Dear Potential Adoptive Parents,
From the beginning, my children rushed me at the door as I came home from work. Frequently overwhelmed, I had two wild-eyed children, hungry cats, and excited dogs pawing at me before I sat my briefcase and groceries down. BC (before children), that iconic scene of parents coming through the door to a happy, bubbly, burst of children made me want a couple of them all the more. Everyone else is getting to have that experience, I thought; and there I was near 40 unable to hold a bun in the oven. That scene in movies and commercials was always bittersweet, never left me dry-eyed, and rarely failed to fill me with longing for the clamoring of little children.
I am not fond of the adage, Be careful what you wish for; however, Be careful what you wish for. Now, 18 years later, my adult children and innumerable dogs continue to paw me at the door. Usually, the kids reach for the grocery bags, and they are better able to step back for a minute when I say, Let me get in the door, honey. I say that sentence every day–Let me get in the door, honey.
My children reject most of my suggestions while hanging onto the slightest hint of disapproval. Cursed with an expressive face, I try to keep my eyes and voice soft, but sometimes (like today) my tiredness from work and exasperation from the clamoring sneaks into the creases around my eyes and my tone. It happens in a flash before I am aware. At that moment my children are crestfallen and ashamed for nothing they have done except being highly entangled in their attachment to me. I fear I will always be powerful in their insecure right-brains, and powerless to influence their left-brains. Darn it.
Consider the following very carefully:
Maniacal laughter; kicking and hitting with no apparent care about harm to the object; continuing to yell No! when no one is making a request; smiling in the face of hurting someone; running away with no destination in mind; holding hands over ears screaming, Lalalalalalala, I can’t hear you; feigning deafness; slamming fists through windows and walls; staring a hole straight through you; saying back the exact words you are saying; saying nonsensical things; baby talking when upset; desperate screaming and crying; spitting; growling; accusing you of hurting, abusing, scratching, threatening, and being mean when you accidentally bump them; moving from thing to thing to thing for no obvious reason; darting in and around people or spaces; erratic grabbing, snatching, lunging, rolling, diving, jumping, and climbing on tables and cabinets; demanding food when food is on the plate; running around breaking random things; yelling, You’re hurting me, I hate you, I’m going to kill you, fuck you, die.
When you adopt children who lived through adverse abusive experiences before the age of two, you are likely to experience some or all of the above for years after you put your signature on the bottom of the adoption papers. They are not bad children. They are dear and precious. They are also traumatized and abandoned. Those adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) create problems in their psyches that those beautiful children will struggle with across their lifespans. As the parent of two from difficult beginnings, I can tell you that these deep emotional scars persist well into adulthood.
If you adopt a child from difficult beginnings, from day one you will become a therapeutic parent–and that really never changes. Are you up for the possibilities? Did you have a secure attachment in childhood yourself, so you can weather the spit hurled into your face in the middle of a tantrum? Can you set aside your own needs for a close, “normal” family in favor of working harder than you ever have in your life for anything in order to heal the wounds you had no hand in creating? Adopting children is a life mission. Are you up for it?
If your deep spiritual answer is a resounding yes, you are the right person to be looking into adoption. All of these children deserve a loving, therapeutic parent. None of them deserve an unprepared, unhappy, frustrated, and disappointed parent. You don’t deserve that either.
Through love and acceptance, I continue to support the development of my adult children’s secure attachment. I try to own my facial expressions out loud, so they can relax their hyper-vigilance. I always consider how they might take something before I speak. Those precautions do not always work.
I desire internal peace, love and success for my children. I want peace for myself, too. I call on faith that we will find this ever elusive secure attachment some day. I call on my faith in love.
If this sounds like a mission with your name on it; a mission that will bring greater meaning to your life the way climbing Mt. Everest does for adventurers; then bring it. There will never be enough therapeutic parent adventurers for the number of hurting children who need one.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
Attention regular monthly support group attendees:
Our Monthly Support Group for Therapeutic Parents will not be held on the 2nd Wednesday in September, 2016. We will have an alternative group meeting on the 3rd Wednesday of September, which is September 21st at 6pm at our office at 3406 American River Drive, Ste D, Sacramento, CA. My apologies for not realizing this hitch in the calendar until just now.
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