The excitement builds as you anticipate that special day … the day you meet your child.
After years of discussion, my wife and I decided to adopt. Because I work for Gladney, the seed was already planted, but it took us a while to take that next step. Our daughters were a little older, so we thought introducing a new child, a son, into the mix probably wouldn’t be too distressing. We completed all the trainings that parents go through when adopting from foster care, and we sat through many discussions with other parents sharing how rewarding and how challenging adoption can be. My wife and I smiled at each other thinking, “Of course, there will be challenging days, but we’re super parents … just look at our two perfect daughters.”
After a quick introduction period with our son and reviewing his CPS file that was 1,289 pages long, we decided to take the next step by bringing him into our home. He was described as an “active child,” with neglectful supervision as the reason for being in foster care. That sounded like something we were prepared for. He was on a list of medications, like many children in foster care. Again, we naively and idealistically thought, “We’re ‘super parents.’ We will ween him off all these meds with the love we have to offer, and soon, he will be thanking us for the magical life we have provided.” A Rockwellian picture was painted in my head.
And then … reality set in! While there have been many, many highs, there have also been some pretty tough lows. After seven years, the magical “thanks” has yet to happen, but there are moments with a quiet, “I love you, Mom,” that express the same thing. My wife and I have learned a lot about ourselves during this journey. A few years in, we realized we couldn’t change him. We can help, support, guide, and love him, but we cannot change him. We have to change to meet his needs, rather than expecting him to change to meet our family vision (the Norman Rockwell painting). Over the years, the bar for success has moved from star football player, college graduate, and captain of industry (or maybe Gladney President!) to happy child (most of the time), fishing buddy, high school graduate (fingers crossed), heck of a Fortnite player, productive member of society, and loved member of our family (with him knowing and internalizing that love).
If there is one piece of advice I would give to a hopeful adoptive parent, it’s this: the highs are higher, and the lows are lower. The change happens within you, and you have to be willing to embrace that change. You can’t harbor hurt feelings because he won’t. You have to realize that when your child’s lower brain takes over, the upper brain stops (read What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry). Let the moments of good fill your bucket. And call Gladney when things get tough.