Reimagining Adoption

Nov 14 - What adoption taught us

Category: Submission by a parent, Bhopal

When we adopted our daughter 15 years ago, we had so many apprehensions. So many questions. There were vey few support groups. Internet was not so common. Social media as absent. Slightest doubt on part of our child meant the whole world crashing down upon us. We also faltered, became emotional, went off balance and lost our way. On each occasion, there were renewed doubts. Today, when we look back, many of those fears seem unfounded. Quite a few of our reactions appear childish and surprisingly, the responses of our daughter remain so natural and correct. It has been a huge learning and we hope that many more parents may relate their journey likewise.

The first shock was the color and health of the child. we had always imagined a chubby, cute kid to be our child. When we first met our daughter, she was 4 months old. Frail, weak and dark complexioned. We just could not relate to her at the first go. In fact we were advised by her caregiver, several times before we made up our mind, to ignore the color and health. It was difficult. Her smiles were heavenly, but we found it difficult to accept her appearance. In hindsight, how foolish were we. Our daughter gave us the biggest apperance of the joys of life - her trust and love. Within few months of her coming home, the appearance was long forgotten. In fact there came a phase wen she picked up amazing health, chubby looks and even a fair complexion. Surprisingl, that did not mean anything to us any longer. We realized that we were not getting a baby doll from a show room. We were adopting a human being - and aodption meant total commitment.

The next disappointment came with her hobbies. My wife was so keen for her to learn dance and music. But our daughter had a horse voice. In dancing, she would beat Sunny Deol hands down. At her school, my wife often compared her to other girsl who would take to stage and impress the audience. It took us seven long years for us to accept that our little girl was blessed uniquely. She was genetically not ours, so she has to have a different DNA imprint. And that would influence her potential. Our expectation for her to excel at dance and music affected her self confidence. She got buried under the guilt of not meeting our expectations. It reflected in her associations, friend circle and grades. It was only when she started lagging behind in school in Grade IV that we realized that she was doing her best, but her efforts were in the wrong direction -because of us. We approached a counsellor, who was so difficut to find, and the result of our counselling session was overwhelmingly in our daughter's favour. It was we who had failed - once again.

We course corrected immediately. Took a break from our routine, went on a vacation and dropped her from all music and dance classes - much to her surprise. For 2 years we did not mention the M of music or the D of dance. It was hard for us to groom our daughter without any "groomimg", but we were blindly following the counsellor's advice. 4th year on, she started showing interest in tennis. None of us has any background in sports, but we supported her. For another 3 years, she was on and off tennis. Soon as she would resume, we could not help ourselves and push her to compete and succeed. Each such nudge would make her withdraw from the game. So long as we took our attention away from her, she went back to the game. She was giving us enough hints - for us to let her be. Let her personality evolve, and not be managed. In another two years, she went off to win district and state level championships - without our asking. She has arrived, and us too!

The most recent bombshell came when she announced "Why should I be like you - you are not even my real Dad". Her outburst took me by surprise. I did not have any answer. But I recalled the final advice given by our counsellor more than 10 years ago. Underplay your emotions, listen to the child and enable her. Sure, something must be bothering her. Her statement was just a symptom. The root cause has to be sonething else. And it didn't take us long to discover. One of her friends had teased her about he complexion, and she just could not react - as she did not wish to offend that friend. I took her by her arm, and drew her closer to me. I said, "Dear, I may not be your real Dad, but I am as real as a Dad can be. Further, you do not have to be like me. Just be yourself. Be Good. Be Kind..' I would have gone on and one - but I could sense some peace within her, with the truthful response. We finished school almost 45 years back, but we have been shooling ourselves for the last 15 years. Learning to smile when there is a challenge. Learning to ignore when there is humiliation. Learning to share when there is grief. Learning to laugh when there is a blunder and most importantly, learning to learn - when faced with a WALL!

Adoption just did not make us a parent. it made us a better human being. A more aware, more capable and more balanced living being. And did we mention color and health? Of course it does matter. Color of our thoughts and health of our mind.

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