Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

Don’t Be A Jerk When Talking About the Olympics

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Typically I do not get offended easily. I believe it is a much better way to live to assume there is no underlying evil reason for what was said and that sometimes people do not say things exactly the way they sounded.

I hate it when I am wrong….

But this Olympics has me miffed.

Simone Biles is awesome. She deserves coverage that celebrates her accomplishments. Instead we hear things like….

“The people she calls Mom and Dad…”

“You know those are not her real parents…”

“She was an unwanted child, yet God had other plans…”

WHY?!?!?!?!

Simone, like may other adopted children, probably has some insecurities surrounding the fact that she was adopted but THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO EXPLORE THEM!

Further, adopted children are VERY wanted by those who adopted them! (And many times their birthparents wanted them too, they just have other issues that prevent them being very good parents.) If you have ever watched a family waiting to adopted you will realize that these families want these children very, very much- in some cases much more than some birth parents who are surprised by the good news… Adopted children should never have to question whether, or not they are loved and wanted because the process of adopting is difficult and only a very odd person would go through it without being fully committed. Unfortunately many adopted children do have fears that they are less loved, and we should be sensitive to that.

Adoptive parents are also REAL PARENTS! Biology aside, they do everything any other parent does and many times are incredibly committed to their children (as seen here by the training and encouragement Simone has had). By implying that adoptive parents are not ‘real’ parents you undermine the security of an adopted child. Let’s not do that!

The biggest issue however is when Christians believe they are writing stories of God’s redemption (and Christians do this to my patients who have certain disabilities as well) which imply that the person is less than. Even though the point of the story is that God can use anyone, the underlying theme is that the person is somehow ‘less.’ The disabled population calls this ‘disability porn’ (Goggle it) and they hate it. It is condescending and shows that you have taken no time to actually get to know anyone in their situation, yet you are willing to use them to make yourself feel good… The Bible shows that God can indeed use anyone, but the anyones in the Bible that need to overcome are sinners….

So, let’s try to focus on what is right and good and ask ourselves if we were Simone, what would we want people to say right now.

How about- Great job! That was AWESOME! Thanks for all the hard work and your amazing representation of our country!

You get the idea…

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The Difficulties We Faced When Adopting Older Children

Our children were 10, 8 and 6 when we adopted them. People who have no contact with adopted/ foster children frequently feel the need to tell us that they were ‘just babies’ when we got them. No, no they weren’t.
In a typical home children aged 10, 8 and 6 are relatively innocent. They may have learned a curse word on the bus, or seen something on TV that was not the best, but beyond that, they know very little.
My children were not given this protection. From the stories they told and questions they asked they had seen: adults having sex, people threatening their parents with guns in their own home, drug use and life where maggots in the milk carton and beer in the baby’s bottle were part of what they considered ‘normal.’ At least one of my children had been sexually abused (in foster care) and had been thrown from a moving car (while living with his birth mother). Since they were children, they took it in stride and considered it ‘normal.’
In foster care they saw the older children they looked up to drop out of school, run away, become pregnant, steal, do drugs and brag about sex. But they were just 10, 8 and 6. Ages where they could see the behavior, but were not able to understand why it might not be the best way to live. And they loved these people.
Further, they were neglected. We see young children running around with no clothes on at 2 am as ‘awful parenting.’ They see it as ‘freedom.’ Moving into a home where their homework needs to be done, where bedtimes are enforced and good food must be eaten before snacks does not seem like a blessing to children who are used to doing whatever they like.
At one point in their foster care time there was an attempt to reunite them with their grandmother. During this time their mother visited them for the weekend. Just one weekend in the three months they were there. (She was not to see them at all though.) During this weekend she took them to a fair and bought them whatever they wanted. This cemented in their minds that mom was a wonderful women, and they were taken away from her for no good reason. She was certainly not a person who would ground them when they misbehaved, or any of those other ‘mean’ things ‘good’ parents tend to do.
Do you see the problem?
Further, the children identified with their parent’s lifestyle. They did not feel comfortable in an middle to upper middle class situation because that was not ‘who they were.’
The children, due to drugs and alcohol in their systems at birth (and apparently afterwards in their bottles) also had troubles in school. This too led them to feel like they did not belong in our world, since middle class children tend to place at least some importance on achieving in school. All of these problems led them to seek out peers who also struggled in school and who behaved like the children they admired while in foster care. Kids who do their homework never seem like quite as much fun as those who hide behind the convenience store doing whatever they want, and running from the cops seems so much more exciting than boy scouts…
Add to that a loyalty to their birth mom and dad. By conforming to our lifestyle they must admit, on some level, that what their birth parents did was not ‘good.’ This is a very hard thing for a child to do. Everyone wants awesome parents. To be faced with the idea that the people who gave birth to you chose drugs over taking care of their baby is tough. It is easier to believe that it was all a ‘mistake,’ that drugs aren’t really bad, and that some people are just too ‘uptight’ about these things. This too makes life difficult for children who are removed from their homes later in life.
My children also had behavioral issues. In attempts to appease them, or to not have to deal with them in school, they were given grades they did not deserve and privileges or special treatment as bribes to behave. This helped them feel that the ‘rules’ were not for them. They were special. This meant that they were going to have to learn things the hard way in life, because they had seen too many instances when they were treated differently and that was now their expectation. People who enforced the rules were just being ‘mean’ because they knew exceptions could be made, and expected that they would be made for them.
There were also problems ‘attaching’ to a new parent. How do you convince a child that has had several foster homes that you are really going to keep them forever? Add to that a few people who feel the need to explain to them that adoptive parents could never love them like they love their own children and you have attachment issues. (And yes, people do tell these children that their adoptive parents do not really love them. We have had it happen to us more than once. Why? My only though is that it is out of jealousy that these people would never take a child in themselves. We actually had one person ask my daughter if it wouldn’t have been better if she was her mother!?!?)
So, why do I write this? To tell you that it will not always be smooth sailing. Problems will not go away in a short period of time. These are difficult issues, issues that the children may struggle with for a lifetime. Will your intervention help? Yes! But will it be all that is necessary for success? No. Unless the child decides for him or her self that they want something different for their life there will be struggles, and a chance they will repeat their birth-parents mistakes.
And if you are not adopting, then this is still for you. At some point in your life you will encounter someone who has adopted older children. This is to help you understand what they are dealing with and to not say stupid things like:
-‘You’ve had them for long enough, shouldn’t they behave better by now?’
-‘I don’t see how anyone can love an adopted child like it was their own.’
-‘If I was your mother, I would…’
-‘They’re still so innocent at this age, I don’t know why you’re making a big deal over it.’ (Do you want your preteen impregnated? That is why I am making a big deal over it. He may know more about sex, at least aberrant sex, than you do!)
-‘All you need to do is love them.’
Etc, etc.
Just don’t say it. Ever. Gossip travels. Raising children who did not have the best start in life is tough. Don’t add to people’s burdens this way.
Hope this helps.

On Adopting Older Children…

Thirteen years ago we adopted a family. Andrew was 10, Lisa was 8 and Pedro was 6. (Okay, I changed their names, but since they’re my kids you can probably figure out who they are if you tried…)

The school system told us that Andrew would be allowed to remain in a ‘regular’ classroom (with Special Ed help) until the end of the sixth grade, then he would have to go to a school for behavioral problems because they would no longer be able to accommodate him. Most children in this school drop out and end up in jail. This was therefore not an option I would allow.

Lisa was counting beans in math, and did not know all of her letter sounds even though she was at the end of the third grade. Her reading teacher believed that she would never read. She too was in a ‘regular’ class with special ed but was to be moved to a classroom for the emotionally handicapped and was to attend school throughout the summer for ‘consistency.’ She had Reactive Attachment Disorder. (Oh the fun. In short: This is when the child tries to destroy everything ‘good’ in her life so she will not have to bond, and it involves getting others to believe she is being abused. I knew Lisa wanted to stay with us only because her lies always fell short of truly believable, and she was good enough at lying to do better.) Lisa, because of her emotional ‘handicap’ was supposed to drop into the ‘mentally retarded’ IQ range as her peers kept moving ahead, and was to live in a group home for the rest of her life.

Pedro. Pedro was too cute for his own good and knew it. He charmed everyone. When he was caught, the school called us in and explained that they did not know how to deal with him since they had never had a child this young do these things. (Oh good, he’s advanced!) Pedro’s way of dealing with the world was to cheat, steal, lie and sneak, and he was an expert.

We moved the children to private school, used Sylvan for Lisa during the summer, and then home schooled. It worked- sort of.

Andrew made it into the military. Now that he is out, he holds down jobs and works hard. This is a success. But in some ways he holds onto his past. He has a baby girl and is trying to ‘decide’ whether, or not, he wants to be a father. Most days he seems to lean towards ‘not.’ Our relationship with him is very strained over this point…

Lisa is now married, raising a huge baby boy, and working as a cleaning person at a hotel. She graduated high school, but, upon receiving her diploma turned to me and said, ‘You made me do this.’ (Yes, I did.) She now reads, and goes through many book series. I think her favorite is still Twilight. Lisa is not all success though. At 17 ½ she ran away. She wanted to go out with a boy. She did not know his name; she was going to meet him out because he ‘did not like parents.’ She did not know where they were going or when she would be back. We said, ‘No.’ (Crazy us.) That ‘boy’ is now her husband. But it did not happen easily. She hopped from place to place and even spent some time homeless. While pregnant she had pictures of herself with a crack pipe on the internet. She says they were ‘just for fun’ and judging from how well her child is doing I believe they were, but it did not make it any easier for me as a worried mother!

Pedro has also graduated. He tried college, and hated it. He is doing well, and is being promoted often in his job at a hotel, but is still deciding where he fits in the world. When dealing with us his default setting is still ‘sneaky.’ He seems to be doing better with the rest of the world. Although he just stormed out of our house to find his own place, (children who are adopted when they are older tend to think every issue that comes up is the end of the relationship), he should do well.

The problems:

Adopted children come with a history. It shapes them. It will not be changed in a month, or a year and parts of it will remain with them for life. On paper, we did everything we could, right down to home schooling them when the schools gave up and their peers were bad influences. This helped, but internalizing our values was never a ‘sure thing.’ The hardest part: Judgmental people who feel that just because you’ve had them for a while they should be ‘perfect’ by now. I just want to shake these people and quote scripture yelling, ‘And how many ‘orphans’ have you taken in?’ We also have a relative who has convinced our oldest that we only adopted him to ‘make ourselves look good.’ Yeah, there are easier ways to do that! But, when problems hit over the ‘father-hood’ issue, Andrew chose to believe it.

Our younger children were also an issue. (There are four of them.) In many ways they benefitted from our adopting. All of the children learned that people are unique, ‘different’ and are a lot less judgmental. Thanks to adoption we have a ‘jock’ living with a bunch of ‘geeks.’ When the ‘jock’ joined the chess club, he noticed the chess-geeks were a bit nervous around him. Being home schooled, and raised in a ‘geek’ household, he did not realize his brand of cute and sporty was supposed to make their lives hell. (A good thing .) Our younger kids are also learning from the older kids’ mistakes. While I wish the older children wouldn’t make them, they now see the disadvantages to running away, pregnancy before marriage and debt. Hopefully it will help them avoid these things themselves. The children do consider themselves ‘full’ siblings, but you see our adopted children not hanging on to their parents as much as they age. In their minds, we are their parents, but we are also just one more stop they made through the foster-care (bouncing around from home to home) environment. I believe they think we love them, but are not really sure thanks to too much time spent in our lovely system that has people called ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ in it, but feels free to move children whenever they wish. (I do believe that the erratic nature of foster care did more to harm my children than their birth-parents’ neglect.)

The hardest part is the other parents. With adopted children people seem to think they have a right to stick their nose in your business, like my kids are somehow ‘community property.’ On top of this, I am a stay-at-home/ home school mom. My children are supposed to be ‘perfect.’ There is no grace. I yell and scream (inside) that even children born into the families they are raised in sometimes stumble as mine have to no avail. Having been very successful in school and career prior to this I especially hate being judged and condemned. Some people think that I should just be able to fix all of the problems ‘now’ if I just ‘do the right thing.’ (I, of course, am not doing whatever ‘right thing’ the judgmental have decided in their head would work.) It makes having female friends painful. I do not want to hear about what I should, or shouldn’t have done. My heart aches for my children, but there is no comfort, just ‘advice,’ cruel, cruel advice. I have been told I needed to do more Bible study (my children claim our house is one continual Bible study so that is not it). I am then told ‘ahh,’ you were too strict; then we were too permissive. We definitely should have taught them more about sex and birth control. (I am sorry, were you in my house? By age 5 my youngest daughter knew everything and was well able to explain it to that nice pastoral couple we hung out with! –Not that this is the best either… The military also has a nice talk called ‘Wrap it before you tap it,’ so my son has no excuses. He decided not to. It happens. It’s dumb, but it happens.) Before I rant too long, let’s suffice to say that all of the ‘second-guessing’ hurts. It does more harm than good, and do you honestly think that parents with advanced degrees did not think of these things? I know their motives may be to help, but there is such an underlying level of ‘if you would have only done this everything would be fine’ judgment that it hurts. I would love to have been the ‘perfect’ parent and done exactly what they needed when they needed it in order to fill all of their ‘needs.’ (Who wouldn’t?) But who had, or is, that kind of parent anyways? Adoptive children come with a past, and that past will shape them as well as the time spent in our home will. The only thing I can say is that overall I think we made things ‘better’ more than anything else.

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