In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fourth annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
By Jenny Price
I am a captivating, cultivating, candescent and calming woman. Yes, I am. Sometimes.
Other times, I am a devastating, mutilating, dark and screaming woman.
I had raised my three bio kids to ages 9, 10, and 12. So far, all had survived, thrived even. We walked steadily through the normal challenges in parenting, which led me to think, “I’m ready for adoption!” and “I know how to love kids!” and the most ignorant thought of all, “I’ll be even MORE patient with someone else’s children!”
That was so dumb!
Adoption brought the darkness out of me like no kidding. I wasn’t more patient; I was more overwhelmed, confused, and exhausted.
I was awful, and clueless in ways I’d never known before, and all this transpired within just a few days of their arrival.
Our foster twins came to us when they were three years old. They had spent three nights at an older couple’s home before ours, so we were their second stop after being yanked out of their birth mom’s hands and heart.
That first night, they went to bed, calling us “Mommy” and “Daddy”. To them, we were the older people in the house, so that made us the mommy and daddy.
Twins — one girl and one boy — to add to our existing family of two boys and one girl. Lots of kids, sure, but even more love, I thought. Do you know that you can love someone and yet have absolutely no clue how to show it? Do you know that you can reach into someone’s life and yet have no idea how to connect?
I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about raising children until we entered foster care. I also didn’t know what was inside of me – in the not good way – until bringing these little ones into our home.
I’ll be even more patient!
I’ll be even more loving and tender and compassionate.
But what I was turned actually out to be:
overwhelmed by the system;
side-swiped by their birth mom’s lack of emotional health and her need for me to be her mother;
clueless at what these two children would even eat or how they would communicate — he hardly talked, but she smiled a lot and spoke for both of them;
exhausted by his lack of sleep – wandering around the house at 4am, tapping me on the forehead, looking for safety — in ME?
I was angry that this was so hard. I was doing something so generous, so sacrificial, so NOT centered on me, and somehow, I was unraveling early on. I was sad that love might not work. I was giving and pouring and yet their little hearts just seemed more confused.
I hated the screaming they did, because they wouldn’t let me near them to comfort them. They didn’t want me. They wanted what used to be, what they knew from before. I was so scared. What had we done? Why did we think we were able to do this?
Nothing traditional worked with the twins. Traditional parenting: throw all those books and thoughts out the door. What I did with my older kids; none of it fit with the new kids. The world that I knew as normal and safe was flipped upside down.
That first year, we as a family barely did anything social or fun. We survived day by day, our big kids doing the best they could to keep up. There were days when the twins softened and opened up to love – and then – BAM! Shut down. Escape hatch. Run the other way.
I wanted easy, and I got hard.
I wanted patient, and I got mad.
I wanted love, and I got pain.
I wanted hope, and I got confusion.
The two younger kids wanted their mom. But they were stuck with us. They wanted what they knew. And so did I. They wanted normal, but nothing is normal when you’re taken from your birth mom and delivered to a stranger’s home, and now you are supposed to think, this is “home”?
I’m really grateful I don’t have a practice of formally confessing all my darkness to another human. But I am grateful that I choose to vent as needed, and share, and cry out sometimes. I am so not able to do this on my own. I need help.
At first, most people would be frightened away from ever choosing adoption if I shared my darkness and the anger within my heart at what I could not control. And yet, by coming through that pain, I am a better parent today. I am a better human.
Because seeing that darkness and hearing my anger come out makes me need to be resting in the Light all the more. It helps me know that I can offer the children not just me as a mother but also Love and Hope and Peace.
Yes, they needed a new mommy, but mostly, they needed my Calming Heart.
Yes, they needed someone who didn’t hit them, but mostly, they needed my Captivating Spirit.
Yes, they needed daily touch and food for their tummies, but mostly, they needed my Candescent Light to carry them through tomorrow.
Yes, they needed the old to be healed and the new to be safe, but mostly, they needed my Cultivating Life – a life that gives and moves even when it can’t.
It has been six years since that scared little brother and sister showed up at our house. They became ours after their birth mom stopped showing up for court. Today, they barely mention her. But I do, because I need them to know she did the best she could, so on the days I am doing the best I can, they will know that moms aren’t perfect.
Today, six years later, they aren’t foster kids. They are adopted, forever chosen as ours. Which makes me forever Mommy. Perfectly imperfect Mommy Jenny, who wants more than anything in the world to cradle all the hurts and prepare them for life.
I do. I will. And sometimes, the cradling will fit, and sometimes their hurt will fit. As much as we mommies wish we could choose to make it better, I don’t think I get to choose for them. The time they need to heal and recover is theirs, not mine.
But thank God, I am learning and leaning into Light and Easy more than Dark and Scary. I’m growing, just as they are. Because traditional parenting might work on bio kids, but it will not work on adopted/foster kids.
Adoption is a beautiful, precious gift. It is. But it is truly the hardest, most full of grief and loss, and “I have no clue” moments than any other hardship I have faced.
So let’s tell the truth about how hard it is. The more we speak about the transformational work that gets to happen in the entire home, the more people will be prepared for what will happen when these children come home.
I’m a mix of captivating and devastating.
I’m back and forth with calming and screaming.
I’m candescent as I shine the Light, and dark as I try on my own to figure this out.
And, that’s okay. I’m both. And so are you. Wherever you are on the journey. Whether a parent or not, whether raising adopted kids, or bio kids — you’re doing the best you can on most days. Don’t stop. Press on.
And know that you, too, get to grow.
Jenny Price is wife to husband Matt, who likes there to be “systems” in the home, Mom to five kids who mess up all the “systems”, and who systematically falls apart and knows that’s okay because she can wake up to a new day tomorrow.
Jenny is an adoption mentor/advocate, writer, life coach, and friend to any person who still has a heart beat. Follow her writing at http://iwokeupyesterday.com/
This year’s Adoption Portraits series is filled. You may send a submission for next year’s series to Carrie Goldman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Portrait of an Adoption on Twitter and Facebook.
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Check out Carrie Goldman’s award-winning book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.