In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is sharing some guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
By Patricia P.
When my daughter, Amara, was seven, she helped me understand what home meant to a child. She said “home is the place you most want to be in the whole world. It’s a place in your heart.”
Wow! For a seven-year-old that statement might seem pretty impressive, but, you see, Amara’s mom makes her living talking to people around the country. And, for most of her life, Amara has traveled with me and is usually in the audience. I am also an advocate of emotional literacy; therefore, we often talk about feelings in our house. Amara also happens to be quite bright! I’m sure I’m biased, but her explanation was a blessing to me in so many ways.
As a professional who facilitates adult learning, it gave me language to share with other professionals who seek to heal and empower families. Children don’t often have a voice when a family is having problems. It is their behavior that draws all the attention. Professionals sometimes mistakenly believe that if the parents land on their feet after a family disruption, the children will be fine just because their acting-out behavior ceases. But, about six months later, the storm that was brewing inside their hearts comes forth! Children often lack the language to express their insecurities, their sense of loss and confusion. They just feel and act out or act in. Amara’s explanation helped share with my professional audience to care for a child’s heart when their family is having problems; there is pain that words can’t express.
As an adult who cares for and loves children, it gave me insight into the world of a child. They are so dependent on us adults for all the important things in life. Not just food, shelter and clothing, but peace. What we call peace of mind. A blessed assurance that someone who cares for me is looking out for me, is thinking about me, loving me. That is something you feel, not just do. We adults are so focused on meeting our responsibilities, doing what is expected, providing for our families. We might forget to feel them and feel for them. That really does make us vulnerable and dependent on someone else’s emotions. We don’t like that so much, we adults. But that is the world that children live in. They live on the edge of their adult’s emotions. Whether it’s their parents, a caregiver, teacher, coach, pastor, or relative, they grope for adult emotions to communicate their security, their sense of connection and identity. Children need to feel at home as well as be at home.
As an adoptive parent, it gave me a goal to aim for in Amara’s life. I always wanted to share my life with my own child. Since I was a social worker and a minister, I felt prepared to share my life with a child who was in need of a home. So I decided to adopt. And I wanted a girl child so I could show her how to be a strong woman. Making a home for a child, I discovered, is more than providing a place in space. It is more than providing food and clothing, kisses and a cool hand for a little fever. It is being there – when she needs me to be and how she needs me to be. Parenting Amara has made me a better person. She has taught me that parenting means giving her a part of me, not just my life. I no longer want to provide a home for Amara; I want to be home for her.
As her parent, it gave me love. Amara has asked several times over the years we’ve been together to see and spend time with her biological parents. Although I adopted her as an infant, I agreed to have ongoing contact with her biological parents and siblings. I knew before I adopted her that knowing her biological roots would be very important to her one day so I facilitated an ongoing relationship with her biological mother. We have had some great times together. Especially significant was when we spent an afternoon with her biological father for the first time. The look of joy on Amara’s face was worth all the effort it took to find him. He was wonderful, too. He hugged and thanked me for taking such good care of her. Having this open arrangement has worked well so far for us. It has been worth working through all my feelings of insecurities and her biological parents’ feelings of guilt and regret. And at the end of every visit, Amara has wanted to come back home with me.
As Amara explained to me, that place she calls home is her place inside my heart.