This morning I was crying in the car. There have been many reasons to cry in the past three years since we adopted our son and daughter, but this time they were happy tears. My daughter came downstairs this morning wearing the shirt she received at the Jordan’s Adoption walk this year. We’ve had many healthy, open conversations about adoption at home so that’s not an unusual topic within our family. However, up until this point, I’ve never really known how comfortable she feels talking about adoption at school.
As the implications of my daughter’s clothing choice flowed through me, the tears began to flow. So much of recovery from trauma involves separating the bad things that happen to you from your identity as an individual. My daughter’s clothing choice means that she doesn’t feel like she needs to hide her past. That she is proud of who she is and accepts herself. That she isn’t embarrassed and wants to share her story with her teachers and peers. Which, at the age of 9, is a level of maturity that I am truly in awe of.
Even as tears of pride threaten again, there is a part of me that will not let me forget that this is not a “happy ending” story. I have the utmost respect for all of the parents and professionals who are part of the adoption community. But, for me, every time I read or hear a “happy ending” adoption story I smile, nod, and then walk away fuming. I have coped with an incredibly difficult and emotionally devastating adoption process by living one day at a time. I know the odds that my children face. The chances that my daughter will graduate from high school. The chances that my daughter will become addicted to drugs. The chances that my daughter will break the devastating cycle of addiction. I know that, for so many children, being adopted is no guarantee of a “happy ending”.
I read somewhere about the importance of parents compartmentalizing their own success from their children’s success in life. That’s easier said than done, but ever so much more important in a family like ours, where the playing field is not and never was level for our children. There is no role for a “happy ending” in my children’s story. They need support. Guidance. Therapy. All of this requires all of us to acknowledge both the trauma and neglect that shaped so much of their early life, as well as the challenges they will face as they grow older. And most of all, they need everyone involved in their lives to have hope and believe that they can overcome the odds and break the cycle they were born into. More than anything, my daughter’s decision to wear that shirt reflects our family’s hope for a better future.
Family of Four in the Merrimack Valley