For National Adoption Awareness Month, we asked adoptees and their families to share with us their thoughts, feelings and experiences regarding adoption. This is one courageous mama’s true story of attaching with her teenage son.
Written by E, adoptive mama
Adoption is not for the faint of heart.
It is not unicorns and rainbows, and anyone going into it with visions of Little Orphan Annie better wise up REAL QUICK.
What adoption has taught me is that love is a verb.
I love my son we brought home from China last year, and even like him most of the time, but he’s still a moody teenage boy. What many adoptive parents of teen boys from China will tell you is that they are very immature for their age compared to their same-age American peers.
That doesn’t stop hormones, though.
It also doesn’t stop the awkwardness of cultural differences.
We are having to teach our son things that I haven’t had to remind my younger bio children of in years. There is so much to deal with that I didn’t think about, and I am reminded daily about what a selfish, shallow, impatient person I am.
Thankfully, the same God who adopted me into His kingdom is the same God who changes hearts and helps our family adopt His children into a forever home. He reminds me day after day that if He can love me despite all my drama, I can love this teenage boy.
You see, mothers typically bond with their children while they’re growing in the womb. They then attach by nursing these babies, cuddling them, watching them take their first wobbly steps into open arms and then hearing them say “mama” for the first time. That bond is part of what helps mothers get through the difficult times with their child later in life.
When they talk back and slam the door.
When they mutter under their breath after you’ve reminded them of chores.
When you have to follow through on a consequence they were warned about.
Ask any parent how easy the teen years were with their bio kids. (They weren’t. Go call your parents and tell them thank you for putting up with your teenage self without somehow losing their minds. I’ve already called my mama.)
Bonding with a teenager is a lot more difficult when you don’t have those sweet baby memories to draw from.
My husband, on the other hand, is used to dealing with hormonal, sometimes challenging teenage boys thanks to his time commanding in the military. Attachment has been easy for him, as he is much more in his comfort zone of dealing with drama and building a relationship through it than I am.
My son is not doing anything every other teenage that ever lived hasn’t done.
The problem is ME.
MY heart needs to change. MY patience needs to be extended. MY grace and love need to be given even more. I have to CHOOSE to love him every single day. When he gets on my nerves, when the cultural differences are driving me nuts, when I feel like I’m going to explode if I hear one more thing about all the expensive things he thinks we’re going to buy him (spoiler alert: NAH, BRO!), I must choose to take a step back and ask my Father for help. If He can love me, surely I can love my child.
I have had to accept the fact that it may not be the super close, affectionate mother-son relationship that I have with my other kids. Most days, I feel more like a mentor than a mom to my adopted son, and that is ok. If I can help him be a caring, productive member of society capable of living on his own in the next few years, then I will have done my job.
Bonus points if we can truly feel a mother-son connection at some point (he had the same seemingly incredible foster mother for 12 years that he was very close to. The competition is stiff).
I wish I had had someone to talk with about this before we adopted. Thankfully, I have found a few people in the same boat since our son came home.
My husband does not have any of the struggles I have been dealing with, and thankfully does not condemn me for my feelings or makes me think that I am horrible for having them. With my husband’s support and by finding other adoptive moms with similar feelings, I finally began to listen to the whisper of God telling me it’s ok. I don’t have to allow negativity to win because everything isn’t picture perfect. God reminds me that I am trying to raise an imperfect kid, starting in a challenging period of life with no basis of attachment yet established.
That is some heavy stuff.
He reminds me that he did not give me a mission I could accomplish without His help, but that I can do anything through Him who gives me strength.
Even raise a teenager.
By speaking about it now, I’m hoping to end the stigma that if you aren’t lovey dovey, head-over-heels gaga about your adopted kid then there’s something wrong with you.
Because there’s not.
You are doing the hard and holy work of raising a child you didn’t help create, and that’s not always pretty. It’s not always easy. Love doesn’t always come right away. But I can either throw my hands up and take the easy way of being sorry for myself, or I can choose to love.
I choose love and repeat to myself every day, “God chose to love me, so I will choose to love my child.”
Love is a verb. Maybe someday it will be a mushy feeling, too.