They are the thoughts you sometimes do not speak out loud…”This is not what I thought it would be”... “Why can’t my life be normal”... “ I can not do this”. Afraid that if you actually hear the words you will be even more alone and the thin lifeline you are holding on to will break. As Adoptive Parents we should be able to openly share our journeys without fear of condemnation and judgement. Often the world see’s Adoption as a White Picket Fence House with beautiful flowers filled with endless happy endings. I mean after all, didn’t we step up and save these poor orphans? So once adoption happens there is a fairytale ending, right? In learning to understand Adoption you discover that it’s not about saving children and that our children truly save us...giving our lives enriched experiences and purpose we could have never imagined.
Adoption is just the next ledge for the journey of our children, who in fact didn’t need to be saved but rather kept safe and secure, wrapped in a committed, consistent and loving family. With society’s perfection fantasy, Adoptive parents tend to believe they must be superhuman because they know that failure for these children they have adopted must not happen. It takes thought and understanding to look past the expectations of Happily Ever After. When challenges come, and they do to all families whether they are biological or adopted, Adoptive Parents can feel it a personal failure in parenting and loving. The facts are that children who are survivors of trauma have different and challenging behaviors that no one is completely prepared for. This is where Adoptive Families need to be able to speak out and even yell from the rooftops...Help! and in return get a knowing and non-judgmental answer back. I remember as an Adoption Professional arriving at work after my youngest son had been with me about a month.
The weekend had been tough and I was exhausted from lack of sleep.He had run away two times , jumped out of my car and in fact knocked in my front door with his small 12 year old feet. I felt a failure in every way possible. I doubted my ability to parent him or any child. I knew a lot about trauma and also the depth of his behaviors throughout his years in Foster Care, but to be honest I thought what many parents think… “ with me it will be different”. As I sat in my desk chair and began to answer the emails and calls of other Adoptive Parents, tears rolled down my cheeks and I thought… “who can I share this with and talk ?” My supervisor had made it clear he didn’t understand why I was adopting one of our children who the system had labeled “unadoptable” so I kept silent and worked all day, completely alone in a world I had created, only to go home and face it head on, all over again.
It was the loneliest time of my life as I represented a strong veneer to the world and struggled to be a better Adoptive Parent everyday. Now almost five years later, we survived and I even added another teen child to our home. My son who the system labeled, is doing well and has dealt with a lot of his trauma to turn his life around. From failing grades and special schools to graduation this year at the top of his class determined to not be a statistic to foster care.He is a bright and loving light in my life. I now spend my days creating ways for Adoptive Families to connect, speak out and share. We must come together not with idealistic pretense but with the reality of our lives. By not being afraid to disclose the difficulties we help other families who suffer in silence, and we help those choosing to become Adoptive Families become better prepared for the challenging times ahead.
So….don’t hold onto your thoughts in silence, speak out , share and find the supports around you.
You are not alone, and you can do this.
Connie Going is the CEO of The Adoption Advocacy Center.