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.