Karen, yesterday we left off with you having to lay ground rules with your parents and even having a time where you didn’t speak with them. What was the most difficult aspect of this rift with your parents for you personally?
One of the most difficult things was not having my parents share in our joy, especially since the rest of our family surrounded us in such a supportive way. They didn’t get to share in the excitement the rest of our family felt, didn’t see how God used our decision to impact our extended family’s faith. It was also difficult because I was trying to be supportive of my sister as she served as a single missionary overseas. I knew that the burden of encouraging her fell on my shoulders. Plus, it was hard for her to support me as a sister from afar.
At some point (around Thanksgiving) we made a truce and my parents agreed to our ground rules. We began spending time with them again and it was really awkward for a while. I wouldn’t say they “came around” but basically agreed to our ground rules and essentially did not speak about our adoption – at all. It was if it wasn’t even happening. Christmas was awkward, our child wasn’t even mentioned at my parents’ home, but at Chad’s home, the entire extended family rallied around us and donated all their Christmas gift-swap gifts to us. The contrast couldn’t have been more dramatic!
So, thankfully, it sounds like you had support from others.
From our agencies’ Yahoo Group we knew of other adopting families who had faced opposition, but in most ways it was really uncharted territory for us. I joked that I got a lot of use out of my Psychology degree from college trying to understand how to handle the situation in a way which brought about the best resolution.
We were SO blessed to have supportive friends & family locally and around the country cheering us on, praying for my parents daily and praying for us. I can’t be thankful enough for my sister and my husband’s parents and siblings. They were amazing.
Have your parents come around now that your daughter is home?
I think a turning point came when we got our referral, and they saw a photograph of a very real, and beautiful little girl. Suddenly this idea they were so fearful of was a person, a child, and we called her daughter. Then they began to see more of the outpouring of love from our community at baby showers and as the dates approached. We even got a baby gift from them. Eventually my mother started referring to our daughter as “she” instead of “it.”
After coming home they continued to be awkward. I found myself sharing how other family members were supporting us so they would have ideas for supporting us too. It was almost as if they didn’t know how to be grandparents.
For a long time we were afraid to go out in public with my parents because we didn’t want their prejudices to be brought to light. But a few times we went out to a restaurant and had strangers come up to us, people of all races and ages, and say such encouraging things, commenting on our sweet little girl… I really think it opened their eyes. I truly believe they expected us to be harassed and scorned in public. Instead, it was quite the opposite. You could see the gears turning in their heads – slow realization that their fears were all about THEIR prejudices, not other people’s. Our society has come a long way and multicultural, multiracial families are much more common than they realized, and thankfully our community is accepting of families like ours. I think God used family, friends and strangers alike to change their hearts… or at least soften them.
Our relationship now is good – it took a lot of time, a LOT of praying on my part to have a forgiving heart, and a lot of trust in God to heal our relationship and allow me to trust them. They still don’t understand why we have built our family this way. They still expressed opposition to our second adoption, but to a MUCH lesser degree.
And of course, God has a sense of humor. Our daughter ADORES my parents and has since day one. I think her spunky personality did more to melt their hearts than anything!
They still have some of the same prejudices buried inside and I pray that God will change their hearts. Sometimes they make comments about people of other cultures and races – disconnecting our child and others. I try to educate when possible, and speak up when prejudicial comments are made in my presence, but most of all I pray that God will reveal to them that He loves people of all ages, races, cultures and backgrounds, not just white Americans. The journey is not over yet.
What advice do you have for other families who may experience similar static from family and close friends?
First, pray! And find people in your life who will commit to pray for you and for the people who are in opposition. Pray that you can forgive and educate the people who are opposed. Pray that you can discern how to defend your child and the culture or race that is being mislabeled. Do not be afraid to set boundaries that protect your family – the worst thing that can happen is for you and your spouse to become divided because extended family or friends are pulling you apart by putting doubt or mistrust in your minds. Your family is a team, and you need to be on the same page and stay united. Find a community of adoptive families who can share in your struggles so you don’t feel so alone. Do not be fearful of questions, but always choose to educate and be constructive in your replies, not vengeful or hateful.
Any final words of wisdom?
Don’t let the fears, prejudices, anger of others deter you from what God has placed in your heart. Sometimes I think back on the grief and anger I felt during those difficult times and realize that it was one way God helped me to understand the loss our child felt. Adoption is born out of loss. There is joy that comes from a child finding a forever family, but there is always loss as well. Beauty comes from ashes, but ashes came from fire. God uses our pain and brokenness and what comes from it to build something new. For me, I had to learn to pray and forgive and trust God to make beauty from the ashes I saw at the time. I had to trust Him in ways I never had before. But I believe that God is still doing a work in my parents’ lives through our child and will continue to do more when our next child comes home. I pray our family will help them draw closer to our loving God.
My deepest thanks to the Bowman family for sharing their story.
Whatever part of the adoption process you find yourself in, may God bring beauty – whether it be in the decision, the waiting, the opposition or the adjustment once home (upcoming posts!). If you aren’t directly involved with adoption, pray for those who are… pray for beauty to come from the ashes.