Apologies for the delay in our narrative. I’m chronicling our experience adopting older children from foster care here in Massachusetts so you’ll be inspired to do the same. And even though it seems like I was taken out by last week’s laundry extravaganza, the truth is that a busy schedule just interrupted my blog time. Which is sort of how it feels as you edge up on adoption: You’re caught up in this swirl of omigoshamireallydoingthis?, transfixed and terrified, while real life marches around and over you like nothing much is going on.
Now, to return to our story….
It’s Tuesday. You spent Saturday at your first all-day MAPP class, Sunday at your first adoption event, and Monday staring at the wall in your living room, wondering how you can adopt ALL the children, RIGHT NOW (while at the same time struggling to imagine how you’ll fit even one actual new human being into your life). Suddenly, the day does not contain enough hours for the amount of wall-staring that needs to be done. There are thoughts to be collected about this process. So. Many. Thoughts. And they’re everywhere, in total disarray.
Thought #1: You want to be doing something. It felt good to go to MAPP class, attend the event. Proactive = progress, right? You like progress. So how on earth are you supposed to spend the next eight months to a year with only these small things to do? More specifically, how are you supposed to spend the five days until your next MAPP class? Why don’t they offer them in a one-week, super-intensive package???
Thought #2: Right now you have no place for children, what with the two designated bedrooms currently filled with non-bedroom stuff. You wander into the “study” (where you’ve never once written or studied, but have paid a few bills on the old desktop computer) and think, “Hmm…I guess a small child could sleep on top of the dresser…” You start to catalog all the stuff in that one room, realizing you’ll need a plan for where to put it. You are overwhelmed, even though you have not touched a single thing.
Thought #3: I don’t have time for this right now.
With this, you enter the second realm of adoption waiting torture: so much to do, so little motivation. You want to do the BIG things, like meet kids. You don’t want to do the little things, like clean out all your junk. You have no idea even IF this adoption thing is going to happen, let alone when or with whom. You’d be super-motivated if you had a particular child or children in mind. But absent that, project like this just feel like punishment for not doing a better job of organizing your stuff in the first place.
You go out to the kitchen and write “clean junk out of study,” at the top of a to-do list, suspecting that this piece of paper will be covered by similarly dull assignments before this is over. Then you start your daily process of hitting “refresh” on the bookmarked webpage of local children awaiting adoption, reading their bios, watching videos, and asking God, “Is he the one? How about her?”
In the midst of this, your friend who adopted the three children makes a comment that helps you sort your thoughts and your time: Read the adoption books now, she says, because you won’t have the energy to acquire or process this information when you’re in the thick of creating a family from unrelated component parts. So you head to the library and take out twelve books, which you read in nine days.
You read Attaching in Adoption, Parenting the Hurt Child, Parenting the Adopted Adolescent, Forever Mom, The Connected Child, The Whole Life Adoption Book, Adopting the Older Child, Adopting the Hurt Child, Helping Children with Separation and Loss, Three Little Words, Free Range Kids, and Mean Moms Rule. You read Attaching in Adoption a second time, because it has so many specific tips you would not have thought of.
You discover blogs on adoption, which range from incredibly helpful (you print this one out and refer to it repeatedly in the coming year), honest (this woman’s candor will save your butt in six months, you just don’t know it yet), and encouraging… to Holy $%#^, this can go really, really wrong.
You look for similar themes between adoptions that succeed and those that fail. The primary difference seems to be going into it with a practical viewpoint (Jen Hatmaker: “To make adoption work, you can’t just be into adoption. You have to be into parenting.”) vs. one steeped in a romantic rescue narrative (“we weren’t planning on adopting a four year old, but we saw his picture and just fell in love…”). You note similarities in the stories where things went wrong:
-Taking in a child who is very different than what you originally planned for
-Falling in love with a picture and story told by a social worker
-Ignoring warning signs when learning about or meeting the child
-Not pressing social workers for full disclosure of information
-Failing to require clear answers when you sense social workers obfuscating
-Rapid transitions from being total strangers to becoming a family.
You’re up past midnight reading these stories of how wrong things can go, feeling sicker and sicker as you scroll through each page. That’s when you remember something else your friend said: How, in order for this to work, you need to feel “right” about EVERY SINGLE CHILD YOU TAKE IN. If you adopt siblings, you have to feel that “connection” to each one individually – that you would adopt each one even without the other. This feeling should grow during each stage of the disclosure process. If red flags pop up, you have to take them for what they are: a call to STOP.
You realize how vastly this narrows the pool. You close your computer and go to bed, daunted and overwhelmed, yet counting the days until the next MAPP class. You want to be one of the success stories. But putting practicalities above romantic narratives? Not your strong suit.
So you pray: God, change me. If You want me to do this, make me someone who can do it well.