Monday, December 28, 2009

Helping a Child Understand...Jesus Was Adopted?

The holiday season has proved to be an interesting, sometimes challenging time for Deesha Phillya's 6-year-old daughter, who was adopted. It's also been a bit of a puzzle for Deesha, who says her daughter is currently struggling with the reason why she was adopted, and, by extension, why she was given up for adoption.

"I've been thinking a lot about how some Christians offer ‘Jesus was adopted' as a well-meaning comfort to adopted kids, especially during the holidays," Deesha, who is also mom to a bio child, says. She adds that for the adoption-related issues that her child is currently dealing with, the explanation is not much help at all.

"My daughters and I have been revisiting treasured picture books that tell the story of Jesus' birth. All of these books tend to start the story not quite at the beginning; they start with the star in the east, the shepherds, the host of angels. The one book that does begin with the Immaculate Conception (explained in preschooler-friendly language) does not, however, mention that Joseph is not Jesus' biological father. Some well-intentioned Christian adults do, however, emphasize this facet of the Christmas story. Seeking to offer comfort to adopted children, they say, ‘Jesus was adopted too.'"

Deesha has not said this to her daughter.

Many people have been quick to give their opinions. Many suggest her child should find comfort in this, she adds.

"I have not said this, though, because ‘Jesus was adopted' doesn't address the feelings of loss, anger, and grief she has expressed related to her adoption. Her daughter wants to know why she was placed for adoption-‘why' beyond the simplistic but age-appropriate reasons we've given her thus far. She wants answers to ‘why' that fill the void she feels. She wants those answers plus more things that her dad and I can't give. She wants to see her birth mother. She wants what her older sister, who is our biological child, has: the ability to see her birth parents every day. She wants relief from the unfairness of it all that she can't have what her sister has. She wants relief from fears and doubts that we love her sister more than we love her. She wants to believe that we really, really are her forever family."

Deesha adds that the family is addressing her little girl's concerns through a variety of resources at their disposal, but "I just can't see how ‘Jesus was adopted too', which emphasizes Joseph's faithfulness and character, can help my daughter feel better about being adopted. I've been tempted to re-tell her the story of Moses instead, emphasizing his adoption, as I know an adult adoptee for whom this story was life-changing as a teen. But as I recall the details of Moses' life, I can just imagine my precocious six-year-old saying, ‘Yeah, but, he still got to see his birth mom every day, even if he didn't know it was her.'"

She adds that during the holiday season she's left her child to find comfort in her own time and way, about adoption and more, from the bedtime story in current rotation at their house: a baby, a warm place provided that wasn't a first choice, and the promise of love.


The truth as you know it and as is age appropriate is far superior folk, fairy or religious tales.

Questions such as these are normal and to be expected when adopting. Deesha's daughter is a bit precocious and asking earlier than some. And some never ask aloud, but ALL adoptees need these answers to be complete in their sense of identity. All adoptees suffer a loss and need it to be recognized, giving them "permission" to grieve their loss. They also need assurance against their natural feelings of rejection and abandonment as they come to understand that being adopted means having been separated from their original family. And, yes, being a family with a biologically connected child does make it harder.

As for the story of Jesus, I would think that would fall apart pretty quickly for anyone who uses it. Any child will soon come to ask - how come Mary, an unwed teen - was able to keep her baby and she didn't have to place it for adoption because she wasn't married and was young? A bright child could also figure out that Jesus' adoption by Joseph was a step parent adoption. Jesus was never separated from his mother! A Huge difference and thus a very bad example!

Moses is my personal favorite adoption story. Yes, it does show that natural ties do continue and are never broken, despite adoption. I think it is very important that this is what the bible shows as a model of adoption. Honor they father and mother apply to adopted persons as well, who have a natural curiosity and a RIGHT to KNOW their original families.

Hopefully Deesha will have answers that are reality based, and will continue to seek more as her daughter grows.

Add you comment.


Amanda Woolston said...

Wonderful entry.

I dislike the traditional use of Biblical references in adoption situations to quiet an adoptee's desire to know. Foremost because I'm not a fundamentalist. I do not believe that just because Moses, Solomon or whoever else did something that this means it's right for me to follow. These are individuals of ancient times and cultures. While moral princples may apply, their actions governed by the time and place in which they lived may not.

Religion is also so ingrained in how someone feels themself. Especially children who have the ability to have the most pure of faith and connection with God, we have to be careful when we make connections to religious principles and our children's lives so that we are comforting them in how they feel--not setting up a standard that God supposively has about how they *should* feel. Moses, Esther, Jesus and even Ruth have been used to console an adoptee's desire to know. Solomon's story of his display of wisdom is often told to birth mothers to explain they need to "do the right thing" for their babies and that giving them a "better life" is what a real mother who loves her child would do. Biblical references can either be used to be helpful or completely hurtful--especially when misapplied.

I am inclined to agree with you about the Jesus reference. I personaly only use Jesus' reference to point out that not only did he have an "illegitimate" birth but he also has a prostitute proudly proclaimed in his lineage. Jesus not only does not have a hidden OBC--his OBC is given in two different gospels! We embrace Jesus' lineage because it shows the fulfillment of prophecy as to how he is connected to King David twice over. Yet, when it comes to every other adoptee in modern times, our special biological lineages are OK to be shoved under the rug. If religious adoption entities truly followed the Bible; they'd be truth-telling in adoption at every turn.

At any rate, I suggest she give her daughter entitlement to her feelings and when she doesn't know something, tell her she doesn't know. My adoptive parents told me when they didn't know something straight out and I knew they weren't holding out on me. I think question asking signifies she is comfortable with her adoptive mother and understands that interest in her biological family doesn't make her a traitor--IMHO, a rarity in the adoptee community. It's so good to hear that this little girl feels free to express her feelings and that her mother hears her out without becoming jealous or feeling threatened by her biological ties.

AdoptAuthor said...

Well said. I hope you will share your thoughts at the original site...

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