Friday, March 15, 2013
9 months--how are you guys REALLY doing?
**Hi to my FB friends! I know I'm technically on a FB break, but it's pretty clear that since I blog so sporadically, most people only check it when I link to FB. This post and the previous one (please read that one too! ) are specifically for our support group and future adoptive parents, so I wanted ya'll to see it!**
I have a confession to make. I have harbored some frustration and a little resentment towards you adoptive parents who went before me. The last nine months have been more challenging than I anticipated. I thought that nothing would be harder than waiting for my precious son. It turns out that parenting my precious son is harder. There have been days when I thought "Why didn't anyone tell me it would be like this?!" But then I look at my own primary source of communication with other adoptive parents--this blog--and realize I, too, am suspiciously silent. I remember THIS great article by Jen Hatmaker, where she says when you are in the trenches of those first few months home, "You are starving for truth-tellers in adoption."
But the conflict comes because although parenting a child who has gone through this life-changing trauma is hard, you also already love this little person! In your core, you want what is best for them, you want them to FEEL your love deep down--now and for years to come. Every time I went to write about how frustrated I am, I stopped short, because I couldn't get the image of 16-year-old Asher reading it out of my mind. I never want him to confuse the difficulty of this transition with any regret on my part, or lack of love. I want my words, now and in the future, to honor and respect him. Going into detail about naughty behavior, or attachment-related issues seems to just cross that line. Notice I said going into detail. I do believe that glossing over the rough parts and painting a picture that adopting a toddler is smooth sailing, easy-peasy, madly in love at first sight, is damaging to other families, and even to my own family. This is, has been, hard. But HE is worth it, and we will fight through it, because HE is ours.
The other frustrating thing about all of us being so vague is that I don't have an accurate reading on how our attachment journey is going...using others as an anecdotal measurement, so to speak. To be honest, if I'm only judging from f@cebook posts and blogs, I get worried that we are in deep doo-doo. But then I get one-on-one with some adoptive mamas, and I hear some hard truths, and I realize we're actually doing pretty darn well! Although I think that there are many who have a very, very smooth process, the majority have some challenges. This tells me that connecting outside of the internet (or even on the internet, but not publicly) is so important!
I know I'm still being vague (on purpose) and some of you who are waiting to go get your kiddo are saying--what is so hard? I can only speak for our family, but let me speak in generalities. First of all, I'm on my second toddler boy-son. Toddler boys are crazy! Often they are crazy/fun, more times they are crazy/exhausting and sometimes crazy/naughty. Tearing, breaking, climbing, hitting, running (usually at break-neck speed away from you towards a busy street), grabbing, throwing, spilling. This describes both of my toddler boys. However, before a biological child enters this *fun* stage, you have about two years worth of positive interactions. Snuggles, smiles, feeding, cuddling, milestones...simple things you take for granted, like the fact that a sad or distressed bio child often can be calmed by your presence and your touch. When an adopted toddler comes home, you have zero positive interactions deposited in the emotional banks--YOUR emotional bank and HIS emotional bank. Not only do you hit the ground running with the negative interactions (correcting very normal toddler behavior) outweighing the positive, but your kiddo is also dealing with MAJOR emotional trauma and stress and grieving, which affects every aspect of his emotional health, which affects his behavior, which affects your ability to attach to him and him to you. Does this make sense? I guess the bottom line that I want to convey is that my kiddo, your kiddo--are not naughty or bad or problems. The "hard" comes from the situation and timing, NOT from the adopted child.
I also want to briefly point out that I completely underestimated the fact that attachment is a two-way street. A dear truth-teller who went before me said simply about herself, "I'm a slow attacher." It gave me such a peace. I realized the pressure I was putting on myself to go from 0 to 100% attached and bonded within days or weeks. What I can say is that God knitted this family together in HIS perfect plan, and He is the great healer of hearts and minds. He is doing an amazing work in our lives, and I fall more and more in love with my son each day! If you are an adoptive parent (or not) and would like to chat more about our attachment journey--mine and his--I would love to connect! Drop me a note or leave me a comment and we can chat more privately.
Last week I took our two older kids to a carnival, just the three of us. I took a moment to ponder what our family would be like if God had not let us to adopt, and we still had only 2 kids. The first thing I realized is that I'd be getting more sleep. :) Trips to the store would be less chaotic. Trips ANYwhere would be less chaotic. But I know in my deepest heart that I would feel something was missing. The experience of adopting and bringing our son home has enriched us in countless ways. Yes, even the challenges of the wait and of the last nine months have strengthened and improved us. His presence makes us complete, and our lives are more fun, more interesting and more blessed because Asher is our son and brother. Thank you, dear friends and readers, for letting me be honest about this experience and not fear judgement.
So, how are we REALLY doing? We're doing well, with good days and bad. We are learning and struggling and loving and grateful for each day with all three of our kids. We have zero regrets and want to shout from the rooftops that we love adoption! I long for the day when Asher has the words to tell his side of this story!
Thanks for asking. :)