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Status Update: Still Struggling

Feb 19 2016
Adoption is a good thing, kids are cute, but let’s be real: This mess is hard.

If you’re gunning for likes or favorites on social media, there are two foolproof options: pets and kids. Nothing gets attention faster than a video of a cat riding a Roomba or a two-year-old singing “You Are My Sunshine.”

When my husband and I began considering adoption, I imagined finally getting to post updates about our children rather than just being the one doing the liking and favorite-ing. But once we began to share our side of the parenting story, we learned the converse is also true. If it’s not a cutesy post or tongue-in-cheek joke, friends and followers don’t want to hear about your parenting challenges.

We started the process several years ago, with copious amounts of research. The adoption people clearly aren’t in this for likes, and they don’t hide the struggles children and families go through. We learned about reactive attachment disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, ADD/ADHD, sensory-integration issues, the effects of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse as well as those caused by neglect and abandonment.

Our two sons didn’t come to us with many of those scary medical terms and three-letter conditions, but it still hasn’t been easy. At first, we shared those struggles with our extended community. Our youngest child’s penchant for turning the kitchen table into a battleground, our eldest’s manic fits and extra challenges due to his hearing problems, the fact that both of them had tantrums three or four times a day—we revealed all of it, hoping for good council or a little encouragement.

And while we did get some of that, we also walked into a minefield of criticism. “I would never do that to my child,” a friend from college said when she read about our time-out system. A relative told us that our dinnertime discipline was something straight out of Mommie Dearest. Others said helpful things like, “You knew this would be hard going into it, so don’t complain.” And then there was my personal favorite: “All this is happening because you just don’t love them enough.” After a month or so, we made a pact to share only “the shiny stuff” (trips to the park, funny things the kids said, legal updates, and the like) and to hide the scruffy parts of our story.

One night, as I sat on our bed folding laundry—a common chore now that our family has doubled in size—it hit me. Even Christians who champion the cause of adoption don’t really understand how onerous it can be. The first “We’re thinking about adopting” comments receive accolades from friends near and far. The adorable, post-court date photos peg out our feel-good-o-meters. (Imagine a child with his new family, holding a chalkboard to record the number of days spent in foster care.)

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Status Update: Still Struggling