We don’t know if everybody has had the same experience of adoption as us or not. We cant speak for infant adoptions or even international adoptions. We do know what it is like to have birth children and we now know what it is like to adopt older children from foster care. We started writing this blog to simply share with others our experience. For better or worse, we simply seek to be transparent with our experience with our new children. I assure you that we entered into this venture with pure hearts. We had no other motive for adoption other than to provide some children with a loving home and follow the leading of our Lord.
That being said, we have been surprised and I think its even accurate to say, hurt, along this journey. When you willingly enter into this thing called parenthood, whether by your own womb or someone else’s, you do so with certain expectations. Speaking for ourselves, ours was the expectation of a family LoveFest. We envisioned children happily playing in our yard, mingling with our other children, and feeling the love and security that has been the cornerstone of our home from the beginning. We expected our new children to somehow magically forget every negative experience of their lives, unlearn every survival behavior necessary to live in their former environments and instantly embrace the love of a caring, committed family. That is to say, a family that cares about each other, shows common respect for each of its members, and makes sure that each member is given the best possible environment in which to develop his or her God-given skills and purpose in life. The love always flowed to and from each of our children and us as parents.
It is safe to say that our little LoveFest bubble has been burst. The point was brought home again when we received the sweetest video from our oldest son featuring our newest pride and joy of the family, baby Kimber. She is our first grandchild and is now 7 months old. In the video, she and dad were cuddling, cooing and carrying on like a couple of kittens with a ball of yarn. In the background was Kimber’s mother saying things like, “say, ‘I love you, da-da!’” And sure enough, little Kimber would mimic mommy’s voice and all were absolutely thrilled with her confession! It was a beautiful thing to watch the whole process of little Kimber obviously enjoying every minute of dad’s cuddling and undivided attention. It taught her two things: that mom & dad are two loving creatures in her life and that the good, warm fuzzy feelings she had inside were now labeled as “love”. The bond between Kimber and her parents is well established even now and this child is already growing deep roots of love, respect and connection that will serve her well throughout life. This, however, is not the part that burst our bubble.
What exactly happens when a child doesn’t get such attention and affirmation from his or her parents? After all, isn’t this just the endless babblings of over joyed parents having silly little moments with their child that, while cute, doesn’t really have the same effect on anyone else in this world (outside of grandparents that is!) like it does our son and his wife? But wait a minute. Let us not be so naïve as to underestimate moments like these. As we were enjoying the moment on video, Karen suddenly toggled to the relationship we have with our new children and had the thought: “I don’t think they love us yet. I think they are happy to live here and that they like the things we do with them. I think they don’t want to leave but I don’t think they really love us”.
She went on to say, “You know how when you have a baby and the baby just loves you so much and you know that they depend on you for everything and you are the world to them? It isnt like that when you adopt older children. It is as if they have already decided that they are their own (and maybe only) hope and answer”. I wished I didn’t, but I knew exactly what she was saying. When you adopt (at least non-infant adoption) the initial task is simply to try to form bonds. Every ounce of your energy and being goes into trying to form this loving, trusting relationship that so deeply communicates that “hey, you’re home now. You’ve got nothing to worry about. You are safe and you are taken care of”. But how do you do that with a little creature that is stuck in survival mode? How do you bond with a child to whom you are simply another player in their life whom they must learn to manipulate in order to survive in their little worlds? Love, attachment, permanency, family and just plain basic respect are just occasional parts that one plays on life's grand stage in order to get what you want at any given moment; the better you can play the part in the theatre, the more likely you will get another toy. Never get too close because after all, the social worker comes tomorrow and you won't be here anymore!
As parents, you live for those moments when your baby just looks you in the eyes with adoration and a pure, simple love that knows nothing but to trust you. With the baby you birthed there is never any question about love and trust. It is somehow reciprocal and you feel it. With your adopted children, if there is any love or trust present, you must provide it all alone. It is a constant feeling that you are the only one that showed up for this love fest. You are the only one invested in this relationship. And when you feel like giving up or just riding this thing out until they hit 18 you get this nudge in your spirit that says, "now you know how I felt!" and you remember somewhere in the back of your mind that Bible verse that says something like "and while we were yet sinners, Jesus loved us". At that moment, you get it! You are reminded that you were once in a relationship where you didn't love, didn't trust and didn't reciprocate. The only one that showed up for the LoveFest was Jesus. Prayers were simply attempts to get what you wanted and not prayers that entertained the very heartbeat of God and His wishes. Forget enjoying a relationship with the King of the Universe. All operations were based on “what have you done for me lately!”
In spite of the yucky feelings that come from feeling completely used, manipulated, and somewhat embarrassed as you stand there all alone with your love, we will start again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, and on and on, and try all over again to get them to participate in our family’s LoveFest. Just like God with us, we aren’t in this to teach them all the right lines …we are after their hearts. Even though we know that at this time in their little lives, they are incapable of returning love as we would so yearn for them to do...or as our birth children were able to do, we will do our best to show them a love that we have been shown by our Heavenly Father...for love is patient, it is kind; it does not envy, doesn’t boast, and doesn’t act rudely. It doesn’t seek its own way, is not easily provoked and does not rejoice in somebody else’s wrongdoings or mistakes. It rejoices only in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never, ever, ever, ever, evvvverrrr fails! (our version of I Corinthians 13 and a line from the movie “Martian Child”!).
Until we talk again…