Adoption isn’t perfect; it isn’t all skittles and rainbows. I’ve seen both sides of adoption – the hard and the happy. Some, have it “harder” (if you can say that) and some have more happy. Some kids transition quickly and well. Some don’t. Some trauma can’t be undone. Some, however, CAN be healed. Adoption is one of the biggest outpourings of love and mercy EVER. It’s what God did for us. It’s talked about all through the Bible (Moses, Paul, Abraham, Jesus, YOU and ME, etc.) All of those adoptions (including ours into God’s family) was messy, so why do we expect to only hear the rosy side of other’s adoptions? I have no idea. And yes, there have been some horrible stories about deceit and hardness and corruption… but, hey friends… we live in this place that is fallen. So, it simply means walking in with eyes wide open and doing your research. None of these things mean we shouldn’t adopt, it just means that we must fight HARD.
The journey isn’t over once they’ve come home. (See above.) There is such relief once we step out of our planes onto US soil, like a sobbing-ugly-cry relief that you hadn’t let yourself feel until that moment. But, the truth is, the journey has JUST STARTED. While it may feel like celebrating your friend’s child family coming home is perfect closure, it is simply the end of one hard journey and the beginning of another, much HARDER and tedious journey. And, your friend or family member… they are going to need you more than ever.
Our children aren’t necessarily grateful to have been adopted. And, that’s okay. ALL of our adopted children had to experience some major loss to even get to this point of needing a family through adoption. And, while MOST of them are excited to be in America, there is still a great LOSS of everything that was familiar or comforting to them – the people, knowing and being a part of the culture, the language, the sounds, the climate, the sights, the smells, the tastes, and any bit of control they had. EVERYTHING. I know for us, our child left EVERYTHING behind except for a handful of photos of us and him that we left him last trip. He even left the clothes he had on behind (they belonged to the place he was staying in, and after we put new ones on him, of course.) Many of them have been taught that America equals whatever you want, whenever you want. They may have been pining for this new life with a family, but chances are that they had no idea what that really meant.
Please don’t feed our (adopted) children. With babies, it’s important that we (the parents) are the only ones rocking them, feeding them, changing diapers, and comforting them. With older children, it’s important that we (the parents) are the ones that they come to when they get hurt, need soothing, are hungry, and any other needs must be met. Providing these needs is the most basic form of bonding, something we’ve missed out on in a big part of their lives. Please don’t give them seconds or put on band-aids, even if it seems like a no biggie. It’s HUGE for us.
Please don’t ask us personal questions in front of them or others. I know it’s fascinating to hear how children got to be there. Most people really genuinely care, while others are curious. We are sure you are in the former category (the caring one), and we so appreciate you, but please realize that even if our kids can’t speak English, they understand more than they let on. Even still, some information is meant to be private. Some things we may share, other things we may choose not to. In our personal case, we don’t know what our son knows about his own history and the last thing we want is for it to be “common knowledge” and known by everyone else but him. We don’t want a child from church to come up to our son and begin a conversation that ends in him telling our child the things we’ve been waiting to tell him. This is hard, delicate stuff. It may be details and a story to you, but for our son… it’s his life and it hurts.
Also, please don’t assume or ask us if our son has HIV/AIDS/sickle cell or whatever else you’ve heard of. It’s rude. Just because you are overweight, I don’t come up to you and ask you if you have diabetes. Or, just because you are not overweight, I don’t ask you if you have an eating disorder. The color of his skin and the fact he needed a family doesn’t automatically mean anything. It also doesn’t mean you are entitled to such information should our children have (or not have) ANY medical issues. Most of us don’t walk around flashing our medical charts, so why would you ask for our kids? (And, for the record… if our kids do have sickle cell, HIV, AIDS, autism, ADD, etc… you and your kids CAN’T “catch” it. So, it should matter not.) If you ask us these things, we will choose to ignore this lapse in judgment the first time – please don’t take this to mean anything more than us giving some grace.
Yes, he’s our child. Just like the others are. Whether he was born under or in my heart doesn’t make him or the others any less ours.
Raising an adopted child is NOT the same as raising a biological child. I know on the surface, it may seem like it. It may seem like we’re making excuses and all of that jazz. You may see defiance and lying and think you can totally relate and it’s no different than your story. The thing is, unless your child suffers from the loss of their entire family and language and culture, unless your child has been without food, been beaten, had to learn to depend on their own selves for comfort or safety and had so much cortisol dumped into their brain that it resembles someone with PTSD… then you have NO idea. We’re not trying to be difficult. It’s just how it is. I have two 6 year olds. One is adopted, one is not. While both could lie, the things that could be triggering these actions would be FAR different. One of my 6 year olds has no idea what it feels like to have to rely on lying to survive. One 6 year old just doesn’t want to get into trouble, while the other has learned this tactic just to get by. No matter how it seems on the surface, it’s just not the same. (For more info, I invite you to read The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis.)
Parenting an adopted child is hard work. Parenting in general is hard work, but with a child that you bring into your home that hasn’t always been there… there is so much more. You have to undo negative learned things while maintaining (and figuring out) their identities AND implementing positive coping skills and reactions. –And, you have to do it all at once while maintaining your life and other kids. It means putting aside your “feelings” and “triggers” and finding grace that on some days you don’t feel you have. And, that’s all “normal”.
We don’t advertise our child’s “cost.” I know so many well-meaning folks who would love to know more about the process and all of that. But, please please save those questions for a private message (NOT on my facebook wall, NOT in front of my kids or others. Private. As in, where nobody else can see.) Adoption is expensive, but the fees we paid were for lawyers and court costs and things like that. We don’t ever want our child to feel like he/she was “bought.” It’s just not how it is.
Please give our other kids attention too. It’s only fair, and while we know there is this “newness” about our newest addition to the family, there is only so much grace that little siblings can give. Then, at some point, they begin to feel like the outcasts. We know we look different as a family and this is all so very exciting for us, but please remember them too.
High-fives are great. We are stoked that our community has been SO STINKING AMAZING and we are excited that y’all are excited. But, with very little English, we know that connecting and sharing this enthusiasm with our newest kiddo can be hard. Well, high-fives and hand-shakes are PERFECT. Smiles, too. He gets all of those things. A pat on the head, and an occasional hug is okay too. However, please don’t let him sit in your lap, snuggle, or hang on/climb on you. Please don’t read him books (just yet), or swing him, give him piggy back rides, or get in the floor to play with him. Right now, we are working hard on bonding and attaching. It’s hard work. We need him to attach to us FIRST in those ways. I know this may seem SO confusing (because it kind of is), but basically… those are some of the things that speak love and closeness to his little heart. We want to fill those gaps. If you do, then it’s kind of like the little bird wandering around asking the truck “Are you my momma?”
This is a journey. Some days will be hard. Like most journeys, this one too will have peaks and valleys. There will be mountains that we will have to climb and there will be downhill slopes as well. The mountains may be few or they may be many… we have no idea. I can assure you that there will be a lot of hardness related to adoption. We will feel things we never thought we’d feel. We will experience things we’d never considered. And WHEN those days hit us like a brick in the face, please don’t assume we regret this adoption or imply that we “asked for it” (so suck it up). You would never say that to a mom with a colicky baby or a parent facing other “hard” parenting things that sometimes come along.
We need our friends and family more than ever. But, we may not ask for help. The truth is, so many people think we should be SO over the moon and that our child coming home was like the fireworks finale. A lot of people don’t want to hear that we might barely be getting by or that we’re having a rough time. It can be hard to hear, but even harder to say. It’s not that we regret this, it’s just that some stuff is dang hard. So, if you want to cook, clean, mow the yard, bring food, or just love on us… please don’t wait for us to ask. Please just offer something and follow through. I promise you, it will bless adoptive families.
Three months… Three years… later…. We still need you. You know how they say “It takes a village”? Well, it’s true – ESPECIALLY when we’re talking about reclaiming a child for God. The needs may change (but, then again… some families need respite care and meals for much longer, depending on the amount of healing that must be done), but we still need you. We so appreciate when you stay in our lives and as we come out of the harder battles, we look forward to loving on you as well.
Educating your children about “adoption” and “diversity” and ” acceptance” helps my children. When you talk to your children about adoption and nontraditional-looking families, it helps everyone feel more accepted and secure at church, on the playground, in sports, and in school. Understanding and acceptance goes a LONG way.
If you measure my child by your measuring sticks, he/she will likely not measure up. Again, all children are different with different pasts and different …well, everything. If you hold my child to a certain “normal” – especially if my child has a traumatic past – he/she will never measure up. Instead, please see the little victories that have already been won. It’s much harder to look into a field of measuring sticks that you’ll never measure up to than it is to look at a field of miracles and hurdles you’ve already won.
We appreciate your gifts. This may not be true for EVERY family, but it’s true for us. We are learning as we go how to parent a six year old boy and what six year olds like and don’t. We don’t know all of the coolest toys for boys his age and we don’t know the best hair care (nor do we have the time/finances/energy to go out and search/experiment). We didn’t know what size he wore until he came home, so his wardrobe is pretty limited (we have most things now clothing wise except for PJs, long sleeve tops and nice sweatshirts). If you want to bless us and our kiddo with a gift, we are perfectly fine with that… but, we ask that you give it to us (or leave it on the porch). That way, we can give it to him and again “provide” for him to help him attach to US… not to everyone else.
We are “staying in” mostly. But, it’s not forever. I know it may SEEM like we have become hermits and/or dropped off the face of the earth, but we are still here! I swear! Some call it “cocooning” – this staying in so that we can focus on attachment/bonding and boundaries and not overstimulating our little guy. This also means we aren’t visiting family (or friends) and that we’ve mostly dumped our schedule of extra-curriculars. It won’t last FOREVER, but it may last for a while. We’re totally just reading his cues. (Okay… so, you know how when you have a toddler or 18 month old going through the terrible twos and you are working hard to reinforce boundaries since they are now old enough to understand and also old enough to touch. every. thing? This is sort of like that except way different. Imagine that “toddler” not only doesn’t understand boundaries and what’s socially acceptable, but they also don’t totally understand what family is or how it’s meant to work (it’s more than warm cuddles and being provided for). Imagine trying to connect with this toddler who is basically a stranger and trying to bond. Imagine also that this “toddler” isn’t actually a toddler but older and his past is about to hit him square in the jaw and all of the loss and pain is going to come front and center as soon as the newness wears off. ) That’s sort of what it’s like. -ish.
But, most of all…
Remember that we love you. That we appreciate you. That we are thankful for you. And, most of all… that none of us are perfect so that if you accidentally do one of these things on here, it’s okay and we will totally forgive you and still love you. We’re just trying to educate and give perspective because we know you want to try and be helpful because you are amazing like that. This isn’t a list to beat you upside the head with. It’s to clear up the fogginess that we’re all wading through, together. We are so thankful you are wading through with us.