Since we welcomed our two newest boys into our family late last October, I have been waiting for the "honeymoon" to wear off. With nearly every other child or sibling group joining our family we have experienced, at some point or another, an emotional blowout of major proportions. In one way or another there came a point when attachment issues or other emotional challenges reared their ugly head. Those flare-ups are emotionally debilitating, causing adoptive parents to question the wisdom of ever assuming that role.
But we simply have not had such an experience with our two newest sons. They are now thirteen and nine and are surprisingly emotionally healthy. I attribute their emotional stability to several factors.
(1) They have an older birth sister who provided diligent care when they were youngsters. Although their birth mother was unable to provide much care due to her chronic chemical dependency issues, the older sister provided a consistent emotional presence for her younger brothers. She was, de facto, their primary caretaker.
(2) During those years they had the benefit of an extended family. Although they were unable to be parented by their birth grandmother for a number of reasons (economic hardship and the cultural challenges associated with first-generation Americans), they were connected with extended family.
(3) When placed in foster care they were maintained in the same home, together, with an older birth brother. They had consistent contact with their older birth sister, and they had the benefit of being with the same foster parents for a length of time. There were not numerous disruptions in their lives, so they didn't have to re-learn (or attempt to) trust every few weeks or months.
Both of our sons are affectionate, considerate and are attaching easily with us. We have dealt with attachment disordered kids for so long that I marvel at how easy it really can be for a child to love a parent. We have dealt with manipulative behaviors surrounding attachment for so many years that to enjoy two children who genuinely, naturally accept "new" parents is a sincere blessing. For all those through the years who have questioned our ability to parent or assumed it was our parental inadequacies that resulted in the attachment issues of our adopted children, I am pleased to know that it really has not been about us. We have offered Wilson and Leon the same welcome and care any of our children have received, and their response has been so natural, so "normal," that I find relief and comfort to parent emotionally healthy children.
Wilson, who will be ten this December, is small enough (in stature) to qualify as a five-year-old, and as our youngest has assumed that role with felicity. He is not embarrassed to hold my hand in public and enjoys teasing Claudia by refusing to do so with her, although when he is cold at a soccer match he can inhabit her sweatshirt without hesitation.
It feels like God is rewarding us with a little adoptive parenting payback. In words it might sound something like this: "Thank you, Bart and Claudia, for taking on the first ten I sent your way. Parenting is never easy, although it is always rewarding. And here are two more to remind you that sometimes parenting is not that hard."