Other people assume it.
“They’re so lucky to have you.”
“What a blessing you are to them.”
“How fortunate that they were adopted.”
All comments made in complete innocence. But also naively.
I think most often this attitude is probably given to those that either adopt internationally or from the foster care system.
But it assumes one basic fact.
The kids life was horrible.
And, odds are, it was not. At least not for them. Not from their perspective.
Yes, a child removed from his home and placed in foster care probably experienced some bad things. But most of them probably experienced a LOT of good things too. They undoubtedly love their parents.
Kids living in an orphanage overseas? Well they may not even know any different. This is their life. These are their friends. They are fed, they play. They have GOOD memories. Some internationally-adopted kids come out of foster families (like my niece Julia) where they were fiercely loved and well cared for.
Why do we assume that when we take them away from everything they’ve ever known that they will be grateful?
We can see the big picture. We know that a loving, permanent home where all their emotional, physical and spiritual needs are met is best.
But adopted kids are rooted in the here and now.
So, when after they’ve been home for 3 weeks and are complaining because the other kids have more toys than them? It’s not the time to remind them that they used to play with a stick and an old tire. They will not be grateful.
When they gaze disdainfully at the food set before them at dinner time? Not the time to ask them what they ate at the orphanage. They will not be grateful for a well-balanced and nutritious dinner of food they do not recognize.
It will come…sort of…and eventually.
It may start with something small. Like this note I got two months after the kids came home. “Mom you are nese (nice).”
It may graduate to “I’m glad you’re my mom.”
And eventually you may get “I’m glad you adopted me.”
But I always remind myself that never does that mean “I’m glad I had to leave everything and everyone I know behind in Ethiopia.”
That will be a loss that my kids feel forever.
And really, I don’t need their gratitude. I didn’t do it for that. I’d rather have their love and for them to know how fiercely I love them.