Adoption Versus Adoptive: Labels Can Hurt or Help


This excerpt is taken from Module 1 of the 16 Week A-Z Parenting

I was having this conversation with my wife, and I would say, “Well honey, do you think this should be the 16 Week Adoption Parenting Course, or should this be the 16 Week Adoptive Parenting Course?” She gave it some thought and she said, “You know what? Adoptive is kind of like a label. You don’t want parents to just feel like they’re adoptive parents. You don’t want them to always have to be adoptive parents.”

And I thought, that is a unique point because in so many ways we don’t want to be adoptive parents. When I introduce my son to other people I don’t say, “This is my adopted son Kevin,” I say, “This is my son Kevin.” And it’s just like my son Donny. I don’t say, “This is my stepson Donny,” I say, “This is my son Donny.” So we really want to pay attention to the labels that we use but at the same time, and here’s an even bigger thought for you, as a parent who has adopted a child you do not want to create a framework and a perspective for yourself that moves you away from the fact that your child is adopted.

You want to hold this perspective in mind not so you can have the label of “this is my adopted child”, but rather so you can have the understanding that by having an adopted child I have a child who 98 percent of the time has some unique characteristics that my other children may not have. So 98 percent of the time this child has had an experience that your biological children have not had. So I said to my wife, “You know, the adoptive thing is very true, but on the other side of that you don’t want to forget about the fact that this child’s been adopted, that this is not a biological child.”

Not that biological children don’t have their own instances of trauma, and stress, and negative experiences, and loss, and grief. It’s all the same. But let me qualify this entire training – my focus here is on adoption, because that’s my passion. It’s what I am the most deeply touched by. But in all of this course at any given time all you have to do is substitute adoption for biological, adoption for foster care, foster child, adoption for grandchild, adoption for stepchild. All you have to do is substitute the name, the title, the label, that’s it. Everything else is the same.

We are all fundamentally the same. So these are merely labels which help us to focus in a very specific way. When you think about this from the perspective of parenting, this is a label that helps you focus on a specific niche, a specific area, and that’s what I focus on. The majority of my early career has been focused on trying to be all things to all people, which I believe is stress model, love-based parenting and relationship.

Of course it applies to all people. Now I want to focus on adoption, that’s my passion. So the key here is, always remember that your child had a unique history and a unique experience. You cannot forget that, because that creates the lens through which you look upon your child. So much of this is all about changing the lens through which we view our children.

I’ve always thought I would love to have a pair of glasses with a lens that shows an infant, so that when you are looking at another person the lens you are looking through is one of infancy, so that you can see not just the person but the infant within the person. That is essential when talking about adoption parenting. When you look upon your child you have to see the infant.

If you fail to see the infant then you’ve failed to see the child, you’ve failed to see the teenager. And I always refer to teenagers as children, too. It doesn’t make any difference. There are no age limits on this information. Any age, from zero to the end of time. So you can be looking at your 25-year-old son, you have to see the infant. I want you to be able to see the infant, because that’s your lens. The lens through which you look upon defines your reality. It defines what you see. So you have to be able to see that.

You have to be able to grasp in any given moment, as often as you can and with as much depth as you can, to be able to grasp the infant within the individual. That helps you to not feel threatened. You never would have considered that angle, but that that is a critical angle.

In that angle, it defines the basis of our most basic relationship interactions and engagement. When you look at another individual, when you can see the infant within them, your brain will not feel threatened by that individual. When you can’t see the infant within them, when you can’t see the scared infant and you can’t see the hopeless infant, when you can’t see the helpless infant, when you can’t see the despondent infant, when you can’t see the upset and the fearful infant, you cannot see the person.

When you cannot see the infant in front of you, you are seeing yourself. You are reacting from your own fear. You’re reacting from your own threat. You must be able to see the infant.

All of this didn’t start at adoption, and it doesn’t end there either. When you brought your child into your home at whatever age, that was not the beginning of their life, it was not the beginning of your life. And it’s not the end, it’s not the end of the life they’ve lived, it’s not the end of the life you’ve lived. It’s the beginning of the relationship that the two of you will continue to have until your final breath. But it’s not the beginning. Their life doesn’t start when they come to you. Your life didn’t start that way.

Remember, It didn’t start at adoption and it doesn’t end there either. You are a part of a very complex process that was not simple as it evolved, nor will it be simple to bring to a conclusion. So pack your lunch and a change of underwear and try to enjoy the trip. There is a reason why all this is happening and I will help you sort it out as we move through it.

Choose Love