Winning the kid lottery: how adoption changed my life... continued
Our family continued to adjust and grow together. Brandon sometimes recognized gaps in his early years and we did our best to fill those in. One time when he was seven or eight, he asked me if we could read some fairy tales and said, “I never go to hear those when I was little.” So we read fairy tales.
We had great times and tough times. Steve and I had not had much conflict in our marriage until we became parents. Once we adopted Brandon, there were differences from our own upbringing and stress from parenting that presented challenges. Brandon went back and forth sometimes in his attachment to us. We would feel close and then he would get scared and act out. Children who have had significant disruption and loss in their early years can be scared of closeness because closeness can be associated with loss for them. If parents don’t understand this paradoxical behavior, it can be really hurtful and confusing.
Being a counselor myself, I was inclined to seek counseling to help all of us adjust and thrive through the years. We found it challenging sometimes to find mental health professionals that were really skilled in dealing with adoption issues. We needed assistance with Brandon’s attachment, managing Brandon’s ADHD, Steve and me adjusting to being parents, raising a child drawn to thrill-seeking behaviors. We also wrestled with the same issues many families face as kids grow up.
Sadly, some adoptions do not last. Stresses can build up and without counselors who really understand how to help, families can end up coming apart. We were fortunate to find good help and we had support from family and friends. I also think that Brandon is a particularly resilient child. One advantage of his impulsiveness is that he tends to say whatever he is thinking out loud. (Trust me, this is good news and bad news!) However, it helped us understand his needs and we were able to weather all the challenges that came our way.
Now Brandon is 20. He’s living at home and working right now. We hope he will go to college or vocational school later on but he tried it right after he graduated and he just couldn’t sit in a classroom any more for now. He loves being active. Construction is the job he’s liked best so far—on his first day they put him in a harness and had him climb something really high and then they had him use power tools. Plenty of excitement so he was hooked!
I read this post to Brandon and asked him what he would say about his adoption. He said, “I think I got raised in a better family than I would have if I had stayed with my birth mom. Being with my (adoptive) parents helped me forget about the bad stuff that had happened to me. I would want to be adopted by my mom and dad again if I had a choice. I don’t remember all the tough times we had when I was growing up but I remember I had some tantrums. Sometimes I thought they worried too much and were too strict. I know my mom and dad will always stick by me no matter what happens. I had some hard things happen last year and my parents did everything they could to help me.”
When Brandon was younger, Steve and I used to speak at MAPP classes sometimes. Once I asked Brandon what he thought parents should know when they are going to adopt a kid. He said, “Tell them that the kid is sometimes really scared even if he doesn’t want to be scared. He might not want to say he is scared but the parents should remember that so they can help him.” Brandon gave us the gift of his trust and he took the risk of loving us. This is no small risk for a kid who has been hurt by loved ones and separated from them. I think he was really brave and I’m so glad he was.
With all the ups and downs, would we do it again? Absolutely! I feel incredibly grateful for the gift of our family. People often worry that there is a lot of uncertainty in adopting an older child—you don’t always know what they’ve been through and how their early experiences of abuse or neglect might have affected them. I believe there’s uncertainly in all parenting. Children who are nurtured from the moment of conception can develop illnesses or other problems. No one can totally control the experiences we have in life. Significant upset and even trauma touch most families at one time or another.
More importantly, love, resilience, support and guidance can also be a part of every family’s journey. To me, it doesn’t matter so much how your family gets created—what I think matters is what you create together.
If you would like to learn more about adoptions from foster care, you can visit the website of Community Based Care of Central Florida at http://cbccfl.org/. We have included information from CBCCFL regarding this year’s National Adoption Day activities here:
Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, a coalition of child welfare organizations, such as ours, Community Based Care of Central Florida (CBCCFL) sponsor National Adoption Day. This year, on Friday November 16, we invite you to participate in Orange, Seminole and Osceola Counties.
National Adoption Day is a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care who are waiting for families. At the heart of National Adoption Day are thousands of children, parents, judges, adoption professional, volunteer lawyers and child advocates and community members who come together to finalize the adoptions of children in foster care to celebrate all the families who adopt. In the tri-county area, we expect to finalize 45-50 adoptions on this special day.