Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Adoption Blog #2: Reactions to the news


Night stand  I rehabed for my child's room w/paint & new hardware.  

While what ultimately matters most is what I think concerning my decision to adopt, it is natural to want family, friends and others to celebrate with me and to be supportive in various ways. I think people go through stages in crises (I do not use this word as a negative term but one simply denoting life-changing events). Certain kinds of advice may be more appropriate and helpful at one stage of a crisis than at another. Most family, friends and others have been overwhelmingly positive and ostensibly happy for me. I recognize that any negative and/or not so helpful comments and responses may have come from a good place. My family has known for some time that I have had the desire and intention to adopt. But when I moved to a two bedroom apartment, began furnishing the child's room, talked about it more frequently, and resumed the formal adoption process, then came the unsolicited advice, warnings, and sometimes off-handed remarks from family and others. Their mostly well-intentioned words sometimes left me rolling my eyes, in a mild state of shock, or seething. Even well-intentioned words spoken at the wrong time or spoken at all can be less than helpful.
Most people have wanted to know if I plan to adopt an infant, and some even suggest that I should. Because with an infant, they say, I have a better chance of molding ("controlling"?) the child. (I think we all attempt to control the children in our lives [and the adults for that matter]. It can be difficult to let go/God of a grip [or get a grip] while providing guidance and support, rather than trying to control others, or to always know the difference.) Sure some people may assume I am younger than I am, as is often the case. But I am far from being a spring chicken, chronologically that is. I could be the hen's momma, maybe!  In Michigan, and maybe other states as well, I have had to explain, the age difference between the adoptive parent and the child cannot be more than fifty years. One could get around the age difference rule by fostering a baby or toddler and hoping that the child becomes adoptable. But there are so many variables and the goal of fostering is supposed to be to reunite the child with the birth parent whenever possible. The goal of fostering should not be for the purpose of trying on children, like a pair of shoes, for possible adoption. So I find myself often reiterating that I am committed to adoption.  Besides the need is great for adoptive parents of school age children. Still some people want to emphasize how set in her ways the child will be. I am aware that according to experts most children's personalities are fully developed by age seven or first grade--a stat people love to quote. One study claims that by that age the personality is set for life. Yes, I have read and heard that. I also believe no two children are exactly alike; that children are individuals and not statistics. I think science should not be ignored and I believe in everyday miracles; the power of love and good professional counseling. I also believe that trouble, or potential trouble, should not trump compassion or a calling to give back in whatever way we choose or are led to do so. I see it all the time as a teacher: people are deterred by potential difficulties, not even realized trouble. 
I plan to provide a loving, supportive, nurturing home, and pray the child will be impacted in positive ways. That's all any parent can hope for, whether they birthed the child or not. Some have said "well you dont know what you are getting" when you adopt a child of school age. I usually respond that you don't know what you are getting when you birth a child. Of course, that is never the end of the conversation. Someone actually pointed out the case of an adoptive child murdering his parents. But for every such case, there are probably ten in which the assailant was the natural child of the victim. In either case, most parents commit to doing their best to raise their children.
Others pride themselves in letting me know that children in the foster care system have educational, emotional, physical and mental challenges and will need professional help. I am by no means oblivious to this fact. (And if I somehow had been ignorant of that reality, the PRIDE training remedied that.  At one agency, the orientation was horrid enoughmore about that later.) I also know that some birth parents are in denial about those same needs in their own children. For children that have been diagnosed with any physical, mental, educational or emotional challenges while in foster care (usually rated on adoption sites such as MARE or adoptuskids.org as "none," "mild," "moderate," or "severe") the state pays for access to appropriate professionals and other resources.  I, of course, must know and be honest about my own limitations and make wise decisions when choosing a child based on the information that I can access about the child and her background. I also know that regardless, the child will need help dealing with loss and learning to trust and love a virtual stranger. And although I already have love for my potential child, I too will be learning to love her, regardless. Children always love their birth parents no matter what those parents might have done to them. I've seen this up close. It never ceases to amaze me how some who have birthed and raised children assume that single women who have not birthed children know nothing about children and human development.
Some of the mildly irritating comments directed at me include "You are not going to be able to do all that you do now,"  "Are you ready to comb hair?", "You need to adopt two because she will be used to being around other kids," or "Why don't you let her pick out the bedroom furniture" (to which I replied did you do that for your three children?; case closed). People who make such comments usually don't know me intimately, make assumptions based on their own lives, or maybe just need to feel superior in some way. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of friends and family affirm me in my decision to adopt (even while offering their mis/advice), and tell me I will make a great mother. But nobody, I am happy to say, suggested that I am too old. I should take it as a compliment when some people suggest that I adopt a baby, I guess!
I have thought long and hard about adopting a child, and I believe this is the time and season. In the process, I am painfully learning that not all adoption agencies are created equal, especially those that deal with foster children/state wards. More about this later. Thank you for your prayers and support. Pray for my potential child and for me...for grace and wisdom. They are much appreciated!  My next blog will address some fears.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mitzi! Does your state require you to be a foster parent before you can adopt? That's the way it's done in Maryland. I've been to the county meetings about becoming a foster parent/adopting and I've been to private adoption/international adoption gatherings. You are right, they are very different experiences. In fact, the county/state meeting made me abandon the thought of fostering/adopting for years. The private adoption meetings actually made me want to consider fostering/adopting through the state again. Bjae

Mitzi Smith said...

No, Michigan does not require one to foster first but some agencies strongly recommend to the point of not following thru with an applicant who is interested in adotion only, as Spaulding for Children did with me. I am praying the agency I am with now will follow through based on my goals. They say they will and can.

Crystal Gunn said...

Again, I say BRAVO to you Mitzi! This is a new season in your life and you will find that some people will not be in or should not be in this season....and it it perfectly OK.

I love what you wrote about letting go/God and how so often parents try to control and mold a child - which I think is huge error.

Anyway. I am so excited for you!!!

Mitzi Smith said...

Thank you Crystal for being a witness of my journey and for your support!