Thursday, November 17, 2011

My biggest challenge as an adoptive parent

If people were to guess what my biggest challenge is an adoptive parent they might guess something about my kids -- something about watching them make mistakes, enduring their rages, forgiving them when they screw up, or the frustration of them making so little progress.

Or they might think about the people around me -- enduring the stares and criticism of people I don't know, putting up with comments from those I do know that think they can give me unsolicited advice or make observations about what I need to do. (For example, "Have you tried time outs?" Uh, yeah, duh, like a hundred times).

Or they might wonder if it was my relationship with Bart that was most challenging as we have kids who are triangulating and as we deal with the blows that come to us day after day.

However, I would say my biggest challenge is my own emotional management. Sure, it involves all the things above, but it is more about trying to keep myself on an even keel. Here are some of the emotions that I battle:

Anger, resentment unforgiveness and bitterness. The why questions of life that can plague me -- Why did God call me to do something so hard? Why did my children's birthparents give them such a horrible start? Why aren't things getting better when I am trying so hard?

Worry, Anxiety and Fear: Sometimes my anxiety goes haywire and I start to fixate on all the things that could be happening or might happen in the future with my kids. I have to convince myself that I can function in the midst of all of it.

Despair, Hopelessness, Resignation: Sometimes when I assess what is happening in my family I don't see much good. I forget how far the kids have come and I let myself believe that there is no hope -- that there is nothing more that I can do.

Every day I must battle, in some way or another, these three themes: Anger, Anxiety, and Despair. I have to realign my thinking, pray, talk to others, make good choices that affect my own well-being, and constantly adjust how I'm feeling and thinking.

The other night as I was talking to my mom, I thanked her for giving me such a great start in life... I told her that she and my dad gave me a brain that was undamaged by drugs or alcohol in utero and attached to me in very healthy ways. This resiliency is why I can continue to manage my own emotions.

She responded, "Yes, it's too bad that your kids couldn't have that same start." to which I commented, "But if they had, they wouldn't be my kids."

It's a constant process of reframing, recharging, getting things settled in my own mind and heart in what ever ways I can. Every day, every hour, managing negative emotions and turning them into positive ones.

I'd love to hear which of those 9 things I mentioned is the most difficult for you. I realize that my Minnesota readers probably can't be that open and candid (smile) but maybe the rest of you would like to share...


DynamicDuo said...

I would have to say honestly I struggle with all of thee above, daily, hourly and even tho' I am a born Minnesotan, I think its the lack of scadinavian ancestry that makes me so outwardly expressive ;0)
I even tried talking to our priest this fall, the one thing that really hurts my heart - as much as I love my daughters and will go to the ends of the earth for them, I really don't like them that much most days.
I can mentally accept the role of being the target, I can even seperate my heart from their anger towards me, because I know their anger/frustrations have nothing to do with me.
It probably is the despair, the knowing that no matter what we do, or how long we stay in the picture we can't fix the damage done. The knowing that life is and always will be a struggle for our daughters, their is no magical age when they will be free of all that they carry with them. That's when I putter in the greenhouses, alone, and simply accept the truth, accept my place in it. It helps to have someone remind me of the progress made, the miles we have traveled. In the end though, I have to be the one who acknowledges and admits and accepts the reality and then I feel more able to deal with the life we have.
Perhaps my growing up in a large, chaotic home with many a dysfunction, trauma, different personalities helped to prepare me for this life. I question the why's alot, why bad things happen to good people especially children. I get so angry watching the news and hearing of all the awful things parents have done to their children, why were they given these gifts when there are so many childless couples who would have loved and treasured those children. I'd say I still harbor some deep resentment as well. Not towards the girls, but towards the world.

Lisa said...

I also struggle with all of these emotions daily. It makes my life quite the roller coaster. One moment I am resenting the heck out of a situation - feeling put upon because I feel like I have all the negative consequences of my kids behaviors - because I care, and they don't. If they get detention, they zone out and are completely fine with it, however, I am the one who has to deal with the teachers and the judgement and criticism constantly and then be inconvenienced by picking them up after detention. Likewise, I see how little they are accomplishing academically or social skills wise and I despair over their futures. I KNOW they need parenting for much longer than the average child, but they are not going to let me do that. They smell the freedom that 18 affords them, and they're gonna be gone in spite of the consequences. I get very angry that my life has to be so hard because they don't learn from their mistakes or learn from example. I feel like all I do is vent whenever I get a willing ear, and yet I feel guilty for burdening others with situations they have never, nor will never have to deal with because they have "normal" kids who haven't been abused and neglected. Who are functional. I honestly don't think my kids even have "dreams" for their futures. Dreams would require eventual plans and they cannot make and stick to a plan for anything.

Jen said...


I am resigned to the fact that I can not protect my son from himself. I, as parents do, protect hiim from the world as much as possible. When I realized that his own thoughts and actions are his most imminent danger, I felt myself letting go. I resigned myself to the fact that he is in control of whether or not he is going to be ok, because no amount of my parenting can change the outcome of a situation controlled by my severely oppositional defiant child. I did not give up. I refocused and took myself out of the equation. I do not control him. I coach him and hope he is able to keep himself healthy and safe...and I no longer protect him from the real world consequences for his actions. He doesn't want a mom to teach him, so the police and intensive therapists do.

Rebecca said...

Appreciated this post! I probably struggle mostly with the first two categories. Anger at birth parents for causing their beautiful children SO MANY struggles, and anxiety of all the things we could face with them in the future. I try not to let myself spiral into the hopeless future place. :) Our adopted children are 9 and younger, so I know there are challenges ahead. Thanks again for your honesty!!