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?
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.