We held Firefly's dedication service at church a couple of weeks ago. As we stood before the congregation with a sleeping Firefly, the pastor began, "T and Heather bring their adopted daughter, Firefly, to be dedicated..."
"Gak," I thought. Instantly a dozen possibilities for where this might go flashed into mind: The adopted child as a long-awaited gift from God. Adoption as fulfillment of the instruction to care for orphans. Affirmation of a courageous, unselfish birth mother who gave her child a better life. "This better not turn into a bad adoption brochure," I inwardly grumbled.
My fears were unfounded. As our pastor continued speaking, I realized he was using the dedication ritual to affirm the openness in Firefly's adoption. A dedication service welcomes a child into the community of faith; as part of it the parents affirm not only their reliance on God but also on the community. In turn, the congregation affirms its responsibility to support the family. It is an acknowledgment of our need for one another and of the communal influences on a child as she grows. The pastor was connecting the nature of the church family to the nature of open adoption, drawing a parallel between the interdependence of the church body and the interdependence in open adoption.
He affirmed her continued connection to her family of origin and the unique things they offer her. He talked about the importance of honoring all the parts of her identity. Later in prayer he thanked God for the parents who created her and the parents who are raising her. No qualifiers of "birth" or "adoptive," just a recognition of all the family who had brought her to this moment. It was lovely.
Although T and I are purposefully vague about the details of our kids' placements, we'll talk up storm about their open adoptions and adoption in general. Not because we fashion ourselves as educators of the masses, but because we need our friends and family to be co-conspirators in this open adoption gig. I've never been coy about our adoptive family status, even before transracial adoption made it obvious. At this stage in our children's lives, we want to surround them with people who support their unique family structure. People who react to them mentioning their first parents no differently than if they mentioned their grandparents or cousins. To support us in that way they need to know and understand what we're doing.
In moments like the dedication service, it feels like all that talking pays off. I don't know whether or not we've influenced this specific pastor's views on adoption. I sort of doubt it; we haven't spent all that much time with him. But someone did. Somewhere along the way he has picked up the basic philosophy of openness. Someone talked and he listened, someone modeled and he watched. And our family is better off because of it.