A couple weeks ago was the first ever World Adoption Day and I meant to post on social media a picture of myself with a smiley face drawn on my hand as the organizers of the day had requested. But on the actual day, you see, I was busy with my son, Eyob, who is adopted from Ethiopia, so I didn’t get around to posting. I posted a day late, which seems to be the story of my life since I’ve been a mother. But it got me thinking a lot about adoption on that day so…mission accomplished!
The process for my adoption was difficult. It took about 3 years from starting the paperwork to bringing Eyob home. And in the course of that time, Ethiopia went from adopting 50 children a day to 5. So there were stretches where I wasn’t sure the adoption would go through at all. Since then it has become even more difficult to adopt from there and around the world, which is enraging because that trend in no way reflects a change in the number of orphans; there are still millions of children living without parents.
My son, Eyob, however, and thankfully, is not one of them. He is in fact an incredibly well-adjusted, vivacious, outgoing, articulate 3 year old with a mother who dotes on him and a family surrounding him that makes him feel like a king most of the time. He is smallish for his age, which I often attribute to his early months in an orphanage, though it could in fact just be his heredity. He is sharp as a tack, has a laugh that is so engaging that his school friends do whatever they can to amuse him so they can hear it, and he is a force for joy.
This child, my son, is the greatest, most hard won gift of my life. And yes, I think that even when he is screaming NO in the most impressively pitched tone which sends the dogs outside, or is fighting me with a strength that I can’t match even though I am 5 times his size. In those moments where I am so challenged by him, I am still thankful. He provides a learning curve I could never find anywhere else.
But in the precious, surprising, heart melting moments where he is just alive in all of his toddler humanity, luring me into loving him in a way that is hard to explain since he was not born from me, nor does he even share my skin color, I am stunned to awe at what revelatory openness he brings to my heart and my soul. Even on my worst, most difficult days, the instant softening and loving that my son gives me without ever knowing he’s doing it, and without any premeditation or self consciousness, but just the generosity of his spirit, is something I could never have imagined, yet always dreamed of.
And these are qualities that I know any parent can recognize and connect to. But my son happens to be adopted. So what is miraculous about the parent/child relationship somehow still leaves a catch in my throat when I think about both of our journeys to find each other. I am grateful to my son for finding me. I am grateful to his birth mother for her fortitude in bearing him and her suffering in letting him go. I am grateful for my life as a mother.
Connie Britton is an actress starring in ABC’s Nashville.