"From Then to Now"

I don’t think about adoption on a daily basis; I am just a dad, after all. But when I do, it’s these moments that rise to the surface, indicative of so much else along the way.

Author Louis De Lauro with his family on their adoption trip and now, with his teenage daughter

Adoption is usually not on my mind. Is there any difference between adopting a child and conceiving a child? Perhaps there is, but I am not sure I know the difference or even care to. I only know that I absolutely love being a dad.

When I do think about adoption, there are some moments that stand out to me and seem to capture the feelings I have about my path to fatherhood and my family. Here are just a few of the moments that have stayed with me through the years.

 

In China

Krista and I adopted our daughter, Ava, in 2005. During our 12-day trip to China, we visited an orphanage. It wasn't Ava's orphanage, but a model orphanage; a special orphanage to show foreigners that orphanages were nice places to live while waiting for a family.

First we visited the toddlers. I juggled all their toys. Some smiled and laughed. Some ignored me. Every child was beautiful. We wanted to adopt every child in the room. We both held back tears when we left the room.

We moved to the next room, where we visited babies. There were so many babies, and, between Krista and I, we picked up and held every baby in the room. Krista had heart surgery just a few months earlier, but she was lifting babies. I saw my wife force a broken smile while she held one baby closely. Tears rolled down both our cheeks.

One baby after another, we spoke softly to every baby we held. Every one was beautiful. We wanted to adopt every baby in the room.

 

At School

STUDENT: Mr. De Lauro, if your daughter is adopted, who are her parents?

ME: My wife is her mom. I am her dad.

STUDENT: No, seriously, do you know who her parents are?

ME: I am being serious when I tell you we are her parents. We changed diapers. We provide every meal. When she feels sad, we comfort her. My wife does her nails, fingers and toes. I take her to the movies and the zoo. We hug her. We love her. We are her parents.

STUDENT: You sound like really good parents.

 

At Dunkin Donuts

“What a beautiful baby! Is she adopted?” asked a curious and overly friendly lady.

“Yes, from China.”

“You know, My husband and I attend church every Sunday and I love God, and I want to adopt a baby too.”

“Wonderful,” I answered.

“I just fear that if she’s not my own and she doesn’t look like me, I won’t love her. And I’m not even sure my husband would consider it. I’ve prayed over this, but I’m still not sure if it’s right for us.”

I told her, “This baby is my own. Every day she is mine to take care of. Mine to love. Mine to hold."

“And are you married? How does your wife feel about her?” she asked.

“This baby is also my wife’s baby. She adores her baby. Just like any other mother, my wife absolutely adores her baby.”

The woman answered, “You’re a kind man. I hope I can be so kind one day.”

As she walked away, I tried not to make an unkind face. I hoped with all my heart that this well-intentioned woman would not adopt if she could not find the love in her heart.

Being an adoptive parent is not hard. It’s easy. My daughter is much older now, but is still easy to love. She’s funny. She’s beautiful. She gives me grief like daughters do. But we see superhero movies together and take day trips to New York City. We always watch the television show Survivor together (and we always agree it's not a very good show). I take her to tennis class and we practice serving at the local court at least once a week. We share laughs and hugs. We are good together.

I think it must be hard on her sometimes, to be adopted from overseas. Does she wonder, who made me? Why did they give me up? Why is my life story so different from others?

The reasons why birth parents can’t care for their children are usually good ones, but not knowing these details must hurt. I hope when my daughter hurts from not knowing, she feels she can talk to us. We have shared with her everything we know about her life in China, and we’ve made it clear we are here for her. Always.

You know, some people tell me my daughter is lucky to have parents who love her. As if this whole relationship is one-sided. But did I mention my daughter loves me? And she really loves my wife!

The love we share is easy. I’m so fortunate to have my daughter.

 

And Watching the Stars

Ava and I stared at the stars tonight.

My daughter told me all about the Big Dipper. And I listened. And I said, "You have so much to teach me."

"It's kind of sad when the best part of your day is looking at the stars with your dad," she joked.

I laughed. And answered, "Ava, I love being with you."

She replied, "I love being with Mom. And I kind of like being with you…sometimes." Another joke.

And I paused and said, "You are so funny. Tell me more about the Big Dipper."

And then I listened. And I loved being with my daughter.

 

Louis De Lauro is a middle school history teacher and the founder of the charity, Juggling Life, which teaches juggling, chess, and art to kids with cancer. De Lauro writes uplifting pieces about teaching, friendship, and charity work. He has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and is a regular blogger with The Tattooed Buddha. He and his wife adopted their daughter from China.
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