November is National Adoption Month, and it its honor, I have the privilege of hosting my friend, author Jennifer Grant, here today. This is an excerpt from her book Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter.
Our social worker asked my husband and me to write short narratives explaining why we wished to adopt a child. “Give us a sense of who you are. Autobiographical details are helpful,” he suggested.
David, as ever, was straightforward and to the point. He said we wanted more children. We had a lot to share. We knew there were many orphaned children in the world. We had several friends who had adopted their children. He said, in conclusion, that we were at least reasonably good parents and had the means to support another child so it made sense for us to adopt.
I wrote something more like a dissertation. Now that I look back at it, and at the truncated, seven-page version I submitted to our social worker, I realize that I did not write it, primarily, for our agency. In some ways, it was the first letter I ever wrote to my daughter.
I began by saying that it was very important to me to create a strong, happy family. I wrote that I thought my new daughter might someday feel alienated or feel out of place because of her adoption. She might grow up with a gnawing sense of being different from those around her. I explained that I would be able to empathize. I had always felt different, too.
When I was growing up in a town not unlike The Andy Griffith Show’s Mayberry, I had no connection to grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. After my parents’ separation and divorce when I was in junior high school, I did not see my father again for more than a decade. At that time, divorce was an anomaly in our town.
“As a child, I always felt there was something missing in my life. I wondered what it would feel like to have a father at home. To be taken care of in the way fathers seemed to care for their families. Fixing the water heater. Locking up the house at night. Meeting boyfriends just to make eye contact and let them know that their daughters were cherished and not to be toyed with. Spoiling their daughters and taking what seemed like a special delight in them.”
Growing up without a father had troubled me spiritually as well. “God the Father” was often compared to human fathers at church. What is God like? Well, think of your Daddy! Would He give you stones if you asked for bread? What was I to make of that metaphor when I did not think my human father had any interest in me whatsoever? Had God left me behind, not unlike The Great Gatsby’s T.J Ekleburg, the optometrist who put up a billboard to advertise his practice, but then deserted the area, leaving only huge, unseeing eyes?
As a child, I had a lingering fear that I would meet my father and he would look right through me. That he wouldn’t even recognize me. Maybe my new daughter would have the same kind of fears about her biological mother. What if she had forgotten her? What if someday they met and my daughter’s first mother didn’t recognize her face?
“Growing up, one of my goals was to avoid being pegged as a child from a ‘broken home.’ It seemed like teachers and other adults looked down on kids whose parents were divorced. Some of these kids rebelled, acted out and seemed to be messing up their lives on purpose to show what kind of pain they were in. ‘He’s from a broken home,’ people would say, tsk-tsking, as though the fact of his parents’ divorce explained everything. I was determined to do better, to be an exception.”
Maybe my daughter would hear people generalize about “adopted kids.” That, as was true for the “kids from broken homes” of yesteryear, people would judge adopted children, waiting for them to fail. I would talk about these difficult issues with my daughter someday.
I concluded my “short” autobiography with a look at the role I believed God was playing in our adoption.
“I feel God’s leading toward having another child and bringing that child into our lives by adoption. I have no doubt that if my husband and I wanted to have another biological child, we could quickly become pregnant. But I want to open up our family in a different way this time. I want to give my daughter a sister, my sons another sibling, and all of us another family member to join in our adventures. David and I both feel that God has blessed us with an amazing family. That I have given my kids the thing I wanted more than anything as a child – a present and loving father – has been a gift to me as well as the children. I see in my own life how God’s transformative love can make new life grow from a broken limb. I look forward to embracing our new daughter as she is grafted onto our family tree.”
At our next meeting at the agency, David placed his narrative on the desk. “And did you bring yours?” the social worker asked, sliding David’s page into a file folder. I pulled my autobiography out of my purse, smoothed the pages and handed it to him.
“You’re the writer, aren’t you?” he asked.
Jennifer Grant is the author of Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter, MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family, Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by Skeptics, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels (co-editor, forthcoming, 2014), and 12: A Daybook for a Wholehearted Year (forthcoming, 2014). She is a grateful believer, a reader, a sometime poet, a dog lover, and, with her husband of 25 years, mother to four wonderfully creative and quirky tween and teenaged children. Learn more at jennifergrant.com.
In honor of National Adoption Month, Love You More is available on Kindle for only $1.99. Find it here!