Thursday, March 10, 2016

Love is not a limited commodity

I don't mean to take offense, really I don't. But sometimes I see something someone has written and I realize that there are some assumptions about large families that are just not true. And since they are assumptions that are not totally complimentary to large families, I feel compelled to respond. What comment has my cold-addled head reeling even more than it already was? Well, it was the question (my paraphrase), "Are there any families out there who adopt just so they can have a child (I think we only want one), or is it all families who are doing it as a mission project?"

My trouble is the implied dichotomy. Small families = having children because they want to be parents and desire the child versus large families = adding children out of a sense of duty because they already have enough children. There are all sorts of problems with this assumption, the biggest of which it is just plain wrong.

Now I know I am constantly nagging at preaching to you to consider opening your heart and home to a child who needs the love of a family. I know that I am perpetually reminding you of these children. I know that it can start to seem as though this is one more thing that good people should do. I even know that some of you truly believe that J. and I have the family we do because we are "good" people and have an interesting mission project.

I hate to sound like a broken record on this point as well, but there really, truly is not that much different about J. and I than from any other person. The only difference would be that in knowing about these children who need love and a family, we allowed ourselves to fall in love with a few of them. When you discover you love a child, there's not much you wouldn't do for him or her. Most definitely, in every case, we have added to our family because we fell in love with the child first. We wanted that child in our family. That was what was important. The nit picky details of how does the child fit in our vehicle? Where does the child sleep? How will we pay for college? become secondary and work themselves out one way or another.

Just because we have a few children does not mean that we cannot fall in love with another child. It is no different than the family with one or two children falling in love with another child. Love just doesn't work that way. You are not given a certain amount of love when you are born and must be careful with it lest you use it all up, though often people treat it that way. No, love is a little bit crazier than that. It just cannot be used up. Like your muscles, the more you love, the better you get at loving. We just cannot run out of love.

Now I hear you saying, "Well, you might not run out of love, but what about money and time?" The other criticism of large families is that there is just not enough time to care for all those children. To which I want to respond, how many functioning large families do you actually know? (TV families don't count. Sorry.) I would also want to clarify what you mean by "time to care for". Do you mean make sure they are clean, clothed, fed, conversed with, read to, challenged, directed? Or do you mean driven around, given dozens of lessons and classes, and celebrated with extravagant parties? If you mean the first, then you need to realize that this is indeed completely doable. Much of it is a learned skill, and while other things might not get done, for instance I never get my nails done and rarely go out shopping and lunching, we manage to have conversations (and more) with each of our children every day. If you mean the second, then I can point to plenty of stressed-out, overwhelmed mothers of one or two who can't manage it. I'm not even going to try, and frankly my children will be the better for it. You see, having more children can be clarifying. Because time is a limited commodity, it can help you sort out what is really important from what is not quite so important.

Every large adoptive family I know, has adopted children because they felt connected to, they loved, these particular children. It is not just because a child need a family, but because this particular child needs a family. You look at a picture and realize that you would be heartbroken if this particular child found a family elsewhere. People tell us we are so wonderful, when really it is just a form of selfishness. We know the joy of loving a child and we want to love this one.

And there is the difference. Because we have many children, we have experienced the love and joy of children. We have experienced what happens when you open your heart to a child who might be different. We gain so much more than we give. There are literally thousands of children who need homes. We know we can't "save" every single one. We watch and grieve when children lose their chance for a family forever. We share about these children not only because they need homes... they do... but because of how we have been changed. We have seen a whole new side of love and we want others to be able to experience it, too.

So, when others imply that I adopted my children out of a sense of duty, or because it was the "right" thing to do, what they are really implying is that I do not love these children in the same way as my others. That they are my charity cases that other people wouldn't want and someone needs to adopt. Some good person. How insulting... to both us and our children. I love them each fiercely and deeply, and the mama bear comes out when it is assumed otherwise.


Shecki Grtlyblesd said...

:) Yup. Sharing.

Kristin Mueller said...

Beautifully said as always. I wonder if it's harder to understand if you haven't had that experience of looking at a child's picture and feeling love for them, and knowing that they are a part of your family. I completely agree with you, but wonder if people get confused because they look at pictures and feel a twinge of guilt or sadness over a child not having a home, rather than falling in love with a child and knowing that child belongs in your home. If that makes sense. :)

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