Does adoption define our family?
When I thought about writing about adoption, I wanted to focus on what adoption means to me. Then this morning, my son had a meltdown, and there was screaming and crying on both sides. I decided I wanted to share this story because, for me, adoption is the process by which my family was made. However, it does not define who we are. I experience the same joys and frustrations as any other parent, and I think that really sums up the beauty of adoption; even though we may have to deal with experiences, processes, and paperwork that other parents don’t, we are still just parents. We try to figure out what kind of parent we want to be as time goes by. We try to fix our kids booboos and help them learn right from wrong. We have ideas about how everything is going to work out and it pretty much never goes the way we plan…
For example, this morning, I got to experience both the joys and frustrations that come with being a parent. My daughter got up and packed her lunchbox with the lunch I made for her the night before. She picked out the snacks she wanted and added them to her bag. She then helped me by cleaning the dog dish and pulling up the blinds before we headed to school. Like always, she was ready and waiting for me when I got to the door to leave. This morning, she was holding her school project that she had worked hard on for the past week. She was so proud of her creation, and I was proud of her for completing it on time without having to stay up late to finish (this is not always the case).
On the other hand, this morning, my son decided that he did not want to go to school. He also did not want to get dressed and would not accept any help. I picked out clothes which he said he didn’t like, so I told him he could pick out different ones. He must have screamed “I DON’T WANT TO!” about a hundred times as I asked him to get dressed over and over again. I finally tried to put his clothes on for him, but by the time I got his second arm in his shirt, the first one was out again. In utter frustration and realizing that we would be late if we didn’t leave soon, I packed my son into the car in his underwear, throwing his clothes in behind him so that he would have something to wear for the day.
I would like to mention that today was a rarity and not one of our proudest moments as a family. As of late, my 4-year-old son has decided that he doesn’t want to go to school every day even though, as a single parent, this is the only option I have. His tantrums before school persist despite the fact that he enjoys it once he’s there. This is not a product of his being adopted. It’s a result of him being very stubborn 4-year-old boy. At more agreeable times, when things are calmer, he will often run up to me and hug my legs as hard as he can. On the other hand, there are nights when my daughter gets upset over a homework assignment or becomes angry at the fact that her little brother gets to stay up as late as she does.
Although their adoptions do not define my relationships with my children, there are times when I have to remind myself that they are adopted, and they both have experiences that I cannot relate to. My daughter was six when she moved in, and my son was two. They were at different stages of development when they first came into my life. Thus, I know that when my son is six I cannot expect him to act like my daughter did when she was six. There are times when we struggle to work together to become a strong family unit, but isn’t that true of every family? I grew up with a biological sister, and there were certainly times when my mom would have to remind us that we needed to be there for each other or would force us to spend time together. Families come in so many shapes and sizes these days; I believe that your actions and feelings toward one another define your family, not how it came into being.
Adoption is how I formed my family. My family grew when I adopted my daughter and then again when I adopted my son. Each time, there were adjustments and struggles as well as laughter and hugs. We…myself, my daughter, my son, and our dog…make it work every day. We are a family. Adoption is not who we are, just how we came together. It has never been something that I regretted, and I would even consider adopting again in the future. I encourage everyone who wants to be a parent but isn’t sure how to go about it, to at least look into adoption. It may seem like a long process when you’re in the middle of filling out paperwork or waiting to hear back about a child, but once you do adopt, you will realize that your family’s journey has just begun.
About the Family
Jen is a high school teacher and a single mother living outside of Boston with her two adopted children and rescue dog. She started looking into adoption and attending MAPP training in 2012, and was matched with her daughter a year later. Three years later, she was ready to do it all over again, and was matched with her son. Although the school year is always busy, they look forward to their summers, spent on the coast of Maine.