National Adoption Month

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.



8 responses

  1. I guess I can relate to this 😉 YES to all of this. The highs are so very high, but the lows are, ummm, the lowest? We’ve got some significant grief going on around here, coinciding with the holiday craziness and school adjustment… But, like you mentioned, the glimpses of the great kid under the grief is a lovely sight and I hope to see more and more of him in the future. I hope all is well. Let’s get another phone date scheduled!

  2. I hope that someday Ayub can tell you some of his story that will help him heal and allow you and your family to move out of survival mode. Though I suspect we will always live with a little bit of that. The one thing that has saved us…Aberash telling us her story. It’s so hard to hear, but it’s also made all the difference in the world. Sending you love and peace the next few weeks!

  3. Yes, bitter sweet adopting an older child. Just when we think things are moving forward, we take a little step back. But when I look at how far we’ve come since last Christmas Eve, I can see remarkable progress. I like to think about Dorie in Finding Nemo, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

  4. I appreciate your honesty. I’m one who never felt I could do it – even more so after following so many others’ stories. Like Sue said above, I hope that with Ayub’s language progression, he is able to share with you some of his story. I imagine that will be tremendously helpful for both of you. Thinking of you!

  5. There’s also the possibility you will never know his story. Our A is older than Ayub but he has told us almost nothing. It’s hard to not know what your kid went through; you always wonder. Even when things are going well, you wonder how long it will last.

  6. I have come to the conclusion that older child adoption is probably best for those who are adopting because they already have children “of their own” who are securely attached to them, but want to add to their family by providing a family for a child who needs a family. Because for those who are adopting in order to have their own children — I’m not 100% sure these kids are ever “ours.” We share them with their past, and I’m not convinced that they will ever have the same bond as a newborn adopted child or a biological child has with his or her parents. Three years in and we’re still doing attachment work. How often do you find a group of bio parents sitting around a library meeting room talking about the struggles of attaching with their bio children? If you’re okay with being in that scenario, older child adoption is for you, and there’s no question that there are rewards, and there’s no doubt that these kids NEED families and NEED parents who are willing to put in the work and sacrifices needed to provide fulfilling, purposeful lives for these kids. But I would advise adopting a newborn first, and then delving into older child adoption. As long as you know that bio or newborn adoption parenting is the minor leagues compared to the pro leagues older child adoption parenting. Maybe even little league.

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