I find my spot on our front porch, just above the driveway, on a mild weekday morning in the spring. It’s a school day and, for once, my two sons are ready for school 30 minutes before the bus arrives.
“Dad, can we ride our bikes before the bus comes?” my second oldest shouts from the backyard.
“Sure you can, buddy,” I reply. Before I can complete my normal instructions of “Stay away from the street,” or, “Don’t ride into the cars,” they’re off and running!
I shake my head, place my fingers on the keys of my laptop, and begin typing away. I have a few deadlines coming up but zero ideas bouncing in my head. A common tale for writers. In the background of my attempt to think, I can hear the laughter and squeals of my sons as they ride feverishly up and down our driveway. Suddenly, my mind tunes in and I hear sweet words spoken to me, “Hey, daddy …”
That’s when it hits me. I love this, I think, as I gaze up from my screen. I take a moment to breathe deep and watch my sons. My sons. Both a precious gift. How often do I take that for granted! Not today, however. I gently close my laptop and watch intently. They are young and free, and filled to the brim with life. They are my beautiful children, and I have the honor of being their daddy.
Twenty years ago, when I was a wide-eyed, dreamer of a college student, I thought I had a plan. Get married, get a job, buy a house, start having mini-mes and mini-shes with my wife. Boy was I wrong. I had no idea then, how my life would eventually tell a story so much bigger than anything I could have imagined.
Adoption! It has told such an amazing story through our life that I would need books to tell it all. As I watch my boys ride up and down our driveway, I’m overwhelmed as I think about it. Reality? Our life has been far from perfect. We’ve had a thousand dark and hopeless days. We’ve been rendered completely exhausted at times. Our children’s special needs have pushed us over the edge more than we can count.
But we wouldn’t trade any of it. You read that right … any of it!
We’ve learned so much from our adoption journey. We’ve learned the power of forgiveness and love. We’ve learned how grief and sorrow can shape you into a better person. We’ve discovered how perfectly imperfect life is. We’ve learned that true trust means stepping off the ledge even when the calling you’ve received makes zero sense.
After all, life was never meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be lived and loved through the good and the bad.
That’s what our story has been, and still is. Adoption built our beautiful family. We think it’s one of the most amazing adventures in the world. And we have a few reasons why …
Fourteen years ago, when we first adopted, I thought we were on a rescue mission and we were superheroes. I kinda sorta made the entire process about me and how awesome I was for doing this. But I quickly learned that it was about so much more than me.
It was about compassion. It was about changing the lives of children. It was about seeing the world with unconditional love. I’ve learned that compassion is about me getting outside of myself and walking in the shoes of another human being. It’s been a hard lesson, too. Adoption has turned the areas of me that were self-centered and clueless, upside down.
I see myself in my children. I hear my words in my sons’ voices as they shout back and forth to one another on this fine, spring morning. Though I did not create them biologically, there’s no question they are my children. I do think one really cool thing about my children is that they physically reflect their birth parents. They have her eyes, his smile, her athletic ability, his build. Wow. They reflect another living, breathing human being.
I think one of the great misconceptions of humanity is that happiness equals joy, or the other way around. Joy is not based on happiness, it’s based on contentment, regardless of life circumstances. It can include happiness, but it’s not dependent on it. There have been many unhappy moments on our adoption journey. There have been a few desperate seasons and even some regret. But joy washes all of that away because, through joy, we are content. Adoption (and foster care for that matter) is almost single-handedly responsible for teaching us to have joy.
Adoption is about family. When I look at my family, I don’t see my adopted children. I see my children. I don’t see my family built through adoption. I see my family. My family is as real as the next door neighbors’ who had all of their children the old-fashioned way. I love my children so deeply that there’s no way on earth it could be undone. In fact, I never thought I was capable of such deep love until we had children. Adoption is family.
I’ve often said that adoption shapes the future. That’s absolutely true as far as I’m concerned. Adoption is love in action. And love is the only way we will change this world. When you choose to adopt, you must choose love. You must choose compassion. There’s no way you can’t. These are the very things that adoption is built on.
My son’s squeal and laugh as they race past me. I smile and breathe deep once again. I can’t help but give thanks for this wonderful, messy, perfectly-imperfect life I’ve been given.