Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Open Letter to Adoptive Parents who Haven't Heard it Yet

Dear Parents,

You know who you are.  You're the one who had a dream, a hope, a vision of a family in love and intact.  You traveled to a foreign country, you pored through websites and adoption listings, you went through the nail-biting hassles of  a homestudy and finally your family was formed!  It was bliss, a match made in Heaven, prayers answered and battles fought and won.  The early days, weeks were a little different than you expected but, you said, my love will be enough.  We will get through this.  It's an adjustment for all of us.  It's going to be ok.

And then every day got more difficult than the day before.  Parenting turned from a joy to a chore to a chain.  Somewhere along the way something went awry, the dream became sleepless nights, the battles moved from fighting for your children to fighting against them. 

Nobody told you it was going to be this hard.  Nobody told you what it feels like when your child reacts every time you try to attach your love to her.  Nobody warned you about day after day after day the same problems that never get solved, the same lessons that go unlearned.  Nobody explained how to talk to a child who doesn't seem to understand right from wrong. And nobody sees the thousands of little things that add up to a cavernous longing in your heart and ache in your head.

And now you feel so alone.  Your child looks so normal, so happy.  He's a little what.  She has moods, don't we all?  He's so well-behaved and you think If you only knew....  As you parry "Is he your real son?" with "Of course he's mine" you play in your mind the tape of his voice saying You're not my mother, I don't belong here, I should just go back....As you smile and say what a blessing adoption is, you inwardly groan at your own words.

You know who you are.  You're the one crying in your pillow every night, racked with guilt for even beginning to think that maybe this is the wrong child for you.  You're the one either too afraid to talk to God or silently shaking your fist at Him.  You're the one who has learned patience beyond endurance.  You're the one who is afraid to go to one more doctor, one more therapist and yet longing to hear someone put a label, an explanation, to the confusion.  You're the one who is terrified to admit to yourself that you get it when a mom leaves her son abandoned on a hospital ward or puts him on a plane back to Russia.  You're the one who's said words you thought you'd never say prompted by words you thought you'd never hear which touch the deepest part of your soul and pierce right through.

It's ok to say it.

It's ok to say you're in over your head.

It's ok to say you don't like your child.

It's ok to say you're tired, worn out, weary, you can't do this for one.more.minute.

It's ok to say your love is not enough to make sense of the mess you've found yourself in.

It's ok to say What happened to my dream?

This parenting adopted children is hard - you have to be hard core, a professional.  Gone are the healthy babies born to innocent girls who slipped up once.  Now the babies aren't babies anymore.  They've been born and raised into a generational cycle of mental illness, substance abuse, neglect and violence and then they are turned loose in our households after the damage is done.  This is not for the faint of heart.

Welcome to the club.

Come in, rest awhile, feel believed, accepted, heard.  Cry.  Yell.  Question God.  Laugh. Run away for an hour or a weekend.  Make jokes that nobody else will understand until they've walked in your shoes.  Go ahead.  You deserve it.  You deserve to allow yourself to hurt.  To admit that you have scars and wounds and have inflicted as much on your children as you've battled to understand.  Tend to those wounds.  Go ahead.  It's hard.  And you've made it this far.  And you're still breathing and God is still in control and His love is enough even if yours isn't.  Rest, Breathe, let it all out.

And now start again. 

It's still crazy.  It still baffles the mind.  That child of once-promise is still a child of conundrum.  But now you know.  Now you know that we are out there.  We've walked in your shoes.  We've made the same wrong moves, uttered the same foul words from our lips, kicked the same proverbial wall a thousand times over.  Some of us would do it all over again and some of us would never have done it in the first place if we had only known. 

But now you know we are here for you.  We've read books and had countless sessions with therapists.  We've pored through websites with titles like All about FASD and How to Parent the Child with RAD.  We know more about alphabet soup than even the hundreds of doctors we've hounded over the years.  And we've seen it all - fires started, siblings molest siblings, kids who stare, drool, poop their pants through adolescence, touch themselves and everyone else, make stuff up, tantrum for hours and threaten suicide or even murder.  We've learned parenting techniques you'll never hear Dr. Dobson mention. 

We are strong, we are resourceful, we are just as battle-weary as you are.  But we have each other and we have God's love and God's forgiveness and every day is a new day.

It's easier now.  It's easier to laugh together.  It's easier to receive advice from somebody who gets it.  It's a bit quicker to get over the frustration when we can vent and yell and say Can you believe this one?! for the 800th time.  Because chances are, yes, we can believe it.  We have walked in your shoes.  We have let go of children into group homes and psychiatric hospitals and alternative placements.  We don't judge.  We don't doubt you and we don't give up on ourselves even when we have to give our children over to uncertain futures.

Welcome to the club.

The Adoptive Parents who have Heard It and Believe it


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Heart-wrenching. You really are heroes, no matter what fould words may come out of your mouths.

I'm going to pass this on to my daughter, who is on list of prospective adoptive parents.

Thank you.

elizabeth said...

It is hard esp. when you have a big family; been thinking of you...

Chantelle said...

Thank You.