Parent dilemma. How to answer the question, “Mama, who do you love more…?” I always think of the book I Love You the Purplest by Barbara Joosse. I love my first the reddest and I love my second the greenest. But, I do not love my boys equally. To do so would mean they are the same person and from the second they were born, it was abundantly clear they were very very different. I am relieved they are old enough now to understand the nuances of words, no longer forced to choose and be finite. I love the games we make up to show the different ways we love and the vast ways we can enumerate and quantify that love. I have no idea if I am doing the right thing. Parenting really is a crapshoot. What works for one doesn’t for the other. Showing love for one might be to give a piggyback ride all the way back to the car and for the other might be to hold his hand and spin him around at random moments to surprise him. I wonder what photographs of love my boys have in their heads. Will it be the time we were all on the couch watching a movie, dancing in the living room to some crazy Bollywood song on the X-Box Connect, sitting at the table doing homework together or sitting by the bathtub while they wear their mask and snorkel?
What’s my point? I believe that love can’t be ‘one size fits all’ and that the essential bit to parenting is to see and acknowledge that. But I am struck by how much we can’t seem to do that in adoption. We try really hard to make it all the same. It troubles me to hear parents say, “I love you as if I gave birth to you” or “I couldn’t love you more if I had given birth to you.” The reality is that giving birth does not equate unconditional love. I believe there are more of us who were not instantly in love with our first child or our second, third or more. Also, giving birth does not trump being the one who does the daily grind. How many nights I lay with my little one counting the number of months, days, hours that I have logged just laying there when I could so be doing something else for me! Now, THAT is love.
And yet, to say that adoption is just another means to creating family seems incredibly generous. It isn’t. At least, I don’t think so. There are some who believe that adopting a child gives legitimacy to life – a name, a family and citizenship. In that sense, so does giving birth to a child. But, I cannot move to the place that makes being called a parent, the grand equalizer. There are similarities, points in common but the purposefulness of adoption makes me feel entitled to a certain level of righteousness. I don’t think it’s because I am adopted that I sit in this place of judgment. Our society as a whole seems to do the same. A celebrity does not have a child, she has an adopted child. The fact that a criminal is adopted paints him in a much dirtier way. A politician who believes adopting 20+ children seems to allude a sense of “otherworldliness”. Why?
I offer then, being adopted is not the same as being born into a family. Perhaps if we approached adoption with that basic level of honesty the necessity of community, services, counseling, support and education would be a given. Too, the love that is shared between parent and adopted child is different. And that is as it should be. Different does not mean more or less than, it just means the orangeiest or pinkest or naviest….