Parenthood that is. I mean after all, most of us went through the trials and tribulation of trying to become a parent together. And then once our kids came home, reality struck!
To answer the question personally, I’d have to say “yes” and “no”. Unlike many friends of mine, I always knew that parenting would be all encompassing. My goal was always to be a very involved parent and active participant in my kids’ lives. But many things are not what I anticipated. For one, I thought I’d have more energy. Secondly, I didn’t realize just how much little stuff goes into parenting. Lastly, let’s face it, every child has his or her challenges and there is not a roadmap with how to deal with them.
One thing in certainly true, it seems unfathomable to imagine a life without my kids. My sense of self revolves largely around them and their well-being (which makes me wonder what will happen to me once they are grown). An avid dog lover, I was always the person who claimed my dogs were like my kids, how could I love anything more. Well no offense Ozzy, but you are now the dog and they are the kids. I could love something more!
One surprise for me, and by the way my kids are 10 and 8 now, has been “adoption parenting” because thus far, we haven’t had to do any. I mean that in a few ways that we all had to ponder.
-the community at large: we’ve lived in three states with very different cultures since becoming parents, I can honestly say that I have never really experienced any intolerance, off-handed remarks, or the like. At least nothing worth mentioning. I had a funny one a few weeks ago at a soccer game. I coach my son’s team and he was doing an amazing job at goalie. The coach from the other team said, jokingly, “he’s not from around here, where did you all buy him?” At first the adoptive dad alarm rang but I realized she didn’t realize the goalie was my son. When I said, smile on my face, “what do you mean, he’s my son” she was visibly embarrassed and obviously the comment was harmless.
-it’s no big deal to the kids: I don’t know if it is because of my kids’ inherent natures or a function of how open we’ve raised them. But my kids are just not that interested in it all. For them, it’s no big deal. There are so many non-traditional families these days, that there’s no stigma. When they get the “he’s your dad?” question from a kid, they explain they were adopted (I prefer saying we are an “adoptive family” but I can’t pick their words for them) with nothing that resembles insecurity, embarrassment, or pride for that matter. It just is. In reality, I wish they were more interested!
-Tied to the first two is that we haven’t experienced issues like schools having projects that can’t be done normally for an adoptive family. The schools are very cautious because of how many kids lack a dad, live with an aunt, or are otherwise outside the norm and that helps. But still, we haven’t had awkward family tree assignments or the like.
One thing I have found interesting is how the parent changes over time. For the longest time, my kids loved me almost as much as the dog! They wanted to be around me all the time. If I was home, it meant it was time for me to play with them. And while I loved to do so, there were times - many times – when I just wanted to sit in my recliner, have a beer, and watch the news. Those rare times when a 6 and 4 year old managed to occupy themselves were heaven. Now, they are into their own stuff. Isabel has discovered the solace of being alone in her room. Sammy is far more interested in Minecraft than he is in me playing monster with him in the backyard. It’s now ME who begs THEM to play some wii or go on a bike ride. Maybe that’s why a guy who quit playing soccer when he was about 10 decided to learn up and coach their teams – because they have to play with me then!
I realize fully well that above has been my experience and I’d be idiot to think that my kids’ feelings, emotions, and struggles won’t change. We are so blessed with two wonderful kids who are well behaved, polite, considerate (well one of them), and humane. I’m sure some of my past critics who said I could never be a decent parent are as amazed about that as I am. Even more amazing, and this is not a joke – my kids don’t fight with one another. They bicker a tiny bit but by and large, the best-of-friends.
All in all, it’s a ton of work and the most rewarding job possible. Today, I really don’t think of us an adoptive family. We’re just a family. My kids are just my kids, the same as anyone else. Adoption isn’t primary in our identification internally or from our community and that’s pretty cool.