Last month I shared a guest post, Joining a New Family at 16 [and Realistic Expectations]; it was hugely popular and helpful to many of us. Today I have the honor of sharing a follow-up post by the same author. Not only did Rebecca join her new family at the age of 16, she is also an adoptive mother (the pic above is of her beautiful children). I know you’ll enjoy hearing from her again.
Your comments on my guest post reminded me how easy it is for me to say “give yourself a break” and how much harder it is to do. None of us want to be lazy in how we care for our kids. We want to feel we’ve done everything in our power to help them succeed. We don’t want our kids with histories outside our homes to be or feel any different than our kids with no history outside our homes. We feel intense pressure to make everything right for them and to give them what we wish they had all along.
The challenge is that we can’t. Our kids know it when their history makes it hard for them to connect. They know when they aren’t like everyone else in their family. Even at young ages, our kids come home anxiously observing how their new life works. They wait for the moment it will all fall apart (as it has for them in the past). They distance themselves in an effort to not get used to a life that, for them, isn’t the norm. Even with years of consistency and provision, it isn’t easy for older children to “settle in” to their new reality.
One of many times I went to a counselor for help processing my journey was during our wait to adopt our oldest child. (I was nearly 30.) I had read many attachment books and was overwhelmed at the task ahead of me. I told the counselor about my own history and my fear that everything good and wonderful would soon fall apart as my childhood once had. She followed in a way no counselor ever had by reframing my experience as normal. Yes, my mom died when I was 16, but eventually most of us deal with the death of a parent. For her, it wasn’t until she was over 50. “You’ve done that already,” she said. “There are some things in life you only do once.” She went on to remind me that I wasn’t powerless and 16 anymore. I was an adult and had choices. If I was in a bad situation, it was now in my power to get out.
There is grace in the stories with which our children come to us. Sometimes the grace is that there are things in life you only lose once and eventually you become an adult and get to choose what you tolerate. Sometimes it is more personal, maybe a caring teacher or a dear friend. Maybe the grace is a few nice memories in a sea of terrible ones. Maybe it is a once-stable childhood that just didn’t stay stable. No matter where it may be found, I encourage you to look for the grace in each situation. Look for the grace in your child’s life before you were in it. Ask about the good times, the best memories, the way they likely wish their lives still were. There is value in seeing the beauty among the ashes.
For us, too, there is grace for this journey if we look for it. There is grace for the times you do so much for children who would rather you didn’t exist. There is grace for the times your foster child says they want to go back to the family who hurt them and you stop yourself from reminding them of the ugly and choose to find out more about the beautiful. There is grace for you when you must say “no” to a potential match because you know the commitment “yes” might be. There is grace for you when at the end of a long day you can’t remember speaking any words that weren’t instructions. There is grace for you when you get it wrong, when you push too hard, when you want to give up. The outcome of our best efforts is never in our control, and that, in itself is grace. Sometimes, we must say, in our own strongest voice, we’ve done what we know to do, we’ve cared for our family and done all that we can to keep our children safe, and for the rest, we need grace.
Thank you, Rebecca, for once again sharing wisdom that comes from your unique life experiences. God is making beauty from ashes and I’m thankful for this glimpse into your life.
Friends, please take a moment to leave a comment, question, or a word of encouragement for Rebecca.
Encourage one another,