“Hey kiddo, you sure are special.” I suspect many kids hear this often from their parents. I know my kids do.
In fact, since my kids were little I have told them three things almost every day of their lives: “I love you, you’re special and I love being your daddy.” As they’ve gotten older we even converted this into our very own sign – three fingers sticking up, each representing an element of my reminder to them. As they are getting out of the car for school in the morning I typically flash three fingers at them. In response, Grant, my seven year old, is always good for a “I know dad – you love me, I’m special and you love being my . . .” as the car door slams shut.
So the other night we got to talking right before bed and Grant asked me, “Daddy, why am I special?”
“Good question,” I replied, as I bought myself some time to compose an answer. “Why do you think you are special?” I asked.
“Because I was adopted?” Grant replied, as if asking me to confirm that he got the answer right.
In Grant’s response I was reminded of something that we as adoptive parents must be sensitive about. Our adoption stories are indeed special, full of miracles, joy and blessing. Our children are special, themselves a miracle and a joy and a blessing. But our children are not special in the same way that our adoption stories are special. Even more importantly, our children are not special because of their adoption story.
Our children are so much more than a story – more than a past, present and future. They are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of a loving and gracious God. They are passionately loved by this same God and they are objects of His pursuing and redeeming grace. They were made by Him and for Him. This is what makes them “special” and imbues them with unimaginable worth.
I know firsthand how our understanding of adoption changes over time. This is true for us as parents as well as for our children as adopted persons. Maybe “changes” is not the right word – maybe our understanding simply becomes more complete. As the years go by and the complexities of our story become more evident and understandable, we and our children gain new perspectives and discover varying emotions and realities associated with how “we” came together as a family. Some of these perspectives reveal a fresh sense of amazement and wonder; some of these emotions and realities can be difficult and even painful. As a result, it is important that our children are neither defined by nor valued in relation to their adoption story.
Having collected my thoughts I replied to Grant, “No, silly. You’re not special because you were adopted – although I do think you have a pretty special story. Why are you special?”
“Because God made me?” he replied.
“That’s right,” I said. “And who loves you?”
“You do,” he said.
“But who loves you more?” I quickly replied.
“God does, I know.”
“Hey, Grant . . .” flashing three fingers as I walked toward the door.
“I know, you love me, I’m special and you love being my daddy,” he said.
How true that is.