MY DAY: Failing at adoption

Friday evening, my newest adopted son, and one of my senior saxophone students, and I headed to a nearby high school to watch several of my students in the the marching band’s end of band camp parent show. 

Upon entering, I ran into one of my favorite families that I’ve known for the past 15 years. We met at the adoption agency as we were beginning our journeys as adoptive parents.

Through the years, we commiserated with one another, expressing our concerns, cheering one another on, and simply offering a smile, or a hug to remind the other that we do understand.

Before the end of greetings were completed, the mom began sharing the latest news/updates on two of their children.  My heart began breaking for her.  In fact, it was actually crumbling for her.

The issues they laid out with their teenage son and daughter mirrored so many of the same issues with which I dealt as a parent: defiance, run-ins with the police, stealing/theft, lying, major issues at school, etc. 

Their painful, familiar list continued.

Then, the mom uttered the words that drove a chisel through my heart: “we absolutely failed at adoption.”

These parents are top notch, state acclaimed educators, whose innovative parenting techniques have always captured my attention, and respect.  This claim seemed entirely impossible.

When they each turned to face me, I truly saw their faces for the first time, last night. They each had a look of physical, mental, and emotional battle fatigue. Their eyes, once filled with sparkling, energetic enthusiasm, were veiled with sorrow.  

While they explained their proactive attempts at salvaging these hurt children, we shared the unspoken, yet all to familiar exchange, “there really is no more hope.”

I pleaded that they not look at themselves as having failed at adoption. I stressed that we have given our chosen children so much more than they probably ever would have received with their birth families, or even their foster families. We have given our children new starts at life, brand-new opportunities and experiences, a chance to excel academically, the connections to develop socially, and all the love and affection in the world.

They each agreed with me, but they were too battle weary to fully acknowledge my reminders.

 I’ve known that weariness.  

I’ve worn the cloak of feeling adoption failure.  

I swam in the leaden-waters of aloneness while raising adopted sons.  

I ran that race of the standard three steps forward, two steps back, only, in adoption-reality it is actually three steps forward, seven steps back.
Parenting, whether birth, foster, or adopted, has any number of challenges. There always seems to be something that crops up with every child.  Some children are magnets for more than their share of trials. 

Last night, the mom and I muttered, several times, “a large share of the world has no idea what it is like to parent a foster/adoptive child.”  When you take the basic challenges of raising a birth child, it is often ten times the amount of challenges raising a foster or adopted child.  People have no idea.   It’s simply unfathomable.

The abuses imposed on our chosen children, before they came into our care, often project onto to the parents, or primary caregivers.  Eventually, we, the caregivers, are weighed down by our children’s projections of experienced physical, mental, and emotional abuse.  Many of us parents have been physically attacked (I had a knife pulled to my throat which ended up slicing my wrist, choked until a police officer threatened to use their tazer, attempts to push me down the staircase, false allegations, medication crushed and poured into my water bottles, etc.), and a majority endure the mental and emotional manipulation, and abuse.  

My newest son, just a few minutes ago, wanted to show me some photographs of himself and his brother.  He opened up a little of the abuse he went through.  I reminded him it was no fault of his that he had known these former atrocities. 

We enter the adoption arena with dreams, and high hopes.  While there are countless stories of “happy endings,” there are even more that are the opposite. 

There’s always THAT LINE where it becomes the hurt/broken child’s choice to engage in poor, risky behavior.  However, I still believe they need a chance; they need the love and nurturing, that one last chance, so often ignored for older children, to guide them toward a better life, a world of hope.  

Are we heroes?  

No.  We are parents. We are simply doing what any parent would do for their child 

The real heroes are the children, or Bui Doi, “the dust of life” as highlighted in the musical, MISS SAIGON.  

The other unsung heroes are the field social workers who are the first line of defense for foster children.  Their story is another blog post. 

Sometimes, we parents just have to recognize, and admit some things just cannot be fixed.  Sometimes, there are children who simply cannot be fixed by us.  Perhaps, later on in life, they figure it out, but sometimes parents can only do, and give, their best.  

And giving one’s best is never a bad thing.

About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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