I recently saw an article in which a fellow adoptive parent expressed regrets about the costs of parenting hard children and the suffering that can be caused to the biological kids that are also in the home. It is hard – I know. There is a cost. I think there is a need for open discussion and acknowledgement that it’s difficult, draining, hard, and it’s easy to be judged and misunderstood as an adoptive parent. It’s good to talk about the costs.
At the beginning of a parent/child relationship, it’s different betwenn adoptive and biological kids. With a baby born to you biologically, you’ve known each other for nine months, and you share DNA. You know each other already. When it’s an adoption, it takes time to get acquainted, and that’s ok to acknowledge. When kids come to you older or from a place of trauma, you have to let the child heal and learn to bond, and it takes time and can be messy and hard. The differences in the process of the relationship and the nature of the relationship are very key here, though. My adopted children are mine, and have been mine, legally and commitment wise, since they came to me. In this way there is no difference between my biological and adopted children. We, Paul and I , are all in. In the face of relationship troubles and bad behavior, whether a child is biological or adopted, they are ours. Period.
What if Justin were to give us a ton of trouble and require more resources for his issues than the other kids? Would we feel super sorry about it or guilty about it? Nope. We would do what we need to do for him. If Caleb needs more time, more trips to the doctor, more trips to the therapist, do we begrudge him, or feel resentful about it? Nope. We would do what we need to do for him. The primary reason for this is love. We love, or we wouldn’t be adopting in the first place. We love, and we make people a part of our family though birth or adoption, and we commit to that love for as long as we have breath in our bodies. Is it hard? Costly? Painful? Yes. Isn’t everything that is worthwhile?
Some adoptive families head into adoption because they’re going to save the world, change a life, fix a problem. This is going to result in some serious frustration. Kids aren’t fixable, and they’re not a problem. They are lovable, precious, created individuals, and they need a family. All of them. If biological kids were to act crazy or do the family damage, and then the parents were to give up, it would not be received well. But when it’s kids from hard places, it’s ok to give up, and it’s socially acceptable to say it’s too much to ask of a parent, because 99% of people are unwilling to do it. So it’s ok to say it’s too hard, and then everyone who is doing nothing about the millions of children who need homes can all feel better about themselves and think, “Whew! I knew I shouldn’t get involved. Those kids are trouble.”
How sad. Seriously, if you are not ready to commit to take the bad with the good, to love without stopping, and to allow yourself to feel pain and frustration, don’t have kids of any variety. They’re a mess. They’re not safe.
But if you want to live large, if you want to live abundantly, then step out and love the unlovable. I had a good life before I stepped into the role of an adoptive parent, but when I got my hands on Joshua, our first adopted child, I saw the heart of God in a deep way that could never have been explained to my suburban American self before I lived it. We emptied our bank account, traveled around the world three times, suffered in a third world country, and cried ourselves to sleep about a little boy who did not even know us yet, because we loved him and wanted him in our family. He had nothing to offer us – he was sickly, malnourished, and completely unaware that there was any other way of living, or even that there was a sun and flowers and kitchens full of food in this world. He was a precious, skinny, stinky, waif of a boy with explosive diarrhea. The moment we noticed that the monumental ordeal we went through to adopt Joshua was only a faint shadow of what Jesus had done for us, emptying himself and leaving heaven to come after humans who really had nothing to offer Him, at a cost of everything He was, it took our breath away. I would not have missed that for the world.
If you have never watched an orphan transform into a beloved son or daughter, you have missed a blessing. My biological kids feel the same way. We watch miracles daily. We have boys here that walk and talk and love and bring us such joy that our hearts might burst. Joshua would most likely be dead and buried by now, if he had stayed in that orphanage. Caleb’s case worker said he was going to be sent to a nursing home if we didn’t take him. That is the cost that we need to be counting – the cost of innocent children, who are precious blessings, if you know how to look at them.
So yes, we have hunted down trouble, and we brought it home with us. Obviously, we have six kids, and there’s sacrifice involved. We don’t eat out much, but everyone does get to eat, which wasn’t true before. Matt doesn’t have an iphone, unlike 95% of the 7th graders in his school. Kids share rooms, and they don’t have TVs in them. We don’t have closets full of designer clothes and we don’t eat fancy food and we don’t have cable. There’s been struggle in relationships and damage inflicted. I just took a quick poll of the kids and asked them if they could identify areas of deprivation or concern to them. They couldn’t.
We can’t do without any of our kids, however. We can’t stand to think about them facing the challenges of life without a family. There isn’t anybody here who is sorry about the trials we’ve gone through or the choices to bring adopted kids into the family. Yes, there’s been suffering, but counting the cost of not having those boys is unthinkable. To all of us.
Disclaimer: There are those children from hard places who need residential treatment/placement and this is in no way judging those parents who ask for help or make alternative living arrangements in the best interests of their families and children.