I never wanted to adopt a baby. I knew when I was a child that I wanted to adopt an older child when I grew up. Something at an early age brought to my attention the need for local adoptions and the knowledge that most people interested in adopting children wanted babies. Nobody wanted kids beyond toddler age. So those older kids became my cause. When the time was right, I researched how to adopt a child, decided on a Michigan adoption, contacted an adoption agency, and got prepared. Or so I thought. Eight years later and I still consider myself unprepared. There were so many things, obvious and less than obvious, that I found out about the adoption process and what to expect after. But there is so much more that can never be taught. If I could add one section to the adoption education manual it would be called, “There will be so many challenges to face that we can’t cover in this class and accepting that fact now is the only preparation you can make.”
All adoption situations are different. We knew that going in. The children we were adopting were 3 and 7 years old. We understood that although they were siblings, each of their situations and set of challenges would be very different. Their experiences had been different, their foster homes had been different, their diagnoses were different, and their symptoms were different. We were prepared for that and each individual scenario that sprouted. We studied childhood depression & anxiety, fetal alcohol syndrome, attachment disorder, ADD/ADHD, drugs & alcohol pregnancies, night terrors, and the behaviors and appropriate parent responses to all these things. I wouldn’t say that I thought things would be easy. I knew they were going to be difficult and that there would be sleepless nights, battles of will, broken cherished items, and a complete change in life. But I did think I was armed. I thought I had the systems and tools in place to handle everything. And maybe for the big things I did. It was the little things that slipped through the cracks, and 8 years later are haunting me.
Having a baby comes with things like baby showers and first year birthday parties. Bringing home a 3 and 7 year old means never having a need for registering at Babies R Us or picking out 1st birthday invitations. And I honestly never went to a child’s birthday party and thought “Awww. I wish we could have done that.” I never thought there was anything specific to adapt to or that I regretted not being able to do with regards to the years before we knew the children. Eight years later that is still true except it’s not. It is true that there is nothing within those early years that I wish I could have experienced – except the years themselves.
My kids are 11 and 15 years old. But to me – for the length of time I have had them and for what I feel in my guts, they are both only 8 years old. I have only had 8 years with my son, and somehow I am supposed to turn him loose in a car next year, as well as teach him everything he needs to know about life, earning a living, and being a good man within the next THREE years. I’m suddenly feeling panicked. For 8 years we have done alright, moving from one post adoption challenge to the next – getting them off meds, severe behavior problems, school, friends & socialization, eating, sleeping, nightmares, stealing, self esteem – and then I made the mistake of picking my head up and looking around for a minute. It’s 2011. It’s been 8 years. It’s time to start thinking about pushing one of my babies out of the nest – and I’ve only had him for 8 stupid, hard, tear filled, years.
I thought we’d be more settled by now. Have some time to sit back and sigh and enjoy the job well done by the whole family, before the oldest gets up and walks out the door into his life. But it looks like it’s going to be more like a race to the finish, trying to fit everything in and fighting the whole way as he runs out the door. I’m sure the end result will be the same. He’ll be well adjusted, prepared for the world, he’ll have a plan, and he’ll be a good man. But what about me? When do I get to hug him and hold him and enjoy how special he is without the pressure of grades, responsibility, behavior, attitude and anger putting a wedge between us? Does that only happen in those younger years when there is a lifetime ahead to teach and do everything there is that needs to be taught and done?
I knew adopting older children wouldn’t be easy. And when I set out to do it, it was 100% to help a kid that needed a home. I wasn’t looking for anything in return. But now I’m older and I’m in love with them. Tired of all the teaching and the fighting and I just want to pull them in my lap and love them. I guess that’s what I missed out on in those lost years.