Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Day 2: A History of Loss

Back in July 2009, I fell in love with a photo.

6 ½-year-old Wenxin, living in an orphanage in Beijing, needed a family.

After months of looking at adoption photo listings of waiting children, I was smitten by this little boy with a serious look on his face. I shared his photo with my husband, Mike, and was surprised when he found himself drawn to the photo as well.

Thus began our journey to make Wenxin our son. In the days to come we’d contact the adoption agency and review his file. We’d be granted pre-approval to adopt him. We’d share the news with our three biological kids and our extended family. We’d hire a social worker. We’d be fingerprinted by the FBI. And finally, we’d travel half way around the world and spend three weeks in China adopting Wenxin, making him our son forever.

But it all started with a photo.

Chances are, if you are considering adopting an older child, the day will come when you fall in love with a photo, too. But when you look at that photo, you need to remember what everyone else seems to forget.

The child in the photo comes with a history of loss. 

No older child is available for adoption because he’s had a good life.

Stop for a moment. You need to let that truth sink deep down into your soul.

He’s not a blank slate. There’s a whole history that’s already been written, and that history includes a lot of loss.
The child in the photo lost his birth family. If he has foster parents, he will lose them as well.

Even the blessing of being adopted internationally will pile on more loss. He’ll lose the country of his birth with all its familiar sights, sounds, and smells. He’ll be faced with adjusting to a new family, learning a new language, and coping with the shock of sudden immersion in a totally new culture.

Don’t get me wrong. The child in the photo needs an adoptive family. But more importantly, he needs to be adopted by the right kind of parents. Older children need compassionate parents who patiently face the losses in their new child’s life. It's not this child's responsibility to fulfill your dream of being a parent or to complete your family. If you choose to adopt an older child, you must walk in with your eyes wide open, prepared to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of parenting, willing to receive nothing in return.

That's what this month is all about. Learning a little each day. Adding tools to the toolbox. Preparing to parent in a whole new way.

Older child adoption is not a journey for the faint-hearted. I'll say it again. It's hard work. But the child in that photo is most likely brave and resilient, and you can become the type of parent he needs.

Tomorrow we'll look at choosing a parenting style that takes into account the losses our kids have experienced. See you then!

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below. (When your comment doesn't appear immediately, don't panic. I moderate all comments to weed out spam, so as soon as I take a look, your comment will appear on the blog. Thanks for your patience.)


  1. So very true! It does take a very different approach to parenting. Part of our job is to heal the heart not just raise the child. Patience, love, understanding and the ability to change what we are doing and how we approach our child is so very important!

  2. This is a very wonderful post! Thank you so much for your honesty. I really learned a lot of things because of that. As what you've said, this is all about becoming the type of parent your kid needs. Thank you for this beautiful reminder!


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