Sunday, November 4, 2012

There is no cabbage patch

I've been wanting to write this post for a while, but have not seem to have the words or the time.  Today, stuck at home with the post-"Super Storm Sandy" flu seems as good a time as any...I guess in some way, this is my response to Orphan Sunday"...

At it's very core, I think that we all want the same thing...

We want children to grow up in loving homes, ideally with their first families, but possibly with a different family if their first family is not able to raise them.

We want children in loving families who love them and can take care of them.

We don't want children to experience death, abandonment, hunger, thirst or disease.

We don't want women and men and families to suffer from a lack of water, medical care, resources, health or whatever else is necessary to raise their child...

We don't want barren women (and childless men) to remain childless when there are children who need families...

We don't want any of these things.

At first glance, adoption seems like a great solution.

A child whose first family is not able to raise them, gets a family.

A first family who can not or chooses not to raise a child can make a plan for their future.

A barren couple can become parents.

It's's's right...

But here is the thing, there is no cabbage patch!

Children, they don't sprout from the earth as preemies, infants, or toddlers with a random name (like Evan Rhett or Franny Frances like the ones in our family were called), a cute signature on their bottom, and simple papers that say they are yours.

Childless couples (or families with children) are not selfless.  They want to experience the joy of parenting.  They want to love their child and have their child love them in return.  They don't want to spend the rest of their lives caring for a child who is not able to be independent, or who hates them, or who tries to hurt them or their other children.

First families, they are real.  Their stories are often full of searing pain, loss, death, grief, difficult/impossible decisions...and often coercion; extortion; patriarchal, cultural, governmental, and social pressures, and financial gain (which could be as simple as a pair of shoes or a loaf of bread which can make the difference between life and death for other children or members of their family).

And the pain...the pain is real for everyone...children who have experienced more loss than most of us will experience in a lifetime, first families who have made impossible choices and often experience profound life-long grief...and the childless who ache for a child to love and parent and teach and raise.

There is no cabbage patch.  Adoption does not come in a clean, branded box with a plastic lid and a clear little piece of paper.

These are real people, real pain, real death, real challenges.

Babies don't grow in a cabbage patch...toddlers don't grow in a cabbage patch...preschoolers don't grow in a cabbage patch...and "older" kids don't grow in a cabbage patch.

But here's how it is like the Cabbage Patch phenomena...

People are lining up, fighting with each other, desperately waiting years, to adopt an infant...a toddler...a girl....they are so cute... everybody wants's's "christian duty"'s the call to care for orphans and widows...

Churches across the US and probably other parts of the world are shouting this from the rooftops today on "Orphan Sunday".

Here's the thing...

There is no cabbage patch.  Adoption is not neat, it is not clean, this is not a child who has been birthed in a clean, pastoral cabbage patch and then placed into a sterile little box sitting on a clean shelf in a department store.

This is a baby...a child...a young adult...whose life has been literally torn asunder.  They lost their first family, and now are impossibly, improbably, incredibly expected to be part of yours.

There is a first family who has been, is, and will always be part of their life.  There are children who have spent years, literally YEARS wasting away in institutions because they don't look like cabbage patch dolls.  They are not little, and cute, and healthy...maybe they are big, or not so cute.

There is no cabbage patch.  As adoptive parents, we have to figure out how to explain our child's history...their whole history...(at least as much as we can possibly find out) in age appropriate ways.  To help them make sense of their past and their present and their future.  A future which doesn't include any cabbages, but involves a complex weaving of all their families into who they are.

I think that the message most people and churches promote, especially on "Orphan Sunday" is that it's our job to provide a home for a cute baby.  It's not.

It's our job to show God's love to widows, to orphans, to the least of these.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love and truth are inexorably linked here. Love and patience.  Love and selflessness...

I think that the message on "Orphan Sunday" and throughout the year, should focus more on love for all members of the adoption triangle (children, first families, and adoptive families--and the most loving option might not/often is not adoption, especially for infants), on demanding transparency and ethical and loving behavior from agencies and in-country staff, and on advocating for children who are truly the least of these; children who families are not lining up to adopt; children and first families who are vulnerable, but for whom adoption is not the best option; and actively speaking out against the cabbage patch version of adoption.

These are God's precious children just as much as I you my son is...their first families are also God's precious children (regardless of whether you agree with their lifestyle choices or decisions)...their siblings, their grandparents, their friends from their first country...all God's children...all an integral part of your child's heritage.  They don't disappear when your child is adopted.

Children who have first families who want to parent and can with just the slightest support:

Children and widows for whom incountry adoption is a great option:

Children with RAD:

Children with disabilities: 

Children who have spent years in institutions literally wasting away in cribs (graphic images):

I think that it takes some really special, really loving families to parent these children, to support these first families, to deny the cabbage patch, to truly love orphans and widows...but I know they are out there.

Ababa and I continue to discuss what a second adoption could look like for our family and we are not on the same page yet and won't move forward until we are, but I do know that loving children and widows starts in acknowledging the truth, recognizing there is no cabbage patch, and advocating for the least of might not be adoption...and if it is adoption, it really might not be a cute little baby with a funny name and a signature on their bottom.  That is the message I wish that churches would acknowledge in this "Orphan Sunday" movement.

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