My Thankful Life: Erika

My Thankful Life is a series written by our readers. We admire and appreciate you more than you know. Thankful Moms is a place for all of us to gather and encourage one another. If you would like to submit a story about your life, you can find our editorial guidelines here. We can’t wait to hear from you.  Lisa and Jennifer

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My Life.  Geeze.

If you’ve avoided foster care because you think you’d never be able to give the child back, then you’re not alone.

We chose international adoption because it offers no possibility for them to be returned to their birth parent.  Once our kids “came home,” they’d be ours.

Our plan was to love away their troubles and mother them back to health.

Within the first month of bringing our son and daughter home, we realized we were not prepared. We felt as if we’d been fooled.

We’ve been living the “worst case scenario” stories we were warned about in our half-read adoption manuals for five years now.

  • He may have a hard time attaching.
  • He may have behavioral problems.
  • Aggression…Raging… Food hoarding… Stealing…
  • You may feel like you don’t love your child.

Most days, I wake up with a heaviness in my chest. I’m the one he blames for his pain. I’m the receiver of his anger and sadness.

“Go away!”

“I hate you!”

“You’re stupid.”

“You only made that food because you know I hate it!”

Guilt and shame hang over me as I think,  “I can’t do this. I can’t love him.”

When I walk into his room and see the destruction: torn books, food crumbs, pilfered goods that belong to his brothers, the missing window screen, the hole chipped into the wall, I think, “I hate him. He ruined my life.”  Then my chest constricts knowing what a horrible thought that is.

I don’t hate him; I hate my helplessness with him.

On the outside we look like a normal happy family. On the inside, we struggle.

I have chronic back pain. Our marriage is strained. My birth kids idyllic childhood was cut short. I don’t have the energy to do anything more than what is necessary. 

I’m consumed with researching and implementing ways to help my adopted kids heal. Unfortunately this comes at a cost. The rest of my family often feels neglected.

Even God seems different. Grittier. Organic.

Long-suffering has changed me, in some ways for the good. I now find significance in little things like, the heavenly scent of a lilac rose, a burst of laughter, skipping schoolwork to watch TV, or a bite of dark chocolate.

I can welcome moments that used to leave me wide-eyed and speechless: a teary conversation with a friend, someone needing a hug, giving a listening ear with no attempt at resolution, a disagreement over core beliefs.  Accepting people as they are right now.

I only wish my softer heart could be more present in my relationship with my son. I wish I were more patient, slower to anger, more generous with forgiveness, more generous with love.

His childhood is passing him by. I want him to know love, and feel loved, and respond as one who is loved.

I mourn the dream of what I thought we’d be.

Today was hard. When I woke my son up this morning, I found five snack bar wrappers in his dresser drawer. I questioned, he defended, he was defiant, and I was deflated.

I made him a turkey sandwich to pack for lunch, he said, “you know I never eat those disgusting sandwiches. I’m just going to throw it away.” I was hurt but stoic and said, “fine, don’t eat lunch.”

On the walk to school he shouted, “I’m done with you! You’re not doing this to me any more!” I don’t know what he meant and didn’t know what to say so I ignored him.

After school the bad moods continued. We went to the beach where we’re both able to breath better and unwind.

Before dinner tonight he said, “Mom, can we do yoga together?” (He earns screen time by doing therapy-based yoga with me). I wanted to say, “Not really, I don’t want anything to do with you,” but I swallowed my pride and said, “Sure. Let’s do it.”

We began with me saying, “I’m feeling mad at you. Not so much mad but frustrated.” He said, “Me too.” This led to a great discussion followed by “square breathing” and games.

We pretended to shoot sadness away with Jello rainbow finger lasers. We acted out sad, happy, angry and crazy “blobs.”

We purposefully looked into each other’s eyes and said, “God gave you to me. I don’t know why but we trust that He’s smarter than us and knows what He’s doing.

And then we laughed. I said, “I love you.” He crawled into my lap and said, “I love you too.”

These rare, sweet, hopeful moments are what keep us going.

Stanley Family


You can read more about Erika and her family at The Stanley School Blog where she writes with the kind of humor and candor we always appreciate. If Lisa was a city girl, she would want to be Erika’s neighbor.

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Joy Headrick
    June 9, 2016

    Wow! Powerful. Loved the honesty.

  2. Gena
    June 10, 2016

    Thanks, Erika. God has often used Lisa and then Jennifer and now you, to remind me that I am not alone, and that the life we have is hard, but filled with the goodness and healing only God can bring. How much I relate to wishing I could have grown softer, more accepting and grateful without going through all the hard. But here we are. And tonight was hard, harder than it’s been in a little while. But God is not done and neither are we:)
    Prayers for you and your family tonight – and thanks again for sharing.


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