When we were going through our training to become adoptive parents, we were presented with an image of two trees growing together out of one trunk.  The trainers were using the trees as a symbol for adoption; it’s a symbol of “and” rather than “or.”  An adopted child doesn’t have to have one family or the other; they have both their adoptive family and their biological family.  The biological family gave the child life; the adoptive family gets the privilege of raising and parenting the child.  The child doesn’t have to choose which family to love or be loved by; the child is fortunate enough to be loved by both families.

This image has stuck with me personally and professionally through the past six years.  I think about our CHOICES families, and the great care and concern I have seen our adoptive families show to our birth mothers; it’s beautiful.  Many of the babies born in our CHOICES program will grow up knowing their birth parents because their parents have chosen open adoption.  Yet some chose to have a closed adoption; our children adopted internationally don’t often get to know anything about their biological family.  In other families, there may be occasions where it’s not in the best interest of the child to have contact with his/her birth family.  In all of these cases, I believe the symbol of the two trees can still apply; the adoption itself may not be open, but the adoptive family can have an openness in their hearts.  This means holding the birth family in high regard; it means not being afraid (or being afraid but listening and supporting anyway) when your child wants to talk about his or her birth family; it means openly talking about adoption from the very beginning, so that it is “normal,” “natural,” “common,” “beautiful,” “cherished.”

In Saint Augustine, Florida, they call these trees “love trees.”  I’ve also heard them called “hugging trees.”  Sometimes the trees are the same species and sometimes they are vastly different.  When you’re out taking a hike or strolling through your neighborhood, keep an eye for these unique treasures and see if they don’t remind you just a little bit of the beauty of your family.

This photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC