This blog was originally posted at MLJadoptions in 2013. It is reposted with slight updates
I am so grateful that I was asked to speak at NACAC again this year. Attending adoption conferences makes me a better parent by providing a bit of respite (thanks to wonderfully supportive parents that my child loves spending time with), re-inspiring and refocusing me on the most important aspects of adoptive parenting and the work I do, and creating opportunities to connect with adoption professionals, adoptive parents, and adult adoptees who can all offer important insight and support. I am particularly thankful for the confirmation provided by an international adult adoptee on parenting choices I have made while I was at NACAC this year. I hope more adoptive parents consider attending adoption conferences, especially those like NACAC geared towards adoptive parents striving to be the best that they can be by seeking out new information, new resources, and different opinions.
I have met some inspiring professionals by attending adoption conferences. This year I got so much more out of Maris Blechner’s session than I had even hoped. Her emphasis was on inspiring a commitment mentality in adoptive parents rather than the consumer mentality that is rampant in our society. She reminded us that we may not realize just how self-focused we are individually because the consumer mentality is so built in to our society. We are taught that ‘the customer is always right’ and if we don’t get what we want, complaining to the manager or calling the company out on twitter is likely to get us something for free.
Adoption is a commitment that you enter into blindly, but it is no different than adding a child by birth. It is essential that adopting parents are committed to making it work, committed to parenting this child for the rest of their lives, and committed to parenting through the tough stuff. Parenting is the most important, most difficult job you will ever have and this can be even more true in adoption. Whether you add a child to your family through birth or adoption, you cannot guarantee personality, health (in the short term or the long term), or even physical resemblance. Commitment mentality is selfless and puts aside all of what we have dreamed and envisioned our child to be to meet him or her where he or she is, to love all that he or she is and all that he or she is not, and to do the hard work of parenting when it is difficult and not what you had envisioned. Commitment mentality leaves little to no room for disruption or rehoming.
Nearly all will immediately want to state that they come from a commitment mentality rather than a consumer mentality in adoption. In general we don’t like to face our entitlement. Commitment mentality faces head-on the struggles of adoptive parenting. Commitment mentality looks for the child’s needs before being concerned with the child’s behavior. Commitment mentality accepts the potential that the child’s age may be mis-approximated, health issues may be unknown, and you may learn about siblings that also need you at a later point.
I do believe there are some expectations you can have of your agency. You can expect honesty and responsiveness. You can expect ethical practices, but please do your homework. You can also expect that there are many aspects of the process that are as out of your agency’s control as they are yours. There should be customer-service from an agency, but as far as the child is concerned, Mrs. Bletchner says, “there is no room or place for consumer mentality in any successful adoption.” Because consumer mentality is so built into our culture, it requires constant vigilance to remain in a committed mentality. The child that joins your family is your child. Entering into the adoption process, you have committed to parenting and committed to this child. Claiming is an important part of helping your child feel safe and integrated into your family. While it is important for my son to hear my refer to him as “my son”, it is even more important for him that my heart has claimed the role of “his mom”. I am his; I have given myself to him, but it is up to him if he will claim me. No matter how difficult it may get, he can count on me.