Having adopted children from Poland nine years ago, I can look back now and see that blending children who had been neglected into a family that has love to give is much more complex than we ever realized.
Overseas adoption is a process that is fraught with anxiety and uncertainty right from the start. Revisiting diary entries from that time, the compassion and yearning I had for these children when we learned about them comes rushing back at me. As does the love, fear and anxiety I had when we met. As the weeks ventured on in Poland, I can hear in my writing how desperate things were getting, and how much I longed for home. Then as the years unfolded, my entries go from hopeful to desperate and to hopeful again.
And while today I can say that we feel like the meshed family unit we’ve worked and hoped for, it hasn’t always been easy. An important lesson my partner and I had to learn early on was that the children’s day-to-day experiences, before we were together as a family, were very, very different from ours. We had the security of our life and what we had built; whereas, they were in a type of limbo, living on hope. And once they came home, it wasn’t just accepting that their life experiences were so different; they needed time and support to heal. After all, no matter the reasons, their first parent-child relationship had been broken.
We also learned that solutions to some parenting issues in a blended family were no different from those we used in raising our biological son. Things like having honest discussions with each other about values, limits and consequences in order to present a united front when it came to things like homework, the dinner table, bedtime routines and such. All these things are key to keeping a stable home for your new child. You may not have all the answers on day one, but at least you’ve begun the conversation and are moving in the right direction for the good of your child.
Today, our kids are teens. Our biggest struggle is that I’m not always seen as an authority in the house. It can be hard for any parent of teenagers not to take things personally. Teens are often self-absorbed and uncaring about hurting others’ feelings because it gives them a sense of power. For parents of adopted children, power and control issues can be an ongoing struggle, making the teen years especially challenging. From a young age, my kids never had any control, so now they often dig their teeth in, in order to show me that they can be in charge. Knowing it’s not really about me, but about the dysfunctional life they came from, combined with their development stage, it is something we work on everyday as a family. It is such a delicate task as they are still learning how to recapture those early years that were lost, but we are making headway!
When it comes down to it, in the words of my son, I know that, “even though we fight, and we fight, and we fight some more, at the end of the day we all still love each other.” What more can we ask for?
All the best in your journey together.