>Bottom line: Older Child Adoption

>So, I’ve been writing about adoption, mine anyhow, for awhile. Reading about it for longer.
There is so much out there. When I was considering adopting that first time, over 12 years ago, I hunted for books on adoption. Then the second and third time, I was pretty set, had a few shelves of books already, knew what I was doing (for the most part…). The fourth adoption was a whole new deal: International, Ethiopian, and a toddler. So, a new research set. Fun! In a way. Then we came to this last adoption, my Marta, an older child, a teen from Ethiopia.
**I know, I drone on about this topic a lot. What can I say? I think about this stuff, constantly…I’m living it and it’s a big deal around here.**

And as I went into my standard compulsive research mode, I found…..almost nothing. Trying to wrestle with the decision to move forward in bringing this girl home, to intellectually get a handle on if we could or should; all those “what if’s” that crowd my brain when I feel that nudge nudge nudge toward another adoption…..I searched high and low for, um, anything, that addressed older child adoption. I found precious little. I found some really scary books (which I now use but aren’t nearly so scary…) on hurt children and therapeutic parenting. There were a few on international adoption with a chapter or two on “older children”…but those typically meant five year olds, not teens. I even went so far as to stalk blogs and then cold call (with a quick explanation that I wasn’t a stalker for real) other families who had adopted older teens, girls, from Ethiopia. (Thank you again to any of you who talked to me, if you read this!)

Lately, I have gotten a number of emails asking me about adoption and specifically older child adoption. I am happy to answer any email I get, and do and will.
But it’s kinda hard….in that they ask, “What can you tell me about adopting _____________ (fill in the blank: older boy, older girl, toddler, etc etc). “
That question always stumps me a bit.
Because I hardly know where to begin.

But I do know where to end it.
Adopting an older child is not all rainbows and pink pony’s, it’s not a fairy tale or fantasy.
I know you know that…mostly, but it is so easy to kind of slip over to that view, because, well…it’s a really great view from there.
But this is where you need to stand and gaze and consider things.
No one ever told me and I didn’t read it anywhere except maybe in the harder books, but buried in the therapeutic reports. So, for any of you in the process of adoption, especially that of an older child, or considering it….I’m distilling the countless calm conversations and gulping dismayed discussions between Tom and I (Coffeedad and messy me), here.
It comes down to a very important, easy to dismiss, oh so easy to forget, basic:

Adopt an older child because you are ready and willing to PARENT them.

That’s it.
You can hope to add a child to your family.
You can hope to love them with that fierce mama love.
You can hope to have them love you back.
You can hope for instant bonding.
You can hope for eventual bonding.
You can hope to grow into family.
But it’s not about the luv….
(I know! I struggle -still – with this too, you all know this…)

They might not be able to love, anyone, much less you.
They might well want to fit in but can’t figure out how.
They might want to love but not really know how to get there.
They might want to trust but simply utterly NOT be able to.
They might be so hurt or angry that they don’t even know how to process it all.
They might simply just not have learned the tools yet.
They may have tools, finely honed, that don’t work here, now.
They might simply need to learn what it feels like to be safe, for real, again or ever.

But they do need, are desperate for, a parent.
A parent.
Preferably two.
Every child, even the hardest, needs a parent, preferably two.

(**Disclaimer here, I am not not not addressing the adoptions that disrupt due to RAD or other such hard hard things. I am not in their shoes, and I will never ever ever judge that as I can’t imagine the difficulty, I am too busy surfing through our own and failing too often even there. And even parents who end up disrupting and finding a more therapeutic home, they are parenting to the best of their abilities…sometimes a kid needs more skills or resources than a family has. Sometimes it does take a village of sorts.)

But the point I want to make is that the ‘LOVE” is gravy.
The love is what we ALL crave and fantasize about.
Oh boy, do I!!!!!
The trust is years, maybe decades, in the making. Only with real trust can come real love.
But the DOING of love is the parenting.
And that is the love these kids need.
Especially kids from hard places (to co-opt Dr. Purvis’ term);  they need to be parented.

So. That is the foundation, the bottom line.
Older child adoption (from anywhere), means taking on the job of parent.
That is not a job for sissies.
Let me repeat that and please, really really think about it: they need parents.
It is NOT a job for sissies.
It is the hardest work you will ever do.
Period.
If you get anything else: love, cuddles, soaring mama bear feelings, all those wonderful hallmark feelings: it’s gravy.
And you can do the happy dance.
Heck, I’ll do one for you.
But in the meantime, you’re on the job.
You’re the parent. You’re the mama.
And that kid? The one who is glaring at you when you weren’t expecting it, when they should be happy sitting on the beach or out to dinner? Pulling away from everyone when they are just overwhelmed? Sometimes they just need some time. But, ever……well, they need you (even if you’re just giving them space).

This is the bottom line though, that you should know about older child adoption.
It’s the parents.
They need them.
More than you know.
More than they know.

So if you are investigating older child adoption…please keep this in mind.
If you’re already doing it: good job, well done, keep running this race.
And know this: you’re not alone, I’m running right next to you.

16 thoughts on “>Bottom line: Older Child Adoption

  1. >Oh you just hit super hero for me. So well written. While I have not "older child" adopted…you would be the person I talked to. Before we adopted, before I had friends who had hard adoptions…I discovered that I did judge. Now, I think I know better.

  2. >WOW – what a blessing. Thanks for sharing. You are so very eloquent – I want to borrow this post & repost it for some friends (with your permission of course ;0)I saw your blog listed on Kristy's side bar & the title caught my eye. We just brought home a 4, almost 5 year old daughter from China. We are in line for a baby girl in Ethiopia, but are praying about older. Blessings to you.-Charitywww.amorrisfamily.blogspot.com

  3. >Can I just say "Love you girl!" It is hard stuff……enough said…I'm going to bed….been a rough week with David on a business trip. One thing…before I go…sometimes we need to remember, be beat over the head, that it isn't about us. I find myself falling into that trap ALL the time……I get so incredibly frustrated….and most times lately I can feel God pulling me back, reminding me that it's not about ME….it's about them…..But still, oh so hard. Much love friend!

  4. >Well written — so true. I have adopted kids that are challenging. The road is one rocky ride. I tell my kids that they might not like it right now, but I am the "last Mama". They may fight, but I will hang on for the ride — I will not leave.DEB

  5. >Beautiful. And sums up so well, what I have felt with my twins, who aren't that old… just six. We're preparing to move forward with our second adoption, a three year old boy. I'm better prepared this time for sure.

  6. >Thank you! Great stuff……you certainly hit on many of the things that we "hope" for but don't expect with our adoption…..thanks for responding to our "cold call" as well! Our paperwork is in Addis now….so, one more time of just keeping our eyes open….or reminded to really keep them open to why, what you can expect (or not expect) and ultimately…..each of these kiddos needs parents….and they need to know the love the Lord has for them. Blessings to you and your family.Cary and Sarah

  7. >A wonderful reminder of the work we have ahead.We are waiting for our 5 year old daughter in China.The work is so hard, and so rewarding if not in the obvious LUV way. Only if it helps me grow and love more.

  8. >Thank you!I wish I had this knowledge 6 months ago… the heartache it would have saved me.This is still a work in progress, and I have so much to learn. But it is so nice to see it written out… all those things I need to learn.A little reminder that there needs to be more love and less expectation is what I needed to hear today.

  9. >Just found your blog, and so look forward to reading more about you and your family.I recently wrote a series of posts about adopting older children. You can find it in my blog archives under "Adoption Parenting Challenges". While we are a family that had to disrupt the adoption because of one of those most horrendous/unspeakable situations … we are a family that still has 2 precious daughters from the sibling group of 3 that we adopted. We are still "in the trenches" of older child adoption.Hard? Harder than imaginable.Love? So NOT "all you need is love". Hoping that some day my daughters can fully understand what love means.Worth it? Absolutely.Great post! Look forward to reading more.Laurel

  10. >As always, you are wonderful and I love what you have to say. One day we must meet. I would add that when you are considering adopting an older child, take a good, hard look at the children you already have and honestly ask yourself whether they have the resiliency to withstand the changes that will come. How will they feel when their new sibling screams, "I hate you! You are not my Mom!" …or runs away (even for an hour) … or hits you … or hits them…Will your little ones be able to sleep peacefully at night? Will they still have access to you? Do you have a support system in place to give them breaks from their new sibling – extended family, good friends?My point is that it is not enough to think about what we, as parents, can withstand as we seek to love and parent older adopted children. We must force ourselves to consider the entire family and then, if we believe it is right for everyone, go forward with courage and a deep dependence on God.Lisa

  11. >Lisa, yup. Exactly. A whole 'nother post that one, eh??? But, yeah. There is always adjustment when a new child comes into the family. When you disrupt birth order and/or bring home an older child, that adjustment is magnified and complicated to an exponential level. And that adjustment of the sibs in the home, is probably the one that is the most beautiful and/or heart wrenching to watch and help along. whew. Thanks for this!!M

  12. >M, I have been out of town and having angst over my comment! I didn't mean at all that you had left out something important…I was just jumping into the conversation as if we were talking. In my mind it went something like this, "You are so right, we have to be willing to take on and love being parents to these older kids, because they need us and we have to be able to give them so much…and while we're on the topic, what about the kids we already have?"I always love what you have to say and admire you!Lisa

  13. >Lisa, now I know you and I are sisters in spirit! Ha! You crack me up! that is exactly the sort of thing I would do..agonize over a comment that might misconstrued. But. NO WORRIES!! I felt the same way! I love having comment conversations and they rarely happen on my little blog. But no, I TOTALLY agree w/ you. Yes, the bottom line is they need parents…but those sibs already at home??? The impact of the new additional child is HUGE and can hardly be measured. And it is sometimes all too easy to brush off the potential impact (good or ill) w/ a nod to their built in or fostered resiliency. Too easy to take for granted. So don't worry. It's the driving, those freeway miles are making your brain spin in boredom. I love your mind and take on things too and just am glad you are willing to stop by and "chat" from time to time! Relax….this is also a topic that isn't going away anytime soon for either of us. So our conversation gets to keep on going. Yay!M

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