Parenting is hard. It a sustained job, lasting hopefully a lifetime. There are innumerable challenges. There are hopes and dreams that sometimes aren’t based in reality. There soooo many decisions, seriously, so many decisions. It’s self-sacrificing, expensive and a deeply emotional experience. You will go through every emotion in existence and make up a few too.
And failure is on a pretty wide continuum. A couple of mistakes and you could lose your child in any number of ways–to the system, to your poor choices, to their poor choices, to someone else’s poor choices. So much is on the line all the time.
It’s awesome and exhausting.
I totally get why so many adult adoptees are like, “please get your ish together before adopting.” They aren’t wrong.
I periodically go down memory lane pondering my choice to create my little family this way. I remember folks giving tons of unsolicited advice. I remember knowing it was the right choice for me, but not appreciating just how…big it was. Don’t get my wrong, I know it’s live altering for me and for Hope, but I dunno, I just never could wrap my hands around just how huge it was.
I’m grateful that I’d had decades of therapy before becoming Hope’s mom. I swear, after all Hope and I have gone through, I think it should be mandatory for APs to be in therapy pre-placement. The need for self-awareness is essential. Of course, even with therapy, you’ll still fail at times, maybe even a lot.
I was chatting with an adoptee recently, about their childhood and the lasting impact. Honestly, I had to wipe a few tears, when I really wanted to just breakdown. It’s tough learning that child didn’t get so many emotional needs met, likely because the APs didn’t know therapeutic interventions were needed before things became dire. They didn’t get that this child’s needs were different than their siblings, that not having those needs met resulted in so much hurt, so much more trauma and so much more distrust.
I found myself wondering about the ways in which I might have met Hope’s needs better. Like, I know that my reaction to Hope’s sick drama is rooted in the really over-the-top ways she sought attention in the first Thanksgiving when she got overwhelmed she sat in my cousin’s floor, stripped her sock and shoe and stared at her foot for nearly an hour while complaining of having a muscle spasm. It’s like I’m anchored in that memory and ever since my reactions to Hope getting sick have been less than stellar. Oh, I always make sure she gets necessary medical attention, but my initial reaction is to downplay her cries in my head.
I legit know this backstory and I’m still stuck in the memory of Hope staring at her foot. Over the years I’ve learned to be better, but I hate admitting that the doubt rises whenever she complains. I hate myself for it too, especially like after I realized Hope was indeed having a bad reaction to the second Pfizer shot about 30 hours later.
I guess listening to this person talk about what it was like, and knowing other glimpses of their journey, I know that sometimes I am seeing their reaction to that distrust, the PTSD that formed in the moments of the most need so many years ago. Like, when parents eff up, if we live long enough we can figure out if we hit a sweet emotional spot during our child rearing. We need some hyper-awareness about that going in, and especially we foster or adopt.
Hope and I have been in therapy together and separate since day one. I’m glad. I’m also glad I had been in therapy since undergrad. Certainly there have been times I’ve taken breaks, but it has pretty consistently a part of my life for over 30 years. I’d think my fvck ups would be so much worse if I hadn’t been in therapy and didn’t double down on it once Hope came along.
In any case, as I talk to this person more, I’m challenged to really deeply think about what’s at stake long term and how best to guard against harmful parenting. I can’t protect Hope from everything, but gosh, I need to keep working on me so at least I’m not a suspect! I’m nearly 50 still talking to my mom and asking for advice, so this parenting thing is a lifetime gig. There’s absolutely not excuse for not chasing continuous improvement in parenting. Holy Homeboy willing, you will have decades of time to grow and do this thing better. Getting better and being better.
That’s the challenge APs, we just gotta always pushing the desire to BE BETTER. There is always room for us to get better.