Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Bit More Self-Unflattering Honesty

Not that long ago, a mom who adopted two children from Ethiopia around the same time as us, posted on a yahoo forum that things were going really great for them, and offered that prospective adoptive parents could feel free to contact her if looking for information about adopting older children.  Her oldest is the same age as Lizzie and the other is younger.

Though I am (truly) very happy that things have gone so well for them, I had a hard time reading that post.  Though things are better for us than for many other adoptive families, I started to feel sorry for myself and had to stop reading on that forum for a few days.

I was envious.  I wanted to be able to post that kind of message.  But what I felt like I could post was that not every situation is going to be like that and if you really want to know what it can be like and to prepare ahead for adopting a(n older) child, contact me.  I felt like cautioning people about the difference between adopting a kid who's three-almost-four (like Lizzie last year) and a kid who's five-almost-six (as Seth was when he came home).  The transition with Lizzie has been really quite seamless, overall (though that's not always the case with other kids her age), but the difference with Seth has been/is shockingly different.  I really just wanted to say to prospective adoptive parents that it can be awesome but wow, it can be soooo tear-out-your-hair-and-fall-into-a-depression-and-not-know-what-to-do-to-help-your-child-or-yourself hard.

I feel petty and ungrateful thinking these things because I am one of the fortunate adoptive families to have a family finally complete.  And eventually I will delete this post so that my children never read it.


Things suck around here lately.  My usual glass-half-full perspective has been hard to maintain the last couple of weeks.  I don't know what's going on - it's like everything happens all at once, every day, all day.  I'm tired of it.  I'm terribly exasperated by Seth's 60+-times-a-day language issues and horrid behaviours, and by the length of time that it's taking Matthew to adjust to his not-so-new-anymore life-with-siblings, and by Lizzie's obsession (really) with putting water into the pump soaps in the bathrooms, and by the fighting and bickering that seems to have taken over my children.  Some of the stuff that's happening is normal kid stuff, but then there's just this whole, huge, extra dimension that is adoption and trauma related.  It's all driving me crazy and I just don't know what to do with it all.  And I have no doubt that my attitude is not helping matters around here.

Our situation is better than many others that I'm aware of; there are older (5+) kids who come home with issues that make our situation look glorious.  There are also wonderful stories of older kids who transition pretty painlessly.  We're somewhere in the middle, I guess, in our experience.  Though I don't think I would trade (any of) our kids for anything, it can be really, really hard when you're living the day-to-day, after-you're-home-from-the-airport reality.


  1. Oh, I could cry as I read this post. Though I know our transition with our daughter (came home around 5/6 years old- 2 1/2 years ago) has not been the hardest, it has not been the easiest either. It is still hard. We still have the pull-your-hair-out days of complete and utter exhaustion. We're still working through things. I do find it hard to read things from people who act like older child adoption is no big deal, because even though it has been their experience thus far, it certainly isn't every family/child's experience and I think it can misinform other prospective adoptive parents.
    Our son, who came home 3 months ago at age 4 1/2 has had such a different transition. So, we've seen different sides to things and I think that if we had brought him home first I might have been saying similar things to what we are referring to.
    Hang in there...some days are just so hard!

  2. Thanks, Sharon. You really get it, especially having the different experiences with the two. Thanks for posting. It enables me to exhale.



  3. Dude, I wish that you HAD said that. I hate how it feels like only the people with sparkly happy stories get to be the resources for the next wave of adoptions. People who are going into this thing NEED to hear stories from the whole spectrum!

    Fortunately, you're spreading a lot of wisdom by way of this blog. I know that it must be hugely helpful to people who are going to be in your shoes in a year or two's time!

    Sorry that things are sucky. Sending you love.

  4. Just wanted to send hugs your way... it can be hard, it can be exhausting and it can hurt. Thinking about you. A

  5. Hi Ruth, my heart goes out to you. The parenting thing is extremely hard and trying at times.
    Just wondering have you ever thought of putting the kids into regular school? Even if just to try and see where things go. It would be a great break for everyone. I could go on to list the many benefits school has to offer as you could with home schooling, nor do I want to enter into debate on which is better. I was just thinking of things in large spectrum of what main stream school has to offer socially, emotionally, and everything that is not academic. You would get some much deserved time to recharge and really tackle some of the issues that are over whelming you.
    Just a idea.......

  6. I am really thankful that you share the hard stuff and the great stuff. We are waiting to adopt one or two children ages 5-10 years old. I NEED to know the hard stuff happens. I need to know that parents get worn out, tired and are running on empty. I also need to know the good times, the huge blessings little ones are! Your journey is a very very valuable resource to me personally. When we finally reach our family day and are working to get to know each other, I know I have someone I can email and get honest answers and/or support from. Someone who has and is walking through the journey and won't sugar coat reality. Huge, huge, huge ways that God is using your family story to bless others. Thank you! Allison

  7. Thanks (and yes, not a pretty month kid-wise...maybe something happens to kids when the weather changes? Because the hyper, testing limits, recurrence of older behaviours/issues, rudeness, whinyness, etc., have been rampant here, too, lately).

    Our kids have done really, really well with transition in so many ways. I feel like I should not complain. I don't think we (yet, anyway) have any serious attachment issues - well, just mine...the other under-reported adoption issue), and overall we have managed to cope (although restraining a fighting 4 year-old for over an hour at a time while the 2 and 5 year-olds run amuck can be...tricky).

    I think many of the issues I struggle with are mine, and mine alone. And some of the things that have been REALLY hard are actually personality and learned behaviour quirks that are actually not necessarily big problems, but have been hard for me to live with (to the point that I get quite resentful and out of sorts and overwhelmed). But even thsoe "little" things can be a bit unique, I think, to older child adoption (or to having a child with a very different personality from one's own)- having this child enter your home and life who has very ingrained ways of acting, talking, doing, and being.

    Half the time I feel like I simply don't want kids. Even though I also know I would have adopted them, because they are super little people. Both truths co-exist in me, but certainly not comfortably. (The other half of the time I figure we should have a bunch more, since we're in the thick of things already).

    I find it even harder when I try to explain something I am finding difficult, and it is instantly minimized as "oh, well, all kids/boys/pre-schoolers do that" - which does not make me feel better at all, because in that case, I am a loser who completely crumbles under totally normal behaviour. Hopefully over time some of those responses will be lessened once folks (please, please) stop looking at me as a "new parent."

    Anyway, all this to say...yes, and yes. It is hard to explain how one would have made the same decision again (maybe. probably.), but finds the living of it tiring and difficult a lot of the time. And how one's feelings toward one's children are so complicated (at least for me) by their ages when they came home, and the lack of opportunity to attach during infancy - having to act motherly, nurturing, protective, when sometimes those feelings are totally absent. (It has been very interesting for me to observe the development of relationship with each of our kids, and there are very clear differences that coincide with age at placement).

  8. Thank you all so much for your supportive and empathetic have no idea how much bolstering it does to read them!

    Allison, you absolutely have someone to email when you finally have your precious family day - I would welcome that. There are so many great things about older child adoption, and so many really, really hard things. I'm very glad that you are finding my posts helpful - very glad. Thank you for sharing that.

    Charlene, your thought about school is very gracious. I totally think about it some days. I'm not someone who believes the school system to be 'evil,' and although I'm a committed h/schooler, there are absolutely downsides and lots of hard things. Every year we have a discussion about the coming year. For now we're committed to following this path, but the day may come... Anyway, thank you for your thoughts about this - much appreciated!

    Joy I could related to almost everything you said!! Thanks for saying some of that hard stuff. So many times I think you and I have much in common...who knows maybe one day we'll discover face to face whether that's true!!

    Blessings and hugs to you all, and with my thanks.

  9. Hi Ruth,
    I tried to post a comment a few days ago and I think I'm just technically adept! Anyways, my thoughts are with you all knowing that it's a rough road you're all walking somedays. Maybe a lot of days. Though you don't feel like it, to an outsider it looks like you're coping so well. (I know that one's private life can look quite different from the inside.) 99% of us couldn't manage half as well as you do. It does sound like you're feeling really drained. I can't say enough about the lovely childcare people we've hired over the years... and all the energy and love they've brought into our boys' lives - and sanity! Imagine just a day a week - or part of a day - when you could grab a break and know that your kiddies were in good hands. Every week! I do know a couple of very sweet, mature, granola crunchy women who may have some time left in their schedules for a little work, if you ever want their contact info. Even Superwoman needs a Super-side-kick for back up! Love to you and M, S, and L.

  10. Thanks Tammy. And I take you point about getting some child care help. I'm there now...needing some regular help to give me a break and provide a margin for sanity-building. I might just be calling you about those sweet granola women! Thanks again.