A few weeks back, I had a quick cup of coffee with a dear friend of mine. We did the usually “catch up” convos; we talked about our families, reminisced about the “old days”, and laughed a lot. I mentioned in passing that I was writing for AdoptionBlogs, and a conversation of interest ensued. Basically, she understood how I’d be engrossed in writing about international adoption and Guatemala (two subjects so very near to my heart), but she didn’t quite “get” the whole adoptive parenting issue. “What,” she posed, “does ‘adoptive parenting’ even mean? And how is it different from ‘regular’ parenting?”
You know, the short answer is that I honestly never really thought about defining the two as separate entities; adoptive parenting merely houses both similarities and differences from my experiences with biological parenting. Sure, as an adoptive parent, I’m more tuned in to potential issues that are relevant to my adopted child’s development. For instance, I was prepared for the possibility that Beauty would require speech therapy. (Note: I’m not trying to suggest that speech delay is something solely specific to internationally adopted children, but rather that I was well prepared for the somewhat higher incidence of this delay as a result of the adoptive parenting classes taken prior to Beauty’s homecoming). Being an adoptive mom of a daughter who comes from another country, who is of another race, that too factors into my personal definition of “adoptive parenting”. “Color awareness” is a buzz term of which I’m familiar; celebrating a culture and heritage–other than my own–is something that is a way of life for me now in an almost seamless fashion. My whole family has a sense of Guatemalan pride. To me, “adoptive parenting” also means being aware of the transitional difficulties and issues with self-identity my adopted child may face upon her “homecoming”, as she grows up, or both. We celebrate our “Adoption Days” like mini-birthdays so our children will grow up with an earnest understanding (and hopefully of pride as well) of adoption. However, I know there will come a time when Beauty will long for an understanding of her past in some form, even if only to satisfy a curiosity. “Adoptive parenting” means preparing myself for questions of that very nature.
Adoptive parenting doesn’t differ entirely from parenting a biological child, though. It goes without saying there is no difference whatsoever in the love I feel for my children; biology has no place where love is concerned. Beauty is not exempt from “time outs” when she’s out of line, and she is expected to follow the rules of the house (as well as a fiercely independent two year old is able) just as Bear is expected to do the same. In essence, I feel the very definition of “adoptive parenting” involves a sensitivity to the issues that may arise as a result of a child’s experience with adoption and his or her sense of self, identity, family, grief, and comprehension of adoption as well as any circumstances surrounding it as such. Yet at the the end of the day, there is no line drawn in the sand; this awareness will never trump the encompassing love I feel for Beauty–a love that pays no need to biology and no attention to definitions of “adoptive” versus “biological”.