“Adoption is the best and the worst decision we ever made” said our social worker, who has adopted two children from care.
3 years into our life with Star, I have been reflecting on this.
Adoption is the best decision we ever made, because Star is a gift to our family: her joy, her compassion, her infectious chuckle when she gets to lick out the mixing bowl. Star is a gift to her school and our church family. She is the little girl who skips to school singing “tomorrow” from Annie, who befriends the new girl in the class and tells her she is beautiful. Star who loves to stand at the front of church signing the actions to the smiles of the congregation..
Adoption is also one of the most painful decisions we have made for our birth children. It has exposed them to the reality of families who neglect and scare their children, the realities that some children need to be removed from their parents. The nightmares that Ben and Hannah have about Star being hurt and scared would never have happened had we not brought Star into their young lives.
Adoption has exposed us to some of the worst of human behaviour, not just the families who neglect and abuse their children, but also to professionals who lie, or who withhold the truth, professionals who do not keep their word, a children’s social care system which appears to be imploding; where genuine requests for help are passed endlessly between government departments while children struggle with issues from their past.
And on Friday, for the first time Hannah and then Ben voiced a situation we had feared would come one day: they are being teased at school for having a sister with Down syndrome.
Star has long been a master of mischief, however her current stunts are mortifying to her older siblings. As Star’s one-to-one explained what had happened when Star decided to strip off on the playing field, she assured me that few, if any of the children had seen. However as I turned to look at Hannah’s pale, tear-stained face, I knew instantly she was wrong. Hannah’s classroom looks over the field, it was a hot day, Hannah does not think Star knew it, but most of Hannah’s class watched, and laughed.
Ben’s class found out too, he was quickly the butt of the class bullies’ jokes.
I listened as they told me how it had made them feel, I could hear their pain, their embarrassment.
I waited for what I feared we would hear one day: “we wish she wasn’t our sister.”
It did not come.
Hannah hugged Star and held her tight as if she wanted to become a physical barrier between Star and the mocking playground.
Ben’s voice wobbled: “I just wish they could see all the great things Star can do.”
“Those boys encourage her to get into more and more trouble, then they tease me. I wish they wouldn’t.”
“They ask me, why does Star have Down syndrome, why do you have a sister with Down syndrome?”
“Ben, do these boys know the story of how Star joined our family?” I asked nervously.
“No, and I don’t want them too, they would tease her more.”
They cried and I cried too. I held them tight, all three of them.
As a result, we ate ice cream BEFORE tea, we sang “This is me” from the Greatest Showman, at the top of our voices with a renewed defiance of those whose cruel words would seek to knock us down.
As the children settled to bed, I found a quiet place and reflected on my two remarkable eldest children, whose response to one of the most difficult days of their lives was to protect their younger sister and to continue to hope for her.
Protect and hope, I thought…. I have heard that somewhere before.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul, writing to a church (which was in something of a mess) says:
[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Our choice to adopt has brought our birth children pain.
They have also become children who love deeply.
Who love a little girl not just when she is cute, but when she embarrasses them.
Who love her when her infectious laughter makes us all dissolve into giggles at tea time, and when she cries out in the night with fear.
They celebrate her when she comes home with a superstar reward. They seek to protect her when she exposes herself to ridicule.
Theirs is a rejoicing-in-the-good, protective, persevering, hopeful love.
1 Corinthians 13 continues:
Love never fails.