“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows.” Isaiah 1: v. 17 (NLT)
This is us, the Kynies – a rainbow-nation family. My husband, Ryan, and I are the proud parents of three of the best kids. Ilan is four and the cuddler in the family – he enjoys ‘dancing like a Zulu’, riding his bike dangerously down hills and being a big brother to ‘the kids’ as he calls them. He summons the family together for ‘family hugs’ most mornings. Kira is almost two and is a real busybody – she likes to pull out her beautifully braided hair at the very first opportunity, has a deep belly laugh and has eyes only for her brothers. Judah is sixteen months and a new addition to the family – he is a gentle soul with a dimpled smile that can knock your socks off. We’re a family pieced together through adoption.
Ryan and I discussed our shared heart for adoption before we got married and when we felt ready to start a family, adoption was our number one choice. It helped that we’d seen adoption played out in other families and that we were able to discuss adoption with parents who had pioneered into the world of social workers and courtrooms ahead of us. Even though we felt under-qualified as first-time parents-to-be, we were reassured that ANY loving family is better than NO family for a child who needs a family.
Our concerns and questions about adoption made me realise that many people – whether it’s something they are personally exploring or have never really considered – are also apprehensive when talking about or even approaching the topic. So, having said that, I thought some of the lessons I’ve learnt in my journey so far could be helpful advice to everyone out there – you don’t need to be a Hollywood celeb to broach the subject of adoption.
Celebrate with us!
Please rejoice with us when we tell you that we’re starting or expanding our family through adoption. Please continue to celebrate adoptive parents-to-be in the same way that you’d celebrate a pregnancy announcement – baby showers and meal rosters are very welcome. Please don’t deflate our moment by asking us to explain our motives.
Jumping through (many, many) hoops
So. Much. Admin. We’ve learnt that adoption admin is not for the faint-hearted! Adoption screening is not easy, nor cheap and you never know how long it will all take, but all of this fades into the background when you get ‘the call’ to say that you’ve been matched as parents of a precious little one. When you meet your baby for the first time it really feels like you deserve to be there – the home visits, prying interviews and psychological assessments were so worth it. What a gift it is to parent one of God’s very own special ones!
As difficult as it is to keep this information to ourselves, our kids’ stories are not for us to share. Their history doesn’t belong to us. We aim to tell them the best version of their stories in an age-appropriate way as they grow up and if they choose to share it one day, then that’s up to them. South Africans must pray that our collective heart breaks for the issues that break God’s heart. We need to pray that the cycle of poverty and injustice in our country is broken. The reality is that God is building families through adoption despite a fallen world and it is by the grace of God that we don’t find ourselves in the same position as our children’s birth moms. Adoption means understanding, not judgement.
Bite your tongue
Let’s try and choose our vocab carefully. Adoption is such an overused word. Ilan is not our adopted son, he is our son. Plain and simple. Own is also an overused word that is not well received amongst adoptive families, please rather say ‘biological’ if this is what you mean. Our kids are our ‘own’ and yes, now they’re related. Lucky is another one – our kids are not lucky to have us, we are the lucky ones! Please try your best to avoid these words and forgive us if our knee-jerk reaction is to cover our kids’ ears when you use any of these words around them.
African hair, yes we care
We certainly don’t have a whole lot of experience in this department, so if you are someone who does, then help us out! We want to know which barber is going to rip us off and what hair products to use for our kids’ hair. Take it one step further and help our family celebrate our racial differences, see the world in colour and help our kids figure out what it means to be black in South Africa. Adoption is a team effort and we need you on our team.