Friday, April 16, 2010

In a heartbeat...

I have been asked on multiple occasions why we do this? Why choose to parent kids with so many needs? Why don't you have a baby or adopt younger kids? I usually answer with a "because every child deserves a family" or a “because our lives our richer with our sons than they ever would have been without them." Then, when I am honest about how hard it sometimes is I usually hear “do you regret your choice?”

No, I do not have any regrets.

It's hard, it's exhausting, I have been hit, kicked and punched but I signed up to be their mother and I would not have it any other way. I would adopt again in a heartbeat. I would adopt kids with needs like my sons needs again tomorrow if I was asked. In fact I want to.

Last night I went to the opening of the first Heart Gallery in Canada. It is starting off small but the whole process of photo listings for kids has garnered some attention. It is the a new thing in Canada and they are doing differently than it is done in the U.S. I have mixed feelings about it but I went because I was interested in supporting the adoption community and in perhaps doing some networking with other parents.

There were two sisters sitting behind me, I eavesdropped on their conversation for a bit and then added my two cents. To make a long story short of them is in the process of adopting and will be adopting older children. We chatted. She asked lots of questions and I was honest, brutally honest about just how much adopting older kids changes your life. About how little of the training that you receive prepares you for the journey you are about to embark on. I told her of the challenges without telling her about most of my kid’s really stellar moments. I told her about attachment and trauma histories and suggested books to read. I told her about much I had to learn to be able to parent my kids and about how the CAS ( CPS in the U.S.) did not provide me with the information I needed.

I think I scared her.

Then the presentation started and after listening to a lot of compelling stories from kids who have aged out and never got adopted I turned to her and said:*

I was really honest with you earlier, as honest as I wish other people had been with me about this journey. Do not for one minute think that this means you should change your plans or adopt younger kids. What it means is that you are about to embark on a difficult but life changing journey, you can embrace it or you can resist it. Embracing it means that you will come out the other side an educated and understanding family, resisting it means that things that will exponentially harder for all of you because there is just no way that this journey can be an easy one.

These children who you will adopt have had a life before you, a life that you were not a part of and now they are going to be expected to love you, to cherish you, to be your children and that will be really hard for them at first and maybe for a long time.

You must respect their journey. You must respect that they have experienced things that you will never understand. You must hold them, love them, nurture them and never give up on them. There will be times when you will be overwhelmed, when you think that you can't be successful as their parent, when you are not enough.

Know to the core of your being that your love, your support and your belief in them will always be enough.

Read every book you can find about attachment, find others who have been there, talk to them when you are overwhelmed and do not for a minute think that you are bad parent when you ask for help.

Being a parent is the hardest job on earth. Parenting kids with special needs is harder still. Parenting kids with special needs who have lived a life that we do not even want to imagine is about as hard as it gets.

But at the end of the day, when your son has a tantrum because you love him and he knows it and that terrifies him, to be loved by you is so scary that he has to push you away in anger. In that moment, you will know that it worth every tear, every glass of wine, every broken toe, each call from the school, each and every bruise and all those angry outbursts.

It is worth it because he is healing and he is learning that love does not need to be scary thing.

Go into your adoption with open arms, a loving heart and a willingness to be the kind of parent that your child needs. You may not be like other mothers but your kids will not be like other kids. You will be what they need and you will learn together how to be a family.

* I certainly did not say this as eloquently but I meant it to be this eloquent.


Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

That's so cool! In my mind, you totally sounded eloquent.

Nobody ever asks me that stuff. I wonder why.

mom2spiritedboy said...

YES! YES! YES! to it all. So eloquently put - and I am sure whatever was less eloquent in your actual talk with this woman was more than made up for by your passion and your devotion that would have shone through.

GB's Mom said...

You said it all! Great Job!

Diana said...

Well done and well said. I think there's things we all wish we would have and could have know right up front, not so we could run away, but to be better prepared in the beginning.

Mom 4 Kids said...

You sounded great in my head too!

K- floortime lite mama said...

Oh J you made me cry
yo are so awesome

MomInTheTrench said...

Woo Hoo! Well done. I wish you had been sitting in front of me five years ago. I tell others the brutally honest truth too when they're embarking on adoption.

That said, have you thought about adopting from disruptions? It takes parents that know this stuff to do it and help these kids heal. If you are open to adding to your family, you could really bless a child and family in crisis.

Charmingjessie said...

Once again, you have been inside my head. :-) Adopting our second daughter with special needs was hugely different from our first, mainly because she is much higher cognitively than our other daughter. She remembers her previous environment and the behaviors that worked for her there to get her way. It's been horrible and wonderful and there are days I wonder why the hell I did this in the first place. :-)