Adoption- how do I look like you? (part 1)

“Dada? How does my face look like you?

Although a couple of years ago, this conversation surfaces in my mind from time to time. I listened in from the kitchen. Our newly turned four-year wrestling in his own way with preschool conversations.

My husband replied, “Well. We both have dark brown eyes.”

My son eagerly added, “And we both have the same hair!”

After talking about that for a few minutes, Rob said “Samuel, do you know that the way you look is from your birth family?”

They went on to talk about genes and skin color. Rob tenderly navigating the ways that a four-year old mind wanders and turns. Literal. Logical. Imagining. All rolled together in a bundle of energy.

After a bit, and sensing Samuel inquisitiveness, Rob said these words, “Do you want to know what you do inherit from me and mama?”

“What daddy?!”

“Our hearts.”

After some laughter and Samuel trying to figure out how he gets our hearts into his, talk turned to legos and star wars.

Staying in the kitchen I had the luxury of soaking it in. Letting it wash over me, searching for the roots of what was said. I loved the response to the whole conversation.

First, simply answering the question asked. These are the things we have in common. Here are our similarities, even if the source is not genetic.

Second, moving into truth. In the same way your preschool classmates look at their mom and dad and see where they get their eyes and their smile, there are people out there that you look like. Very real people who every time February rolls around are wondering how much you have grown.

Third, acknowledging a larger theme. Love. As our Father adopted us, we have adopted you into our family. Just as our hearts have been shaped by this amazing love, our prayer is that your heart be connected to this overflowing fountain.

Love that sees no Jew nor Greek. No slave nor free. A Love that does not depend on genes. But one that allows a grafting in.

My son’s inquiries, of wanting to know how is he alike his parents, stems from something in all of us. We want connections. We want to belong.

I recently conducted a scientific Facebook survey. Maybe it was more like skimming some friends’ pages. Either way, the results were that 30% of comments left on children’s pictures are related to similarities: “She looks more and more like you every year”, “He is a mini-you” or “This looks just like your Uncle John’s 3rd grade picture.”

I do that too. It is good. It is a way we say this person is part of you. Celebrating a thread of life. A family to belong to. Marking the importance of relationship.

My son doesn’t have the outer indicators of belonging to us. He is my kindergartener who describes friends by saying “Mama, he has light skin like yours.”

And so I work more so on the deep roots of our souls and heart. Taking the conditions we have and cultivating, nurturing growth.

Does the imprint of our minutes, our hours, our days together become visible to others? Will his tender, sensitive heart be molded to know it belongs?

As I extrapolate these thoughts to life, I know that parents with biological children have the same hopes. As much as we delight in our children being a part of us, it is our children’s character that keeps us up at night. It is the weighty matters of parenting.

For them to display integrity. Honesty. Compassion. Humility. Generosity. Discernment. Kindness.

For our values to be the values that guide them. For these intangible qualities to be what we pass on. To see it flourishing in their lives.

And as I reflect more, I begin to think of my own life. How do others know I belong to God? Do the characteristics of my adoptive Father show up in my daily life? Do others see him in me?

Do I let my Father who has adopted me, teach me how to be an adoptive mom?

With my eyes on him, I know that my motherhood is not bound by curly hair and Irish descent. It is bound by hands and feet tied to a cross.

A death conquered. A death that opens pathways to life. I run in the path of his commands for he has set my heart free. And it is in that freedom that my motherhood lies.

It is from this place that I will hold my son with my white arms wrapped around his brown ones.  With a heart that could not beat louder for him. If you are quiet, I bet you could hear it right now.

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 {top image credit}

Bottom photo taken Mothers Day 2012.

Linking up today with WIP Wednesday and God-Bumps and God Incidences


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  1. Hi Melanie
    Your son is such a handsome young lad! I have a friend who also had an adopted daughter from an American girl who gave her baby out-of-wedlock up for adoption. Just after the adoption went through, she fell pregnant and had two daughters after she and her husband struggled for years to conceive. She used to tell her adoptive daughter that the two little sisters was the children of her body, but that she was the child of her heart. That used to be so precious to me. Unfortunately my friend and her husband are now divorced, but I will always remember that!
    Nice to hear from you again

  2. I just love this Melanie! As an adoptee – I’ve often wrestled with the question “who do I look like?”. The wonder of where I came from is never far from my thoughts. I often need to read Psalm 139. As a gentle reminder that the one who created this world also created me and placed me with a family who loves me more than I could ever knowl. That he knew all about me before I was even born. For someone who is adopted that truth is amazing and overwhelming. The depth of love the father has for his children. His adopted children.

  3. Gene’s are from our “roots” and “physical pasts” which Samuel will always wonder about and at some point may want to revisit. But when I look at this picture, I see nothing but the love that radiates through the both of you. Your gene’s may not be linked together but your soul’s sure are and that’s what will be important to him not only for today but forever. All of his memories will be of you and Rob and that’s where is heart will lay. God has blessed Samuel with you and Rob and He has blessed you and Rob with Samuel. I’d say that’s a perfect match. Let the brown arms and the white arms conquer the world together!!

  4. Oh, what a beautiful way to teach truth. Thank you for this!

  5. Elizabeth, wynnegraceappears says:

    Melanie, this is so very beautiful. And rich. I will need to read it twice. And I have an adopted child too so it speaks to me in tender fragile places. This is so so beautiful. Here I go to partake the beauty again. Love to you this Christmas and Thanksliving season.

  6. As a Christian, we’ve all been adopted, yet we can mirror our Father’s characteristics. Thank you for a lovely moving post.

  7. Melanie, I love your heart! You are such a sweet, precious sister and I bet you’re an amazing mother! Thank you for following Jesus…and thank you for sharing this story about Samuel!

  8. Alicia@the Overflow! says:

    Oh,Melanie, this post is beautiful and so is your family. I LOVE the way your son declared that he shared his dad’s hair. I have many adopted nieces and nephews and we still giggle about the day my four year old niece (who had pasty white skin and red hair and green eyes) looked at her new sister (a gorgeous african american little girl with chocolate brown eyes) and announced, “I think sissy and I have the same eyes!” We mentioned that they were both beautiful but did have different colored eyes, to which my niece responded- “I wasn’t talking about color, I was talking about the way we both hae sparkles in our eyes!”

    So glad to have found you through God-bumps today. Adoption is near and dear to my heart- am praying that we will soon get to experience that joy as well 🙂

  9. Stefanie Brown (@stefanieybrown) says:

    From one who was adopted, thank you!!

  10. You and I have talked about this before: how to talk to our kids about our differences. But your post triggered a story from my mind… Emma was still a baby in my arms. I went to vote. This obnoxious woman in front of me who had to be at least mid-60s with leopard print leggings was like, “Oh my. Her hair. It’s so – black. And it’s so – curly. And yours is so – blonde and straight! Does your husband have black curly hair?” I answered, “No, but my dog does.” The woman gasped, bugged her eyes out, and almost fell over.

    Handling this with our children requires grace – but for obnoxious strangers – well, all bets are off. ha ha ha.

  11. Renee @Doorkeeper says:

    Thanks for sharing these heart-touching insights. Blessings!

  12. Jessica Heights says:

    Oh my word…this is just so beautiful!

  13. Absolutely beautiful. You touch everything beautifully, the perspective of your child, to you as a parent, to your relationship with the Lord. Thank you for sharing and linking up with Simply Helping Him. Blessings!

  14. hi. i’m following the almost friday blog hop. i would love for you to visit my blog and follow if you like it.

    new follower bev

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