Family Can be Together Forever

Kelli is having an interesting discussion on her blog right now about the term “forever family” as it relates to adoption.  Is it appropriate?  Is it inappropriate?  Does it diminish the birth family?  I threw my two cents into the conversation (and if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you can easily figure out what I think: it’s fine, and as soon as someone decides it isn’t fine and comes up with a “more respectful” term, then somebody else will decide that one isn’t fine, and on and on the cycle of adoption PC language will go (though that isn’t the comment I left) ).

No, the comment I left is something to the effect that “forever family” implies a permanence which our adopted children didn’t have before coming to us.  “Forever family” helps them understand that we are the last stop, the end of the line.  There will be no new caregivers, no new moms or dads.  We are here, they are here, this is it. 

And believe me from my experiences with my almost five-year-old son who we adopted at nine months:  adopted kiddos need to understand that.  Yes, they will all deal with it differently, and I suspect my second son won’t struggle with it all as much as my first son (though I could be totally wrong), but I have watched my oldest little guy cry as he wondered aloud why his birth mother and foster mother didn’t keep him.

They need to understand the permanence and love that we, as their parents, have for them.

Does that mean I think you have to walk around talking about your “forever family”?  No.  While I will defend the use of that term, it isn’t one I actually use in regular conversation.

And you want to know why?

Besides the fact that we don’t constantly bring up “adoption stuff” in regular conversation?

Because what we do talk about, almost on a daily basis, is our eternal family, and it has nothing to do with adoption.

What is the difference, you ask, between “forever family” and “eternal family”?

“Forever family” is a nice term that adoptive parents use to help their children understand that they will always be a family, nobody is going to pass the child on to new parents, there will be no going back to live in the orphanage, whatever.  It is a term that conveys permanence here and now, but I don’t know how many people actually believe that their family can be, truly, forever.  Do you?  Maybe you do.  I hope you do.

Eternal families are real.  Eternal families are God’s plan.  He didn’t send us here to live in families only to have us forever separated by death.  We really can be a family forever.

Gordon B. Hinckley, the last president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “Can you conceive of eternal life without eternal love?”

I can’t.  It doesn’t make sense to me.

Eternal love, eternal marriage, eternal families are, “central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

I know that my family can be together forever.  For real.  It isn’t just a platitude we use to bring comfort to our adopted children.  It isn’t a subjective term that we find up for debate.  It is a reality that we have been talking about with our older children since before adoption ever touched our lives.  And that reality?  Does bring great comfort to my son who is old enough to have questions and struggles about his adoption.

So, where does that leave my sons’ birth families?  I know some of you are wondering that.  If I am laying claim to my children for eternity, does that not diminish the birth parents?

No.

I believe in a loving Heavenly Father who is the creator of us all.  As such, we are all brothers and sisters, all family.  If God intends for us to be together as eternal families (parents, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins and so on), and He does, then that means that, somehow, we can also be connected to my sons’ birthparents.  Extended eternal family, if you will.

I hope, if they want to, that my sons will have the opportunity to meet one or both of their birth parents in this lifetime.  I know they will in the next.

In the meantime, we talk regularly about being an eternal family, about serving each other and those outside our family, about being kind and loving, about setting specific goals to be the kind of people we’d all actually want to be with for eternity, because, you know, eternity is a very. long. time.

I am so grateful to know that we can all go through it together.

9 thoughts on “Family Can be Together Forever

  1. I like your explanation of “forever family.” I HAD to use that term for Ben because he had spent two years in an orphanage and then two years in a center for malnourished kids before we brought him home. He was terrified and mourning the loss of ANOTHER set of caregivers. I have said to him so many times “I am your mama FOREVER. You’re with me and daddy FOREVER. We’ll be your family FOREVER.” It was comforting to him and after two years with him I still do it when he gets panicked.

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  2. The idea of an eternal family is a tenent (sp?) of the LDS Church that I have embraced since I first heard about it. (I was 16, we were in Salt Lake City, we were touring the…temple(?) tabernacle(?) – (the big church), and our guide was explaining the concept to us. I have incorporated into my faith ever since.

    I am tired right now, and what I am about to say is probably wrong, and I am just too tired to care right now. Lana needs, first and foremost, to believe that my husband and I will not leave her. She asks for reassurance about this many, many times a month. (Not every day, but probably at least once a week, and some weeks it’s daily.) She needs to believe that we will not leave her. I don’t give a flying fig what other people say about this phrase – she asks me if I am her “mommy forever” and the answer is consistently, “yes”. Yes, I am your mommy forever, and your daddy is your daddy forever. No, you will not have any more mommies after me. I am it. I am the last stop. I am the end of the line. I am the mommy that you have. Full stop.

    She lost two mothers before me. She knows she lost them. (Well, in her cognitive memory, she lost one mother (her foster mother). But she also knows that her foster mother did not grow her “in her belly”. So, she is aware that there was another mother.) She didn’t come to me until she was four. She absolutely needs me to tell her that this family she is living in now is forever – that there are no other families that she might be shifted to. If that is disrespectful to her birth mother…I don’t even know how to respond to that. I know what this child needs NOW. I am the person who holds her when she is frightened. I am the person who is in the position to make her know that she is loved. I don’t know how to be any kind of mother other than the mother that I am to both of my children, and the fact that one of them doesn’t share my genetic code is irrelevant to ME. (I recognize that it may be very relevant to HER someday.)

    I can’t even go look at Kelli’s blog because it is just exhausting to me. I love this child. I give this child what she needs. Why isn’t that enough?

    Sorry, I have just written a whole blog post in your comments. Forgive me. Have I mentioned that I’m tired?

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  3. J

    I think that all of these terms are subjective to children’s needs…I think lawmommy’s and Kelly are absolutely doing the right thing(not that they need my validation) by using the term, ’cause their kids need to hear that!

    I like the idea of eternal families, and I believe that if LB does not meet his first mommy here, he will in heaven 🙂

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  4. Christina

    Yeah, the forever family thing doesn’t come up too much with my kids. I just say “I am your mom” and refer to their first moms as their “Cambodia mom” and “Vietnam mom” and that seems to be clear enough for everyone. I have a little discomfort promising my child I will be *here* “forever” because the truth is “man knows not his time” and that might not be a promise I can keep. But like you I absolutely believe we will be together in eternity and we do talk about that every now and then (weird really, how often kids like to talk about death/heaven. It’s good though I guess, because they don’t have the fear of death that we adults have.)

    Anyway, I understand the need to be careful how we talk about adoption/family issues with our kids so as to not give them yet another reason to need therapy later, but at the same time I’m rather tired of the PC police presuming to tell us all what words we’re allowed to use.

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  5. I like the idea of an eternal “extended family.” We don’t have any adopted kids, but we ARE a blended family with some interesting family dynamics. To think that all family members of our kids can be a part of their “eternal” family brings them comfort.

    Thanks for this post!

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  6. Great post- thanks! And like you saide, it’s not like we use adoption talk in everyday conversation. And if I were….I’d be a lot bit worried about myself! I like the idea of an eternal family.

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