–by Donald Craig Peterson
I wish, I wish, I wish…I wish I hadn’t adopted.
There I said it. Like a majority of families who’ve adopted children, I wasn’t mentally prepared for the surprises. You know, the chaos inside Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The manipulation and triangulation inherent to attachment disorders. The invisible insanity associated with developmental trauma.
Sure, I expected some challenges along the way. After all, adoption isn’t a fairy tale. But when the bad seemed destined to overshadow the good, I quietly questioned my decision – as well as my worth.
It wasn’t exactly the wonderful life that I expected.
Every December I see myself as George Bailey, the befallen character in the Frank Capra’s Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life.
Then the audience watches lives unfold without the influence and actions of George – who no longer exists. Clarence ultimately proves a very important point to George
Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?
By the end of the film, we realize that George has indeed made a difference in many lives. When all hope seemed lost, he desperately needed to be reminded of that simple fact.
Sound familiar? I’m sure we parents and caregivers can all relate.
And just like me – as I navigate the daily ups and downs of my six children, you probably need to be reminded too.
You’ve made a tremendous impact in your children’s lives.
You will continue to touch their lives in the future.
Think about it. I mean really think about it. What would have happened to your children if you hadn’t opened your home and your heart? If you hadn’t adopted?
I’ve given that “what if” question serious thought more than once. The possibilities are dark – when envisioned through real stories of children that were never given a chance.
Here’s the fate of my six children.
Without me, my daughter endured another failed adoption. Her trauma from being molested recycled and grew more intense. Finally as teen she ran away and found herself trapped in sex trafficking. The streets were her home. Strangers her only family. Unloved.
Without me, my oldest son with PTSD aged out of foster care. No one was willing to adopt a violent kid. Angry at the world, he didn’t care whom he offended. After dealing drugs and making lots of money, he died from a gunshot wound – the same way he lived. Alone.
Without me, my anxiety-filled son started smoking weed in middle school. He later accepted a dare and tried meth – instantly hooked. Painkillers followed. And when his source wised up to his stealing, he turned to heroin. Another young victim of the opioid crisis. Lost.
Without me, my intellectually impaired son never learned to read. He never joined Special Olympics. He never qualified for the Boston Marathon. Separated from his younger siblings, he never bonded with his adopted family and moves today from group home to group home. Depressed.
Without me, my severely emotionally disabled son watched his brothers being adopted. But no one wanted him. Since no one advocated, school officials placed him in an alternative facility with few role models. Now he lives in the one remaining state hospital. Grossly overmedicated.
Without me, my youngest and least traumatized son lived in the suburbs with his adoptive family who expected him to overachieve. His race didn’t matter. Neither did his invisible brain disorder. With no one to trust with his feelings, he couldn’t endure the bullying and eventually took his own life. Dead.
But my six children did have me.
They were never perfect children and I was never the perfect parent. But together we meticulously and mindfully built a forever family in every sense of the word.
So every holiday season I am thankful I am blessed. I am content.
My three youngest sons (22, 23 and 24) still feel safe after 20 years in my care and appreciate living under my roof. They desire independence yet aren’t ready to take on for the world. Someday perhaps.
When my three oldest (25, 26 and 27) flew the coop shortly after 18, they wanted freedom from rules. Instead they found more trauma. Like a magnet. Then shame. With overwhelming anxiety that ebbs and flows, daily functioning isn’t always easy.
One writes. One calls. One texts. I remain the one constant in their lives. The one who will always believe in them.
All readily admit that life would be even harder if I hadn’t adopted them. If I hadn’t remained empathetic. If I hadn’t endured their challenging behaviors. If I hadn’t absorbed the brunt of their emotional pain – because they simply weren’t able.
I have no misgivings. I have no regrets. Yet I DO have perspective. The “delayed effects” of our parenting are precious gifts.
It’s truly been a wonderful life! DCP