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What it’s like to be an adoptive parent

Adoptive parents

Loving union: Terri and Owen Vyner with their daughter Laura.

WHEN we first moved into our local suburb, the sight of my wife and children walking down the main street would cause quite a few heads to turn.

It is not every day that you see a redhead walking hand-in-hand with two Korean children.

In this country, at least, adoption remains very rare although the comments are always positive and many people voice the wish to become adoptive parents themselves.

For some people adoption seems quite mysterious as though it is an altogether different experience of parenthood. We have to admit that there are definite differences.

For example, we first held our children at Denver International Airport and not in a hospital.

We had no ultrasound images to pass on to excited grandparents although we did receive video and photos every few months – and we watched and studied every detail endlessly.

Lastly, the “gestation” period was not established by a predictable biologically-established timetable but was determined by government agencies, visas and federal police checks.

And yet despite these differences there are genuine similarities.

We hope that our experience of parenthood will help others to see their being a father and mother in a new light.

The first aspect of adoptive parenthood is falling in love with a person who has no biological relation to you.

When people ask me about this, I am surprised that I have to explain to them that this is not the first time that this has happened to me.

After all, I fell in love with my wife and was able to profess a lifelong love for her and she was – for a time – a complete stranger.

For the fact remains that the “I do” of parenthood should ideally be a natural overflow of the “I do” of marriage.

In essence, the love that husband and wife profess on their wedding day (in Latin, “diligo”) is precisely the love of election – I choose you.

This person to whom I bind myself to this day is the one who I have waited for and who, in my freedom, I say “yes” to.

This is also the love that God has for us in Christ Jesus.

Again, it is the love of election; we are his chosen ones.

Is this not the love that all parents are supposed to have for their children – the pledge of a lifelong love of election?

The second aspect of adoptive parenthood that often strikes us is the enigmatic nature of our children.

They are complete mysteries to us – even their little faces.

With biological parenthood people will often say that a child looks like a parent or a grandparent.

In a sense, as adoptive parents we have no context by which to interpret the faces of our children.

I personally find that the face of my son and daughter surprise me each day.

This of course is to say nothing of their temperaments.

And yet, is it not true that in every child we find a mysterious stranger who we should welcome, with love, on his or her own terms?

Are we not called as parents to respect the total uniqueness of the child who has come into our hearts and our homes?

These two dimensions of adoptive parenthood: welcoming the child with love and as a mysterious “other” are also at the heart of biological parenthood.

In some way they stand at the foundation of God’s paternity when he welcomes each one of us in baptism.

In this way, both forms of parenthood – adoptive and biological – become complementary expressions of, and witness to, the fatherhood within God as revealed by Jesus Christ.

By Owen Vyner

Owen Vyner is the marketing officer at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.

Written by: Guest Contributor
Catholic Church Insurance

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