Wow, it’s been A LONG TIME since my last post.
I used to wonder why adoption bloggers would just disappear, going silent without warning after posting 3-4 times a week for years. Now I get it.
Some of you adopted children from foster care in part because of what you read here about our experience. This is for you. And it’s for anyone wrestling with the tension between how you hoped things would be and how they are. I suspect that’s universal.
It has been a brutal year. To use seafaring imagery (which I will abuse for the rest of this post): It’s like the four of us are in a boat. It’s an awkward craft we cobbled together from found parts and had the audacity to call FAMILY. We’ve been in terrifying storms for about eighteen months now, with hardly any let up. And so we’ve been chucking our dreams overboard, one after another, to lighten the load and keep from crashing.
In the midst of these storms, there are still incredible things happening – The kids are growing up together because we adopted them. They’re safe, healthy, talented, and on track for graduation. They are SUCH COOL PEOPLE, you guys. I can’t even tell you. They are awesome. #1 Cherub is has his first job and is crushing it, and he’s starting to visit colleges! #2 Cherub was picked for select choir for when she starts high school next year! They will have lives that they could not have had if they’d stayed in foster care, and they are each poised to take advantage of all their talents and opportunities, which is incredible.
But this is also true: they didn’t ask to be adopted, and often aren’t that happy to be here. #1 Cherub leaves whenever he can, and comes home mostly to play video games. #2 Cherub, who has always felt free to tell me how mediocre I am, has raised her game and now informs a wide array of teachers, guidance counselors, bio family members, and (most recently) parents of her friends, that I absolutely suck as a mother. I think she goes into quite a bit of detail here, and according to her, they all agree. She thinks her life is awful with us and she can’t wait to leave.
(If your fingers are hovering above the keyboard right now, ready to tell me that this is normal teen behavior, please don’t. Trust me when I say that this is different. This is what happens when a child is not attached to a parent, and so actively recruits a wide array of adults who might give her a more desirable set of circumstances. This is upgrading, not healthy teen development. And it is brutally hard for everyone.)
Remember this sign? A few months back it disappeared. I thought it fell down behind the stove and was about to pull the whole thing out to look for it. But then #2 Cherub walked by and said, “Oh I threw that out.”
Adoption has given Steve and I opportunities I never thought we’d have. I still tear up in joy when I watch #1 play soccer, or hear #2 sing from a stage. But it’s also gutted us beyond recognition. Seriously – there’s this thing that happens with trauma where you can’t recognize yourself when you catch your reflection in a window or mirror. That’s been me for the past two years.
I love our kids. I can’t tell you how much. We don’t regret our decision to adopt, or wish we’d adopted some other kids. But Steve and I have had to let go of our goal of becoming a family. Our kids don’t want that. And with adoption, it takes buy in from everyone to make that happen.
Through this, I couldn’t blog. I couldn’t figure out what to say. I was ashamed to sully the romantic narrative of how wonderful adoption is. I didn’t know how much to share – how to tell the story without revealing things that should be private. And (this is a big one for me) I was determined that when I finally showed up again, I’d come with good news. Maybe not “Look, we’ve figured everything out and now we’re happy and perfect!” (Perfect was never on our boat, and happy is one of the dreams we had to pitch overboard because it was just too heavy to carry.) But I wanted to be able to say, at the very least, Here’s how we’re staying afloat. Here’s how we’re patching up the holes. Here’s where we find the will to keep rowing, rather than jumping ship.
So I waited. Steve and I tried new things. And we decided that the loss of a dream has never killed us before, and it’s not going to kill us now. Strangely, that helped. Now, we (along with the Cherubs) are finding a way to live. Because it’s still our job to make this work.
That’s the part I want to talk about here: what we’ve discovered that helps us regain what we’ve lost in these storms. We’re learning to re-imagine the future and enjoy this life we have, even though it’s so different than what we’d hoped for. And as we do that, we help the Cherubs, too.
This isn’t our dream. But it is our life.
I’ll do my best to show up here and share what’s helping. It’s a strange array of things, but the results have been really good. If you’ve been through something traumatic, if you’re disappointed, and/or you’ve utterly failed where the stakes were high? This is for you. Your story isn’t over. More is possible. And some of what it takes to get there turns out to be really fun. So don’t give up. Live.