The Delayed Effect: When the Fruits of Our Labor Finally Bloom

by:  Craig Peterson

Alex quoteSix months ago I sat down to write a letter to my 23-year-old son who was incarcerated three hours away.

After re-reading the entire stack of his letters, I realized he’d done much soul searching. He had shared many deeply personal thoughts about his past failures.

Was I now man enough to give him another chance?

Focusing on the title of my forthcoming book Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love, I decided to practice what I preach. Our journey hadn’t ended.

In fact, a long road lay ahead – for both of us.

The lasting effects of his childhood trauma – resulting in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Reactive Attachment Disorder before his adoption at age 10 – wouldn’t be easy to shake.

He stated in his last letter, “I’ve never understood before how differently I view the world compared to other people. I’m working hard to break out of the cage of my mind. I’ve been practicing on making decisions based upon empathy. It’s very, very difficult.”

I often tried to walk in his shoes, but my early years in Montana had almost nothing in common with my son’s experience. To him, my upbringing had been perfect.

As I looked at a picture of him two years after joining our family, I couldn’t help but wonder. All appeared to be moving in the right direction.

“Growing up in your home, I mostly remember when you read many of the Little House of the Prairie books to us before watching them on DVD. I had so much. But at my age and maturity level, I was completely unable to control myself…I feel extreme regret and aching lies in me when I think of everything I did.”

And plenty he did!

Although his section in my book is dark, the facts need to be told. Too many in society just don’t “get it.” Trauma is real! When reading the draft, my own mother became overwhelmed emotionally and had to finish it in small chunks. She never imagined.

Yet – how would the chapter really end?

Lesson learned – wishing I had another chance.

But this time I did!

I prayed about son and my role. Like most convicted felons, he would struggle to survive on his own – just like he did as a little boy. He would need my support more than ever.

Without reservation, I reached out and invited him to my home. Several weeks later after finding a ride for the 150 miles that separated us, he talked endlessly. But this time he made more sense than the constant gibberish of his youth. I listened. And by resisting judgment, I felt his desire to still be my son.

We embraced – not one of those fake hugs for which our kids are well-known – but a genuine display of affection that was mutual.

That night upon falling asleep, I was thankful. I hadn’t forgotten the power of forgiveness.

I had truly adopted faith.

D. Craig Peterson is a retired ATN Board Director. You name it, Craig has a story to share in achieving success and learning from mistakes as he raised six children to adulthood...all while maintaining faith and believing in unconditional love. He understands the ups and downs of learning challenges, special education, psychotropic medications, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, sexual abuse, juvenile justice, residential placement and so much more. In his upcoming book Adopting Faith: A Father's Unconditional Love, Peterson details his journey in raising six children who brought unbelievable challenges from their birth families and the foster care system. His parenting is a combination of typical and unconventional strategies." His blog is here: