Being an adoptive parent means having to constantly fight for what our children need. It’s never easy. Putting on that brave face, that armor every day, means it can sometimes be too hard to let that more vulnerable side of us be seen. There are some things you will never hear an adopter say………………… I’ll […]
Now, before everyone freaks out and tells me about how awesome adoption is and how it saves kids’ lives and gives them a chance I am fully aware of that. I am not suggesting that no one adopt, just that….well, read on to find out.
Let me start out by discussing something less intense. If anyone has gone on a weight loss or healthy living journey you know that you can’t half ass it. You can’t eat good 5 days a week and then binge the last 2 days and expect the same results. You can’t go to the gym regularly for 2 weeks and then not go for the rest of the year and expect any results. If you are going to make a change, you need to make sure you are ready to make a change if you really want it to work. Make sure you have a plan for hard days and late night cravings. Make sure you have support. Think about what you will do when you are tired and don’t want to. Who will hold you accountable? In thinking about all of these things, you are better situated to make a positive lasting change.
Now let’s start thinking about adoption. Most families start about down the adoption road due to a desire to have children or personally knowing a child in need of adoption. The see a need and desire to fill it. They want to expand their family and are exploring all options. Honestly, I think adoption is a wonderful way to expand a family, no less than any other way (obviously). I would not trade my adoption journey for anything. My family is just the way God intended it to be. He used heartbreak and abuse to mold together this amazing family I call mine. I am continually in awe.
The reason my post is entitled “Don’t Do It” is because in today’s adoption world there are things that very few people talk about, or do so generally. I have heard that “Adoption is not for the faint of heart” that it is the hardest thing but worth it. That it will take everything you have. All of these are true but do nothing to help prospective or new adopters on their journey. These things do not prepare anyone. Today I wanted to be more specific about what the hard parts are and things I have done (or wish I would have done) to prepare myself and my family to face these unique challenges. Simply saying that it is hard (is an understatement) and is not useful.
When people say that adoption is hard, they mean it. Before I adopted I brushed that off and said “Well, of course it is, parenting is hard I imagine.” I mean, the SATs are hard, grad school is hard, finding time to work out is hard. Hard is not descriptive. It is more accurate to say that Adoption is most gut wrenching, heart breaking, depressing, tiring, maddening thing that I would do again.
What I did not prepare myself for was how much EVERYTHING in my life would change. Parenting is like that. Adoptive parenting even more so. I didn’t expect not being able to speak more than 3 words to my husband without the kids around in more than a week. I didn’t expect how my kids would be able to find my buttons and push them. I didn’t expect how angry I would get or how deeply I would feel sadness for my kids. I didn’t expect how every perspective I had would change drastically.
So on this second day of National Adoption Month, my advice to prospective adopters is this: Don’t Do It, at least not yet.
First off decide if adoption is for you. It is not just another way to grow a family. It is a unique and life changing experience that will color all of your perspectives. It will make you see things differently. Decide if you are willing to commit 100% to this child (or children) no matter what. No matter if they end up in prison, display abusive behaviors, drop out of school, want nothing to do with you. All kids go through rebellion and negative behaviors, however with adopted kids you don’t have the benefit (usually) of months or years to pleasantly attach BEFORE these behaviors come about. At the start of your journey really examine if you can commit to being there and loving them NO MATTER WHAT! There may be times where they can’t live in your home due to health (medical and psychological) needs or safety, but contemplate your commitment should this happen. If not, there is nothing wrong with that but older child foster care adoption is probably not for you. It’s not just the negative behaviors, I have found my issue is how to kids will CHOOSE these behaviors to see if you are still committed. This makes me soo angry because (in my viewpoint) there is no reason. However, for the kids there is a reason. SOOOO many other people have left and they so desperately want you to not leave that they have to make sure. REALLY think about if you can commit. If this is hard maybe a different way to expand your family is better for you.
Second off, know that it is hard, Like no words to describe how difficult it can be at times hard. Know that this path will not be easy for a long time (if it ever is). There are some things that you can do to help the hardness of it if you are committed to do the hard work.
– Support System: Talk and be open with those that you love and that love you about your adoption plans. Let them know what potential problems could be. Offer to recommend some great blogs or books for them to read to get an understanding of what you and your children will be going through. Connect with people close by because after adoption your ability to connect with those face to face outside of your town is diminished. Let them know practical and helpful ways they can show love to you throughout this journey. The people that love you want to help. but often don’t know what to do. Let them know that making a meal, playing with the kids, shoveling your driveway, ect are great and stress free ways for them to show their love.
In my life Joel and I moved to a new town and within a year started the adoption process. Now I would not have changed anything as it got my this great family I would have used the pre-kid time I had to better develop deeper connections with those in our new neighborhood and church. Its hard to develop those relationships now.
– Spouse: The relationship with your spouse will be tested to the extreme. You will have little to no time to spend by yourselves and potential conflicts about how to parent or respond to the children. Before the adoption, commit to having open communication even if the topic is difficult or embarrassing. Agree to be a team and not succumb to the pitting you against each other that your kids will do! Support your spouse in front of the kids NO MATTER WHAT! No matter if you honestly think what they just did was ludicrous or made you angry. Support them and then pull them aside to talk to them. Be honest with them, even if it makes BOTH of you angry. Work together to figure out how you as a couple want to parent. This is something that all couples need to do for a LONG time
– Self-care: If you are anything like me, taking care of yourself has always been on the back burner. There are always more important things to do, other people to focus on or jobs to complete. This is not a healthy way to go into adoption. Your children will require 150% of your energy. Yep, you read that right. It will be easier than EVER to ignore your needs. Set up an easy plan to do something that fills you up. Something as simple as buying yourself an awesomely intricate coloring book that is just yours to use when the kids and you are coloring. Or find a gym that has childcare so you can run off some stress. Find out if your kids qualify for respite or PCA hours to get you and your spouse a break from time to time. As a family work on healthy eating. It is VERY easy to push yourself to the back burner, but you kids need you more than that. They need you to be at your best so focus on what you can do to get there!
– Support Community: All the self care, healthy spousal relationships, and support system from loved ones is great but if you have no other adoptive parents to connect with the hard times will be even harder. Find blogs to follow, facebook groups to join, in person support groups to commit to going to, ect. Connect with others that have walked down a similar path to bounce ideas off of and to vent to when times are hard. I belong to several facebook groups and have connected with some great adoptive mom bloggers that are my lifeline on the days when saying “Adoption is hard” is the most laughable understatement in the world.
Once these things are in place, you will have a smoother adoption process. Things will still get hard. Like cry your eyes out with angry tears in public hard, but you will be more able to bounce back, showing your kids that you are there for them and teaching them how to bounce back too.
These past few weeks have been a bit crazy in our home. With Skye getting back into school and trying to get the right accommodations for her, Cayla starting all day, everyday kindergarten and Preston starting preschool for the first time. We have had some ups and downs, but more ups lately. Joel and I are amazed at the growth we have seen in the kids in the (almost) year that they have lived here. More on that later, today something is weighing heavily on my heart. Today we will focus on Skye and her social skills. Last year we were always hearing about kids being mean, getting notes home about Skye’s behavior, etc. This year her teachers are saying she is adjusting as expected and doing great. There have been a couple of days where she comes home and has something bad to report, but mostly she is doing great. The school is FINALLY giving her ability level work for homework and there have been no fights this year about completing homework, sometimes she is working on it while waiting for me to pick her up! She is understanding different concepts and feeling good about her ability.
The social side is just as good. There have been multiple kids that Skye identifies as friends, even wanting play dates! One play date was set up for yesterday. Joel and I were so excited because this was to be Skye’s first play date and it was to be with a girl that she had problems with all last school year and summer so we were glad to see that they were working out their problems with each other. The plan was to pick the girl up from school and spend the evening with us before dropping her and Skye off at a shared extra-curricular activity.
During the school day yesterday Cayla had a doctor appointment and I was signing her into school when I saw Skye in the nurses office. She was complaining of a headache and when she looked up and saw me she started crying. I was so confused. Luckily I didn’t have anywhere to be so I just stood with Skye and hugged her for a couple of minutes and then we talked. She said that Cayla wasn’t at recess and her friend can’t come over. That is too much change for my girl and she was barely holding it together. I was super proud of her that she went to the nurse and didn’t have a breakdown in class. I asked her if she was feeling really overwhelmed and sad, she said she was. I told her that we could try again for a play date next week. Then Preston and I watched as Skye got one more big hug and went back to class.
After school we did our normal stuff until it was time for the extra-curricular activity. Skye said she didn’t want to go. I was very surprised but encouraged her to go (because I wanted an hour to just read or relax while she was in there, lol). I also thought that maybe she was nervous about seeing the girl she was supposed to have a play date with. We went and she had a great time. At the end, the mom of the girl asked if she could talk to us as there was a reason the play date was canceled. My heart dropped, I was so nervous (especially since the mom wanted to talk to us outside) and I was (honestly) wondering what Skye did. Imagine my relief when Skye didn’t do anything. So, some back story: This girl was at the pool all summer when we were and she would follow Skye around, and Skye would follow her around and just poke each other like pre-teen frenemies will do. So we told Skye to stay on one side of the pool away from this girl if Skye couldn’t handle not poking at her. Well, then this other girl came over by Skye. Joel was there and firmly but respectfully told the girl to leave Skye alone.
So yesterday we come to find out that after this had happened the girl went home and told her mom that things that didn’t happen, did happen making it seem like a much bigger deal than it was. The mom agreed to the play date only to cancel it once she realized that it was “that Skye” (I mean, really how many Skye’s are there?) So when the mom was telling me what her daughter told her, I was trying to quick process how I should respond. Skye was standing right next to me and hearing all that the mom was saying and I could tell she was getting upset, and honestly so was I. It is hard to hear someone lie about your family and not want to respond in kind. I took a deep breath and said that while I was there and that is not what I saw, if daughter believed that to have happened I understand the mom’s concerns. I suggested maybe we plan play dates at parks until the mom could get to know my family better. Mom thought that was a good idea. The daughter stayed inside the extra-curricular avoiding the whole conversation. At the end, Skye and I left to go home. Skye was fuming and upset in the car. I asked her why she was made and she said that people shouldn’t lie about others, that what the girl said happened would never happen. I told her that I agree and that people shouldn’t lie but we can’t control what others do/say. When we got home Joel and I sat down with her and talked before she showered. When I went to tuck her in we processed it more.
I told her she had a couple of choices as to how to respond.
1. She could be made and decide not to be friends with the girl, but then she would never learn to repair relationships as everyone makes mistakes.
2. She could pretend this never happened and continue to be friends but that would not be being respectful to herself. Skye said that she considered this to be the “Nice” response, but I said that being “nice” is great, but you can be nice and clearly set your expectations for others on how to treat you. That if she choose this option, the other girl would not know that Skye didn’t like this and didn’t want this to happen again.
3. She could try and get even with the girl and start spreading lies or rumors about her, but then she would not be any better than the other girl.
4. She could kindly and respectfully address the situation with the girl (I gave her some words to use, see below) and let her know that Skye really did want to stay friends with her, but that this behavior would not be ok in their relationship. I reminded Skye that everyone lies, and when people lie it’s not really about the truth anymore its about how they feel. We tried to imagine how the girl would feel about the situation this summer to figure out why she would lie. We decided that maybe she felt left out since Skye had people to play with (her family) and didn’t know what words to use to ask to play or she was jealous. In dealing with people that lie, it is important to focus on the feeling not the truth (otherwise you will be arguing about the truth forever, because if you lie for long enough you start to believe it is true, I reminded Skye of some lies in her past and how she believed them because she told them over and over to herself). I told Skye some following word options to use if she choose this option:
“Girl’s name, I understand why you felt like you had to tell your mom what you did, but I know what I saw. I still really want to be your friend, but we can’t make up stories about each other or our families. You decide if you still want to be my friend and agree that we will both be honest. I’m going to go play on the swings, if you want to be my friend come on over”
Ok, so that’s a LOT to remember for my girl, so I re-framed it like this:
This is a great chance to show the girl the love of Jesus and that Jesus lives in your heart. We could get mad, get even, or ignore but that would not be being honest to yourself. Show forgiveness and give her the chance to try again, even when you don’t feel like it.
I shared with her that when the mom was telling me this stuff I wanted to scream and yell and swear, but that would not have helped and not have showed Jesus’ love, so I had to think of a kind way to still respect myself and show love.
This is definitely a first for us and I’m on pins and needles waiting for Skye to get home from school today to see what happened. I could hardly sleep last night because I was unsure of the way I responded and what to do if today went poorly. This is all new for us and I guess I just never expected it to be so hard. Not looking forward to the teenage years. How can I teach something to my child (like showing forgiveness and Jesus’ love) when that is still so hard for me and my first gut response is ANYTHING but that! Tips and Ideas from those that have dealt with this would be greatly appreciated!
So it has been awhile since I posted with any regularity so I want to take this time to give short random updates on things. This will be a pretty scattered post but it will be good to catch up on things and then start fresh with writing regularly now that school has started back up.
- We finalized this past August and it was an amazing and eventful day! The courthouse was pretty far from where we lived so we had to wake the kids up before 6am to get dressed and ready and be in the car. We had a special breakfast of donuts (bought the night before) and were all clean (showered the night before) and mostly made it through the day without any tired tantrums. The kids were a bit nervous, they hadn’t been to court much, if at all and weren’t sure what to expect. The judge was AWESOME and made it fun for the kids. The morning of court I gave Cayla and Skye some special jewelry to wear and Preston got to wear his cool bow tie. To Skye I gave my old twisty mood ring (on a necklace because her hands are soo small. In the middle of the proceedings she looked across the table to me and loudly asked what blue meant. Well with this color ring blue means relaxed, at ease, and lovable. (Heart – melted). The kids got to sit in the judges chair and bang the gavel (It was hard for Preston to bang the gavel while trying to cover his ears because it was loud, lol) then we took a ton of pictures. After our court was over we stayed to watch my kids’ bio-sisters court date. They were being adopted that same day! It was good for them to see that and to know that all the kids in the family had a safe and happy place to be. After we sat down I gave the kids the blankets I have been working on, that I started like forever ago! They each got one with a patch that said their names and “I choose you”. The song by Sara Bareilles has become our adoption theme song. Whenever it played this summer at the pool I would belt it out (hey, part of parenting is embarrassing your kids right?) At times I substituted you for Skye, Cayla Preston. It is awesome. We then all went out to breakfast and the kids did great asking for what they needed when it was too much and we went home and ended the day at the pool.
- School has started and it is MUCH better than I anticipated. All 3 kids are in some type of school. We decided to give the public school system another shoot this year for a couple of reasons. We had a somewhat productive IEP meeting for Skye before school started and they are aware of some concerns we have about Cayla and are keeping an eye out. Another aspect is that we were curious to see how they did once they had been a bit more settled into our home and attached to us. I am happy to say that all the kids are doing great. Preston is loving preschool and didn’t even miss me when I wasn’t there (which was surprisingly emotional for this momma as he is my youngest) and is making friends. Cayla was very shy and nervous during open house and orientation but seems to be finding her groove now that she has been there more than a week. That first week was really rough on her though, she made it through school fine but was crabby and clingy and tired at home. She is also having allergies so that doesn’t help! We just did some more early bedtimes and a LOT of cuddle time, but she is doing better now. Skye is the child that has surprised me the most. She is doing great. SOOOO much different than last year. She is not coming home amping for a fight, does her homework easily (we asked for ability level-not grade level homework) and moves on with her night. She is doing well during the school day too! Not being sneaky or mean, making friends, and staying on task! She has even had 2 requests for play dates!!!!! Anyone who knows the issues we had last year knows how much of a big deal this is!
- A year goes by quick. A year ago today Skye saw our house for the first time. A year ago this past Friday we met her for the first time. A year ago this upcoming Thursday we met Cayla and Preston for the first time. A year has gone by sooo fast. So much has happened, so much healing! The kids have grown an unbelievable amount, and so have Joel and I as we learn how to be parents together.
- This fall is so much better than last fall! Last fall was amazing and eye opening, but this year we don’t have to work at being a family, we just ARE a family. We are able to go out and do things and have fun. That ever-present anxiety that was there last year just isn’t there anymore.
- There is SOOO much more to talk about, but I am getting tried so I will pick this back up later
Well, really Finalization Morning as it is almost 1am. Yet here I sit, unable to sleep with SO MANY FEELINGS that it is hard to put into words. I cannot believe the day is finally here. The day I have been dreaming, day dreaming, and planning for. The day where in the eyes of the world our family is a family. Where everyone else sees our family like we have seen it from the day C and P moved in and we were a complete family. Where there is no awkwardness with different last names. Where when we go to the doctor and they ask if I am mom I can say yes without the explanation. Where my kids can begin to feel like this is forever, not until their next screw up or until I get mad, but until FOREVER. Until we meet again in heaven.
Wow, such a big day. I thought that maybe it would feel routine. I mean we have been living like a family for more than 10 months now so how could 1 meeting change anything. We are trying to explain it to the kids to let them know it is important but that the day to day stuff won’t change. For P we are saying that we need to go tell the judge that he is a L (our last name) since the judge doesn’t know yet.
My parents traveled up for the day and Joel’s parents are coming too. We made a list of people to invite and some can’t come and some can. We will be finalizing our adoption the same day that my kids’ biological sisters are finalizing THEIR adoption so it will be good to be there for theirs. S especially is excited, I think because since she was such a care taker she feels like she can rest easy since they are in a good home. Then we are going out to brunch and home to go swimming with grandma.
I can’t believe this day is finally here! MY KIDS! I can’t say that enough. Sometimes, looking back on the winding path that all 5 of us took to get here I marvel at God’s handiwork. He brought two people together who were so different. Who if they would have met years before would probably have not liked each other very much. Brought them together and gave them the bravery to lift their masks so the other could see who they really were. He sustained that couple through hard times, mental illness, separation (due to work and school schedules), and communication errors (that seem funny look back, but WERE NOT funny then!). He brought me to this amazing family of in-laws who took me in as their own and loved me without question. Who helped me navigate many challenges and always was there to offer a hug or a place for a nap. To offer advice, but always understanding if I didn’t want advice. He gave me this amazing family of origin who understood that I needed to leave and not come back for a while (if ever). That I could never be emotionally healthy without leaving and starting things over and on my own. Who always supported me in my crazy dreams (like getting engaged to a man I’d known for 2 weeks!) Who, even though I was miles away prayed for me and thought of me often. Who showed me what it means to take care of family no matter what.
He brought us to this town, this amazing town with an amazing church family that supports and uplifts them. That was there to reassure me that this really was God’s path when I felt like giving up. To let me hug and hold their children when I could not bear for my arms to be empty for another minute. To commiserate with me over the difficulties of parenting and understand my being overwhelmed at going from zero to three kids overnight. To step in as honorary grandparents to my kids who crave stability and positive attention. Who pray for us without ceasing. To ask and REALLY want to know the answers to their questions, even if the answers were hard to say and hard to hear.
He brought my amazing children into this world. He put people in their paths to care for them and keep the seed of love and safety watered. No it was not the way I wish it would have been for them, but I can’t help but see God in how my kids continue to open themselves up for love and stability, even though everything in their lives would tell them not to get hurt again. How they strive for connection despite all the hurt in their lives.
He brought amazing social workers into their lives to search for the family that they belong to. He led them to a foster home who value God’s place in their lives. Who loved them like they were their own and prayed for their future family before having met us. Who spoke love and honesty and stability into their lives before we even knew they existed. Who have been so gracious as to continue to speak love and stability into their lives on a regular basis.
And finally He placed a desire in Joel and my hearts to reach out, and reach out again when the doors were shut on us. To go through all the hoops and cut through all the red tape to get to where we are now, the night before the adoption finalization of our kids. He gave us unnatural patience on MANY days after placement when we were at our wits end. He showed us how to encourage and love on each other through this process so we don’t neglect our relationship to focus on the kids. He showed us how we compliment each other as parents and where our areas for growth are.
As we walk into that court room tomorrow morning (my alarm is set to go off in 4 hours so I guess it is really this morning) I can’t imagine what I will be feeling. However, I know that right now I am feeling so many things, but most of all I feel in awe. In awe of a God so big that he could knit this family together. I always knew that God knit people together in their mother’s wombs. But He knit this family, my family together from many different states, through many hardships and interferences, and through years. He had a plan for us to be together from that night when S was born and I was states away in a hospital wondering if it is worth it to live through the next day. He had a plan for when C was born and Joel and I were finalizing our wedding plans. He had a plan when P was born and we were planning for Joel to make the move south and for me to follow him upon graduation 9 months later.
I am so incredibly blessed with my amazing family. Yes they drive me crazy and they always will. Families, no matter how they are formed, are still families. But I would not trade a second of this amazing crazy life for anything!
The kids were all recommended to get neuro-psych testing for a variety of reasons. There was concern for prenatal drug exposure and effects as well as effects of trauma and neglect. The testing is done on S and in progress on C and P. I was wary of the testing at first, not sure how much of a benefit it would actually give, but since we have been to the feedback session for S’s testing it has been immensely beneficial. It let us know what was a “won’t” and what was a “can’t” for S. That has helped me (a bit) to not be so frustrated by her behaviors. Mostly, I’m excited for the school to get a copy of this assessment and eat their freaking words. Not that there is any resentment between me and them….. 🙂
If anyone out there in blog world on the fence about neuro-psych testing, I would DEFINITELY recommend it (even though it is a hassle)
This past Sunday was my first Mother’s day. It was a strange mix of a ton of emotions (for me and the kids). I will address both side of this mother’s day.
For Me: I was filled with all sorts of feelings. On the one hand, I know very well how heartbreakingly difficult this day can be. Just 12 months ago, I was waiting, waiting with a heart that was all ready to be a mother, but with a home that was empty (and somehow felt SO much bigger than it does now!). I will always be mindful of the pain that this day can bring. I will always feel so unbelievably blessed that God has brought these amazing (and tiring) 3 kids into my life. This mothers day was a mix of happy and mindful is the best way to explain it. I got some great homemade presents and cards from the kids and chocolate (that Joel helped them buy) AND I got to go craft shopping ALL BY MYSELF!
For the Kids: I am not their only mom. I never have been and never will be their only mom. In a perfect world, my children would have no need for me and would be happy, loved, and safe with their birth parents. However, this is far from a perfect world and we are trying to make a little slice of perfect with the hand that we all were dealt. My kids’ cards are worse than most. There are cards filled with hate, jealousy, neglect, and abuse. These are the cards that life and their birth family dealt them. These are NOT the cards that God (or Joel and I) want them to have. We are slowly but surely replacing the negative cards with cards that say: loving, caring, smart, wanted, and other things that are true and positive. My kids are fully aware of the entire story of their lives. Who their birth family is, why they can’t live with them, who took care of them in foster care, why they can’t live with these people either, who their birth siblings are, why they don’t live with us, who Joel and I are, and the plan for our lives. That is a TON of information for a kid to figure out (on top of the normal stuff: don’t run while you chew, flush the toilet after you go, ext). So when mother’s day came along I was all prepared for explosions, anger, ect. There was none of that, just confusion and sadness. It played out in small hidden ways during the day. Less frustration tolerance, more yelling, ect. At different parts of the day I took the kids aside one by one and mentioned how happy I was for all that they were doing for me. I also “wondered” out loud (thank you therapist training!) if this day was also kind of sad and confusing because they have more than one mom, but only got to celebrate with one. All 3 said that they had been thinking of that today (in their words or behaviors) and I told all 3 that it was ok to love and miss all the people that were in the mother role in their lives and that doesn’t change how they feel about me at all. The day went much better after these conversations
So a big day, with lots of emotions, handled well in the L house!