We were so excited! Out of 5 families we had been chosen to adopt 2 little boys, who were biological brothers. We looked at the pictures the case manager passed around and without even knowing them, or having met them, we just knew- “Those little boys are our sons!” It was meant to be.
For the next 2 weeks we planned. We moved rooms in our home around to make space. We bought extra supplies (diapers, toys, clothes, etc.). We called our friends and family and shared the exciting news. We prayed. We anticipated. We hoped. And finally we went for our very first visit with them.
It did not go the way we expected it to.
The older brother stared at us for what seemed like forever. The younger brother continually scooted away from us and screamed- at the top of his lungs, the entire time we were there. Finally, the older brother warmed up to my wife and actually let her hold him. The younger brother did as well, but hesitantly.
Once we got the boys home, a day later, we continued to see struggles. The oldest brother connected almost immediately but the younger did not. Our first trip to Florida with him was disastrous. He spent the entire week screaming, pulling my wife’s hair, and throwing himself on the ground, not happy with anything. As I watched this unfold, I found myself at a loss. This was not how I pictured this going, at all!
I, personally, pictured something like this (honestly)- we would rush to the foster home the boys were living in, scoop them both up, carry them to their brand new car seats, play Finding Nemo the entire ride home, and smile contently at one another as we listened to their sweet giggles from the back seat. In other words, I saw us as amazing rescuers on a valiant rescue mission.
THAT WAS MY FIRST PROBLEM!
You see, we weren’t rescuers and this wasn’t a rescue mission. We were adopting 2 little boys from a difficult place. My sons didn’t need a rescuer, they needed a father. They needed a mother. They needed parents. And above all, they needed stability!
In their short existence, they had traveled to several different homes and experienced a revolving door of people and faces. Nothing was forever in their little minds. And that was traumatic.
Our world, our culture, has a way of glamorizing adoption. We have the Angelina Jolie’s or the Madonna’s who jump on private jets to third world countries and “rescue” children. While there’s nothing wrong with celebrities doing this, it is not representative of real-life circumstances. Nearly 100% (okay, maybe 98 or 99%) of adoption cases are NOT going to unfold like that.
The greatest myth when it comes to adoption is that everything will be perfect, the child will immediately latch on to you, and every dream you had in your mind, previous to the child entering your home, will come true. If this is your view, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you will be disappointed.
And more than ever, stop seeing yourself as a rescuer (if this is you). I saw myself as this and I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m called to be a parent, not a rescuer.
Here’s what I’ve learned through my own personal (and painful) experience-
- You must take on open-mindedness over a fantasy.
If your adoption experience is fueled by fantasy you are going to struggle more than you know. You need to be open-minded to the fact that your new son or daughter may be coming from a difficult situation and that will prompt a lot of different emotions, behaviors, and reactions to you. Obviously this is slightly different if you’re adopting a newborn baby, but if you’re adopting from the foster care system or internationally, it’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “when.”
- You must choose unconditional love regardless of circumstances.
This is key because the circumstances could be very difficult or very hard to understand. Truthfully, we were blind-sided by this. We kept thinking that we were doing something wrong and that was why they were pushing us away or screaming in our face. However, the truth was that these behaviors were coming from a place of fear and the best thing we could do was love them deeply, no matter what we experienced!
- You must provide the most stable, consistent environment possible.
I can’t say this enough! I’m already a huge fan of consistency. But I’m the biggest fan when it comes to parenting. Today, nearly 4 years later, our two sons are stable, grounded, emotionally healthy and I do not believe that’s because we’re “awesome.” I think it’s solely because, through thick and thin, we’ve worked hard at being consistent and stable. We’re far from perfect at this (trust me), but I can honestly say that it’s made a world of difference in their development.
Have you had a similar experience with adoption? What were some ways you navigated or coped with the emotions or behaviors your child (or children) had?