Wednesday, March 5, 2014
What I Wish I Knew Then
This post is sort of a look back at the journey of adopting through foster care and what I wish I knew beforehand. This has probably been the hardest thing I've ever done, but I do not regret it one single bit. It's been blessed and one of the very best things I've ever done.
I don't think you can fully prepare or truly be ready for this journey. I'm sure this is true of all types of parenting. But there are some things you can do, learn, prepare for before you begin the journey of adopting through foster care (or from anywhere really, but I'm specifically thinking about our last adoption as I write this post).
I wish I had read this book: Wounded Children Healing Homes by Jayne Schooler. The subtitle is "How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families". This book was so very helpful and insightful for me, but I didn't find it until we were almost to the point of crisis. I so wish I had read this before we brought J-Man into our family. It is very insightful, full of wisdom, and gives practical advice on parenting traumatized children. READ IT!!!
I wish I had known how different parenting J-Man would be from parenting E. In my experience, children from third world orphanages have a whole different set of effects, struggles, challenges than children who have survived foster care and the things that put them in foster care in the U.S. I think I believed most adoption related issues would be similar if not the same. I was very wrong! I guess what I'm really trying to say is that I wish I had realized more fully beforehand, that I would have to learn all over again how to address my new child's specific needs, past, trauma. Parenting him does not look all that much like parenting my other child. Adoption issues are not exactly the same across the board.
I wish I knew my children didn't need to be spaced a certain way and that I didn't need to fit my family into some mold. My boys are 6 months apart and in some ways that brought us a sense of freedom. We had this little idea of 2-3 year spacing between kids being the ideal. But our second adoption blew that out of the water and helped us realize it doesn't really matter that much! So with that new-found freedom, J-Man is currently 4 years old and we would still like to adopt again, but we have not even started the process yet! Because we have now given ourselves the grace to know we can only handle what we can handle. And it's more important for us to be good parents and for us to be capable of parenting well, than it is for our kids to be 2 years apart or 3 years apart or whatever that little magic number is that you carry in your head. Adoptive parenting is incredibly challenging so don't be in a rush. Give yourselves the grace to throw spacing to the wind.
This one may not fall so much under the category of "what I wish I knew" because I did know this one and I did do it. It is very good advice, though, so I'll say it. Research while you wait. Most pregnant moms probably read "What to Expect" and maybe another book on childhood development. As an adoptive parent, you have a lot more research you need to do! Before we adopted, I read and read and read. I read about attachment, transracial parenting, transracial families, raising healthy black children, international adoption, food issues, sensory issues, grief in children, trauma and children, etc. Plus, go ahead and read the "normal" childhood development books, too! I hope you like to read! Really, though, I was so glad I learned so much before I even started parenting my adopted children, and I continue to read as they grow up because issues continue to arise that I don't know how to handle.
Lastly, I wish I knew how much grace I would need for myself as an adoptive mom. I posted recently about Forgiving Me and how I'm learning to do that. I think it was Jen Hatmaker who talked about parenting being like holding up a mirror to your worst self, and adoptive parenting being like that times 10. I've had to learn, and am still learning, to give myself grace as I screw up with my kids. I've had to learn to forgive myself for my screw ups as their mom.
I hope this is helpful to somebody! I'd love to hear from any of you. Any "I wish I knew..." for being an parent (adoptive or not). There's probably someone reading who could benefit from your nugget of wisdom!