When the end of our lives draws near we will consider the decisions that we have made; those which have brought us the most joy and we will thank goodness the opportunity was present and that we had the courage to act.
If you decide to parent through adoption you will learn the power of the spirit of love and the true meaning of the word commitment. Nothing in your life will seem as vibrant and no challenge so profound. Remember always that you make this decision willingly and that only you can determine the definition of its success or failure.
The word adoption seems to have many meanings these days as we celebrate the adoption of pets, highways, classrooms and ways of dressing. We can adopt internationally, locally, privately, informally and for the purposes of this writing older “children” from the foster care system.
There are a few things in life that I am so certain about that I spout them every chance I get with the certainty of a man of faith. One such thing is the truth about adopting or even fostering teens. The truth is parenting teens from foster care is often one of the most incredible, life changing and remarkable experiences that anyone who wishes to call themselves’ a parent can endure.
Is it easy? No, parenting often isn’t. Will there be ordeals and challenges? Yes, sometime the very sky will seem to be falling. Can these experiences leave us burnt out and emotionally depleted? Yes absolutely, especially if we insist on fighting on all fronts at the same time. If we are fighting emotional firestorms at school, home and in their individual relationships any parent is going to have periods of despair. Skirmishes will break out at every turn seemingly over nothing at all. All one need do is utter the word teenager and the collective minds of adoptive and foster parents everywhere roll their eyes, suck their teeth and turn away from the photo listing. This article no doubt just lost more than a few readers in the last two lines; no worries I have faith. Faith in the fact that for many of us travelers down the road to adoption someday we will find ourselves drawn to the road we are culturally warned to avoid.
“I want somebody that I can mold.”
“You don’t want teenagers…there’re trouble.”
“They will wanna run your house.”
“They don’t want parents… they are just set in their ways.”
Some of you will hear those voices and many of you will be those voices. I am here to tell those of you still listening that after nearly twenty years of placing older children and teens into permanent homes, younger is not better, just longer.
Teenagers are unique creatures in the midst of awe inspiring changes and not only capable of being molded but desperately seeking mold models to reject and later impersonate. Parenting teenagers is the ultimate investment in tomorrow. We know that when teens begin to push us away and distance themselves from our shadow we are providing something crucial to their development and psychological well being. I speak of someone’s specific way of life; a frame work around which a future can be carved and shaped.
When we consider why it is that we find ourselves on the road to teen adoption, experience has taught me that the most likely candidates for teens are folks who have come to or are willing to embrace the “C” word in two key ways. First is the understanding that the big “C” has to come first.
Commitment to living the role of parent without regard to the still imaginary child is a key element in making the decision to ignore rampant teen bias. Once parenthood thinking is activated and infused into the search, socially constructed barriers often fall away.
I believe the foundation of all parenting is not some “unconditional” illusion as much as it is the parent’s willingness and need to sacrifice in the spirit that our children will be better for and the world will be better for it. In no other arena is this concept more prevalent than in the very idea of adoption. Claiming another mother’s child in the name of some uncertain future is a dynamic and earth changing event. Don’t waste a moment of your precious time wondering if the sacrifices that you will inevitably have to make will be worth the trouble. You and the teens that you have decided to claim are worth the challenges ten fold. Adoptive parents of teens and preteens are blessed to witness an express journey through the developmental stages with great intensity until the need to test is overridden by the immense sense of connectedness that belonging engenders. When the young person begins to feel that you might just be a needs fulfilling person, a miraculous key turn happens and your child will finally begin to give back. Suddenly the blame and angry banter will subside and grass will begin to grow again. The ride will be bumpy as one’s life experiences don’t always translate into neat, orderly displays and prompts. Triggers are everywhere and family life is a virtual mine field where one false move could feed on itself over and over leaving poor mom and dad feeling like hapless failures in a rigged game of hide the joy.
That’s A-OKAY. Parenting is about the full body of work, not the individual failures or triumphs. Your child will remember above all else that when the chips were down and every other “parent” had failed them, you never did. This I money back guarantee because the only test parents must pass in order to be granted parent status is the no matter what I did she/he/they never gave up on me. That is it. Everything else from this point forward is about how to maximize your enjoyment, minimize your trauma and super size your take away points while you raise your family.
To be continued…