November is National Adoption Month.
I’ve been wanting to write a post all month. I wanted to encourage people to consider older child adoption. I wanted to tell you that this is the greatest need, whether you are considering domestic or international adoption. I wanted to tell you about the fabulous kids I met in Ethiopia who need someone to call mom and dad. I wanted to tell you that even if you don’t get to be there for the first steps or the first tooth, you’ll still have so many firsts that you can’t count them. I wanted to tell you that it’s fascinating to watch a child learn a new language and culture, while sharing with you his past. I wanted to do all of that. But the month has slipped away, and in the end I’m not sure I want to encourage older child adoption. It would be irresponsible of me to encourage everyone to consider it, when I know that not everyone can handle it.
So, in case you are considering older child adoption, let me attempt to give you a balanced view.
There are some fabulous things about adopting an older child. Seeing them learn a new language is fascinating. You don’t have to deal with diapers and strollers and sippy cups. You get the joy of discovering someone that already has likes, dislikes and interests. You get someone that has some degree of independence (or at least who can get himself a glass of water). You can go places and do things that are designed for slightly older kids. You can show them Shrek and Star Wars right away.
But there is a price. I knew going into adoption that there would be a lot of things that I would never know about my kids’ past. And I thought I would be okay with that. But the reality is that every time I see Ayub go into a tantrum, I wonder what happened in his past that relates to the current situation. It is so hard to identify the triggers when you weren’t there for the initial events. And when I say tantrum, I mean it. Not a whiny, I’m kinda mad, American kid tantrum, but an all-out, heaving, sobbing, yelling, pinching, kicking, spitting, biting, foaming at the mouth kind of tantrum. (In all fairness, we haven’t seen this in a long time, but they will never be erased from my memory.) And there are still tantrums today, although less severe. And there is unexplained sadness.
Parenting a child like this is both rewarding and exhausting. There are some days where I see such amazing growth, both physical and emotional. And then other days I wonder if we will ever be able to let our guard down. I long to relax and enjoy our time together instead of constantly being in survival mode. There are glimpses of it. I see it every now and then and so I think it will happen some day. But for now, be warned, parenting an older adoptee is not for everyone. Some days, I’m not even sure it’s right for me.