ADOPTIVE PARENTING is just like any other sort — except, of course, when it isn’t. And I think almost all the differences come from an information shortage. Even in the most open of open adoptions, there are important things left unmentioned. And in most international adoptions, the only available information is from the orphanage itself. Reports are often short and sometimes downright inaccurate.

Then there’s the phenomenon of sharing so much with your kids that you forget that genetics is not part of that package. I once was delivering a discourse to our pediatrician on my mother’s medical history when I suddenly caught myself and concluded, “all of which is completely irrelevant.” And he laughed, because he had done all my kids’ postadoption physicals, and he forgot that for a moment, too.

Early in my parenting days, I once chuckled at an advice column. (I laughed a lot in those days—sometimes from sheer joy and at other times with a hysterical edge that could have been translated as “Dear Lord in heaven, what have I gotten into?” I’m told that both varieties are common to all parents.) The question was from an adoptive father whose little girl was asking, “Why didn’t you bring medicine for my first mommy? Why didn’t you come sooner?” The columnist replied that such questions are a good thing. When your child blames you for things that happened before you were part of her life, you should celebrate, he wrote. It shows that the child is accepting you as a parent and source of good things.

To be an adoptive parent is an exercise in forgiving people (most of whom you do not know) for a list of things (many of which you do not understand) that have harmed your kids. And while it is natural to ponder whether these people were evil or misguided or simply caught up in circumstances beyond their control, at the end of the day, all you can do is leave them to God and be grateful for what they did do — give life to your child. Sometimes, though, it’s a long day.

I trust that if you are involved enough with an institution to be reading this, that you love it dearly. Not like a child, I hope — that’s a little paternalistic — but bear with the analogy for a moment.

For good or ill or both, your school has been shaped by those who had responsibility for it before you did—maybe before you were born. And there will be days when you wonder what possessed them. It’s not a bad idea to try to sort that out, insofar as you can, because doing so can keep you from making similar mistakes, and perhaps from overcorrecting. But realize that you almost certainly do not have all the information you’d like to have.

And that’s OK. You can start from where you are if you are willing to let go of what does not belong to you.

And that begins with forgiveness. Do it as you can, one step at a time. Willingness is a great beginning. When possible, do it together. I’ve seen my share of pro forma board meeting prayers, but here’s a way to make them real. I knew someone once who was going through an ugly divorce. As he explained it to me, every night he told the Most High what he thought should be done to his ex. “And then I say, ‘Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.’”

Amen and amen. 

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