Since I was young I always imagined having a child. When I was about 6-years-old and I saw a movie about horses or something that moved me, I thought I want my daughter to see this one day. This thought process continued as I got older. I didn’t meet my husband until later, and after two painful miscarriages, we looked into adoption.
For both my husband and I, who never entertained the idea of adoption, it was surprising how quickly we fell in love with the mission of foster adoption.
We loved the idea of helping an older child. I’m not going to lie, I also loved the idea of first learning about a child before embarking on a life together. This felt a lot safer to me than picking up a newborn in Kentucky (I know there are awesome infant adoption stories, too!).
So my husband and I signed up for MAPP classes. As cautiously excited as we were, I was also terrified and had little faith. Being a psychotherapist, I thought I would never say yes to a match, being too afraid of what could unfold. I also have two stepsons (who at the time were then 13 and 15), and was committed to their lives not turning upside down.
In addition to wanting the child-size painful yearning in my heart to go away, I also imagined how on many levels, adopting a child would create greater balance in our family. Deep down I felt it would create greater family cohesion. I was afraid it was a dangerous fantasy (and had heard one social worker warn others against such fantasies), but two years later, it has definitely proven true.
Our daughter came to live with us when she was six. Even from the beginning, she has always been the cat that thinks she owns the house. Yes, some of this is because she was parentified (and we’re working on that), but it is also partly her temperament, and not all bad. She has helped bring my older stepson out of his shell, as she stands in the staircase with arms outstretched announcing, “you’re not going to get by until you give me a hug.” Or with my younger stepson, who was initially afraid of the responsibility of being an older brother, it has given him the opportunity impart his wisdom, while also having another sibling in the house to play with.
I will say with my daughter now being 8 and her brothers being 15 and 17, dinner conversations are interesting. While her nerdy brothers talk about chemistry and physics, she tells why did the chicken cross the road jokes.
For those families with children who are contemplating adopting another child, I think there are many things to consider.
Our daughter’s social worker recommended that either she be the only child, or far enough in age from other children. I am often struck by the wisdom of this recommendation. Since we have the boys on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and every other weekend, she is able to have both scenarios. When the boys are not with us she gets both my and my husband’s attention. When the boys are with us she learns to negotiate having only a piece of the pie. When occasionally she feels insecure having to share attention, we find new strategies that will be helpful when facing similar situations. She also loves and is so proud of having brothers and misses them dearly when they are not here, as she occasionally sits on the sofa looking at their pictures.
So overall, I would say we feel incredibly blessed how well our blended family has worked out. This is not to say there are not challenges. Most of them, though, do not have to do with family blending. When raising a child with a history of neglect, there is a significant amount of insecurity and need. As I have read in other blog posts, this takes a lot of time, energy, support, selflessness, self-care, and boundaries.