When my wife and I finally got serious about adoption, we had been married for twenty years and we already had two children, who were our biological off-spring. We love children and thought that we would certainly enjoy having another in our family. Some of what we felt was a sort of guilt, in that we had achieved a rather comfortable standard of living, and we felt obliged to share our possessions with another person.
A lot of stuff goes through your mind when you are contemplating adoption. I had some concerns that I could not love some random child as much as I loved my biological off-spring. I loved my biological children with an unfathomable intensity from the moment I touched them, and I could not imagine replicating this love any other way. It is easy to assume that the biological relationship is immensely important if that is all you know. Fortunately, the experience of other adopting families caused me to suspect that I was missing something.
I was amazed to find that, while bringing Corinne home from the airport, I had exactly the same feelings of love, nurturing, and responsibility, that I had when we brought Kenny and Audrey home from the hospital. She is cute. She is charming. She is innocent. What’s not to love about her? But, I meet adorable children all the time. Why did I suddenly love this one as my own? I think the reason is that I fell into a trap of loving someone in very convenient circumstances. The convenient circumstances of adoption allowed me to see her as an innocent human who wanted to love and be loved, and I wanted a reciprocal relationship. So she and I came to an expeditious agreement to love one another. These simple circumstances allowed me to realize that, in the end, I love her because I want to love her.
I now think that “falling in love” is a concept that misleads us, and allows us to dramatize our passions, and distance ourselves from responsibility for decisions that we make about who we love. When we love our wonderful, soul-mate spouse, or our own, “chip-off-the-old-block” off-spring, these decisions to love are so easy that we do not even notice that we make them. Perhaps further evidence that an actual decision takes place is that some pathological family relationships stem from the fact that a genuine decision to love was never actually made, or was made and later reversed.
I thought that adopting a child would give me an additional sense of meaning in my life. But I got more than I bargained for. I am surprised by this new challenge to love. I have come to learn through loving Corinne that it is my responsibility to love more, and that it is my decision alone to follow through on that responsibility or not.
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