In this episode of Signposts I reflect on how parents can talk to their adopted children about their story, and what adoption stories should teach us about our own adoption into the family of Christ.
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Below is an edited transcript of the audio
I had a listener who asked me how I told our children that they were adopted. At first I was reluctant to take that question because I assumed it’s just a very narrow niche of people for whom this would even be an issue: people who have adopted children and people for whom those children are still at home or still young. But the more that I think about it, the more I think that actually applies to all of us in the body of Christ to some degree or other because all of us are dealing with our adoption into the family of God, and all of us are trying to reckon with who we were before our adoption into Christ. So I think there are some things that we can all learn about that and then also about the way that we can minister to families who have adopted children and who are working through that sort of question.
Here’s what I would say. The question assumes something that didn’t happen. What the question assumes is that we sat our children down and revealed to them that they were adopted. We have five sons; the first two are the ones that we adopted. I was speaking one time at an event and I had my fourth son, Jonah, a biological son, with me, and the person who was introducing me said, “Russell Moore and his wife have five sons, all of whom were adopted.” Normally, people say things and get little facts wrong in introductions all the time, and I do that too, but this time I stood up and said, “You know I don’t normally correct that, but I really feel like I need to right now because Jonah is sitting on the front row and he’s probably thinking, nobody told me that I was adopted.”
So with the first two children what sometimes people will think is that you sit them down and you say, okay, we are about to have a very difficult conversation with you, here it is, and you were adopted. That’s not the way that we did it, and that’s not the way that I would recommend anyone do it. Instead what we did was to from the very beginning--our kids were a year old when we adopted them, the two that we adopted--and from the very beginning we were telling them their story. “This is what happened when we went to Russia, and here are the pictures of when we saw you for the first time, and here’s the day in court when you became our children,” and we did that all along as they were growing up. Even when they weren’t particularly interested in it because you know when you’re three or four years old, you kind of assume everybody was adopted. You think people just sort of sprung up somewhere and you don’t really get the dynamics of biological connectedness except at the intuitive level, anyway. And so we are telling that to them even when they don’t care—for one main reason, and the main reason is we don’t want them to think that coming into our family by adoption means that there is something wrong with them or that this is something to be ashamed of; we don’t think that.
So, we would tell them their story about the adoption process in the same way that with our sons who came along biologically we will point out whenever we go to Louisville, we will point out the hospital and say, that’s the hospital where you were born. Sometimes we have stories that go along: “Jonah, you came along three and a half weeks early and a bunch of people had to come over to the house and watch the other kids and your dad was in Nashville at a meeting at the time and had to rush back home and then they sent us home and we had to go back at three in the morning”-- all of those sorts of things, that’s just part of his back story and it is nothing that we are ashamed of,