All the adoptive parents I have ever met have been resourceful people. They have actively chosen and pursued parenthood through raising someone else’s children. An act that demands lifelong courage, perseverance and empathy.
Often the dream of parenthood has been chased for years before a little stranger, or two, moves in and takes over. Years spent in abstract pregnancy. Plenty of time to work on that perfidious image of Perfect Parents, to Perfect Kids. Which of course we know doesn’t exist. Hehe. But does that stop us from striving to be perfect? If only we try hard enough… After all, that’s how we did well in school, in sports, made our careers and so on. That’s how we were brought up. How could parenthood be any different?
On the road to adoption, we’ve looked a number of social workers straight in the eye, and unblinkingly promised that we can do this parenthood thing. Just nodded. Committed to a future with ridiculously limited knowledge of our prospective children’s background, and no insight to how we as individuals might gel. Hope and a good deal of will (stubbornness?) to succeed had brought us thus far. The Perfect Parents ideal is within reach.
And then transition arrives. Placement happens. And we are on our own. To get on with the life enhancing, unrelenting task of parenthood. I imagine that all adoptive parents felt a little overwhelmed, at some point. For me it happened one day as I saw the door close behind the social worker on a post placement visit.
Am I right in sensing that adoptive parents often forget ourselves? During the first few months (amongst many other thing and feelings) I forgot many meals, which led to a lovely weight loss, which sadly hasn’t lasted. I think adrenalin helped me through a lot. The focus was 100% on our son. And our new role. A role that cannot be played, only lived.
Unsurprisingly, there were no real answers in the wealth of related literature out there, that I am still ploughing through. I’ve found a lot of inspiration, ideas, approaches and lots more from books and blog – but that’s for another time. What I mean is that no one will step out of the pages to rescue you. You still have deal with which ever tricky situation you were trying to find an answer to. Trying to hard to follow any of one set of strategies, I think, has the inbuilt danger of distance, as it may leave you to play the role of – rather than being – a parent. And even in therapeutic parenting, that can’t be a good thing. It still has to come from the heart. If it doesn’t, the children surely feel it. And that is not what they need.
It’s said that you won’t know guilt until you become a mother. Touché! I think adoptive parents are more questioning and tentative than most, because we chose to become parents. I dream of a break from that questioning muscle that seems to want to flex itself all the time. Although I am getting better at cancelling out the noise it makes. Better at not noticing the strides of the 6 foot 5 super parents with their calm and interesting babies in as they visit us on Planet Earth from their Planet Perfect. Our foster mum warned me that I was going to meet parents who would make me feel insecure. Now when I meet them, I take a deep breath, and observe them and their paraphernalia as a source of inspiration, acknowledging the feeling of insecurity below – Hallo old friend. A feeling I now know will pass. I once bought a nice water bottle inspired by such a person. And a very nice water bottle it is. But it hasn’t change the way my son drinks.
I cannot tell you how tired I am of this Perfect Parent and Perfect Kid syndrome in the media. Do you know how much Make-Up these kids are wearing?!? And I am not thinking of the psycho US toddler pageants. What I dislike most about it is that it is so unbearably patronising. And that we do not need as parents, adoptive or not.
Does advice help us on the road to perfection? Nope. The volumes of unsolicited advice directed at all parents show that people judge. Usually, from a well-meaning, but solipsistic perspective. Truth be told I have been known to have an opinion on other people’s parenting. ‘Why don’t they just calm the child down…?’ I might … possibly … once … have thought when witnessing a tantrum-on-public-transport. The answer is: because it doesn’t work that way. Now I vow to smile to every parent in that situation. Knowingly and supportively, in recognition.
I hereby want to apologise to all parents I inadvertently have been insensitive to before we had our son. But perhaps most unreservedly to my mum. My body snatcher. She turns up regularly, much to my surprise, from the inside, speaking and moving my body. It is shocking and filter-less. But also reassuring. Like remembering how she would wipe my chin when feeding me yogurt, or how she would be stroking my hair, mindlessly, endlessly. These are physical memories that presents themselves when I do something similar to my son. Sometimes these knee-jerk reactions are helpful, sometimes they are not. In my short stint as a mum to date, I have learnt that becoming a parent is self-development on a scale I could not have imagined. It forces you to look back, tidy up and make peace. Which clearly is not done in a day. And, I have a sneaky feeling, not even in a lifetime.
Perfect Parents do not exist. Really, they don’t.
Perfectly Human Parents do. They are all around. In my book that is the one who also has bowel movements, snaps, gets bored or impatient. The type of parent that need recharging; enough sleep; dietary variation and long hugs from her husband. The one who’s love is unquestionable.
There is lots of good advice to be had. Especially if you don’t feel the need to follow it. But there is one piece of advice I think adoptive parents should follow: ‘Every night when you go to bed, pad yourself on the back for a day well done. No matter how it went.’