Before you begin reading this post, please take the time to go through the following posts completely (part one and part two) to ensure you have a clear understanding of where my heart is on adoption and how it has affected our family.
Please do us both a favor – stop right now if what I’m about to say is going to cause you to judge, share opinions that are truly meant to cast shame, guilt, and pain onto others, or the false belief that I am asking for anything but understanding.
This post is meant to break open the flood gates into the pain beneath the smiles you see when we are out and about with our adopted children, the fake it ‘til you make it statements “we are great”, or “she/he is such a blessing”. And to expose the intense hurt “you just need to find a way to love them more” remarks can cause those in the trenches of parenting hurt children. Sadly, the lack of support and encouragement causes many adoptive parents to become completely hopeless and withdrawal from friends and family. When you already feel like a failure, putting yourself out there to be judged on a daily basis sure seems crazy.
Oh and before you comment, yes we went in understanding all the information out there about adopting hard children from hard places. But that is only good if you know the specific hard places and the details in which they suffered. Oh and yes, we know that rejection, abandonment, and neglect are all hard things to survive through. More than enough for any human to suffer through. We really get it. But that is expected in most international adoptions. It is the hidden details of adoption that will without a shadow of a doubt mess up the child and the adoptive family. It may not happen right way, but it will happen.
How do I know this? Because of the countless emails I get every single month with stories so heartbreaking that I lose sleep over them. Not to mention the stories I read daily on a FB group of adoptive moms who share their personal struggles to not feel like a total failure as their children push them to the end of themselves day in and day out with no end in sight!
Hundreds if not thousands of families are suffering from the pain the lies told or withheld have caused them. There is this ‘secret society’ of families all trying to seek out others who are walking through the impossible valleys of raising children with RAD, DID, PTSD, and past sexual/drug/alcohol abuse. They don’t know who to ask for support or who they can even trust to seek it. There is mounds of resources for younger adopted children, but when you adopt a child over the age of 5, let alone 10 forget it! There is very little help to be found. There are plenty of parenting classes, books, seminars, etc. for RAD. Many of them are even good. But in order to implement them you better have LOADS of uninterrupted time. Oh and parenting a child with RAD will be a time suck from morning to night. There is NEVER enough of you and your spouse to fill up the completely empty hole within them.
Older children to me include any child four years old or older at the time of adoption. Why? Because by the time they are four years of age their foundation of trust has been built. Some even suggest their personalities are completely formed. Sadly because of rejection, neglect, abuse, and malnutrition trust can be so badly damaged and broken in the first two years, that it can take many years of healing in order for them to learn how to appropriately trust any caregiver (adoptive parent, etc.). What is truly heartbreaking, some never get past the hurt done to them and struggle for the rest of their lives.
If trust was not solidly built before the age of four, then you can count on issues with bonding, trusting you, your spouse, your other children, extended family, and basically everyone in their lives who will be building relationships with your child.
Multiply this by a thousand when you adopt a pre-teen or teenager. Everything becomes magnified. Everything.
For them trust has been severed at their core. They have seen and lived through too much to open their hearts up freely and willingly to a new parent/family. Most pre-teens that are being adopted have lived alone for some amount of time or completely took care of themselves. I use those words loosely, because we all know a child is not fully equipped to care of themselves properly. They have lost their ability to naturally trust another human being who has done good things for them or to them. They are always waiting for something bad to happen and stay on guard protecting themselves – prepared to simply take care of themselves once again. They struggle believing that this time (once adopted) is truly forever. Why would they believe that? Honestly. How can you blame them? I can’t. They struggle with rules and authority. They struggle with all the changes that have taken place and how to adapt to them. Again, who can blame them? One day they are living in filth and barely being fed enough, never taking a truly hot shower, washing their hands in water that is not safe for them to drink, owning nothing, and sharing clothing with 100’s of other children….to the extreme opposite. It is completely overwhelming and they can’t handle the drastic change. Many believe when they come to America they will instantly become rich. Sadly, they have been taught that by the American families who bring their children waiting to come home every digital gadget known to man, along with tons of gifts. Which lead to many of them expecting an extravagant lifestyle upon coming home. When that is not met, they don’t get it. They want to know why you are not giving them everything that was given to others and what they see all around them. On top of that is the huge language barrier and them begin so far behind with their education. Depending on where they grew up and the schooling they received it can take them years to catch up to their biological age group. (You might not even know their true birth age and often times they can’t really tell you how old they are either. The birth records in their country are either non-existent or completely falsified to help them get adopted!!) Then on top of that you have the chance of past drug and alcohol usage. As well as, $exual activity or abuse. Here is the hard truth – you might not know any of this until it is much too late to change your mind about adopting an older child. You might not learn any of this until they finally feel safe to tell you about their past. You might not find out about any of this until they have repeated some of their bad choices once again, but this time in your home.
The lies around older children adoption is staggering and very upsetting!
Trust is a powerful and scary thing to a child who has been let down by every person they should have been able to count on.
I can only speak for us and our experience adopting seven children.
I can only speak about our hopes and dreams for each child as we began to adopt them.
I can only speak about what we have faced and still face since adopting so many broken children.
I can only speak about what adoption has done to our family.
I can only speak from a place where tears stop coming, pain rushes in, and hope gets extinguished after years of dealing with so much brokenness.
I know that I am not alone. Which breaks my heart.
Parents who face this situation are forced every day to be vigilant and brave because they have no other choice. Which lead them to having nothing left to give. They are walking in darkness because no one wants to hear the truth of what they face each day. So few understand. Only those who have experienced R.A.D., D.I.D, and addictive personalities can truly get what it feels like day in and day out.
Sadly, most in our lives want to offer advice – that hurts to your core. They mean no harm really. But what leaves their lips, leaves us parents breathless and fighting to stop from sinking completely.
We live with so much guilt from all the times we have heard, “if you only love them more, devote more time to them, pray more for them and over them, give them more food so they stop stealing and allow them free range in your kitchen.”
I can’t stress this enough everyone – our children don’t do the things they do because we don’t love them enough, want the best for them, give them enough, and withhold food. They do the things they do because they have yet to trust us. They lack the ability to trust anyone, including themselves. They don’t have the safety inside to trust. They don’t have enough self worth to believe they are valuable enough to give their heart and soul to us their parents. They don’t believe in all the truths shared with them.
And without trust. You have nothing.
Without trust you can never build a relationship or bond.
Trust is what connects us and gives us the wings to fly in life – all relationships are built on trust.
Trust is what allows us to be who we are without masks on and to feel safe to share our greatest gift – love.
Love can’t be given or received without trust.
Attachment can’t happen without trust and love.
Trust and love often take an enormous amount of time when adopting an older child.
Adopting an older child has been the most difficult parenting decision we have ever made. We brought home an almost 5 year old from Guatemala, an almost 5 year old from Ethiopia, and an almost 13 year old from Ethiopia. We also brought home an almost 3 year old from Guatemala. Our other adopted children were babies between 8-10 months of age when they came home.
Each of these adoptions have brought with them so much sadness and pain. Each child has come with their own stories of neglect, abandonment, rejection, and zero trust in most adults.
They would attach to everyone. Yet, trust no one.
I have said this a hundred times, “hurt people hurt people.” There is no way around it. And when it comes to hurt children, they don’t know anything but to accept hurt and to treat others the same way.
We as humans work from fear or love.
Hurt children work from fear and do everything to avoid love.
They don’t trust in love. Love as far as they know hurts and they are afraid to ever trust in it again.
No amount of love given, grace shown, mercy shared is enough to fill the gapping holes they have in their hearts.
You keep trying. You want to believe if you just do x, y, and z they will finally open up to you.
You want to believe it is your fault. You blame yourself for their bad choices. You blame yourself for their lack of trust.
You live with so much guilt that it is an endless cycle of pain instead of hope.
You see them hurting. You want it to stop.
You see them hurting others. You want them to stop.
You see them hurting themselves. You want them to stop.
You see them seeking attention and affection from all the wrong people and strangers. You want them to stop.
You see them lying, stealing, and cheating. You want them to stop.
You see them making excuse after excuse for their poor choices. You want them to stop.
You see them ruining clothes, toys, and your personal belongings. You want them to stop.
You see them praying to God and moments later doing the exact opposite of their prayer. You want them to stop.
You see. You want it all to stop.
You try to help them stop.
You try to guide them to stop.
You try to make them stop.
You try therapy to teach them more tools to help them stop.
You try and you try.
You keep trying because you believe there has to be something that will help them stop. It can’t keep going like this.
I/we can’t keep going on like this.
Tragically, you watch your innocent biological children suffering as they watch these hurt children hurting you and their family. You watch your innocent children pay the ultimate price for your choice to adopt. You watch them lose their own innocence and their faith in a God who they are told loves them. You watch all of this pain.
You want it to stop.
It keeps hurting.
You want it to stop.
Meanwhile, the world around you can’t stop praising your kind, thoughtful, generous, charming, beautiful/handsome, smart, funny, and amazing child. So you sink inside just a bit more, because no one will believe you when you try to share what is going on inside your home. No one will believe the pain being caused by this child they adore. They begin to accuse you of ridiculous things and think you are not being a good enough parent. They begin to offer advice you never asked for, and share parenting techniques that might work for a biological child, but never a child who is shattered inside and has never attached to you even after being home for years! I often want to laugh when a mom of two tries to give me advice on managing our children and wants to give me parenting techniques to try. REALLY? I have nineteen years of parenting experience, eight of those with seven adopted children and you want me to take parenting advice when you have two children under the age of 6 that are anything but well mannered, etc.? Sorry I don’t want to digress!
If only they could walk in your shoes for a day, then they would know why…
You fight resenting your adopted children.
You fight wanting them out of your home and life.
You fight the secret dreams that you are back in a life before they arrived.
You fight emotions that feel anything but normal.
You fight them because you want it all to stop.
You want the dreams and hopes of adoption to be real. The ones everyone talks about. The ones everyone shares in public. You want the ones where healing won. You want the ones full of victory. You want something that will never be. And you feel defeated, discouraged, disappointed, disillusioned, and angry. At yourself and a system that is so full of lies, greed, and dishonesty.
You want it to stop.
You go through the motions. Because that is what a mother does. She takes care of her children and her home. She does what she must to meet the needs of her family. No matter how little they seem to get met. She keeps pushing to do what is right.
And you just want it to stop.
You are tired of the daily battle with the same child (ren). You are tired of the daily struggles they bring into your life. You are tired of proving to them that they are safe, they are home now, and they are loved. You are tired of trying win them over and prove you are trustworthy.
You can’t take anymore lying, stealing, cheating, hitting, kicking, picking, breaking, hurting and ruining!!!!
You want it to stop.
You get so frustrated with the same issue year after year. You get so burnt out over the constant drama one child brings into your home. You get so exhausted by the ripple effect of the drama, the bad choices, and the hurt each child causes.
You want it to stop.
Do you see where I am going with this?
Adoption is not simple. It is messy. It is impossibly hard. It is rarely easy. There are very few who bring a child home without any challenges along the way. Some challenges are not so complex and others tear a family apart bit by bit.
You try to pick up the pieces. You try to find a new normal every single day. You try to create a safe haven for your family.
And no matter how hard you try, the amount of love you shower each of them with, a hurt and broken child may not be able or willing to be reached.
You might find out years later the damage done to them as you are facing unbearable repercussions of it all.
You might find out years later the truth of what life was really like for your adopted child before coming home and you wonder why no one ever told you this??? Why did you have to find out like this? Why does the cost of adoption never end?
You go into adoption wanting to care for an orphan and teach them how to live in a family and have every opportunity at a wonderful life here.
Sadly, those hopes and dreams get shattered more times than I care to acknowledge. I have been in denial for the last eight weeks because that was a safer place for me to be in. Dealing with the reality of the very truth around me and so many that I personally know and care for was too much!
You mourn the loss of friendships that have faded.
You mourn the loss of the reality that your life will never be the same again.
You mourn the loss of the dreams you had for each child you brought home.
You mourn the loss of the parent you used to be, dreamt you would be, and tried to be.
You mourn the loss of time you had for your marriage and self before your life became consumed with so much suffering.
You mourn the loss of believing your home was a safe place and that you were truly doing a great job keeping the world out. When all the while the world was sucking the very life out of the roots you desperately were working so hard to dig!
You mourn and you grieve.
Then you must forgive. Sometimes over and over and over again. Sometimes you must do this daily. Some days continually moment by moment!.
Now please do yourself a favor and forgive yourself. You tried. You did the best you could. These children are so complex and multi layered that it is impossible to figure out the best parenting plan for them. It is hard enough to parent a child you have given birth to let alone one that has a painful family history you most likely will never know. Be gracious with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Don’t trap yourself in believing the lies that your children are unable to trust you and accept your love, because you are not doing a good enough job or loving them enough. Now if by any chance that statement rings true with you, then today is a new day and you can turn that all around. Please friends true healing can’t happen unless you are taking the very best care of you. So do whatever it takes to ensure that you are strong enough to be on the front lines of this battle field. Surround yourself with people who will not only support your parenting choices but will help you to keep making the best ones along the way. Don’t let the hard days define you as a parent. Let them remind you of your humanness and need to trust in God.
I will not promise you the pain will end. Because it might not.
I will not promise you that the best place for your child to live forever is in your home. Because it might not.
I will not promise you that adoption is right for you and your family. Because it might not.
I will not promise you that adoption will fill the void in your heart and home. Because it might not.
I will not promise you that adoption is in the best interest of every orphan. Because it might not.
I will not promise you that adoption is what all Christians are called to do. Because it is not!
You are hearing that everywhere – that there wouldn’t be anymore orphans in the world if every Christian simply adopted one child. Just one. That is all it would take. Sorry the numbers don’t add up and not every Christian is in the position to adopt a child. Not every person should, could, or can adopt. Adoption is not the answer to the orphan crisis. It never has been and never will be. I don’t claim to know all the answers. But the answer is NOT bringing thousands of extremely broken children into homes totally unprepared, unqualified, and unable to care for them. The answer is not the buying and selling of a human at any price. Until we respect life, all life and do what is in the very best interest of every child regardless of what we have to gain, the problem will truly never go away.
And even with all the pain, sadness, extreme difficulties we each face this quote remains true…
Because the pain we face is constant and we rarely get a break from it, I have to remind myself that I have done the best I can and will continue to do the best I can for our children. Doing the best is not always enough. Learning to accept that has been quite challenging over the last few years. I want so badly to click my heels and be home. I want this chapter in our lives to end. I want to wake up and see that it wasn’t real, but a horrible nightmare. I want to see goodness come from so much sorrow and pain. I want to know that our children made it victoriously through this and can lead the lives we prayed for them to have before all of the pain swallowed our family whole. I want to keep bring light into the dark places of adoption, because….
And if my transparency and honesty can help one family/mom then it is completely worth the risk of criticism that might come my way for speaking out for everyone to truly grasp the cost of adoption.
What I constantly remind myself and each of our hurting children is this…
You never have to apologize for what is left unsaid. It is better to remain quiet than to engage in a conversation that might end in a confrontation that will produce more pain and a greater lack of distrust.
If we could all practice being quiet more, then all of our relationships would have a better chance at building a strong foundation of trust and a deep love for one another.
This next quote is such good advice to every parent and potential adoptive parent to heed…
If you are a family who has been living in shame behind closed doors because of the pain your adoptions have caused you, then I hope you will feel safe now to reach out for the support and healing you all need. I pray that after reading these truths you feel safe to begin telling the truth about your adoption journey without putting guilt upon your shoulders.
Look up support groups for trauma moms, RAD parenting, etc. on FB and google local support groups in your area. Trust me you are NOT alone. Look up professional respite therapy caregivers. Ask friends and family to help you remove child for a few weeks to give your family and you a time to breathe. It is OK to get away from the child who is hurting and hurting you. It is OK to spend one on one time with your biological children to help them get mommy/daddy back to themselves if even for a few hours each week. It is OK to tell the truth and share the pain going on in your home. You will find the right person and people who will strengthen you and lift you up. Please do yourselves a favor and don’t join a group where misery loves company. You want validation and wonderful listening ears – not people who will keep you in the same place doing the same things. Because real change can’t happen without us making the changes needed first.
I wake up everyday choosing to try harder today. I must fight past what happened yesterday, leave it behind me, and look at our children with a new set of eyes. I have to or the resentment would swallow me whole and it would be impossible to enjoy them – let alone love them.
Love is a choice. Choosing to fake it until you make it is a choice. Love doesn’t come easy with every adopted child and that is OK. Just keep reminding yourself that it is a two way street and until your child chooses to let your love in and trust you – healing from their past can never happen.
Keep choosing what you know in your heart is right. Even if that means your family is unable to do what is best for your adopted child when you have exhausted every opportunity to help them. You can’t allow your entire family to suffer and be hurt beyond repair just to save one. Yes, Jesus might do that. But you and I are only human. We as adoptive parents can only take so much and when a hurt person refuses to stop hurting your family – it is time to make some hard choices for everyone. Be gracious with yourself and be sure to have the proper support you need as you walk out this very challenging choice.
I want to leave you with this thought – it is OK to want the pain to stop, the fighting to end, the hurt to ease up, and for your family to all desire peace once again. It is OK. Do everything you can to find that and it will look different for all of us. Don’t allow the pain of adoption to define your family another day. Don’t allow the pain of their past that has nothing to do with you and your spouse to define you as parents. You must stop allowing their pain to be the controlling force and power in your home. Take back what is rightfully yours and begin picking up the pieces of your broken heart over a child that has refused or is unable to trust and love.
As our family continues to heal - this is my safe place and where I go every night to have the day completely washed away -
I hope you have a safe place too. Breathing in this image with you and hoping you will begin to feel peaceful if even for a moment.
Walking this journey alongside of you and truly…