November 12, 2007

Soldiers with Shoulders

In celebration of National Adoption Month (and Veteran's Day) ...

Yesterday, my two youngest boys came to me with their shoulders squared and their hands pressed firmly against the sides of their legs.

"We're shoulders," the five-year-old announced.

I knew what he meant to say ('we're soldiers') but what he said ('shoulders') made me think.

As adoptive mom, I have felt like a soldier and a shoulder over the past nine years. For the better part of the first two years of our youngest son's life, my husband and I (and our lawyer) were in court, seeking the termination of rights of a 16 year old high school drop out father. In that sense we were fighting for him. We were soldiers--quiet and steadfast, always hopeful for peace but ready for battle.

We have also been shoulders, of course. In the same sense that all parents find themselves. Shoulders to cry on. Shoulders to break down the barriers in life. Shoulders to stand on to see what lies ahead. But event beyond that, I think adoptive and foster parents are shoulders for our children in that we offer them a chance that they would not have had otherwise.

I'll be honest. The phrase, 'giving them a better life' disturbs me. Particularly when it is spoken in the context of a trans-racial or trans-cultural adoption. Who's to say what a 'better life' is? Does a better life only involve private schools, swimming pools in the backyard, and trips abroad?

Can a better life mean having a father with a GED, being on foodstamps for a few years, or having to work your way through college? That was my experience. And I deep down, I can't imagine how being given nicer things could have made my life light years better. That sounds too much like handouts. (Handouts can come in many forms, you know.) But don't get me going on the subject of handouts.

So in reference to adoption and foster care, I rather prefer the phrase 'a chance to a better life.' Because that's all we offer them: A CHANCE. There's no guarantee that the adoptive or fostered child will succeed because he came into our home, because we gave them our best.

We can only hope and pray that our shoulders were quiet and steadfast, always hopeful for peace but ready for right battle.

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