tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The blessing of adoption

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. I wrote a memoir about adoption, something Susan and I experienced four times. This is an excerpt from Emerging Son ( where I reflect on fatherhood, the result of our adoption efforts.

Why do we have children anyway? It’s a question that seems particularly relevant to adoptive parents. Unlike biological parents, we can’t claim any child was unexpected. We took very deliberate, complicated steps to assure our place as parents. Why?

I was responding to a deep inner yearning – a yearning that almost seems in conflict with itself as I was seeking to reclaim my childhood and at the same time seeking my adulthood. I wanted that family I grew up with. Childhood was such a positive, loving, and happy time for me, I wanted it again. But I also wanted to grow up. Like any living creature, I wanted to become what I am – that is, an adult. And somehow I grew to believe that a typical man approaching 40 should know the love of a wife and kids, the security of home, and meaningful work. As a kid watching my dad, I never realized what a bid deal it was to have all this; now I know.

The same way a baby emerges from the familiar comfort of the womb into the unknown, harsh but opportunity-filled world, a man exchanges a carefree, self-centered existence for the uncertain but potentially joyous responsibility of fatherhood. I am grateful for the time I had as a single man, and for the time I had with Susan before we had children, but I am so grateful for this period. Parenthood demands love and trust and faith like no other period in life I have known. Fatherhood is helping me to replace my natural-born selfishness with selflessness. Maturity is figuring out that the whole world doesn’t revolve around me, and fatherhood is helping me to see that, and more important, to embrace that.

I found my home in fatherhood. Now my job, which could take decades, is to help my kids find their home.

I want the same thing for my children as I want for myself: I want them to work all their lives to replace their natural human selfishness with earnest selflessness.

Love that can change the world comes from a selfless heart. Susan and I will give our kids opportunity. They will go to good schools. We will show them many wonderful places in the United States and the world. And I will support them, no matter what their vocation. Their pursuit of any demanding, honest work will make me proud. But people don’t change the world by what they do, they change the world by who they are. And I pray my children grow to become the selfless heroes that the world so desperately needs.

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