I awake early on a Monday morning to begin my typical weekday routine in my household. Quick workout at our local gym, buzz home quickly while I chug water, arrive home and wake kids up, head to the kitchen to make lunches, simultaneously start breakfast, give a check to 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, then kiss the heads of the ones who have made it downstairs in relatively good time.
They rub their eyes, and stretch, and grumble, and may toss a few items my direction. None of them like that they’re up before the sun. I smile and return my attention to the task at hand. Getting them out the door on time for another day of school. As I slap peanut butter and jelly on slices of bread I smile. The thought hits me…
I love these babies more than I can even begin to articulate with words.
I would bleed myself dry for any of them. I would gladly, and willingly, put my life on the line for each one, no questions asked. They are mine. I am beyond humbled to be their daddy. Even when they hiss like a viper that I’ve woken them up for school.
I didn’t create a one of them biologically. Nope. All 8 (yes, 8…I wouldn’t make that up), of my children are adopted. You probably know that if you’ve hung around this site at all…:-). We began our journey 16 years ago. Nineteen years ago we first discussed parenting, before we were married, and adoption was not in my realm of possibilities. I had my own ideal, my own plan, and my own vision for how I thought our life together, and our family, were going to play out. Thankfully, all of my plans were wrecked….in a very, very good way! Because as I put the finishing touches on their lunches, I’m consumed with the thought:
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. It has made me a better person. Here are 4 reasons why this is true….
- It’s made me the best version of myself. The other day, Kristin and I were driving alone, without any of our children (Shocker!) when I told her something that was on my mind- “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 the adoption journey. Over the past 16 years, we’ve encountered so many situations that have knocked us completely out of comfort zone and I’m better for it. I’ve discovered the world is much bigger than me and the tiny hearts of the precious children I am blessed to care for in this life have reminded me of this.
This journey has made me the best possible version of myself.
- It has taught me the capacity I have to love others. I’ve often said that adoption is not a question of your capacity to love others. It’s a question of choice. What will you choose to do with your heart? This amazing journey has taught me just how true this is. Before I became a parent I didn’t know this. I had a shallow view of the life I was living (more on that in a minute), and I didn’t think I could love another human being I didn’t biologically create. Well, I can tell you, nothing could be further from the truth. I love my children deeper than deep. I love them as if I did create them biologically. Love is not dependent on DNA or biology. Love is dependent on what you choose to do with your heart.
Adoption is not a question of your capacity to love others. It’s a question of choosing to love others.
- It’s made me a less-selfish person. In short, before we began the adoption journey I was a selfish person. Like, really, really selfish. I thought only of myself, my plans, my wants, my needs, my perspective. I would not have admitted this back in the day, and frankly, I’m still learning how to not be selfish, but it’s very true of my life before having children. I resisted the adoption journey in the beginning because I didn’t understand it, but also because I thought my life, the perfect life I thought I would live, would be disrupted. And it was. And I’m glad. This journey has humbled me and showed me, clearly, that this is not about me.
- It’s taught me what family is really made of. I mentioned this a moment ago but I’ll reiterate it here. Love is not dependent on DNA or biology. But neither is family. As Leigh Ann Tuohy said a few years ago, “Family 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 or not 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 biologically related. I’m not biologically related to my wife and yet she and I are married. I am not biologically related to my children and yet they call me “Daddy” and I call them “Sons” and “Daughters.”
So in recognition of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, I share my heart with you as an adoptive father. As I type these words my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude. I’m eternally grateful for the precious children I have. I’m grateful every time I hear the word “Daddy” spoken my way. I’m grateful that my best laid plans were disrupted and upended. Because my plans paled in comparison to the story I’m a part of now.
Is this journey perfect? Absolutely not. Is it worth it? Absolutely! It’s made me a better human being and it continues to make me a better human being every day I love and lead my beautiful children.
How has the adoptive (or foster) journey changed you for the better? Share your story in the comment section below this post.
Editor’s note: this post originally appeared on Mike’s column on Disney’s Babble.com.
Have you heard about our support and resource site, Oasis Community? It’s an online community that provides tangible resources and real-time support to families on the foster and adoptive journey. Oasis features online chat support and video conferencing with real-life parents (just like you), video interviews with experts in trauma, attachment and bonding, and more, as well as monthly educational content that can be used for hours on a foster care license, or continuing education credit.
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