Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Lessons From Adoption

Posted: 5 May, 2017 in Adoption, Parenting

Ionizing radiation. X-rays, gamma-rays, nuclear power and atom bombs. I knew that they were dangerous, acted silently and could kill. Very few things stop ionizing radiation, so basically you can’t run or hide from it. It causes cancer.

Cancer – bald children, emaciated, skeletal old people with tubes on their faces. Death. “Could you catch it?” I wondered many times as a child.

Radiation and cancer struck fear into my young heart, and fear brought with it a desire to avoid both. Then I studied dentistry, which of course brought a lot of both radiation and cancer into my orbit. Strangely enough, the more I learned about the two topics, the more my fear melted away. I kept a healthy respect for radiation, but also learned to use it for good. I developed an empathy for cancer-sufferers, and a desire to help them wherever I could. Cancer wasn’t some dreaded bug, it was merely dysfunctional, fast-growing cells. These people were fundamentally normal.

This experience taught me a lesson which I will never forget: we fear things we don’t understand.

As a child, I did not have positive feelings toward adoption. I didn’t feel exactly negative, but I did think that it was unusual. At least, I was glad that I was not adopted. The adopted kids that I knew seemed normal enough but I didn’t know them very well, and I had heard stories about how adopted kids had “issues”.

Late 2005 God moved my family to Brackenhurst Baptist Church in Alberton, where I was exposed to adopted and fostered kids. Heck, I even fell in love with a girl who’s parents had run a home for babies and young kids awaiting adoption. She had an adopted brother. Once again, my walls were crumbling through exposure. Gradually, God used friends and circumstances to soften my heart to adoption and without necessarily verbalizing it, I knew that God was leading me to adopt a child one day. God was doing the same thing in Kerry’s heart, and by the time we got married, we both knew that we wanted to adopt.

About a year and a half into our marriage, we made the decision to adopt a little boy first, before trying to fall pregnant. Our reasoning was that we wanted our adopted child to know that they were chosen – that we wanted them, and that we hadn’t simply adopted them because we wanted A CHILD, and couldn’t have one the normal way. God gave us twin girls, which goes to show that He is sovereign even over those circumstances which you think that you can control!

 

Since 16 October 2015, I have learned some profound lessons about parenting which I think having adopted children has made easier to understand for me than for other parents who have had children through natural methods.

1.       I have come to understand something of the meaning of being adopted into God’s family. My girls didn’t have much to offer us. Basically, by adopting them, we were committing to provide for them emotionally, spiritually and financially without knowing anything about their personalities, and very little about their needs. Of course in the case of an adopted baby, you get a really cute child, and the joyous experience of raising a little human. When God adopts a sinner into His family, He pays the ultimate price, for a reprehensible individual who actually wants nothing to do with him, lives in ways He finds offensive, and even after being shown unspeakable kindness by being made one of His children, continually disappoints Him by going back to their old ways.

2.       I have been shown something deep about parenting which sadly, I think many, if not most parents never see. Perhaps it would even prevent a lot of heartache. Your children are not your property! Whether they share some of your DNA or not, they are not yours. It may sound obvious to say out aloud – Every child is an individual. This is true regardless of where they came from. We know this about ourselves – we all think of ourselves as being our own people, not somehow owned by our parents. Hypocritically, we believe that having children through biological means, somehow makes them belong to us, whereas adopted children are foreigners living in families not their own.

 

The truth is that God places children into families to be shaped and cared for, for about twenty years, and then they fly the coop. Adoption has brought this fact to the forefront of my thinking in a unique way. You may suspect that this knowledge makes me feel like I am raising nieces rather than daughters and that I would be a father distant and aloof from my children. Paradoxically, knowing that I do not own my girls, has helped me to love them more, and not less than I would have if I believed that they were my own property. The realization has just brought perspective, and allowed me to see that it is ultimately God who builds families. He destined Erin and Julia to be daughters to Anton and Kerry, just as surely as if they had been born into our family the natural way.

It comes down to this conviction: He didn’t make some sort of mistake by causing their biological or “tummy mommy” to fall pregnant with them and then give them up for adoption. No – He meant for them to be Beetges, just as He meant for me to be a Beetge.

 

Trying to possess things on this earth that were meant to be stewarded and not possessed, just brings pain and disappointment. Children don’t conform to the pattern parents set out for them and parents are not able to raise them in the fear and instruction of the Lord because they fear their rejection. Ultimately God is the only “thing” we can truly possess. He alone satisfies, and He alone has permanence. Possessing any other thing is an illusion.

 

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Life changes tremendously in your twenties. It has done so for me, at any rate. I finished my degree, got married, moved out of home, relocated provinces, got a job, returned to Gauteng, bought a house, got a new job, had twins, and bought a dental practice. That’s probably more change in seven years than the first twenty put together!

If asked which aspect has been most significant, my reflexive response would be: parenting. Parenting has been one of the greatest joys and blessings I have experienced. It alters your perspective irrevocably, and shows you your own rough edges in a way that nothing else could.

One of the more interesting changes the little people achieve, is in your mind. Parents learn to predict the future. With almost perfect accuracy. This ability is not one which can be exercised at will, and it doesn’t extend more than about thirty-seconds into the future. Lets call it a Spidey-Sense, which only comes into play when the need arises. Perhaps it is a gift.

As your child goes about their kiddy-activities you get flashes of probable futures and generally you make moves to influence the outcome to be most favorable. Every now and then one possibility becomes a certainty. Sometimes, initially, you ignore this Spidey-Sense to your detriment, but soon you learn to trust it.

Maybe this child-clairvoyance is helpful as you shepherd little people through the dangerous years of an undeveloped frontal cortex, but in the rest of life, relying on your mind can be a problem.

Allowing possibilities too much weight in your thinking can cause you to live in fear of unrealities – things which might happen, but also might not (and usually won’t, in all probability).

This phenomenon is what causes us to fear the dark, or that noise you wake up to at 01:30am. It is usually irrational, and very often unhelpful. Of course, not giving any consideration to possibilities makes you reckless – in short, a teenager. Giving too much consideration to possibilities causes you to stagnate, take no risks, and lose enjoyment in life.

As a Christian, I have the most freeing reality to fall back on. It allows me to give due consideration to possibilities, without being paralyzed by “what-if’s”. This is the certainty that, “…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ” (Romans 8:28)

The above promise, along with the instruction to, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) helps me to strike the right balance and keep a hold on peace.

Life is about living, and taking action requires risk. Risk implies analysis of the odds, and analysis considers possibilities. Giving those possibilities the correct weight is the trick, and knowing how much to trust your own brain… well that is wisdom.