It doesn’t matter whether your children are born to you, or are added through the adoption; each one of them has a unique personality and perspective, and brings a new set of challenges every day. Forrest Gump’s mom said “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get” but I like to say that life is like baseball – you may be expecting a fastball, but you better be ready to hit the curve.
Our first curve ball was an unplanned and unexpected kinship adoption. We took in our Great Nephew when he was one year old, and our biological daughters were 8 and 4. From the get go, he had the devil in his eye. “Don’t pick that flower,” I would say, and he’d look at me and go yank it out of the ground. He quickly grew to be the smartest in the family, learning to read by the time he was 4 and excelling at math and English in kindergarten, bossing us all around and owing the art of negotiation. We grew to love him as our own. Unfortunately, he contracted a rare pediatric brain cancer and died after a 19 month battle with DIPG shortly after his 8th birthday. While devastated, we found that having a terminally ill child brings out the best in everyone, and we learned unforgettable life lessons about what is truly important. We also learned that we liked little boy energy and through the illness we thought about adding to the family. Our girls were 15 & 11 when our son passed, a little too old to start completely over with a baby. After a long family walk and talk in the Grand Canyon, the four of us agreed to look into the adoption process for older child.
As our first adoption was kinship we didn’t need parenting classes, but this time DCF asked us to take 6 weeks of classes, which we took at Children’s Friend. The training covered the challenges foster children experience and gave us insight into our first son. After the home study and eight months after we started the process, my wife and youngest daughter attended an adoption party at a nearby college where they met a precocious 9-year old boy, and the two children hit it off immediately. The Department’s goal for him had recently changed to adoption, but the foster family he had been living with for fifteen months weren’t interested. After a six-week period of getting to know each other he moved in permanently, and a year and a half later we adopted our 2nd son.
We found he was used to not being supervised and was used to being online 24X7 playing mature video games and watching movies. We learned the art of redirection, and got him involved in sports, managing his online use closely. For the first couple of years we got frequent calls from the school principal about his behavior and his lack of respect for the bus driver. Finally he was kicked off the bus and started biking or walking instead as it was just easier for everyone. We educated him on not sexting and negotiated less violent video games. We taught him to control his impulses and to seek out positive attention. We taught him that nothing he does online is private and to expect that all his posts are seen by us and the authorities.
Through a positive outlook, calm and steady demeanor, and a strong sense of family values shared by his sisters, we have been able to raise this boy to be a highly-charismatic teenager with a strong sense of self, a cadre of great friends, and we feel he is moving in the right direction with school work. To our surprise, he has turned into a superb athlete, winning two football middle school super bowl games, played for the national championship last year, and set 4 track records at school this spring, including winning the state title in the 100-meter hurdles.
While this was going on, we had the notion to round out our family to 2 girls and 2 boys, so we contacted the same social worker and Children’s Friend and started the process again. As our youngest was now 14, we started looking for a boy around 12. We did not need parenting classes, but we did need background checks, fingerprints, and a new home study. Again, the process took nearly 6 months, and again the social worker recommended that we take our son and go to a teen adoption party. In October, we met our next potential son at a Ninja gym. He chased our boy around the gym just like a little brother would do. This particular youth had a much more transient history, having been in and out of the system for nearly his whole life, but was free for adoption. We found he had already been returned once by a pre-adoptive family without any children of their own who found the process to be harder than they thought. We could not understand how anyone could do that to a child.
Our pre-adoptive 12 year-old son is a quiet, blue-eyed, curly headed boy with a shy demeanor. We have found that he has a number of defensive mechanisms that no doubt have allowed him to cope through difficult transitions. My wife and I do not give up easy, and we’ve needed all of our patience. Soft-spoken and a man of few words, we found he said “No”, “I know”, and “I’m not doing it” a lot over the first 6 months, but we are starting to see some progress, and it is great to see ice melt off a kid. We’re currently working through attachment issues , food hoarding and lack of desire to read or do school work. We realize that excelling at school has never been a priority for him until now. We are pleased that he is bonding with his siblings, helping out with chores around the house, making friends and enjoys being active in sports. We have hopes that he too will grow to share our family values and eventually reach for the stars like his three other siblings and realize his full potential.
About the Family
We are an active family of six, with two biological daughters, one adopted son and one pre-adoptive son. We also have a fifth child, an adopted son who is Forever Eight, passing away from DIPG in 2011. We are proud of all our children, for what they have accomplished, for what they will accomplish, and for all that they’ve been through. We have strong family ties and high expectations, which doesn’t make it the easiest home to live in at times, but we are happy to share our love and our values to all those with an open mind and heart.