Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Mentorless Movement

The older I get the more I realize that the world of adoption is cyclical. People start out young, naive, and fairly normal. They decide they want to do something positive for the world or they want kids or more kids or whatever their motivation. Then they get their kids and things are harder than they thought. In fact, they are super-duper unbelievably hard. The parents get more and more frustrated and crabbier and crabbier until they can hardly stand themselves and then at some point or other, they realize that the key is to change themselves and not their kids and things start to get better. They seek ways to do that and they look for people to tell them the "secrets" of surviving the crazy journey they've unknowingly jumped into. And then sometimes they get to the point where they want to share what they have learned with others and so they speak, or write, or blog, or join support groups, or just go out for coffee with the people who are starting the journey or are in the first phases of it.

The next years are spent surviving, sometimes thriving, working things out in their own heads and hearts as they watch their kids battle those crazy teenage years and then they come to the transition to adulthood, which I think is the hardest phase of the journey. By the time that they are done with that part they are TIRED. As in super-duper unbelievably tired. And they recognize that they have done something that took way more energy, time and money than they ever anticipated and they want to just STOP. So they do. They stop writing, and speaking, and blogging, and going to support groups, because after all, they are done needing support in the intense ways in which they have over the last years.

But here is the problem: If everyone does that, adoption becomes a mentorless movement. And I'm not talking about mentorless for those who are raising toddlers, or preschoolers, or elementary school kids, or even adolescents, because they still have mentors. But for those of us in the trenches of maneuvering that transition to adulthood are looking for those who have wisdom from the perspective of someone who has survived this part and have gotten to the point that their kids are out of the house and on their own.

So as a mom of 8 of 12 who have been arrested, two who are in jail/prison, three unexpected grandchildren, one estranged son, etc. etc. etc., who do I turn to for mentoring? Sure, there are still people out there who are older than I who are theorists or educators or writers, but they typically didn't adopt hurting kids. They just studied about it all -- and that's way different.

I have been very tempted in the past year or two to just be done with it all -- to step away from the adoption world and just enjoy my grandkids, find a job that isn't as emotionally taxing, and escape. And people have said to me, "Isn't that typical of people in every field -- that desire to do something else after a while?" to which I respond, "yes, but it is very different if you are LIVING 24/7 at home and then living it at work as well."

But I'm not going to give into the temptation. I don't want to leave the adoption community like many others have had to do and perpetuate what I've been calling "a mentorless movement." Maybe I'll still be speaking at NACAC when I'm 75. In some ways I hope so. Let me share one reason why (and then I promise I'm almost done).

Twice this year I have talked to women who have reported to me that they have sons who have done very well since they hit 40. It took them that long to find their place in this world and to get themselves into a good place. THAT is a message I need to hear. And that is a message I hope to share 20 years from now, when my kids are all in their 30s and 40s.

Of course there are exceptions to this dearth of mentors ... but all too often we disappear once our in-the-trenches parenting is done. I still have a few years yet before I am done parenting children (by legal definition)... but when they are all over 18 I hope I have the strength to hang around.

I hope that you'll have examples that prove my theory wrong -- I know that I can think of five or six off the top of my head -- but the numbers sure do dwindle, and understandably so. But for now this concept is what is keeping me plugged in and trying to do what I can.


Linda said...

I feel like I failed as parent to my adoptive kids who are now adults so I don't feel I can "mentor" anyone.

Kate said...

Although many may not be involved with the formal support groups, writing etc, I believe that those who have been in the trenches provide informal support via personal relationships. Like-minded people tend to find each other in any community and those relationships are not in public view but are what keep people invested in the adoption journey.

DynamicDuo said...

I use my parents as my mentors, they would agree that the transition to adulthood is hardest, the adult children present more challenges and in some respects more saddness as there are limits to what any parent can do for them. A response to Linda's comment, you didn't fail your children, you did your best and like us as we are starting to accept slowly - our best may not be enough, but its all we can do.

ZetaBlue said...

I still offer encouragement to people and share our story, but just not in a public forum. I'll be at an adoptive mom's retreat this weekend with moms from all over the country. I now have ten of my twelve adopted kids legally adults and only one is in jail. Text me if you ever need to chat.

Lisa said...

I agree with the above comments. I have several people I "mentor" informally. They've individually told me that they were hanging on for dear life and that I was the first person to ever understand the insanity of the life they're living. They've also shared with me that I'm the first person that didn't question their accounts of their kids' behaviors or made them feel like they needed to defend themselves because I get it. This is enormous validation for me as well because I am in a position to treat them the way I always wanted to be treated in this journey. I don't lie or exaggerate about my kids disabilities and struggles and I have constantly had to prove myself to others. I hated it and don't ever want anyone to feel like I'm doing that to them.