Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Sub-Culture of Negativity

Several things have happened in the past couple weeks that have got me thinking. Before I even begin to explain, I want to confess right now that I am not preaching to anyone more than I am preaching to myself.

I started my "career" as an "adoption professional" back in 2000 when we had been fostering and adopting for about 3.5 years. My first job was post-adoption support and I set up email support groups as well as in-person support groups in order to help parents cope with the issues of raising difficult children. I had acquired several friends, by this point, who were all in my situation, and we called each other often.

People were finally free to say things that they had never been able to say before because they felt safe. They were able to be with others who understood. And so we began to share our stories. Soon it became almost a contest to see who had the worst life. And while all of this was therapeutic and good, those who were having a pretty good life really hadn't much to contribute. And those who were feeling OK about their lives were felt that they couldn't even speak up. And when they did, people chimed in to basically say, "well, your life may not suck now, but it's gonna."

Email list serves took the same turn sometimes. Thread after thread became "if you think your kid is bad, listen to how bad mine is." Or "if you think the system screwed you, you ain't got nothing . Wait until you hear how much I got messed with and how they destroyed my family." And again, if things were going well, on some lists, you almost felt like you couldn't type that.

Then I started blogging and so did several of my friends. And while I feel that the core group of blogs that I read are pretty balanced, (I sure hope mine is), I have read many that show no joy. Nothing good is reported. Sure it is a place to vent, but not just adoptive families read them. They are out there for the world to see.

I know that there are several adoptive families that have been destroyed by the system that they are trying to stop people from adopting. I realize that I play a role in the potential destruction of families by placing children, but I also know good and well that these families, if they are determined enough, are going to find ways to get kids -- as many as they think they can parent. And they aren't going to listen to reason. I never did. And so I would rather be their social worker working for an agency that I know will be supportive, than to say "I'm not going to place kids any more" and have them head to another place to do what they are going to do regardless of what advice anyone gives them. And so I try to be there to support them through it.

Yes the system stinks. Yes our kids are hard. But are positive voices being squelched? Why is it that I feel that others are trying to make me feel guilty because I don't regret our decision? Why can't a message of "We can make it through this, we will be better people, permanency is better for kids" be accepted and welcomed? Have we really fallen this far?

We have had some hard times. I've stopped blogging about many of them, simply because it takes too long and I"m getting used to them. But I love my children. I am a better person because of what I've been through. And sure, my life hasn't been as bad as some of yours, but that also means that a lot of people have lives that are better than mine. But maybe those blogs, full of positive adoption experiences, are too boring for most of us to read.

Do support groups actually offer support? Can we be part of them with love and laughter and continually remind each other that this is a good thing? Can blogs and list serves and online forums be a place where we can offer hope? Isn't support both grieving together AND celebrating together?

My biggest fear is this: If we do such an excellent job of telling the world about our hardest kids and forgetting to mention the blessings of our easier kids, will parents stop giving children a shot? Will the Leons, WIlsons, and Mercedes of the world be in foster care for life because we have shared so much about our harder to live with children?

I like my life. It's a hard one, but I like it. I wouldn't trade it. I love all my kids, the ones who are hard to raise and the ones who are easier. I find joy each day in something. I am glad God gave me this road. I don't regret any of my decisions.

Does that mean I don't fit in anywhere anymore?

Please tell me that you are experiencing something different than what I've written above. Please tell me (and the rest of the world) stories about why you are glad you chose to adopt. Tell me of support groups that offer hope. Just for today let's say to the world, "the system may stink, but the kids don't. Adoption is a GOOD thing."


Lee said...

Oh I so agree. And have felt out of step with lots of blogs I read because they are often so much of the negative. We *do* have our share of the negative. I have a child who steals and who lies and who has trouble accessing his emotions. I have a son with a disability that was undisclosed at adoption. I have a daughter of my heart who can not live in our family but remains part of the life we weave together. The system totally failed her and failed us but though she was removed from our home, you don't remove someone from your heart and we perserved in maintaining relationship with her. My kids dispite some of them having challenges *all* offer me great joys. We have fun together. I enjoy their company (most times). I thrill at each new, sometimes even small step forward in healing growing learning and loving. And although I know the causes of my children's issues, I also feel that despite the most excellent parenting, some of this could have happened had my children been biological. There just are no guarantees.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree w your post. I've had to stop reading some blogs cuz it seemed that they were only about failures. But even tho it can be difficult, we must challenge ourselves to find the good in each day. It is always there butsome days harder to find. What I, years ago, thought would be the end of the world is now merely another beginning. My kids can be hard to parent, sure. But they are healing and learning how to love and step out into this world w me by their side. Success shouldn't be measured by grades or jobs or even independence. It should merely be measured by the fact that our kids have the opportunity to achieve their own successes & this was not an option when they did not have permanency. I love my kids more than I ever thought one could have the capacity to love. They may not always love me back, but they have someone who loves them & that is also success.

GB's Mom said...

I thought I had some balance. I obviously view adoption in a positive way as we are considering doing it yet again. But I will steal your idea for my post today :)

Kathleen said...

I'm in two online groups. Attachment Disorder Support Group is pretty good. It's a safe place to vent, and to celebrate successes. There's no one-upmanship to prove one's situation is worse than another's. It can be a helpful place to learn new strategies. However... I've come to a different place in my parenting (much more Beyond Consequences & Regulatory Parenting), and now to me some (a lot?) of the advice there smacks more of control than of relationship, and I can't parent like that (and wish others wouldn't!!). I stay because the people there are friends, and because I moderate the BC / RP section of the board and hope to enlighten folks. :-)

Currently the online support group I find most useful is the Daily Parenting Reflection email list shown on Heather Forbes' site. It is dedicated to those of us implementing Beyond Consequences with our kids. I can't say enough good about the BC approach to parenting, and this group really helps keep us all focused on that.


Unknown said...

Adoption is a good thing.
It's been good for us.
I'm not gonna lie. Our five year old adopted son is really not a kid most people would welcome into their homes.
But you know what? I have a couple bio kids people would not either.
I think for us, what makes this all doable is you never know what you're gonna get. (Kids are like boxes of chocolates that way!) I mean, we got a very typical, "normal" eleven year old bio daughter. We've got a ten year old bio daughter who had a traumatic brain injury at age two. It's left her with some pretty difficult issues. And we've got an eight year old bio son with autism. So in adopting our five year old, issues like his were just a part of the package. We deal with them. Because he is worth it. I mean, because ten year old girls with short term memory problems and serious anger issues are just fun times - we don't give up on her. And we don't give up on our autistic son either. It's the same with our adopted kiddo, and the foster kids we've had in the past. We made a commitment when we took them into our homes. We won't give up on them. Ever. And one day I hope to come out on the other side of all this with sunshine and HOPE.
And, crazy me, I've really got it laid on my heart to adopt again. And foster too.

Joe said...

I have been following many blogs related to our special children. I have seldom commented on any of them, but you have struck a nerve. My wife (GB's mom) and I have been at this for some time now (oldest adopted is now 28). Although it wasn't always true, we have long since accepted being different. Precious few of our friends "get it". I understand the frustration with the level of negatives focused on in many of the blogs, however I still appreciate reading these if for no other reason than to reinforce that we are not alone,although it sure would be nice if we wern't spread all over the map. We are visiting with my son's family these last 2 weeks so it is appropriate to comment here that my wife and I have been experiencing a good deal of joy witnessing the great progress and growth that our son is demonstrting. Even MK that my wife has blogged about numerous times is showing tremendous, albeit uneven, progress. Obviously it wasn't always that way. Just a few years ago before J "grew up" we committed to raising GB. God spoke to me more clearly at that time than other time in my life. "Here is a blessing, a second chance". She has been just that and more, despite her challenges. As my wife previously commented, we are even considering expanding "our chaos". The moral of all this blabbering is the harder the struggle, the more rewarding is the acheivement. In the end I fell blessed by all the "specialties" that come with my family. Thank you Lord.

Kari said...

I'm glad you wrote this.

I need to vent (some days more than others), but more than anything I need to laugh and remember why we chose to do what we do.

I am involved, because of my work, in a lot of support groups right now and two of them in particular are GREAT for me. I leave feeling renewed instead of toxic. The more negative groups are harder for me. So many of our families are going through so much. I understand the fear and the anguish and the anger and the grief, but I just can't dwell there.

Thanks for your wisdom and for the silly way you wave at me on the treadmill. You make me laugh and you make me think. What an awesome combination in a friend. That's as mushy as I'm getting today.


waitingarms said...

Interesting that you wrote this blog post today as I was discussing this same issue with a fellow adoptive mom who has come alongside me to allow me to vent as I navigate the system trying to get services for my kiddos. She was saying she has stopped reading a lot of the blogs with RAD children – in her words they are sometimes too dark and depressing. She is a parent raising two kids from the “tough places” but who have come out at the other side, she made an interesting observation – she feels like she has nothing to contribute to the dialog. If she offers hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel – then her opinion is discounted because the assumption is that her kids were not as difficult to parent as the other kids or it is implied that she is simply in denial! Some blogs leave one with the feeling as though the adoptive moms have Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome!

I think it is so easy to just blog about the difficult days and forget to blog about all the other joyful days. I need to examine myself and see if this is how I come across – because heaven knows our lives are so much richer because we said yes to adoption. Because of adoption, our once quieter house is now filled with tons of giggles, laughter, hugs and kisses.

Anonymous said...

I also find many blogs too negative and I have left support groups because of negativity and the one-up thing. As if dangerous behavior is a competition...that's a little twisted.

The support groups I presently attend are positive. We are about moving forward there and we focus on the things we can change and the areas where we can make a difference.

But, that's not to say I don't feel real sorry for myself sometimes. I don't have the hardest kids in the world, but I know I have the hardest I can handle.

An old friend contacted me in January because she has adopted an older child internationally. I read her blog and I go back to it and re-read some parts often. I needed the attitude-adjustment I found there. If you'd like to read something positive--check out Gayle's story. You will be inspired by her courage and her faith.

Linda said...

I'm glad you wrote this Claudia. I worry that my blog comes off as negative because I usually write about the biggest things going on in our lives and to be honest the big things are crappy at the moment. But you remind me that there are always good things happening too and we should share those moments. The not so good things weigh heavy on my mind. I need to move them over so the little happy things have room to be up front. I have to add that I currently attend a support group when my schedule permits and I come away from that one energized. It's not a pity party...those are so emotionally draining. Helping others parents, moving on and laughing is much more theraputic. And we all need that kind of therapy!

Integrity Singer said...

this is good - this is where my emotions have wandered too after the last year and I'm hoping I can cling to this new found peace about our situation. I think the rawness of emotion was so consuming for us (and therefore very therapeutic to blog about) because no one, not one soul in the adoption, parenting or psychology circles gave us any clue about what RAD is, what other diagnoses my children might have or how HARD it would be. NEVER, not once, were we given a clue. Reading your book, you may have orginally held an idealistic view, but you still got truth - raw truth. We got pie-in-the-sky-hip-hip-hooray-infertile-christian-couple-adopts attitudes. There was never any room to say "uh, um... we've got a problem with our kids and it's consuming us"

it took our oldest going to RTC after 9 years of parenting her RAD without support for the gears to move and for our family to finally get the help we desperately needed. Now, I'm hoping our story can begin to be a positive one.