensitive—unnecessarily dredging up the pain of separation. To some degree I can also accept that reaction.
To us, though, it was one way of not forgetting both sides. Granted, what we did could never be anything but a symbolic way to show our gratitude for this sacrifice. Adoptive parents may never know all the reasons their child’s natural parents chose not to raise their child, or whether that decision was made for them and something over which they had no control. But finalization is an appropriate time to appreciate that for every tear an adoptive parent sheds in elation, a birth parent may shed even more in loneliness, regret, and anguish.
Birth parents will always be a part of an adopted child’s life. I daresay many natural parents continue to invest in their child’s welfare, as a silent partner, through thoughts, prayers or intentions in hopes their child has the brightest of futures and the happiest possible life. (If the roles were reversed, I could imagine myself doing the same.)
Not all adoptive parents are in the position to directly honor their child’s birth parent(s) but I wanted to write about a suggestion I have in line with this. I propose the idea that adoptive parents do something in tribute to their child’s birth parents every year—whether on their child’s birthday, finalization anniversary, or another significant day (National Adoption Day, for example)—as a way to honor them—even though the birth parent may never know.
To remember how finalization could have impacted a child’s birth parents, adoptive parents might hold A Day of Honor or Day of Remembrance in which they do something (dedicate a volunteer opportunity or make a donation to a charity or family in need, for example) intentionally, and do it as if the birth parents were the recipients. Adoptive families could create this new tradition and include discussion about adoption with their child(ren), encouraging their adopted child to honor their birth parents too.
Haven’t we all watched a simple act of kindness, which made us (and others) follow suit? An unsolicited “thank you.” Holding the elevator door. Picking up someone’s dropped package. Small, day-to-day pieces of life that snowball and can bring out a smile and make us remember how nice it is to care (and be care for). Kindness begets more kindness—stranger to stranger, friend to friend, employer to employee, parent to child, child to parent, etc. Sometimes it’s surprising to be on the receiving end of out-of-the-blue kindness; you’re never really sure why someone was so humane and thoughtful. And while caring is catching, I am not necessarily advocating doing something nice for someone just to do something nice (although there is nothing wrong with that). But doing something on a larger level specifically with the birth parents in mind—is not really a “pay it back” or “pay it forward,” but rather a not-so-random act of remembrance. No flag waving. No fireworks or press releases. This is an inside job, and a very silent tribute to honor their sacrifice.
Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, a day when for one minute (11:11 am) people are encouraged to silently pay tribute to those who served (and currently serve) our country. If we decided to participate, it didn’t necessarily matter whether or not we personally knew a Veteran or someone on active duty. This is a symbolic gesture of a people in thanks who remember the sacrifices made.
So lest we forget the sacrifice of birth parents, I would hope this idea is enough to engender action. I believe as adoptive parents and families we can find ways to (emblematically, as it were) “fill in the blanks” of those lives who immeasurably changed ours.