So here we go, first adoption meeting with the social worker for our second store-bought child, happens this week. Home grown 1 and store-bought 1 are excited, we are excited, the family is excited, or at least they are until they realise Christmas just got a little more expensive.
I remember a couple of years ago being in this exact same space, blissfully unaware of the decision we were about to make. Full of love, expectancy and hope, we began a journey that rocked the entire foundation of our family, our marriage and ourselves. We would never be the same again. Those people, those doe eyed parents are gone. Naiveté has left us, blissful ignorance has waved us good-bye and what is left, at least in our estimation, is a slightly greyer, lightly bashed about, but more realistic set of parents. Sound a little negative, sure you want to give it another go?
In spite of the tears, the hair pulling, the total confusion and at times the sense of complete aloneness, I cannot imagine a scenario where I wouldn’t gladly open my heart and my home to welcome another beautiful child to become one with us. Our experience with our second born son, has so solidified in our hearts a greater level of love, that we will never be the same.
Such is the power of adoption, a love so great that it transcends every little detail and places its complete focus on the bigger picture, the picture that tells a story where a no-one, becomes a someone, who is now a part of everyone. Reminds me of my own adoption, not pretty, not always easy, but certainly eternal.
As I look back at round one, there were a few things, a few truths that we were either too ignorant to comprehend or the guides at that time were so focussed on giving a child a family, that they chose not to pull at that thread. I want to share 5 things that although seemingly obvious, at the time, should we have had understood them, I think we would have fared much better.
1. Bonding is a 4 letter word spelt T-I-M-E.
I remember standing at our sink washing dishes and feeling this immense love for our soon to be son. I felt God placing on my heart the love He feels for the fatherless in such a real way. I remember receiving the email with his little face staring back at me. Honestly, I cried more with that single email than I did through the whole birth process of our home-grown son, granted I wasn’t the one giving birth so perhaps my wife would disagree. But with those two experiences I took my spot and prepared myself, or so I thought, to have this little one placed into our hearts and our home. Fast forward a few weeks and the picture had become a little hazy, the expectations had not been met, the feelings were not where I had expected them to be. What had we done wrong?
The answer to that question lies in the stupidity of feelings, up and down and all over the place depending on the day, the week or the strength of the wind, in short, completely unpredictable. I sit here now wondering how I could have expected that without doctors visits, scans, weeks and months of planning, more doctors, more scans, Braxton hicks, baby kicks, birth, breastfeeding, all the firsts etc, how could I miss all those, 2 years worth of events, and expect to feel as bonded with number 2 as I did with number 1 after only a month? I had to keep reminding myself that even though he was 13 months old, if I wanted to compare apples with apples, I’d have to think that my wife and I had been pregnant for a month, now compare. In no realm of reality could my human heart have mustered up the bond that I had created with his older brother when he was that age, and that is ok! Give yourself time, the bond will get there if you want it and you put the time in.
2. Guilt can follow truly good choices.
I had adopted, surely everything should go smoothly, after all, isn’t it always the case that when you do something truly good that everything turns out just peachy. Apparently NOT! I remember picking up our second son on placement day, all excited, butterflies and all, gifts in hand, picked out by his older brother. Then when they brought him to meet us, something wasn’t quite right, something caught our eyes, it was the look on his older brother’s face. He was so overwhelmed and for weeks afterwards that look remained. What was once his, was now being shared and he looked a little heart-broken and to be honest, I felt guilty that a decision we had made had caused his heart to hurt.
But, after a while, during the periods where we were struggling, that little face changed. Sadness turned to joy, an older brother raised his little head and in many ways, his love for his little brother built on an initial few weeks of overwhelmed feelings, became the strength that we as parents clung too. The love those two little boys displayed towards each other carried us through a very trying time. It was through the love that we saw them share that we knew we would be ok, and because of that, we know we can do this again.
3. Loving EQUALLY does not mean loving the SAME.
This took me a little while to digest. You would think it obvious that different people would be loved in different ways, but doesn’t that mean a hierarchy of love has been created? My eldest is my eldest, he was the one I stared at for hours after he was born, holding his little finger, reassuring him that he was safe, that he was mine. He was the catalyst for my Fatherheart. No one else could replace that nor could they replicate that. Both boys are so different and so beautiful in their own ways, why wouldn’t I love them differently? The strength and boldness of number 2 is very different from the gentleness and meekness of number 1, but I can love them differently and equally because of it.
4. This is a marathon.
I think I sometimes forget that I’m in this for the long hall and that everything doesn’t need to come together right now. I find I’m constantly drawing myself back to the fact that parenting is at least a life long purpose and at most an eternal calling. If things are not turning out the way that you wanted in the timeframe you have given yourself, perhaps the best thing to do is adjust the timeframe, not the goal. Kids are kids, they are messy, at times selfish and down right mean, but that’s kids, that’s not specific to adoption or natural-born children, that’s simply the way things are. I think we need to put away our expectations for a lightning 100m final filled with energy and excitement and place our sites on the ultra marathon, take our time, pace ourselves and enjoy the adventure.
5. Some days, you are a failure! That’s why we have tomorrow.
Wow I have had some sterling days, some absolute pearlers on the failure meter. I have lost the plot too many times to remember. It is only by the grace of God and the ability of a child to forgive that I moved on. Remember, the sun will set on a bad day and it will rise to a new day. If you have a bad day, which is expected as an engaged parent, say your sorries, ask for forgiveness and then when you wake in the morning, try again. Expect to fail, but expect that the end of the story is not you falling down, but rather you rising again, and again and again. His mercies are new everyday implies that everyday, we will be in a position that we need to move on today from the poor decisions of yesterday.
I hope that helps, It’s real, it’s true and it will be remembered as we start on round 2. We thought we were prepared for how our eldest would feel, we believed we had equipped ourselves to know how our new son would feel, but we didn’t prepare ourselves for how we would feel. This time it will be different, remembering that in spite of the challenges, I love the source of those challenges more than I could ever possibly explain, that is why I can’t wait for round 2 to begin.