Saturday, August 17, 2013

10 Things You Wish You Knew About Adopting An Older Child

1. You will fall in love with a picture and a child a world away, and you will lay awake at night, thinking of this child and wondering about the days, months, years that you have missed. You'll wonder if you will ever truly be "Mommy" and if your love will fill the void of an empty heart. An ache will fill you down deep in your soul and it will become your necessary strength for this journey.

2. You will try to share this crazy, incredible adoption experience with your closest friends and loved ones and find their blank stares and "Are you completely crazy?" comments unnerving. They won't get it, and that's okay, because you know in your soul that you are this child's mother and you will give up trying to explain it to everyone.

3. Your "Gotcha Day" might not be filled with cute pictures you can't wait to post on the internet of  you and your new child. In fact, the hand-over will be quick, the paperwork a blur, the guide will pat your back and say, "See you tomorrow!" and you will find yourself in a quiet hotel room, alone, with a child whom you loved from afar but cannot even begin to communicate with. The newness and shock will wear off within a day or two and then reality will set in, for both you AND your child, and your world will start spinning with thoughts of "what have we done?" and "can we DO this?" and their world will be spinning with thoughts of "I'm scared!" and "I want to go back to the orphanage!" and even if you know this is for the very best you will both be struggling under the weight of the UNKNOWN yet to come. You will lie awake at night with a stranger in the room and hope you haven't just made the biggest mistake of your life. You will long for your other children, for home, for sights, smells, and sounds that are familiar---knowing all the while your child is losing exactly what you miss.

4. You will get home and things will settle down a bit. You still can't communicate much, but charades and Google Translate and baby talk will work for a while. The jet lag will just about kill you, but once that wears off, the honeymoon will begin. Your husband and other children, your friends, and your family will lavish attention on the new child, and you will breathe a sigh of relief. This may actually work after all! The smiles, the giggles, the joyful, abandoned way your child embraces new experiences will delight you and encourage you. You will stress over schoolwork and foods for awhile, then shortly come to the realization that there are far more important things to be learned.

5. You will be shocked by this child's immaturity. No matter how old their paperwork says they are, in reality they are more like a toddler. So you have to start with toddler basics---things like: sit quietly at the table, don't wipe your snot on your shirt, don't throw yourself on the floor when I tell you "no". And you will begin the long process of repeating yourself, daily. Some new behaviors will be learned quickly---but other ones will take every.last.drop. of energy you ever possessed. You will have to teach your child how to snuggle, how to seek comfort, how to need people, how to read their body signals, how to do just about every last thing. You will cease to stress over schoolwork and such and will learn to appreciate little victories---like the first time you take your child to the store and they don't crawl under the clothing racks or run around in loud circles. Or the first time they fall and get hurt and run TO you instead of AWAY from you. You'll capture the first unsolicited kiss or hug and the first "I love you" and keep the memory and sweetness of it tucked away for the next exhausting day.

6. The honeymoon will eventually wear off completely, and your child will begin to grieve and rage heavily. The immensity of the loss ("Why my China mommy not keep me? Why you not adopt me when I a baby??? Why I not see my friends in China anymore?") combined with the inability to process their feelings in a healthy way---and the language barrier---will send the child almost completely over the edge. The mourning process may be quick but it may be lengthy and you will be dealing with hours and hours of crying, screaming, raging, defiance, or running away. This child who never learned to obey will defy you at every turn. You will need to help this child yet will feel the guilt of not being able to meet the needs of everyone who needs you simultaneously. The new child "needs" the most so the other family members must take second place for a time. And your guilt continues. You will, out of complete necessity, pull back from EVERYTHING else in your life.

7. You will keep the "bad days" to yourself, far more than you should, simply because you want this to work and you know you're right smack in the center of God's will and you don't want to hear the "I told you so's" from the crowd of dissenters. You will fear scaring off potential adoptive families if you tell the truth about how very hard this is. You will find your entire world is turned upside down for a while, and you will wonder if life will ever return to normal. The house you used to keep spotless will become messy, the children you used to have well-trained will begin to struggle, and you will find every aspect of your life in fragile disarray.

8. Your other children will "love" this child, then hate this child, then learn to truly love this child. This process will rip your entire heart right out of your body, yet it will teach all of you about Jesus' love. You will turn into a full-time counselor, guiding precious little hearts towards choosing love and forgiveness. YOU can take just about anything, but when your other children come to you and express their honest thoughts and struggles over this new child, you will come very close to wanting to disrupt, to start over, to go back to the safety of your "old" comfort circle. You will need other adoptive friends who can encourage and equip you to carry on when the going gets tough.

9. You will choose to continue on this journey, not because it is easy, but because it is good and right and necessary for healing. You will hold the raging child for hours and hours, you will redo and script and discipline and train and repeat yourself until you think you're going to lose your mind. You will snuggle this child when it makes your skin crawl, you will love this child even though you don't even like them some days, you will drop into bed drop-dead exhausted---and then you will get up again the next day and do it all over again, because you are committed to helping this child blossom. You will not rely on your feelings, because they will be all over the stinkin' place at times, but you WILL rely on your husband, your faith, and your unwavering commitment to parent this precious child. You will dig down deep and plow ahead, KNOWING the rewards will be worth it.

10. You will wake up one morning and realize that you've both made it through the dark valley and you're finally on somewhat even ground. Your child will brush their teeth without being told, will use a napkin and manners at the table. They will not whine, cry, quit, or cheat at their schoolwork. They will seek out affection and receive it willingly. You will smile as your children play together nicely and whisper sweet secrets in the dark at bedtime. You will listen and weep as your child finally opens up about their past, the abuse, and the heart of why they are who they are. You will take a breath and realize that you no longer love the image of this child--you truly love them. And you will find that your child is not the only one who has grown during this journey---you will not be the same person as before. You will be better. You will have no regrets as you realize you would gladly do it all over again to get to TODAY.