Friday, October 22, 2010

It's like a newborn with colic and food allergies...

Recently, I ran across the following list on Jennifer’s blog.  I’m not sure of the original source, but I had to pass it along.  I believe the list is intended to provide examples of how anyone can help adoptive parents during their first year with their newly-adopted children.  However, as an adoptive parent, I lament the fact that I didn’t read this list three years ago – I think it would have given me “permission” to have the feelings and struggles described below. 

1.      The first year for parents who adopt children from "hard places" is totally consuming. Regardless of how old the children are, expect that the parents will be as consumed as parents of a newborn baby...with colic. If they are adopting more than one, it will be like having multiples....with colic...and probably food allergies too...just to give some perspective. (love this – so true)
2.      A wonderful "gift" for adoptive families is to free them up to parent. Intentionally parenting in a way that leads to healing for their children absolutely requires 110%, and no one else can do it. But, someone else can: cook, clean, organize clothing, shop, drive, take the dog to the vet, mow the lawn, etc.
3.      Another great "gift" that a church can give is to completely release adoptive parents from any and all obligations they have to serve at church. They may think that they can continue to serve, but they can't. (And for that matter, release mom from any obligation to do anything for at least one year....including answer the phone!)
4.      Also, during that first year, don't expect that adoptive parents will be able to get away without the kids much. As with a newborn baby, the children will benefit from mom and dad's constant presence in the short term. However, a trusted person who is willing to provide short-term child care, like while mom and dad grab some dessert after bedtime, or so mom can take a walk during naptime, can be helpful.
5.      And finally, remember that for the first year, and beyond, these parents will be working so hard to gain their children's trust and win their hearts. As support people, believe it or not, some of what we intend for good can actually be detrimental to this process. Indulging the children with "stuff" or experiences, for example, can compete with the bonding process.

(My emphasis and comments added in bold).  For me, this list puts words to the challenges we have faced the last 3 years. As a result, we have stretched ourselves and pushed ourselves and have paid the price – we are exhausted. J  Yet, I don’t wish to imply I blame our children.  It’s not their fault. It is more about ME not having the good sense to know when to say NO.  No, we cannot volunteer at this time.  No, we cannot come home that weekend.  No, we can’t – we won’t.  It’s not good for us.

We did allow ourselves to cocoon and work on attachment for a few months. However, looking back, it was not nearly enough.  And now (2 ½ years after Abi and Hana came home and just over a year for Selam), we find ourselves often still just treading water.  Things don’t magically get better or easier.  Just different.  We are working on taking that time we need to grow as a family.  And, as hard as it is, I am working on giving myself permission to say no – even to things that I really want to do – for the sake of being strong enough (and simply present) to give the proper attention to things we have determined are a priority. 

Ugh – that is NOT always easy.  It means that we said no to soccer this season.  It means that I just turned down a volunteer position for an organization that I feel strongly about and have wanted to be a part of for a long time. It means stepping back in terms of volunteering at our church – even though we’d like to do more.  It means weighing any long term (or even short term!)  commitment very carefully. 

It means giving ourselves permission to guard our family time carefully, to enjoy the “everyday” moments.  They are worth everything. 

We’re a work in progress.  J

1 comment:

  1. So true. A year minimum, sometimes more even when you have huddled away and parented so purposefully and said no to so many things. I know your struggles as they are mine too.