The holiday season has proved to be an interesting, sometimes challenging time for Deesha Phillya's 6-year-old daughter, who was adopted. It's also been a bit of a puzzle for Deesha, who says her daughter is currently struggling with the reason why she was adopted, and, by extension, why she was given up for adoption.
"I've been thinking a lot about how some Christians offer ‘Jesus was adopted' as a well-meaning comfort to adopted kids, especially during the holidays," Deesha, who is also mom to a bio child, says. She adds that for the adoption-related issues that her child is currently dealing with, the explanation is not much help at all.
"My daughters and I have been revisiting treasured picture books that tell the story of Jesus' birth. All of these books tend to start the story not quite at the beginning; they start with the star in the east, the shepherds, the host of angels. The one book that does begin with the Immaculate Conception (explained in preschooler-friendly language) does not, however, mention that Joseph is not Jesus' biological father. Some well-intentioned Christian adults do, however, emphasize this facet of the Christmas story. Seeking to offer comfort to adopted children, they say, ‘Jesus was adopted too.'"
Deesha has not said this to her daughter.
Many people have been quick to give their opinions. Many suggest her child should find comfort in this, she adds.
"I have not said this, though, because ‘Jesus was adopted' doesn't address the feelings of loss, anger, and grief she has expressed related to her adoption. Her daughter wants to know why she was placed for adoption-‘why' beyond the simplistic but age-appropriate reasons we've given her thus far. She wants answers to ‘why' that fill the void she feels. She wants those answers plus more things that her dad and I can't give. She wants to see her birth mother. She wants what her older sister, who is our biological child, has: the ability to see her birth parents every day. She wants relief from the unfairness of it all that she can't have what her sister has. She wants relief from fears and doubts that we love her sister more than we love her. She wants to believe that we really, really are her forever family."
Deesha adds that the family is addressing her little girl's concerns through a variety of resources at their disposal, but "I just can't see how ‘Jesus was adopted too', which emphasizes Joseph's faithfulness and character, can help my daughter feel better about being adopted. I've been tempted to re-tell her the story of Moses instead, emphasizing his adoption, as I know an adult adoptee for whom this story was life-changing as a teen. But as I recall the details of Moses' life, I can just imagine my precocious six-year-old saying, ‘Yeah, but, he still got to see his birth mom every day, even if he didn't know it was her.'"
She adds that during the holiday season she's left her child to find comfort in her own time and way, about adoption and more, from the bedtime story in current rotation at their house: a baby, a warm place provided that wasn't a first choice, and the promise of love.
Deesha Phillya is the co-creator of Co-Parenting 101.