Preparing for Parenthood

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In preparing for DJs’ arrival, I’ve been oscillating between feeling like I have a hundred things to do and I have nothing that I can do but wait. And I guess, in honesty, it’s a bit of both. At first, there was such a flurry of activity, both mental and physical:

  • Spreading the news and all of the joy & gratitude that came along with it
  • Discussing plans for the long-awaited “baby” shower that I was starting to doubt I would ever experience
  • Wrapping my head around the fact that we were finally coming to the end of our long journey towards parenthood
  • Buying favorite books from my childhood like Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic and Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to share with DJ
  • Picking out bedroom furniture for “my son’s” room
  • Investigating pediatricians who specialize in working with adoptive children, especially kids with attachment issues that Dominick most certainly will struggle with
  • Starting this blog
  • Calling the hip environmental charter school that you can see from our front porch about enrollment…unfortunately, there’s a long waiting list, even for fourth grade, but it was still thrilling to have a reason to call after all of these years of living across the street

Along with so many other lucky kids, this was my first introduction to the wonderful world of poetry.

But right now, there’s a bit of a lull which has left me plenty of time to ponder becoming a new parent at 38 to

Who didn’t want a dog after reading about Henry Huggins & Ribsy?

a 9-year-old with a complicated and painful past. Let me say up front that I’m incredibly confident in our decision to become adoptive parents and know deep down in my bones that the universe has led us to DJ. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have fears about being the very best parents possible. That’s normal, right?

So what does a professor do when she’s unsure? Yep, she reads. Right now, I’m reading this really good book that I would recommend to other adoptive parents: Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge. And wouldn’t you know two of my top fears are among the first addressed in the book?

The very first thing that I’m supposed to know is that my child has suffered a profound loss and (here’s the tricky part for me) I’m not supposed to feel responsible. It probably sounds obvious, but to anyone who knows me, you’ll know that I struggle a lot with guilt. And I know a part of me will always yearn for the ability to travel back in time and protect DJ from all of the hardships he’s faced in his young life. The tricky part, I guess, is accepting that Doc Brown’s flux capacitor is still only relegated to the movies and deal with the fact that I’m doing everything that I possibly can to care for him now and for the rest of my life.

Another early section of the book discusses how children’s anger about the past will probably be directed at their adoptive parents. My brain tells me this is totally to be expected and that I will be prepared for his eventual lashing out at us. But my heart asks what am I going to do the first time that he says that he hates me? Or that he wishes that he could go back to live with a former foster family? Or his birth mom? I can only pray and trust that I’ll be strong enough to know that his words aren’t really about me and be able to respond with love and kindness.

So just some thoughts about my own fears & anxieties. What are some things that you fear/feared about raising a school-age child?

Last but not least, I talked to DJ’s caseworker today so expect another new post soon with happy updates!

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11 responses »

  1. I don’t know anything abut adopted children, but I do know that it breaks my heart when my boys lash out at me when they are in pain, angry or struggling with something. I can tell myself all I want that they are just hurting and that they don’t mean it, but it still hurts. Feel free to call if you ever need to talk it out.

  2. My son is nine. I find that just listening, respecting, and being consistent (with rules, boundaries, love) are the best things. Give him love. I would guess it takes time. Even though my son has been here since birth (not adopted), he is still his own person. I still have to stand back and learn about him and change with him and figure out what I need to do as a parent. Your instincts will kick in and you’ll do great.

  3. There is something to be said for being a little older when having your first – either adopted or not: You do have life experience and have had the time to ponder your own childhood, you have a stable marriage, you’ve gotten through all the adjustment between you and your spouse. On the other hand, a child will turn your world upside down, and, you will be TIRED. You might sometimes feel that you don’t know your husband, and that he doesn’t know you. Sometimes you will be cranky, too. Sometimes you will have to let your child see your human side, but you can choose what parts and when to show it. You’ll soon be able to see when your child is tired, or frustrated (maybe even before he does!), and you might even be able to head off those feelings before they get to the “I hate you!” point. For me, it was imperative that I not do to him what was done to me – I seldom said, “Because I said so,” or any of the cutesy equivalents. When I was pressed for time, I’d say, “I’ll explain later.” And I tried to do just that. Usually by that point he had come to realize why by himself, or it just wasn’t important to him anymore.
    When my son did say “I hate you!” (and all kids do at some point,) I tried to get him to explain why so that I could try to “correct the situation”, try to get him to tell me what he wanted me to do if he were his own parent, and I was his child. It did allow my son to see himself from another perspective, and I was able to learn a lot about him.
    You can’t protect them from everything; and all children learn at some point that parents are fallible. What you have to do is push that point past when the child can start to appreciate that there are situations and things out of everyone’s control.
    I’m here if you need to talk.

    • I really have to believe that there have to some advantages to getting into this parenting thing so late in the game so I loved your reply. I must admit one of the things that I know that I will miss the most is sleep. Being only partially employed for the last few years, I’ve gotten more than my fair share of beauty rest so hopefully I’ll be able to draw on some reserves. Thanks so much for your words of wisdom!

  4. One thing I’ve found that helps with my almost 9 year old, when he is punished (ie. loses wii time or something like that) or I have to explain that I am disappointed in his actions (ie. throwing a rock and hitting another kid in the head with it) I always tell him that I love him but that I am disappointed in the choice or the action, but that I love him. And he’ll look at me and say “I know Mom”. However, I have to admit he has yet to tell me he hates me or anything like that so maybe I’m not the best on advice. I’ll give it time. He’s still young enough that he wants to live with us forever – oh please no!! 😉

    • Thanks, Liz! I have to admit that I got chills thinking about telling Dominick that I love him and him replying with “I know Mom.” Hopefully that day isn’t too far off in the future.

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