One of the most impactful books I’ve ever read is John Lynch’s book, The Cure. In it, he shares the importance of authenticity and taking off the mask of who we portray ourselves to be our true self. You see, we all are guilty in some way of wearing a mask in our day-to-day life. We choose who to be based on who we are with — we decide what or who to put forward to others. How much more adoptive parents model this behavior in certain situations?
“No one told me that when I wear a mask, only my mask receives love. Grace is the face love wears, when it meets imperfection.”
Adoptive Parents Need To Lose The Mask Of Perfection
In the same book, Lynch goes on to say, “We may even be fueled by a sincere desire to make God look good by having our act together. He has no need of such help, but we think it’s our duty. So, we hide our scars and pretend we’re modeling to the world how well God treats His followers. Instead we just come off as weird and smug.” Even in trying to represent Christ, we fail if our sincere and contrite heart is not fueling the interaction.
Lynch gets it. He understands the need to discard the mask we comfortably reach for when walking out the door. But, what if- just for a day we chose not to reach for the mask, but to just be who we are- no presenting, no preparation, no perfectly manicured persona – just us.
As adoptive parents, what mask do we most often reach for? Is it the perfect parent, or the overly invested parent? Perhaps, it’s the mask of having it all together? The mask of adoption advocacy and always being ‘on’ despite just wanting to be ‘normal’. And, what are we covering with our mask? Is it our fears of genetic predispositions of our children? Or our fear of what our children will think of us and how we handle the relationships in their lives? Or simply just, our fear?
The Mask Does Not Make Our True Selves Vanish
I remember when we first came to the adoption world, we were flooded with messages of ‘faith over fear’ and ‘trust in God’s timing’ there is not much that can generalize God’s word quite like a trusted friend spewing ‘christianese’ at your most vulnerable points. Honestly, fear is at the center of my mind when I think about my authentic self. I am well spoken, well put together, well-versed in myriad of topics, yet fear of what others will think of me is always looming deep within my soul. My default mask is one of confidence and assurance. I walk into a room with purposed presence and an air of determination and belonging. It is a mask I’ve curated well. I polish it frequently; it has molded itself perfectly to me and seemingly belongs. But I know when I go home and shed the mask, that all of my insecurities and fears arise.
Adoption is full of unknowns, from the first moment of creating a profile book to the moment your child is asking questions longing to belong. When creating our profile books, we are filtering who we are into the best presenting version of us. Trying to impress a mother who is in the most difficult situation she could be in. My experience in talking with Birth Mothers and Adoptees tells me that the mask’s edges are very easily seen. While Expectant Mom wears her own mask and carries her own insecurities, she can see right through the persona and display we are putting forth. We are so careful to not offend, and make sure we don’t say anything that would cause this woman to not choose us that we forgo being authentic. What does it cost adoptive parents to behave this way?
Sometimes The Masks Just Fall Off
When we met our son’s mother she had bought a new dress for the meeting. Something that she didn’t need to do, we were already impressed by her without the need to adorn herself. But, I myself had spent more time than I ever had before choosing my outfit, fixing my hair and making sure I minded my words and tempered myself. Then she mentioned she loves pickles. My face quickly threw off any mask I’d tried to secure and my very audible and real reaction of gross, he’s going to love them came hurling out of my mouth. The caseworker and my husband stared at me as if I’d just ruined the entire relationship. But, she laughed.
That was the moment that she threw off her own mask and we were able to have a real conversation and really get to know one another. You see, I could have just blindly nodded and agreed that “oh yes, pickles are delicious.” Instead, I insulted her love of pickles and in a fell swoop conveyed to her that I wasn’t just being who I thought she wanted me to be. We had a conversation sometime later where she expressed that the moment she heard me say that she knew we’d be the right parents. We weren’t trying to be perfect for her, we were just real. Frankly, pickles are gross- but my son does love them, just as his mama does.
Adoptive Parents Need Authenticity As Much As The Birth Mother
Putting away our masks and being authentic is the best way we can move forward in this world. I’ve often said that the deepest desire of someone’s heart is to be known and loved. Truly known and loved. Not loved for who we pretend to be, but for who we actually are. We all long for acceptance and affirmation. The greatest gift I can give my children is to know them and love them for who they are and not force them to believe the lies this world throws at them that they must be better than themselves. To love them where they are and affirm them in their journey to find their identity rather than create their identity.
The same goes for the Birth Mothers in my life. My heart is to love them exactly where they are and for who they are. This doesn’t mean that I have to love decision that they make or lifestyles they may be caught in, but recognizing that they are more than what they may struggle with. Just like I am more than my struggles, more than my mistakes, and more than my masks. And adoptive parents need to know that their child’s Birth Mother needs to see how they are face-to-face in all its vulnerabilities. Just like we ask of her.