Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bonding is Vital!

One of the most important things adoptive parents must do is actively bond with their children. This seems to come easy for some parents, but is more of a struggle for some of us. We don't get the normal infant years where we carry a nursing child and do other things that helps make a deep bond with our child. Even if they come young, we will have missed out on much of the early bonding that most families take for granted.

Some of this is time. Some is physical contact. Both were a bit at odds with how I was raised. While my parents spent time and weren't afraid of appropriate touching, they were more private individuals and we definitely were not a touchy-feely family. My own personality is much more of a loaner, so I tend to isolate myself more, something that is not as helpful when raising children.

I mentally wrestle with how much impact this had on my children. While they definitely had many convinced that I was the source of their problems and would certainly blame any shortcoming, I am not convinced that this was the entire issue.

Still, I wish I had wrestled on the floor with them more when they were young, focused more time with them, etc. As with most parents, I would redo some things if I could and I would put this at the top of the list.

I am not sure if it would have provided the bonds I wanted though. They had enough things keeping them in their own little world, but I do wish I could have tried it more.

As I noted before, don't wallow in this. You can't change the past, but we can try to help others do better in the future. That is my aim here.

So work on bonding, even more than you would with children you had given birth to. Getting through the walls your children erect will be a challenge, but it is worth it, for their sake!


What Can We Do?

While I may write more on my ongoing journey, I want to start writing some thoughts on what we can do to help avoid at least some of the struggles I faced. While the problems won't all go away, some things may help the process. I have to admit that these are just my feelings, but this is my blog, so I will write them!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Looking Past the Past

I have definitely gone through the stages of grief with my adult children, at least most of them. I think I am at acceptance now, but I know that this is a journey, not a destination. The family I was attempting to build definitely didn't turn out according to my plans, but I have to continue on from where we are now, not where I wished I was.

I do have signs for some hope. My wife is regularly talking with our youngest, who gave birth to our second grandchild (first for her) a month or so ago. We also have regular contact with our oldest son, who is living in another part of the state with his wife and our oldest grandchild. They have challenges and I want to give more input, but I need to sit back and just pray for them.

The other two children will have nothing to do with us, especially me. My youngest son has decided I am not family at all and feels I am wrong when I tell him he will always be my son and that he is going to change that. While he is almost certain to take the legal steps to remove any connection, I do know that my wife and I are the only ones that raised him and he cannot change that fact no matter what he does.

I expect that he will go through some pretty rough times, given some of the things he is pursuing right now. I do have a spark of hope that he will eventually change, but only time will tell if that is more than just wishful thinking.

Either way, my wife and I can be certain that our children are better off than they would have been if they had been left in the system. While I wanted more, that is definitely a worthwhile goal, even if it is not as personally gratifying.

I still would like to see more support for those earlier in the process. I have a feeling some things could have been different if we had better, more understanding support. That is tough, since the issues involved go against common sense, but that support is desperately needed if we (as a society) are going to provide a good environment for these children to grow up in.

More on that later.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Breaking Up Siblings

When I started the adoption process, I didn't see how anyone could pull any child away from their birth siblings. It seemed very cruel to not allow them all to grow up together, even if it was in a completely different family.

I have gradually changed my views on this over time and while I admit that separation will be tough to handle, I am convinced it is a much better way to help the adoptee heal, especially those with a solid memory and attachment to their birth family.

I have heard that those who catch crabs can keep them all in an open bucket, without a lid, since the crabs in the bucket will actively pull down any crabs that start to escape their confinement.

While I am not certain if this is true for crabs, since I don't catch them, I know it was true in our family. In fact, more and more of the "pulling down" gets exposed as all my children are adults and more and more leaks out about what happened when they were children, both from them and as I analyze things from a different perspective.

None of them could really heal, since they all had each other as their "family" and could actively keep out the "interlopers" who would break up the family and keep them from their rightful parents. Sure, the adoptive parents might keep them for a few years, but they would all be adults soon when they could return to their proper family, at least that is what they likely thought. Of course I am extrapolating their thoughts here, but this is what they all have done, to one extent or another.

Even the younger ones, with less of a connection when adopted, have joined back in. Our youngest says she is not interested in the birth family, but she ended up living up there for a while and could possibly end up going back at some point, in spite of all her proclamations to the contrary. That pull is so strong, nothing can break it, especially when it is reinforced during the entire growing up time.

While I may not have convinced you to break up sibling groups, perhaps you can be a little less harsh on someone who does that. Keeping them together is unlikely to get them to like you any more. In fact, doing so is more likely to get them to gang up and have them all reject you, instead choosing even a dysfunctional "family" they return to if they can reconnect with those who gave them birth.


Getting Truth to the Heart of the Adoptee

This is a question I plan on thinking a lot about in the coming years. I think it is a key part of having success in this area. The stakes are high. Too many children are currently stuck in the social welfare system. While many are there for completely valid and necessary reasons, turning them into families is a serious challenge most people are definitely not ready to face.

Anyone who has read my previous posts should quickly know that I do not believe that success is simply a matter of having enough love. Two things work against that. First, these children are often connected deeply to the family they were removed from. That is ultimately a good thing, but it complicates their ability to join another family. It may even prevent it completely.

The connection they have to their birth family also can develop a fantasy tone over time, as they only remember the good things about that family and even add other things, making what they don't have "perfect" while they face the many challenges of living in a real family, one that holds them accountable and pushes them to grow and heal. Even being honest about things with them, especially as they get older, can seem like only badmouthing of the birthfamily and can end up stirring up resentment instead of understanding and healing.

Complicating this is the fact that all the paperwork by social workers may not be completely accurate. Even items that are may not fit with their fantasy memory of their birthfamily, further convincing them that you are making things up to harm their relationship with their birthfamily.

Add to this the lack of truth of what happened they may face if they do reunite at some point with their birth family and you can have a real mess. Few birthparents will want to admit to the material you received about what happened (from CPS and related sources). They may very well tell the children that all the things said about them (the birthparents) were made up lies, putting even more strain on the adoptees connection with the adoptive parent.

In fact, many adoptees already distrust their adoptive parents, so such proclamations of innocence on the part of their birth family can reinforce the view that the adoptive parents are really a part of the problem rather than the solution.

I wish I knew how to get past this. Hopefully I can figure some things out in the coming months, but I definitely believe what I have written here and it is consistent with my own experience.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

More Ups and Downs

We made it through another holiday season. One son came home for a birthday party for our granddaughter and a few hours on another night. Our youngest called my wife, a couple of times, though the contact seems very abbreviated. My wife did very well until the end of the holidays, when the strain finally started to leak out. She is fine now, but the rejection is hard to handle.

You certainly don't start the adoption process expecting this, but you really need to prepare for it. It is almost worse than the struggles we faced when they were teenagers. What happened to being the "forever family" that everyone promises? Adoptive parents need that as much as children do.

As a Christian, I don't anything happens by chance. God was certainly not surprised by what happened. Evidently, He feels I can make it through this, so I will. Even if I never get the family I expected, I will know I have changed the lives of four individuals for the better. They would have had a much tougher life without the involvement of my wife and I.

That doesn't make this easy. We still have to walk through the emotions and rejection. So be it. We can honestly say we did the best we could and that is all that can legitimately be expected.