I have a few things spinning around in my head right now, and they go together, so I'm throwing this out there.
There is a beautiful video circulating right now of a girl meeting her adoptive family for the first time. It IS beautiful and it IS heartwarming and it is every bit of the fairy tale daydream of a perfect adoption story. I'm going to stop talking about them there, because the family seems lovely and the girl seems very happy, and I get the impression that the parents already know what I'm going to talk about here.
So I'm not talking about their family. I'm going to talk about us and adoption in general. One of our boys did something similar. He ran to my husband and hugged him. He literally fell to the ground crying saying he knew God would bring him a family. Wow, that is a lot to live up to. He had his own fairy tale daydream of a perfect adoption story too. And our family isn't perfect. We are real and imperfect. We love fiercely. We work hard. But we aren't perfect. Goodness, what is perfect to a child who has never been in a family anyways?
For our son it was very, very hard for him to come to terms with having a family that didn't match his daydream. He had to follow the same rules as everyone else! He was treated fairly. That wasn't what he dreamed of. He dreamed of getting more than everyone else, and always being the center of attention, and getting to do whatever he wanted. Why wouldn't he? What basis did he have for comparison?
Coming back down to reality was hard. He was very upset that he couldn't take something he wanted out of someone else's hands, or he couldn't try to pinch his brother behind my back as retaliation. (This is a VERY common orphanage trick for younger kids and kids at this developmental level, since nannies aren't likely to see it. We put a stop to it immediately.) We were the bad guys. A family wasn't supposed to be like this in his mind.
This is really only scratching the surface of why our family hasn't matched his daydreams, but this is our child with attachment issues. I won't go into depth here. Out of respect for my kids and their privacy, I usually don't post these struggles with their names and faces for other people to see. His issues aren't extreme. He has attachment issues, but not full-blown RAD. Our other kids don't have these issues. Sometimes we have post-institutional behavior, but generally they have adjusted more easily. We would still do it all over, which is why we are heading back to adopt again.
Now the other side of things, our own fairy tale daydream. It is so important to realize that even a kid who wants to be adopted is going through a lot. International adoption, domestic adoption, no matter what. This is supposed to be covered in current adoption training, but maybe it isn't done thoroughly or maybe a parent thinks it won't be their story or maybe knowing isn't the same as doing it in real life.
Think about it from the child's point of view. Particularly in international adoption, you have a child leaving the orphanage that has been their entire world to go with this strange person who doesn't even speak the same language. How can we not expect that to be scary? How can we be surprised when a child doesn't react the same way we hoped in our fairy tale?
Adopting older kids or more typical kids adds another layer to this. They may have been living almost independently even within an orphanage if they are more typical. These are kids who have already lived a lifetime of their own, before we came into their world. That needs to be respected. They still need to recognize and follow their new rules when they come into your family, of course. But it is understandable that a kid might not see eye to eye with you on those new rules.
Also, for one of our kids, I'm not "mom." That's okay. He lived with his biological mother when he was younger, before he entered the orphanage. He remembers her. I am NOT the same mom. And I am SO fine with that. In his mind I am just another nanny, another caretaker. I'm a much nicer one, and he does like me and like being here. But I'm not "mom" and I might never be. It doesn't matter because he is here and he is safe and he is so loved. It is okay.
Adoption can be hard. This is the real, hard stuff. Parents are imperfect and kids are imperfect because we are all just regular people, not characters in a fairy tale. But life can be so, so good too. We have had some hard adjustments on all sides, but that is what we signed up for as parents. And it has been worth it a million times over. We went in with our eyes open. We went in prepared for the very worst. We've had some hard stuff, but we are doing it. And it is pretty awesome, most of the time.
We are home with Amos, Daisy, Lee and Violet! Meanwhile we have jumped in again for one last very special girl. If you would like to help with that, you can make a non-tax-deductible donation HERE that we can access immediately. You can also make a tax-deductible donation HERE that we can use once we receive travel dates. Or by donating HERE you can help provide her and other children at her orphanage the care and nutrition they desperately need. See all of our current fundraisers HERE. We are thankful for any support you can offer!