(I’m documenting our steps to adopt older children from foster care so you’ll know what to do when God nudges YOU and points out how much more interesting your life would be with a middle or high schooler to help you shake things up a bit. Enjoy. )
You are completely panicked by the stuff you read last night about adoptions gone wrong. It’s like you’ve been slapped into a whole new reality. Now, when you look at pictures of waiting children, you imagine them pulling knives from kitchen drawers to threaten you, or assaulting your dog. You imagine the police arriving to tell you that your child has reported you for something that never happened. You imagine a life where neither you nor your husband can ever be alone with any of your kids, because it would leave you too vulnerable to false accusations. You imagine video cameras all over the house capturing everything that happens in order to protect you all.
You are FREAKING OUT.
This knocks any last bit of romantic, “Love can overcome it all!” nonsense out of your head. You promise yourself, and your husband, that you will listen to what social workers tell you about children you inquire about. You will learn the language of this system and how to read between the lines. You will be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot handle. And you will remember that if you screw up and take in the WRONG children in some burst of bird-in-hand/any-child-is-better-than-no-child/people-pleasing/God-has-to-make-it-work-because-I’m-doing-something-so-noble bullshit, you will miss out on the RIGHT children and fail them, too.
Listen. Learn. Be Honest. Remember.
These are the new slogans tattooed across your psyche.
Here’s what you know: the idea of a ten-year-old in your house makes you smile. You imagine joking around, playing basketball in the driveway, admitting that you have no idea how to help with their math homework. You picture screaming teenagers and slammed doors, and endless talks about making good decisions. It all sounds good. You realize how BLESSED these children will be that your house has old, solid-wood doors. They slam so much better than those new, hollow doors!
In contrast, the idea of a toddler fills you with complete terror. You’ve been down this road before, and while you loved that child fiercely, each day felt like drowning as you were pulled under by the mundane-ness of early childhood development. All the planning, playing, peeing, repeating and responding every fifteen seconds? It left you despondent and gulping wine by bedtime. (To this day, when you see a woman trying to walk down the street while bending over to hear the questions of a three-year-old, your automatic response is, “I’m so sorry that is happening to you…”) Toddler mommy-hood is just not your thing. And since one of the few advantages of forming a family through adoption is that you can SKIP over early stages you don’t feel suited for, why ignore this gift?
As you go through this process, you open up a bit with your fellow MAPP class members, hoping they’ll do the same. It helps to hear how others are making these sorts of decisions. Some are more willing to share than others. You’ve all reached the point in the class where it feels like you’re in too far to turn back, but can’t see the end of the tunnel. No one is really sure of anything at this point, so you still mostly spend your lunch break talking about work, sports, and the lovely weather.
What makes all this even weirder is that you’ve only told two friends that you’re doing this – one who knows adoption, the other who knows prayer. You haven’t told anyone else because you’re terrified. You don’t want to field endless questions about who/when/how, and you don’t want to have to explain later if things don’t work out. Also, you don’t want to hear other people’s horror stories. As you learned during your last attempt at foster care, EVERYONE knows someone who once took in a child and had the whole thing blow up in their face. (One story even involved a child sent back to live with her father who fed her cat food. You were like, “WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS???” It was awful.)
These stories are not helpful right now. They never contain useful information. They’re like watching the local news: it’s all sensationalistic horror to appease this strange need we have to see how wrong things can go.
You focus with great determination on how RIGHT things can go. Many adoptions DO go well. Why not plan to be one of those?
You plan to be one of those.
You realize that choosing children this way is far more like online dating than it should be. This is a moral quandary, but beyond that it puts you squarely in a zone of weakness: you were not good at dating. You were ALWAYS more romantic than practical, and spent your 20s flying past red flags like you were color blind.
But that’s who you used to be. It’s not who you are now.
Still, to do this, you will need to be better than you are. You like this idea. You want to rise to the challenge. But holy $^*# it’s scary.