When we began our training for adoption, there was one question I felt I had to have answered: How would adoption affect our children? What could I prepare for? What had others experienced? I asked everyone. Leaders of our foster training, parents, experts.
There was exasperating silence.
Some people smiled at me. Many people went on about how they wanted to know the same thing. But nobody really answered me.
It began to dawn on me that it was because the people I was asking didn’t really know. Many of the people who were doing our training either had no children of their own, or had never done foster care themselves. (And didn’t plan to!) Much of the information seemed to be a little vague.
It was frustrating. I wanted to understand the impact that all of this would have on my children before I took the leap.
I have now spoken with enough moms considering adoption to know that this question is heavy on their hearts as well. And I have spoken to enough dads to know that what they would really like to know is not how it will affect their children, but how will adoption affect their wife. (We’ll get to that. Different post.)
Anyhow…during our preparation for foster care, I had a growing anxiety, because no one could answer my question. And then, just weeks before we took our first foster children, I messaged another adoptive mom, begging her for a little wisdom. I’ll never forget what she said. It was comforting in a not so comforting way. She said:
“This will be hard for your children. All of them will change. And you will not regret it”.
She was right. It WAS hard for our children, and they did change. And we do not regret it.
And you know what else? We’ve had a lot of fun, too. A lot. Maybe the most fun our family has ever had together have been during these past few years.
As I’ve thought over this time of fostering and adoption, I realized that we have been preparing them for this action since they were tiny. You don’t just jump into this cold turkey.
Looking back, here are a few of the things we did to prepare for this. We didn’t know at the time what we were preparing for, but here are some things we have (imperfectly) done that have seemed to pave the way for our children being ready for this new journey.
We began by helping our children think about others who had it worse than us. When the kids were little, we sponsored a child. We gave help to the homeless, sometimes very personally. We read missionary biographies about those who were helping children who had no home. As the kids grew up, we read the biographies of Gladys Aylward, George Mueller, Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, and many more. The stories of these people who risked their life and comfort to care for hurting and lost children have deeply affected the way we think about life.
We have tried to visit and care for the hurting, homeless, and broken in other countries, in the inner cities of our own country, in our towns.
We have read Jesus’ words to our children. We have discussed the reality that we are constantly in a horrible spiritual battle, and nothing would make Satan happier than for us to desire and pursue comfort and pleasure over helping the broken. We have worked hard to appropriately share the burden with our children that these broken children are not just another sad story. They are people, and they need our help. And just because we want to be happy and comfortable does not make the problem go away.
There have been hard times too. When they didn’t feel like giving any more. When they wanted a parent to talk to, and both parents were knee deep in hysterical children, poopy diapers and angry toddlers.
Our kids have learned a lot of self-control. They have learned that life does not revolve around them. They have learned to be givers, till it hurts. They have learned that they will have our attention, not as much of it anymore, but they will have it. And they have learned to wait for time with us.
It has not been easy, but I would say that this experience has bonded us to our children in a way that nothing else has.
After a year and a half of foster care, as we were finalizing the adoption paperwork, our older children had to have one last talk with a social worker. She asked them what the hardest thing had been about having these new kids in our home.
She emailed us later.
She said “I wanted to tell you what your kids said because it touched me so much: They said the hardest thing about taking these children was that they miss having as much time with you, but they are really proud of their parents, and they are glad that you are adopting these children.”
Do I think my children are perfect angels? Never. They have their bad days, just like everyone else. Everyone in this family at some time or another gets sick of each other. That is the nature of families. But those are their stories to share, not mine. We would all rather tell on ourselves, than have someone else do it for us!
But…our children love God, they want to serve Him, and they want to care for lonely, hurt and broken children, right alongside us. They want to live as if this earth is not our home, that we will experience suffering because we want to be like Jesus, and that our comfort and rest will be in heaven.
Our children have been our most precious partners on this journey. I think God must have some plan for them that requires a lot of patience, courage, love and perseverance, because that is how adoption has affected them.