Thursday, March 19, 2009

What I've Learned In Adoption Land

I've been living in Adoption Land a long time. Thirteen years ago we sat in the livingroom of an adoptive family to learn more about adoption. I don't remember a thing that was said in that meeting. I was too busy being mesmerized by their beautiful toddler from Korea and all I could think about was that someday we might have a little girl like theirs (and 18 months later, we did!).

Sometimes, it seems I still have so much to learn in Adoption Land that I forget I've actually learned a lot. Some things were imprinted in my brain so long ago I forget it wasn't put there by osmosis.

Recently, I read a great blog post from a mom who just adopted a three year old. It's harder than she thought it would be and he's different than she expected. She fell in love with this still, sweet picture of a boy who was described as shy and quiet--and he's not. And it's hard. And she wonders why more people who have BTDT don't share how hard it is.

That's what this post is about.

It's easy to fall in love with the dream of our child. It's easy to think that even though some people have a hard time with attachment, ours will be easier because we love our child so much. We love that still-shot of their face. We love the descriptions we receive when we are matched. We love imagining all the fun we will have, the cuddles, giggles and laughter.

What we forget (and what I've learned) is that their still picture can also move. They can run and jump and throw temper tantrums and unbuckle their seatbelt while the car is still moving, then try to open the car door--in three lanes of traffic! They will spill grape juice on the new carpet (even tho they know they are supposed to drink at the table), and pee their pants because they're afraid to go on the automatic flush toilets in Target, and they will refuse to ride their bike home from the park because they are hot and their legs are too tired and they don't care that there is no way for us to ride our own bike, carry their bike AND them!

We discover that their still, smiling faces can be contorted in fear, anger, sadness and grief. They will chew with their mouths open, pick their nose, and have lice or scabies or both. They will yell and scream--both in anger and joy. They will run a fever on the day we are supposed to go on vacation and throw-up spaghetti--yes, on the new carpet (go to my sister's blog to get your laugh of the day). They will push us away when we ache to comfort them and wriggle in church and ask us to pick them up, which we do, and then they shout very loudly, so everyone in church can hear, "OUCH! YOU'RE SQUASHING MY PENIS!" (BTDT to all of the above.)

And you know what else? Our child won't resemble the one described in their reports. The shy child will become bold with the love of a family and the child described as a leader, living in an orphanage with mostly babies, will melt into the laidback role of the baby in a large family (Vu).

It comes as a shock. And it usually takes time to learn to love this child. This new child. But you know what the best part is? It's what the mom with the newly adopted three year old is learning. We DO come to love this child, way more than we ever loved that child in the picture.


We come to love OUR REAL CHILD.


Annette said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I appreciate your openness and honesty. It was good to read the other blog as well.


everything we need is enough said...

You are so is sometimes different and more difficult than we expect. You spend a year or more looking at a picture, dreaming and visualizing your child and the wonderful times you'll have together and sometimes all those wonderful things do not happen immediately... in some cases, like begin them a year and 4 months later :)

So I thank you for being so honest!

Sandra & Steve said...

There are so many reasons I visit your blog, this is one of them. Thanks for sharing the wisdom, with tears in my eyes and gratitude in my heart!

Sally- That Girl! said...

I am so on board with you and being open and honest about older child adoption. I think we do a disservice to those following us if we don't' share the highs and lows. If not then people feel like they are failing or this child wasn't meant to be with them.

I share the good bad and the ugly, but through it people can see how much we love our children and how we are ready to do it again!!!!!

It is an adventure. It is not easy, but it is wonderful!

robandchristel said...

Brilliant post Ann! So well said. Thank you!

Duda Family said...

As an AP who will soon meet her real child instead of just staring at his photo, I love this post. Thank you for your loving insights. Enjoy spring break! Love, Mary Li

SueCQ said...

As someone who is walking this walk right NOW, I so appreciate your honesty and all the help you've given me over the past several weeks! You're right . . . we SHOULD be more honest and I'm glad that you are. It helps me know that I'm not alone and that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel! Thanks!!

thecurryseven said...

Well said! I agree that people don't share the hard stuff as easily or openly as the happy stuff. One thing I would's not just the newly adopted child's behavior that can be challenging and unexpected, but our reactions to the new child. For me at least, this was almost harder than caring for the child we briefly nicknamed 'the Tasmanian devil'. It's hard to realize that you don't like the child you fantasized about, fell in love with, and worked so hard to bring home. I felt like the worst mother in the world and was convinced that I was ruining my family and that things would never be good again. If I had heard more from adoptive parents who had to work on attaching to their new child, it would have normalized what I went through and made it easier to deal with. It was feeling like I was the only one who had ever felt that way that was the most difficult.

Thanks for a great post!

Andrea said...

Oh how very true this is!!!Thank you for sharing! WE learned and are still learning so much from our home from ET 2 years ago at the age of 2. ;o)
Good stuff! ;o)

Laurel said...

I just found your blog and want to thank you for your honesty. It's refreshing to read about your life, because it is REAL. I get really tired of the Fairy Tale blogs.

We brought 3 siblings (6, 9, 12) home from Ghana last year, and it's been TOUGH! And ... I have been honest on my blog about the difficulties. :)

mama of 13

PastorMac's Ann said...

Thank you so much for writing this and posting it! It really spoke to my heart.