I had a little blog going that nobody read. But then I started writing this post, and I decided that I didn't want anyone I know to read it. And although noboby was reading the other one, a few people did know it exists, and they were people who definitely qualify as people I know. Like two of my sisters. And two of my best friends. So here we are over here in this new little blog, where I can be brutally honest. I would just journal in a blank book, like back in high school and college, but my handwriting has deteriorated to the point where even I can't read it, plus it takes freaking forever, so as long as I'm typing everything, it may as well be a blog. [Edited to add: then I decided to change the blog name and URL, so I'm transferring the few entries here.]
And actually, I have become ADDICTED to adoption blogs, so I thought I'd put mine out there for any who are similarly affected. Because one more viewpoint can't hurt, right?
I'm home sick, which is really weird, because usually I'm Perfect Attendance Girl. Well, not really, because the whole aging parent thing has gotten in the way of that, but I don't usually take sick days. And that's not because I'm stoic. You know how women make snide comments about what babies their husbands are when they're sick? I don't make those comments, because I myself am a total wimp about being sick. It's a good thing it doesn't happen very often. It's in stark contrast with my sister, who I kid you not, will clock out for a break, dash off to puke her fluey guts out, clock back in and KEEP WORKING. In my world, if you vomit, you get the day off. I'm not vomiting (you were wondering, no?), but the cold I had over the weekend has dropped heavily into my chest and my voice has pretty much disappeared. And YOU try teaching 10th grade with no voice. Not to mention no energy and a splitting headache. Okay fine, I'm taking a sick day because I have a cold. Now you know why I will never join in the "men can't handle pain" chorus. And you know what? I'm taking tomorrow off too. I still feel like crap. I've felt like crap for four straight days, when I usually go through the "I think I'm coming down with something--oh, I guess not" cycle in about 12 hours. I'm deeply fearful that if I try to get all stoic and go back to work that I'll wind up developing pneumonia and losing 1/4 of a lung. It happened to a friend of my husband's, so this is definitely a rational fear.
Or not. Here's the real fear. After spending the entire day glued to the couch reading adoption blogs, I'm fearing parenting disaster.
See, here's what happens. I spent my 20s thinking that sometime in my 30's I'd adopt. Then I actually got married at 31--did not see that coming--which meant I could consider the more traditional option. We eventually tried it; it didn't work (the procreative part of it; the rest works just fine, thank you); we were surprised and a little bummed, but not wailing and gnashing our teeth and rending our garments. I know it hits some people like that, but it didn't for us. I discovered when I started teaching that it would be stunningly easy to love another person's child, if it were the appropriate thing to do, and like I said, my original parenting plan involved single parenting an adopted child, so co-parenting seemed like a much easier deal. My husband is a practical guy, in a sweet sort of way. When we were planning our wedding in the 7 weeks between his proprosal and the big date, he was the one that first pointed out that the marriage was the important thing, not the wedding. Again, I know this would FREAK some women out, but I was marrying him for many reasons, one of which is we see eye to eye on things like that. So the same with kids--the point was to share our love and family with children, not to experience pregnancy. We felt comfortable with international adoption, and we chose a country that has very transparent practices, a culture we are familiar with and fond of, and that my grandfather was born in. So far, so good.
I started reading, and my first discovery is that adoption is not actually a win-win. You know, kids need a family, and our family wants kids. Both of those factors are true, but there's another factor we hadn't quite considered--something has gone seriously wrong for the kids to be in a position where they need a family. No matter how much love you give them, no matter how much they thrive in your home, they are starting from a position of serious loss.
Okay. We absorbed that. We educated ourselves and thought about how we can help our kids stay connected to their birth culture, how we can be honest with them about their histories, and create a safe place for them to miss their birth family and rage about the circumstances that brought them into our lives, without taking it as a rejection of us.
Then we got a referral, and after a certain amount of trepidation, accepted it. It came down to a few things, like yes, how adorable they are. And how positive our adoption specialist was after viewing the video. But also because after reading their life history, it was clear that these kids NEED PARENTS. And they'd been offered to us. And who the hell ever knows how it's going to turn out? It's always leap of faith, right?
And I kept reading. I've read stuff that had I read it two years ago may have slowed the adoption train down. What I'm slowly coming to think is that "adoption is just another way of forming a family" is complete bullshit. Especially adoption school aged children from another country. I think we are looking at pain and heartache we can only dimly imagine from here. I'm hoping that we can get the tools we need to get through it, to help them heal, to truly provide them with a chance they wouldn't get in the institution they're now living in. I know all parenting is work, I do, I see what my sisters and friends do. But the amount of work, the type of work, the unfamiliarity of the work that these bloggers are writing about--oh. It frightens me. They say things like "I read all the right books, and I thought I was ready, and now three years in I realize she's never going to love me." And I think--oh shit. We send letters off to the orphanage, telling them about going camping, and I wonder--will we really be able to do that with them? I read about the frequency with which parents of kids diagnosed with RAD wake in the night to find their child standing over them with a knife and I think--wait, why did I think we should try this?
I love the other voices too, of course. Our adoption doctor told me straight out that she thinks the internet should be banned for waiting parents because most people in her experience do not get the worse case scenario. My superintendent (think school district, not New York apartment building) adopted two boys from the Ukraine seven years ago. When I went in to ask about leave time, her secretary decided to schedule me an appointment to chat with her, and in the nearly two hours she gave me, she mentioned several issues her boys had, but without every losing her tone of complete joy in parenting them. She pointed out that as educators, we are lucky enough to be able to find resources quickly, and to not stigmatize our kids. (Because if you work in public education, you have already met and loved kids with a barrel full of issues.)
But today was about the scary stuff. One blogger I've been following, in part because of her great sense of humor, wrote a sad, sad blog about how love isn't enough. Other links led me to unrelentingly cheery, Jesus filled posts about kids who were in residential treatment as a condition of their parole. And I love that these parents love their kids and continue to feel optimism for their future, but it's not that long since I was in the "adoption is a win-win!" watercolor daydream, and I haven't quite made it to "I don't need my kids to stay out of jail in order to feel good about my parenting."
And part of me is writing this in hopes that some fairy godmother will read it and leave me a comment that says, "Oh no, YOUR children will struggle a bit, but you will do JUST FINE, and they will wind up PERFECTLY OKAY."
But at least there's this--there is a community of people who are actually doing this, and who are astoundingly brave about sharing their stories. As much as you terrify me, you also empower me. So I'm going to go leave adoring comments on your blogs in hopes that you come over and read this and send me a fairy godmother. Or a box of chocolate and a bottle of wine.