This morning I read a blog post entitled “Don’t Save My Child.” It was very insightful by a family who has much more experience than I do with foster and adoptive families. And what they wrote resonated with me.
The premise of the blog post explains that when well-intentioned adults jump in and try to love on our adoptive or foster kids, often their attempts at helping to rescue or support our kids end up hurting what we as a family are doing.
And this is so true. I can think of many examples of this behavior from our own family. There have been times when loving friends have given extra hugs, treats, or other rewards to my kids, not knowing what that has meant as we tried to establish our attachment at home with resistant kids. The truth is bonding takes time. Creating a true connection in love and trust takes a long time. And as adoptive or foster parents, we can see signs of true attachments and false attachments as we watch our kids interact with ourselves and others.
While I definitely agree whole-heartedly with the family who wrote this blog post, I also have some extra thoughts. The first thought is that adoptive and foster parents are pretty awesome – or at least we want to be. We want to bring love and hope to a hurting and hopeless situation.
But day one of landing back on U.S. soil with my two little Ethiopians showed me how utterly inept I am to do this on my own. I was stressed out of my mind. To the point of wanting to call Child Protective Services on myself. From day one. Now hold on, don’t be judgy. Adopting is in many ways exploding your family from the inside and trying to learn how to piece everything back together again one day at a time. I think the benefit of realizing my shortcomings right away has at least reminded me how much I need others.
So I am going to propose a slight tweak to the “Don’t Save My Child” post. I am naming this post, “Help Me Save My Child.” Because I need help. I am aware constantly that four littles call me mom, and there is only one of me to go around. So I need your help. But I am also aware that if you rush in as the savior or best buddy to my little, without understanding our family dynamics or struggles, you might be causing harm instead of helping. So ask me. Please!
When one of my kids begs you for a treat at church and I’m not looking, ask me first if it’s ok. If one of my kids want to wrestle with you for fun, ask me if that behavior is normal and ok or inappropriate. If you are a helper at the classroom at school and one of my kids tries to convince you that they already finished their reading and don’t need to do it again, double check. Ask me. Work with me as I try to help my child figure out how to adjust to our family, and this new life. Ask me if it’s helpful or hurtful for you to pull my child on your lap to read them a book. Ask me if it’s helpful or hurtful if you ignore or respond to inappropriate behaviors when they are playing at your house.
When we first brought our boys home, I remember being so thankful the first time another parent said “No!” to something one of my boys did. I was so relieved! I told her I had to be the constant voice of “NO” for so long, since other well-intentioned people didn’t want to be mean to these cute kids who were new here. So the boys only ever heard the rules and boundaries from me. It gave me emotional support when another adult in my child’s life finally affirmed me by setting boundaries.
So as you learn to help your friends and family who are navigating this adoptive world, please ask questions. Please try to listen and understand. Often the side of our children you see isn’t the whole story, and there are ways to support and help that you might not realize.
But please don’t stop helping us! We need support! I need those friends who offer to have my whole crew over for a play time, or those friends who are willing to go camping with our crazy bunch! And I need those friends who listen to me gripe about my stress load some days. Please keep helping! Because I love you, my friends. God definitely intended for us to all do this journey of caring for the orphans and widows together, not as separate families.
P.S. I haven’t posted on this blog in a reeeeeeally long time, so here’s a cute picture of our family to let you all know we are doing great! 🙂