The Problem of Being a Boy

 This month we are asking everyone to be more aware of the difficulties boys face in adoption.  We are raising awareness that being a boy has become a special need in waiting children.  This is even a greater problem for older boys. Drawing attention to this issue has provoked great discussions with many many waiting and adoptive families.  We are reminded that to change an issue you must first become aware and that education is crucial to change.  

  Today a wonderful adoptive Dad speaks about adopting a boy and changing our thought processes in adoption and life.  Mostly Keith shares about the joy adoption has brought to his life.  We are ever so privileged to know this wonderful Dad and his family. Thank you so much for sharing what adoption has brought to you and your thoughts!!  So remember,  Boys Rock your Heart!!!

The Problem of Being a Boy

“Cool guys don’t watch explosions. 
They just walk away.”

This was the sage advice or observation given to me by over the weekend by my 9 year old he finished defending our yard from ‘bad guys’ (aka leaves) with his ‘cannon’ (aka leaf blower).  I asked him to explain and he demonstrated by casually pointing the leaf blower at a pile of leaves without looking and calmly walked away while the sky erupted into a plume of flying leaves.  I asked where he learned that – he said he read it in a book.  Guess I’ll have to figure out what books he is reading.  Doesn’t sound like something out Thomas the Tank Engine or Curious George.  Actually, a bit of Googling and it appears that once again I am way out of touch.  Apparently The Lonely Island wrote a song by this title...and there must be a connection to the video game Minecraft as there are dozens of YouTube videos of Minecraft by that title!

As I start, I realize that writing about gender is pretty thin ice – likelihood of offense is great.  I am not intending to offend anyone.  I am not trying to say boys are better than girls – or that girls haven’t been discriminated against for many years and still are. 

My point is simply this:  My son had two strikes against him:  being a boy and being older.  They are typically older because they are not adopted out of institutional care as quickly.  They languish in the system longer than girls.

When you parent a boy you get it all...muddy footprints... greasy hands (‘cause that bike wasn’t going to fix itself!)...things taken apart for no apparent reason...and the excited declaration that ‘I can jump up and spin around one and half times and land on the couch!  Wanna see?’.  You also get smiles, proud moments, accomplishments, helpful hands, and a care and concern for others.

I am a dad to two girls and three boys, 1 of each by adoption.  I am thankful for the care that my son received prior to adoption.  I believe that the consistent foster care he experienced as normally as a child in that situation could.  Somebody cared enough...even though he was a boy.

The statistics bear out this bias – particularly in international adoption...and particularly in special needs adoption. 

So why is it that it seems that girls are preferred over boys in international adoption?  I think many consider boys to be ‘scarier’ to raise.  I personally don’t see this in practice.  Is it different?  Sure.  But not easier or safer.  Parenting takes courage no matter what! 

Maybe it is because they appear angrier...when placed in high stress fight/flight situations (being orphaned) maybe boys appear or present as angry, defiant, or mad.  Their coping mechanisms are perceived as negative.  Maybe girls present more downtrodden and prospective parents perceive them as being more in need of rescue. 

I think sometimes the descriptions of the children seem tilted unsuspectingly against boys.  Girls are described as being playful, enjoying toys, likes crafts and coloring, plays well with others, helps the staff care for younger children.  Boys on the other hand are described as...well...boys...plays roughly, is sometimes ‘naughty’, is mischievous, likes to tease others, is active (read by most as ‘will peel the paint off the walls if not kept busy) and acts like he is in charge.  If you read the two...who wouldn’t opt for the little girl?

Additionally, at least for waiting children, photos of the kids are posted on-line.  As people review the lists, how can they not be drawn to the cute kids, the ones with sad eyes, a winning smile, the ones with the cute bows in their hair.  Think of it this way: when people post their profile photo to an on-line dating site, do they use their DMV photo...or worse yet...the 2:00 AM booking photo from that social gathering that went bad back in college?  No way!  They hit the local Glamour Shots to get a ‘wow’ photo of themselves.  I realize that is a silly analogy but think of it the perspective of a child in the system.  Strange people walk in one day...another surprise occurrence in your world of not knowing what is coming next.  They look you over and line you up against a wall and snap a quick photo.  That’s it.  That’s the one shot you got.  If you were scared and crying...if you were angry and trying to fight back against what was happening...yes, that is what is captured and presented to the world as ‘this is me and I want you to want me’. 

SuperKids brings so many good things to bear positively on the lives of the children they advocate of behalf of.  I think the three biggest are A) accurate development screenings by someone with eyes on the ground that can provide first-hand information, B) descriptions of kids and their behavior that highlight their strengths while recognizing their issues, and C) non-mugshot photos of the kids that show their personality...capture a smile, show emotion and give a glimpse into their soul (great job Erin!).  Being a photographer, I understand that requires talent, time, patience...and a bit of luck...much harder than simply lining them up against a pea-green cinder block wall! 

I recognize this is a sweeping generalization, but I think adoption is most frequently pursued by women.  Speakers at conferences report 80-90% of attendees are female.  I wonder how many wives have been awoken by their husbands “honey, wake up.  I couldn’t sleep so I was up looking through the waiting children lists.  I think we’re supposed to adopt...and I think I found just the boy for us.  The moment I saw him I just felt he was our son.  Can you get up and look with me?”  I don’t think it happens like least not in MY case!  I don’t think women out there, in their bathrobes at 11:00 at night are looking at waiting children sites, photos, and profiles thinking ’OK, that little guy looks like someone to do some wrenching with, somebody I could teach to shingle, and how to drive a snowplow’.  I know this makes it sound like adoptive parents are self-serving in their pursuit of adoption.  I personally think we all are to some extent.  I think we have children (regardless of how) with at least some expectations, hopes and dreams for the pleasure they will bring us. 

I personally feel guilty that my wife was the driving force in our adoptions.  Why wasn’t it me?  Why did I not respond to the call to care for the orphans in their time of need?  It took my wife 11 years to get me to agree (of course...I wouldn’t change things for the world...that’s one of the many things I love about my wife!!).  Not proud of that delay on my part...because the reason...quite frankly...was selfishness.  I was busy enough already.  But I am also, as a Christian, incredibly convicted and called to task by scriptures.  Why is it that more men are not being champions of caring for the fatherless?  I think if we were, more of those boys would find forever families earlier in their processes and be spared the injustices and pain of making it on their own. 

So...guys (and gals) - check out those waiting boys. They’re not defective or mysterious creatures (no more so than your husband, brother or father is!).  You’ve got a clean carpet in your hallway just aching for some muddy footprints, a perfectly good grass trimmer in need of disassembly, and a heart ready for loving a child!  In return, you’ll find a heart ready to grab hold and hang on...when they realize that someone loves them for exactly who they are in a way that will never change.  Someone that will hold them when they’re scared...encourage them when their timid...and just smile at them when they reveal they have a frog in their pocket in church...because he is YOUR boy and you wouldn’t want it any other way!