The other piece of blog fodder to arrive in my inbox yesterday was an email from an adoption agency (I seem to end up on lots of email lists) advocating for a pair of 6 year old twin boys in Ch*na who are waiting to be matched with a family. (They are cute boys, if you're interested, email me and I'll send the contact info. to you.) None of that is what made me start composing blog posts in my head. It was the line in the text that made a plea for a family to make these boys' "dreams come true".
This is the most wrong-headed adoption thinking that I've seen in a long time. The whole "dreams coming true" idea isn't really healthy for anyone, mainly because it's a fiction; something that may happen for a moment, but doesn't continue in an unchanged state for the rest of one's life. If we live with that expectation, we are bound to be disappointed. While this kind of thinking can be unhealthy for an individual, when it is coupled with another person in a relationship it can become toxic.
This is true in a friendship, true in a marriage, and true in adoption. The minute we start thinking that a person is responsible for the happiness of another, we set-up expectations that are impossible to meet. How many friendships or marriages have you known that have fallen apart because of the (often) unspoken assumption that one of the pair is responsible for the other's emotional health and happiness? And if that other person doesn't fulfill their assigned role, the relationship falls apart. We can be responsible for how we treat another person, but each person is solely responsible for their own emotional state.
But what really interests me is how this plays out in adoption. Very often well-meaning parents adopt a child to do this very thing... make the child's dreams for a family come true. It is a well-intentioned motive, but one that is rife for disaster. First, often in adoption, the child being adopted has no say in what happens. The child doesn't get to choose to be placed for adoption, the child doesn't get to choose what the interim care looks like, and the child doesn't get to choose the adoptive parents. If the child even knows what his dreams are, chances are they look more like having never been separated from his birth family to begin with. And that's a big if. An older child, especially one in institutional care probably doesn't even really know what his dreams even are. He may see other children be adopted, and think it might be nice to have people come and take him away from the institution and buy him new clothes and gifts. But are these really dreams?
The problem is that if a child is dreaming for parents, she is dreaming of idealized parents. The parents who know her perfectly and can make her happy and nothing will be hard again. What parent can fulfill that? What a set-up... for everyone. The child is disappointed because life with a family is not ever close to what he imagined it to be. The parents are disappointed because the new child, instead of being excited over the prospect of fulfilled dreams, seems angry and distant. And ungrateful. It makes parents wonder if they have even done the right thing by bringing this child into their house. So both parties are somewhat miserable because everyone's expectations have not been met. It takes a lot of hard work on everyone's part to move past these disappointments and into a real relationship.
How much better if at least one party goes into an adoption with more realistic expectations. This would have to be the adults; we can't expect it of the children, though in an ideal world, other adults in that child's life would be doing what they can to prepare her. Adults need to adopt a child with the only expectation that this child needs loving parents and that is who they are going to be. There is nothing required of the child for the parents to do this. I actually believe that unless you can accept the fact that this child may never feel the love for you that you do for him, and are willing to commit to that child anyway, you shouldn't adopt. Adoption is an act of sacrificial love. At least at the beginning, and sometimes, always.
And this is how God love us... sacrificially. He sacrificed His Son so that we could become His adopted children. The difference is there is something required of us to be adopted by God, we have to accept the sacrifice His son made on our behalf. We then have a permanent home, though we haven't reached it yet. It is in Heaven. And when we are there, God doesn't promise to make all of our dreams comes true, but if we delight in Him, he does promise to give us the desires of our heart. Desires we might not even know we have until God shows them to us. He is the perfect parent.