About three months ago, Kyle and I wrote and self-published a Kindle e-book called Having Children: A Dialogue. Since we find great value in freely sharing ideas, we also made the full text available on each of our blogs, which you can see here and here. The dialogue elicited a lot of discussion among our friends, both in person and on Facebook.
One of my oldest friends pointed out her disappointment that we hadn’t discussed adoption at all throughout Having Children. Instead, we focused on morality behind bringing children into the world; ways we love children as opposed to adults; whether having children is actually in the best interests of the child, parents, or society; how having children does or does not take away from other actions that we could be taking to alleviate hugely pressing global issues; and ideas of raising children who work towards benefitting humanity. However, as my friend Rachel eloquently expressed in her Facebook comment, adoption “needs to be talked about and celebrated”. She’s right, and that’s why I’m writing this addendum.
Having Children: A Dialogue – Addendum
I was in kindergarten when I was first introduced to the concept of adoption and I’ve been fascinated with it ever since. Rachel is the one who brought it up. My (likely distorted) memory of it now is that she explained that being adopted means that a family who doesn’t give birth to you takes you to be part of their family because the family that did give birth to you can’t take care of you. Rachel’s clear pride in her identity immediately told me that adoption was something positive, something helpful and good.
Not bad for being five years old.
Rachel was one of two children in my kindergarten class who were adopted and there were four or five others in our school who I came to know well during my elementary school years. In fourth grade, I wrote and illustrated a story about a family who adopted a little girl. A best friend and former boyfriend are both adopted, as are easily a dozen others friends or acquaintances I could count off the top of my head. Some of these friends are in contact with biological mothers (interestingly, none with biological fathers), others have attempted contact, and still others have no interest.
Adoption is a very comfortable idea for me. I’ve talked to more than a few adoptive parents about how and why they made their decisions to adopt, and the adoption options that are available. Some went through public agencies and others have had private adoptions. Most of my friends were adopted domestically but I also have a few friends adopted from overseas. I’ve asked about open and closed adoptions, as well. In all cases, it was about difficulty biologically having children but still wanting a family.
My mum was the one who introduced me to the concept of adopting even when you can biologically have children. Over the years, I have pestered her about her personal experiences from when her family fostered a little girl when she was a teenager. Before having children herself, my mum considered adopting but my dad was not supportive. He’s a doctor and has all sorts of concerns that stem from his studies of biology and genetics. The way my dad sees it, you know about more about your own genes and medical history when you have a biological child than you do when you adopt. To be blunt, you have a better idea of “what you’re getting”. I don’t need to get into all the scenarios in which this is not necessarily the case. Children are, after all, a product unto themselves and not a carbon copy of either parent or an even mixture of one or the other.
While my dad’s concerns are understandably, the way I see it is that there are children in this world who need loving homes. My parents did not adopt, but adopting has long been the only way I plan to have children of my own. I’ve always wanted a family and I also want to help improve the world as much as I can. However, I understand that my own resources are limited and I will need to make choices, much as I do now, about what I do for the world and what I do for myself. Currently, I make a monthly donation to GiveWell and a variety of donations to other causes and organizations. My ability to do that will change as my circumstances change. Having children means fewer resources to donate to effective projects in developing companies, but having children also means being able to fulfill dreams that I have for myself, as well as hopefully allow me to raise children who also believe in improving the world.
In the Having Children dialogue, I explained why having children is important to me on a personal level:
I don’t disagree that the amount of money it could cost to raise a child in the developed world is badly needed elsewhere and would have incredibly positive impacts on the lives of people in developing countries. At the same time, though, I see it as partially my responsibility, as someone who cares about the world and improving the world, to have children in order to develop more people who care about the world and who will work to create a better and more peaceful world for all those who inhabit it.
As an educator, I have some ability to develop such individuals, but there’s definitely more I could do with my own children than others’ children, particularly because a teacher’s direct influence is often only a year long. Parenting lasts a lifetime. It’s important to me to continue impacting the world in positive ways and I think having a child, for me, is a way to do that.
If my goal is to make the world a better, more peaceful place where increased well-being for all is a real aim of people and governments around the world, I see few better places to start than in one’s home. Adoption is just one more way of making good on that goal, and one more option to consider in the ongoing conversation about having children.