I was deeply honored to guest blog on Holt International’s website for National Adoption Month. Below is the blog I wrote for them.
The Story Behind the Picture : Advocating for Boys
Krystal Ribble is an adoptive mom of one son from Grenada, the Executive Director of Equality for Adopted Children in Washington, D.C. and a college minister at Belmont Heights Church Nashville. Her blog www.krystalribble.com is full advocacy for orphaned and abandoned children, adoptees and adoptive families. Here, she writes about how we can advocate for adopted sons and meet them where they are.
When we think of the vulnerability of orphans, we tend to think of the girls who are in need of families first. We see them for their fragility and feel the need to protect them.
As a mom to a little boy who was once an orphan, my view has shifted slightly. I would never have thought about his little spirit and soul as fragile. The only thing about him that felt fragile when I first held him was his little three year old body. Everything else about him felt ready to take on this big world with gusto and determination.
Now, having the experience of parenting him, I have discovered all the ways in which his little heart longs for me to fight for him. He needs a combination of my vulnerability and my stability every day.
How can we show up for these boys and advocate best for them?
I believe there are three things we can do:
1. Recognize his heart as still being molded by the love and influence he is surrounded by.
My son comes from a harsher place than most because of being abandoned and I notice his heart aches much easier when fear enters a picture or when he witnesses injustice.
It is important for me to be aware of the circumstances around him and be willing to protect his emotions when I can as well as be present for him when he is hurt by something or someone. Both are equally important.
2. Do not apologize to others or try to change his behavior to mold him into an image the public can accept.
This can be on a multitude of levels, but I want to give a small example that can be expounded upon.
My son is terrified of dogs. When I say terrified, I mean absolutely loses his mind. Most dog owners we encounter try to talk him into liking their dog because “oh she doesn’t bite” or “he is so friendly,” but to a child, who is scared of these animals, not only do those statements not register in his mind, he can’t fathom that truth. My husband and I have chosen to help minimize his fear by showing him the truth of those animals from afar. We have not and will not force him to be close to a dog when we know how much is shakes him to the core.
His experience with dogs is different than anything we can imagine and someone’s animal who is nice or small or cute will not take away his past experiences. He needs to see that we take his fears seriously and we protect him in public when he is afraid. He needs to know that we are not trying to change him to fit other people’s ideas of what a five year old boy should be like.
This applies in many circumstances.
3. He needs to know that you pray for him and lift his requests to God on his behalf. We have spent a lot of time teaching our son the importance of prayer and thanksgiving. He picked up on it really quickly as he was immediately thankful for the new life his was given through adoption. However, we have made it clear to him that his requests and the desires of his heart matter to not only us, but they matter to God as well.
Our little boys are just as fragile as our little girls. They need us in their corners fighting for them and cheering for them. If you don’t do this, who else will?
Thank you for your advocacy friends. Carry on.