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Growth Through Adoption

Lately, my husband and I have been hearing comments like, "Oh I just couldn't do what you are doing, I really admire you. You must have a lot of patience." or "Why would you WANT to do that?!?!?!"

No, these remarks aren't aimed at us because we homeschool. At least, not this time. It's because our family has recently grown through adoption.

Long ago, I thought about my goals, my dreams, and scenarios I could make in the future. As major events occurred in my life, I reviewed my options, erasing some, adding new ones. Once I found a life partner, we discussed our individual options and tried to blend them together. My husband, Steve, wasn't sure about some of my "loftier" desires. He had some doubts about homeschooling, but went along with me because, as he said, "Well, you led me to marriage, and that's worked out well."

After our first son was born, we went along our merry way, adapting to parenting. Although we weren't prepared to become an adoptive family at that time, we decided to keep it in mind for the future.

And now, our birth sons are four and almost nine years old. Steve and I have been together for eleven years. Our marriage is healthy and strong. Our children are wonderful. We are comfortable. So why rock the boat by becoming an adoptive family to a seven-year-old child?

There is no easy answer. I thought it was a path that our family could take. As a couple we believed we would be a good enduring family. We know our strengths-- and our weaknesses. We are committed to each other. Our priorities have always been family/children centered. Or perhaps I am insane, and have convinced my husband that he is too.

Our newest son came to live with us at the beginning of July this year. We were lucky to be able to get to know Dennis for a couple of months before the transition took place. He is a wonderful person although we face a lot of challenges as a family. We think it was a good match.

But now that the reality of our new family life has set in, I'm starting to see what's behind the amazed remarks we keep hearing. There are days when I am sure I am, in fact, crazy. It's one thing to have a two-year-old throw a tantrum, but when a seven-year-old does it on a regular basis, it is called Oppositional Defiance. Dennis also carries the labels of post traumatic stress disorder, attachment disorder, and the expected ADHD.

The day that sticks out in my mind as most insane was when I told Dennis not to leave the room while I was trying to assist him in dealing with his anger. It became a physical struggle though I tried desperately not to let it turn into a control issue. Perhaps he wanted to go through the intense emotions (the "need, displeasure, satisfaction of need, and quiescence" cycle) that infants require for bonding. Dennis tried to force me out of his way. This is something my other sons would never have done. So enraged, Dennis started screaming and lashing out in attack mode.

After pinning him to the floor for half an hour, I had to ask my eight-year-old to call his father home from work. Sweat was dripping down my face. Dennis was still violent beneath me, tightly restrained in a safe hold to protect him, others and property from harm. I was sure that I was insane -- or at least unbalanced -- for choosing this.

There are times when I resent him. The reasons are many. We won't be camping this year, for example. The image of our son raging at a campsite, screaming "You're hurting me!" at the top of his lungs while we prevent him from biting us, doesn't sound ideal. I spend extra time helping Dennis learn how to deal with his emotions in healthy ways. When I am focused on this, and Andrew and Joe are shaking their heads because their adoptive brother doesn't have 'basic' skills, I begin to question why I am doing it. I don't have to struggle with my birth sons as much as I do with Dennis. When I tell them it is time to come upstairs, it doesn't become a control issue for them as it does for Dennis. He struggles against authority and love.

Even worse are the other moments when I downright dislike him, which can leave more guilt when the feeling is aimed at a son who is not a birth child. In my brief shared history with my adoptive son, there are less warm fuzzy times to act as an antidote to the difficult moments. And during those trying moments, I have cried in my husband's arms, sure that I have lead our family down a path that we should have avoided, feeling completely inept as a parent. I don't like feeling this way. I have never felt this incompetent raising either of my birth sons, even at my lowest points with them. Even as I innocently held my first infant in my arms at 3 a.m., I never felt this desperate for guidance. My adoptive son pushes every button, finds every weakness and tries to go beyond our endurance.

And then when I don't expect it, I see my sons and can't imagine not having any of them. I see my children through new eyes, and value them more than ever. Most of the time, I feel extremely fortunate. We have been changed forever, and I think it is for the best. At least, on the days that I am not completely drained.

My husband has been incredible, reminding me on rough days that we do have the strength. In fact, we feel closer to each other because of the adoption. Our extended family has been supportive. Our closest friends have calmed us during extremely trying days. We've found support that we didn't expect.

And yet, I have never doubted myself as a parent more than I do now. I keep trying to remember that this is how I felt when the other two children were born. It changed our family each time. Becoming an adoptive parent isn't that different. We had to grow. It stretches you. You learn new things. And growth can hurt. I must be growing a lot.

© 2005 - 2012 Hal Levy and the above captioned author.