I spent much of my life with adoption just being a natural part of it. It was just one element of a long story. It was something we celebrated on my "Adoption Day", my mom answered questions about if I had them and I told the neighborhood about when my 8 year old self had a mind to, but it was not a daily part of life except being how I came to be with my family. It was not discussed daily- I did not need that. My mother never referred to herself as an "adoptive mother" and she did not live immersed in a need to speculate which of my childhood bumps had to do with adoption. Thank God. My mom was not telling every person on the planet my story to see if maybe in someway they had been though that with their child because we shared the common denominator of having been adopted.
- I got to be who I was and I am more than an adoptee and was never once referred to as an ADOPTED CHILD
- I was listened to and loved.
- My mom adressed ANY issue I had because she was a parent- not an ADOPTIVE parent- just a parent and that is a parent's job
I look at the changes for adoptees and parents and hopeful parents through adoption now and honestly am overwhelmed. The internet and social media has been a blessing and a beast when it comes to adoption. While it is good to sometimes hear other stories, successes, to see you are not alone it can be a real rabbit hole when it comes to panic that your child may someday feel the same way or behave the same way another adoptee did. It can be a negative when you constantly reach to it to make parenting decisions because you have not allowed your self to be a parent and feel the need to leave that "adoptive" before it. It can be a negative when you assume your child's every issue is related to adoption. It can be a problem when other people's negative ideas about adoption creep in your head and bring you down or even make you question your worth to be your child's parent. It is kind of like reading every section of WebMD- of course you are going to start thinking too hard about any little pain or cough. So much judgement floats through adoption groups on Facebook, intermingled with the support. STOP! Take a break. Unfollow your groups for a while if you need to. I recently did and it was very liberating. It felt good not to immerse myself so much in the feelings of others every second. We are not built for that.
What SHOULD YOU DO?
- Be open and honest with your child from the start.
- Make ethical choices every step of the way.
- Take time to listen to your child- that will help you more than any group, any article, any book- THERE WILL BE MANY VOICES YOU WILL HEAR ON AND ABOUT ADOPTION, BUT NONE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT OF YOUR CHILD!
- Give yourself permission to be a parent FIRST-- no need to add "adoptive" to it. Being a parent means addressing EVERY issue or need your child has- whether it is something related to adoption or not. And do not assume every thought feeling or issue your child has is related to adoption.
Need someone to give you permission to be a parent? You have it! That is what you are, whether you are parenting a hurt child, a newborn, a child that came to you from another country, an older child- you are no less a parent. Your child needs you to be one. - Love your child every day, even if they are difficult to love (even biological children can be that) - You will be happier and so will your child if you step away from the noise and lean in to your child. Parenting is frought with guesses- I know- but there is no book, post or website that is going to tell you more of what your child is feeling than your child is. Don't simmer yourself in worries of how they will someday feel. My mom would say, "Don't borrow trouble"--- and really, don't. It is good to know what "could be" but don't ever assume it will be. Don't push these worries or preconceived notions on your child. Let them be who they are. Follow their lead. Answer their questions. As they become older do not push adoption chats on them all the time- be sure they know your door is always open and you will be honest always so that they can come to you if they have questions or want to speak about it. I am thankful my sweet mom did not "live in" adoption- what person can spend their days living in how they came to their family and not move forward to being a family?
Depending on how your child came to you you may need to spend time helping them work through issues they faced that led them to adoption, but they need to be a child, not an ADOPTED CHILD and you need to be a parent, not an ADOPTIVE PARENT. PERIOD! Even if your child does not yet call you mom or dad. You are a parent. You love them, care for them, provide for them, you would throw yourself in front of a train for them and would sprint across a room to catch their throw up in your hands. Find your peace friends. That does not mean you are not there when your child has needs or questions- it means you are there for it all and your are present and attuned to YOUR child's needs. You can get to the important stuff, the big and little moments that make a life- the good, bad, hard, adoption related, boy related, girl related, tween drama, potty training,snuggles at bedtime, 3 kids playing sports, cookie baking, boo boo kissing moments. LIFE.
What parent will you be today?