On our first flight over to Ukraine, we watched the adoption fable "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." It's about a couple, Jim and Cindy Green, who are given the devastating news that they cannot have children. Wanting to bury the idea of having a son, they decide to write down all the traits they would have that would make up their perfect son.
As they are doing this, I could not help but wonder what would have been the traits I would have written to make the perfect child?
I know that when I was on the plane on the way to adopt a child from Ukraine, I had my mental list:
- loves to read
- a daddy's girl
When we had our first meeting with the SDA, I will admit, I was crushed that there were only three girls shown to us and none of them were viable options. I didn't really want to look at the 6 available boys. As much as I had prayed for whatever child God had for us, deep in my heart, I wanted only a girl. Our facilitator could see the disappointment on my face.
That wasn't even on my list of traits I wanted. I mean, my first qualification was "girl."
Wasn't God listening?
I mean, I know I prayed that we would get the child He had for us, but I always quietly assumed that it would meet my criteria.
It was a real struggle for me and one that I've written about previously. But what struck me as I watched this sweet film for a second time (and now had Cava) was, would the traits of the child we adopted be my perfect child?
And the answer was . . .?
But the fact of the matter is, I don't believe in the "perfect" child just as I don't believe there is such a thing as a "perfect" family. Adoption isn't about getting the perfect child, it's about loving a child who needs to be loved. And Cava is definitely a boy who needs to be loved.
Awhile back I had a woman who, in a misguided and an inappropriate attempt at compassion, suggested I send Cava back because of the difficulties we've had so far with him. Part of this is just an ignorance of the difficulties that children who've grown up in orphanages have when they are adopted. Adoption is not magic. Children don't instantly adjust without struggles nor do they suddenly realize that they are loved and accepted and all is right with the world. There are no magic buttons to press. No "Easy" button like in the Staples' commercials.
Cava is full of insecurities and unsurety. Often in his frustration with himself, he blames others.
He had one week in which he got all stickers and no "X's" for bad behavior. This was a huge accomplishment for him and he was, rightly, proud of himself. But that week was a rarity. Of course, we are still very proud of him for his weeks that are still mostly stickers with only 2 - 3 "X's," as we believe that this would be the case for any kid.
Cava is making great strides: he is the teacher's assistant at school and he even made a "100" on a spelling test. His teacher tells us that he is making a lot of progress in his reading and speaking English. She even said he was ahead of many of the other students in his class. He has gone from only going to school until 12 pm, then to 12:30 pm, and now 1:00 pm as another step in the right direction. I don't get calls at work telling me to come and get him.
When he does have to go to the corner, he typically does so on his own and sits or stands quietly watching the timer until his 2 minutes are up. No aggression.
But the fact of the matter is, I don't see Cava as a burden or a problem to be fixed. I see Cava as a gift from God.
Cava is no more perfect as an adopted child than Benjamin is as a biological one. They both offer their difficulties and challenges. And, even at their worst, I may not like them very much at the time, but I still love them.
As I mentioned before, when we decided to adopt, we knew we weren't going to get a perfect child because there is no such thing, any more than there is such a thing as a perfect family. I know ours isn't. It can get messy and argumentative sometimes, but that's just part of being a family. And being a part of a family is something that Cava is learning just as much as he is another language and culture.
Sometimes it's best just to embrace the imperfections! Our imperfections are often what make a person who they are. And trying to be perfect all too often only leads to stress. Recently, I've been reading about women who are suffering from stress because of the website Pinterest. According to a recent survey, half of moms suffer from what they call "Pinterest stress." This stress stems from their comparing themselves to what they see on the website. Because their food doesn't look like what they see on that site, or their house, or their clothes don't match up then they begin to see themselves as failures.
Often when we parent, we do so out of fear that our imperfections will show up in our children. One thing I'm learning about parenting an adopted child is the stress of not knowing what to do as a parent when he gets in one of his moods and I'm unsure of what his behavior is going to be like next.
Even in the movie The Odd Life of Timothy Green, the couple struggle with their insecurities and parenting their adopted child from them. In fact, their list of perfections seem to be a list of all the things they would have like to have been - and isn't that what all of us sometimes do with our kids, adopted or biological?
In Mark 9:37 Jesus tells us, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me . . ." By welcoming Cava into our home as part of our family is the equivalent of welcoming Christ in. Adoption is another form of worship.
The Greek word for adoption is "huiothesia." Breaking this down, "huis" means "son" and "tithemi" means "to put or to place." Adoption is also a New Testament concept as it is not practiced by the Israelites. In fact, the only mention of adoption in the Old Testament, such as Moses, occur in foreign lands. In the New Testament, there were elaborate laws and ceremonies for adoption as a part of both Greek and Roman society. It is the apostle Paul who picks up on the idea of adoption as a metaphor for our salvation by Christ, which leads to our adoption into the family of God. When he writes of a Christian being adopted into the family of God, he writes of how we become heirs and take on all the benefits associated with that title. Thankfully, God does not require us to be perfect to be a part of His family. As His adopted children, God loves us unconditionally, which we, as adoptive parents, should attempt to model to our adoptive children.
One of the definitions of "adopt" in Webster's Dictionary is "to accept." Just as God has accepted us into His family, we, by adopting Cava, have accepted him, the good and the bad. It is only by accepting him, as he is, that we can love him, pray for him and with him, teach him about God's love, and hope that it is the very love of God that will change his heart.
By adopting Cava, we have offered him sonship. By Cava's standing before a Ukrainian judge and saying he wanted us to adopt him, he has accepted this sonship. Cava could have rejected this by saying "No" and the adoption would have been over right then and there. He made the choice, just as we make the choice when it comes to accepting or rejecting Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The concept of "sonship" is deep and runs throughout scripture. But just like Cava's sonship into our family, our sonship into God's family is not by birth. As J. I. Packer wrote in his book Knowing God, "Sonship to God is not, therefore, a universal status into which everyone enters by natural birth, but a supernatural gift which one receives through Jesus Christ … the gift of sonship to God becomes ours not through being born, but through being born again." It is through this salvation that we, as Christians, can come before God and call Him, as Jesus did. "Abba! Father!" This is, ultimately, what we pray over Cava that he, too, will enter into this eternal family.
Just as God did not give up on us, we will not give up on Cava. Ever.
But the fact is, through his adoption, Cava now has hope. But there are millions of children around the world who are growing up without hope.
As it is Foster Care Awareness Month, please prayerfully consider adoption, whether internationally, as we did, or through foster care. Don't go looking for the "perfect" child, but the child that most needs your love and to be a part of your family. It won't be easy, but nothing worth having ever is.