I wake early on a Monday morning to begin my typical weekday routine. First, a quick workout at my local gym. Next, I buzz home and chug water, wake the kids, make lunches, start breakfast, check backpacks, gently remind my kids to get up (again), warm the car up for carpool, consider pouring ice cold water over the stragglers who are still sleeping, and kiss the heads of those who’ve made it downstairs in relatively good time.
My kids rub their eyes, stretch, and grumble that they are up before the sun. I smile and return my attention the task at hand of getting them out the door on time for another day of school. As I slap peanut butter and jelly on slices of bread, I stop and smile. The thought hits me that I love these babies more than I can even begin to articulate. I would bleed myself dry for any of them. They are mine, and I am beyond humbled to be their daddy… even when they complain that I’ve woken them up for school.
Here’s the thing: I didn’t create one of them biologically. Nope. All 8 (yes, 8) of my children are adopted. When my wife and I first discussed parenting before we were married, adoption was not in my realm of possibilities. I had my own plan and vision for how I thought our life together was going to play out. Thankfully, all of my plans were wrecked, because I couldn’t imagine my life without any of my children. I couldn’t have scripted a better story than the one I’m living out … all thanks to adoption.
Adoption has made me a better person for so many reasons. Here are a few:
1. Adoption has made me the best version of myself.
The other day, my wife Kristin and I were driving without our kids and I told her, “This journey has made me the best possible version of myself.” The way I look at humanity, people who are different from me, and the world around me has totally changed thanks in part to our adoption journey. Over the past 16 years, we’ve encountered so many situations that have knocked us out of our comfort zone, and I’m better for it. I’ve discovered the world is much bigger than I am; the tiny hearts of the precious children I am blessed to care for have reminded me of this.
2. Adoption has taught me that love is born in my heart.
I’ve often said that the adoption journey is not a question of whether or not you have the capacity in your heart to love others; it is a question of choice. Before I became a parent I didn’t know this. I had a shallow view of the life I was living, and I didn’t think I could love another human I didn’t biologically create. But nothing could be further from the truth. I love my children deeply and every bit as much as if I created them biologically. Love is not dependent on DNA or biology. Love is dependent on what you choose to do with your heart.
3. Adoption has made me a less selfish person.
Before we began our adoption journey, I was a selfish person. Like really, really selfish. I thought only of myself, my plans, my wants, my needs, and my perspective. I would not have admitted this back in the day, but it’s true. I resisted adoption in the beginning because I didn’t understand it, but also because the perfect life I thought I’d live would be disrupted. And it was. And I’m glad. This journey has humbled me and showed me that life is not about me.
4. Adoption has taught me what family is really made of.
As I mentioned earlier, love is not dependent on DNA or biology. And neither is family. As Leigh Anne Tuohy once said, “Families don’t have to match. You don’t have to look like someone else to love them.” How true is that? I have learned this and then some. I realize that family is made up of the people you choose to live life with, whether they are biologically related to you or not. The thought never crosses my mind that my family is not a real family because we are not related by blood. I’m not biologically related to my wife, and yet we are married. I am not biologically related to my children, and yet they call me “Daddy” and I call them my sons and daughters.
In recognition of November’s National Adoption Month, I share my heart with you as an adoptive father. As I type these words, my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for the precious children I have. I’m grateful every time I hear the word “Daddy” spoken my way. I’m thankful that my best laid plans were disrupted and upended, for they have paled in comparison to the story I’m a part of now.
Is this journey perfect? Absolutely not. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Adoption continues to make me a better human being every day that I love and lead my beautiful children.