Stewards, Not Owners

My favorite line in this short documentary film from The Adopted Life is this:

“People think that they own kids, but I don’t believe that. We’re here to steward children. More love is not hurting anyone… there’s always a way. But it’s only if you really want there to be a way, and you’re humble enough to hear your child call someone else ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad.'”

Bruce, The Adopted Life—Neiko’s Family

The more I’ve been in this world of foster care and adoption, the more I have come to see that adopted people need to feel free and supported in knowing as much as they can about where they came from, and, more importantly, who they came from.

As someone who is not an adoptee, I had to learn this. It wasn’t something that was intuitive for me.

Our children need to know they can talk about their first (birth/bio) mom and dad anytime they want to. They need to feel that we (their adoptive moms and dads) are their safe place to process the big feelings and hard questions they have, which will grow as they do. We must not make our adopted children feel like they have to either stuff their desires to know their stories in full, or sneak around in order to find out more.

We need to practice such a radical form of hospitality that we are willing to share these precious gifts with the other woman who is also “Mom,” not hoard them like possessions.

When my child said to me tonight, “I miss (other mom),” I won’t lie: it stung. We were cuddling, it was bedtime, and I wasn’t expecting it. My child wasn’t trying to hurt me; my child was letting me know that their other mom is always close by, in their thoughts, and they felt safe being transparent with me, which is a Very Good Thing.

“I don’t blame you one bit,” was my reply. “She is a very special person, and I’m sure you miss her very much.”

When I said that, my child said, “You know how it feels?”

“No,” replied. “I don’t. I don’t know how it feels, because I only have one Mommy. But I care about how you feel, and I don’t blame you for missing her.”

I have been editing the latest episode of A Fostered Life Podcast today, featuring my conversation with MaLisa Riley-Henson, author of “Tommy’s 2 Mommies,”* and one of the things we discussed was how much adoptive parents really need to not just tolerate, but really support, and even encourage, their child’s pursuit of knowing their history and their family of origin. We women who are raising children who did not come from our bodies need to stop making it about us—our comfort level, our rights, our fears, our pride—and start making it about our children—their deep and visceral need to know who they are and who they came from. Our kids need never feel ashamed or guilty for wanting to know their family of origin.

We also need to leave room for the possibility of relationship with the women (and men) who brought our children into the world. As Bruce said in this film, “No matter what’s happened in the past, she’s Neiko’s mom. I’m raising him to honor his mother.” If we view our role in our kids’ lives as that of a steward, rather than that of an owner, we are much more likely to be open to this possibility. I know first hand that it is not always possible, for a variety of reasons. But when it is possible, we should be open to it.

I’m grateful for the message of this film. We need more of this.

We need to do better for our kids.

*Affiliate Link