One of the things I have learned in life is that “all-or-nothing” thinking is not very helpful. When I notice I am looking at things from a perspective of “either/or” or one extreme or the other, I try to challenge myself to see other possibilities beyond “black and white”. And while this is helpful, there are times when I also have to acknowledge that, at times, the reality of life is complex and confusing and there are situations where “both-and” does apply.
One of those situations is parenting.
Especially adoptive parenting.
There is a duality to adoptive parenting that can be challenging to embrace. This child is “mine” and this child is “yours”. I am his mother and you are his mother also. He has siblings here and he has siblings there. This is his name. That was his name too. Both-And.
He loves us. He is in great pain over losing you. We have some answers. There is a lot we don’t know and can’t answer. Is this behavior nature or nurture or both-and?
It can be difficult to hold two opposing truths simultaneously in our hearts and minds and yet that is what we are called to do as adoptive parents. Our children live with this challenge daily and in order to support them and validate their reality, we must learn to name this challenge and show them how to manage these conflicting truths.
I don’t know exactly how to do that all the time, but I do know that simply talking about it can be a big help. We have a book in our house called Double-Dip Feelings: Stories to Help Children Understand Emotions by Barbara S. Cain and Anne Patterson and reading this book with our children has helped us all understand that having two “opposite” feelings about something at the same time is possible, normal and ok.
Be on the lookout for these “both-and” moments and experiences and offer yourself and your children the chance to express all the complex and often conflicting truths of adoption.