Can You Always “Grow Where You’re Planted”?

Note: This post delves into one of the parable’s Christ taught and what the Bible says about the above statement.

A popular saying in the adoption world these days is “grow where you’re planted.” The message seems to be that no matter where you were originally rooted, you can always be successfully replanted and grow in a new environment.

I personally have never been sure that this statement is true for everyone. Then recently I was reading about the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 (verses 3-8). While I know that Christ was talking about those who hear the gospel, I felt that the story has an application to adoption and the statement “grow where you’re planted.” For the sake of space, here’s my paraphrase of this parable.

This story is about a farmer who goes out to sow seed. Some seed fell beside the road and the birds ate it. Some seed fell on rocky ground and the seedlings sprang up quickly, but without deep soil in which to take root they died. Other seed fell among thorns (weeds), which choked the life out of the plant. And some fell on good soil and yielded a nice crop.

What follows is my adoption analogy on the parable of the sower. I’ve concentrated on international/transracial adoption since that’s what I know best. The different types of soil represent the different approaches of adoptive parents. The seed represents adoptees.

The Path–These are parents who believe that love is enough and that children who are adopted can be brought up exactly the same way biological children are raised. They don’t want to hear about race, diversity, or that their child is different. Children growing up with such parents may not feel they can or should talk about the difficult issues that face adoptees. Or they don’t have the language to discuss the issues because they’ve never been talked about in the home.

Rocky Soil–These are parents who do museum culture and believe it’s enough. It’s the once-a-year visit to an ethnic restaurant and learning ancient dances or musical performances. It might be going to culture camp once a year. There’s just enough soil to give the adoptee a start, but not enough depth for them to really grow and embrace who they are.

Thorny Soil–These parents “get” some part of the adoption equation. Maybe they understand the loss and trauma of adoption, but don’t understand the need for diversity in their child’s life. Or they embrace the culture, but don’t believe that early loss and trauma can continue to have an impact throughout a person’s life. The fact that the parents understand some things about adoption allows the adoptee to grow to a point. But once confronted with difficult issues like racism they don’t have the space to continue to grow because they can’t rely on their parents to really understand the issue.

Good soil–These are the parents that “get it.” They understand the loss and trauma, the need for diversity and role models, the importance of embracing the child’s culture, and the need to learn the language of the birth country. Are they perfect? Of course not. But they understand the whole package when it comes to adoption. They aren’t threatened by birth parents and they’re enthusiastic participants when it comes the child’s birth culture and language. They work to give their children a firm foundation by talking about adoption and embracing cultural activities and diversity from infancy. They do this as a family so as to not single out the adoptee. Then, as the child grows these parents allow the child to begin to take the lead.

Clearly in the parable told by Christ, some of the seed could not grow where it was planted. And it wasn’t the seeds fault that it fell in a place where it couldn’t sustain life. The seed had no choice at all about where it fell.

I believe it’s the same with adoption. I don’t believe all adoptees can grow fully where they are planted. The adoptee had no choice over the adoption or the family he was adopted into.

Think about plants–all plants need sun, water, and nourishment from the soil. But not all plants need exactly the same amounts of sun and water, or the same kind of nourishment. Adoptees are like plants; each one needs the right soil for them. And while the right soil isn’t the same for every adoptee, I bet there are some common denominators just like all plants need sun, light, and nourishment.

I feel one common denominator for adoptees is having an open, honest, and relaxed dialogue about adoption, birth families, and race. The key to being comfortable with this complex issues is to start early, even in infancy.

I can remember talking to my son about his birth mother in the first month or two he was home and it felt so awkward. I was just starting to feel like his mom and here I was talking to him about another mom. But those early talks allowed me to get past the awkwardness and now it’s normal and natural to talk about our son’s birth family.

Another common denominator is to live out embracing the child’s birth culture as a family. Children who were born in another country deserve to know about that culture but they also deserve to learn about it without it singling them out within the adoptive family. When we adopted our son, we became a multicultural family. And just as our son will learn the American culture in which he’s being raised, we felt that it was our duty and responsibility as parents to learn about the culture in which he was born. One of the greatest gifts I feel we can give our son is the language of his birth. But it’s not something we plan for him to do alone–my husband and I are learning the language to.

Adoption agencies, adoption experts, and adult adoptees are now teaching about and encouraging families to live out these common denominators. They’re educating about the importance of being open and honest not just about adoption and birth families but about issues like race. They’re encouraging families to live diverse lives and make sure children have role models and mentors of the same ethnicity. They’re asking families to embrace the child’s birth culture and help the children have a knowledge and understanding of that culture. And, if at possible, make sure the child learns his birth language, since language is such a key to making connections.

Those are the things that go into making sure our children have good soil in which to grow. By starting early, instead of waiting for our children to take the lead, we as parents are preparing the soil in which our kids will grow. But as they grow, each adoptee’s need and interest should guide the continued nourishment they receive. Some may need more talks about adoption; others may need more about race; while another might need to do more with the culture.

But before any growth can take place, the soil must be prepared and that’s our job as adoptive parents. Adoption experts are teaching about these preparations because they too know that without good soil, you really can’t “grow where you’re planted.”

1 Response to “Can You Always “Grow Where You’re Planted”?”

  1. 1 Ansley
    March 8, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Bravo, my friend! Excellent analogy.

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