What I’ve Learned in Adoption Land

The first guest author for the week is Ann from Crazy for Kids.

I’ve been living in Adoption Land a long time. Thirteen years ago we sat in the livingroom of an adoptive family to learn more about adoption. I don’t remember a thing that was said in that meeting. I was too busy being mesmerized by their beautiful toddler from Korea and all I could think about was that someday we might have a little girl like theirs (and 18 months later, we did!).

Sometimes, it seems I still have so much to learn in Adoption Land that I forget I’ve actually learned a lot. Some things were imprinted in my brain so long ago I forget it wasn’t put there by osmosis.

Recently, I read a great blog post from a mom who just adopted a three year old. It’s harder than she thought it would be and he’s different than she expected. She fell in love with this still, sweet picture of a boy who was described as shy and quiet–and he’s not. And it’s hard. And she wonders why more people who have BTDT don’t share how hard it is.

That’s what this post is about.

It’s easy to fall in love with the dream of our child. It’s easy to think that even though some people have a hard time with attachment, ours will be easier because we love our child so much. We love that still-shot of their face. We love the descriptions we receive when we are matched. We love imagining all the fun we will have, the cuddles, giggles and laughter.

What we forget (and what I’ve learned) is that their still picture can also move. They can run and jump and throw temper tantrums and unbuckle their seatbelt while the car is still moving, then try to open the car door–in three lanes of traffic! They will spill grape juice on the new carpet (even tho they know they are supposed to drink at the table), and pee their pants because they’re afraid to go on the automatic flush toilets in Target, and they will refuse to ride their bike home from the park because they are hot and their legs are too tired and they don’t care that there is no way for us to ride our own bike, carry their bike AND them!

We discover that their still, smiling faces can be contorted in fear, anger, sadness and grief. They will chew with their mouths open, pick their nose, and have lice or scabies or both. They will yell and scream–both in anger and joy. They will run a fever on the day we are supposed to go on vacation and throw-up spaghetti–yes, on the new carpet. They will push us away when we ache to comfort them and wriggle in church and ask us to pick them up, which we do, and then they shout very loudly, so everyone in church can hear, “OUCH! YOU’RE SQUASHING MY PENIS!” (BTDT to all of the above.)

And you know what else? Our child won’t resemble the one described in their reports. The shy child will become bold with the love of a family and the child described as a leader, living in an orphanage with mostly babies, will melt into the laidback role of the baby in a large family (Vu).

It comes as a shock. And it usually takes time to learn to love this child. This new child. But you know what the best part is? We DO come to love this child, way more than we ever loved that child in the picture.

We come to love OUR REAL CHILD.


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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. Amy
    January 2, 2011

    Wonderful post! I needed this today. We accepted the referral of a waiting child this week! We have fallen head over heals with his photo over the past three months and have been trying to keep reality in our minds (which has proven to be difficult).

    Can't wait to love not only his photo but also the real him!

  2. Joy
    January 2, 2011

    Wow this is so true and speaks to where our family is so loudly. We just adopted two boys from foster care. They have only been home with us for two weeks. For us so far, our boys are so much sweeter than what we anticipated from reading their file. Their file described all their negative behaviors which believe me they do have thier moments, but for us it didn't capture any of thier sweetness . They have the best laugh and they have irresisitable sweet hugs. I know that we are only in the beginning of our journey, but we believe we are learning to love our "real" children (the good and the bad). Isn't that how Christ love us?

  3. Dawn
    January 2, 2011

    You know sometimes I am in awe of the little person God sets in our families…..that 5 years ago we thought we knew, and yet……didn't at all. Then turn around to see a whole new child. Continuing to know more and more about them and who they really are. So very very true!

  4. Jillian
    January 2, 2011

    Great post! We are reaching 2 years and also realizing we have learned so much and yet have so much more to learn…

  5. learningpatience
    January 2, 2011

    Great perspective and so well written! And I just have to say totally made me laugh – we've BTDT for so many of those very same things!

  6. Amanda
    January 3, 2011

    So true. I think our children also have to learn to love the real them. I'm not sure my oldest daughter recognized herself after several months here and she had to learn that, yes, this new girl that is loud and outgoing is really her, and yes we love her as much as the shy and quiet girl we adopted.

  7. Sheri
    January 4, 2011

    Thanks, Ann!! There are things in there that I really needed to read today!! Our girlie is nearly nothing like reports said…I've really struggled with that & have talked/cried with our SW over behaviors we've seen…even after being home 1 1/2 yrs.


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