One of the hardest things to accept as an adoptive parent is that it doesn’t matter what you do, nothing will ever be enough. Something will always be missing. The feelings of loss, rejection and trauma will always be there in some shape or form. Always lurking in the wings, waiting to take centre stage.
A recent tweet by Sally Donovan (@sallydwrites) really hit a nerve:
What my nearest and dearest are struggling to cope with is as a result of child abuse, not adoption. Child abuse.
How true!! How often do we hear “it’s because they are adopted.”
No it isn’t!
It is because they have experienced loss and trauma. They have experienced things that many of us could never even begin to imagine. The have experienced things that we may never even know about. Things that are deeply buried in their psyche.
As adoptive parents we are dealing with the fall-out of this. Being an adoptive parent is the hardest, most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. And the challenges are relentless. As parents we would do anything for our children. We spend our lives trying to help them understand and process, trying to find the right school, trying to help them manage their own behaviour, trying to find ways to make them happy. It is a full time 24 hour a day job.
But as adoptive parents we are continually judged. Our parenting is constantly under scrutiny.
Eddie and I also have a birth child and it appals me how professionals change their attitude towards me when I mention this, particularly within an educational environment. Often when discussing our 10 year old adopted daughter Winnie, a professional will talk to me in a condescending manner, using a tone of voice that implies I don’t really understand because I’m not a ‘real parent’. When I mention I have an 18 year old birth son that has just applied for university their tone immediately changes. I have adopter friends that have actually been told by teachers that they don’t understand, because they don’t have birth children. Unbelievable!!
Parenting Winnie is demanding and exhausting. We are expected to be loving parents, psychiatrists, therapists, counsellors and above all else, mind-readers, all rolled in-to-one. Parenting our eldest son didn’t require anywhere near this many skills. Nobody ever questioned how we parented him. Nobody ever said “it’s because he’s your birth child.”
Parenting a child that has experienced neglect and abuse requires a different type of parenting.
We are expected to sit back and watch as our children smash our houses up, physically and verbally attack us and scream f***ing shut up in the face’s of their siblings. We then have to wrap them in our arms, soothe them and tell them it will all be OK.
But it isn’t OK! Nothing about it is OK! And it probably never will be.
As parents we will continue to try and make it OK because that’s our job. We can’t take away the pain but we can try and ease it. Adoption is about accepting that it may never be OK but looking at things in a different way. Adoption is not the reason why, it is the consequence. And it is about never giving up.