This morning Cindy posted a very helpful post about the severely disturbed older adopted children. It reminded me of some new words that I've started to say lately to parents who are thinking of adopting children.
When they state their fears, I ask them to go down the road of that fear and ask themselves if they will survive. Everyone's fears are different -- fear of a child ending up in jail, or of a child dying, or of a child growing up to return to their birth parents. Or maybe the fear is that they will raise a child who will become pregnant as an unwed teen or "come out of the closet" as an adult. Whatever our worst fears are, we have to face them.
I guess my worst fear would be that one of our children would kill Bart or I. Certainly carrying myself down that mental road is not something that I like to do often, but sometimes I let myself and I realize that even so, it would eventually be OK. The person killed (the lucky one) would be in heaven, enjoying a stress free eternity with God. The person left would eventually be OK. I have a big faith in a bigger God and I know that God's love and strength would sustain me, that forgiveness would not be easy, but would come, and that in the end, after it was all over, we would be OK.
One of Kyle's turning points was the first time he threatened to kill Bart. In a sinister voice, very sinister for an 11 year old, he angrily said to Bart, "Some day I might have to kill you." To which Bart responded, "and if you do so son, I will die loving you." I don't think he ever seriously threatened to do it again.
Part of the reason we have arrived at this point may come from the fact that some of our biggest fears have already come to pass. We have already had a child in prison, two different children in the psych hospital, and a "Child in Need of Protection or Services" Petition filed against us. Our children have accused us of abuse, we have had our lives threatened. Many of our fears have come to pass and ... we're OK.
Pre-adoptive parents often want a crystal ball. They want the child's file, or the caseworkers, or the therapist, or a teacher to tell their fortune and promise them that everything is going to be OK. That none of their worse fears will come to pass.
But the truth about life is that we do not know the future and we can't know it. Every day, every step is a risk. I learned from the rebellious choices of my brothers that even when parents do everything right from conception to age 18, each person's freedom of choice determines their future.
So now when I go through paperwork with a family who is considering a child, I tell them to expect the worse. I suggest to them that there is no way to predict the outcome of any human life, but that they should expect life to be hard. I tell them about the behaviors they can expect.
I am completely convinced that any person can parent any child -- they just have to be willing and decide how much of their quality of life they are willing to give to the cause.
I quote Pat O'Brien
I often get asked the question “what kind of people will offer their home permanently to a teenager?” My answer is always the same. I always say “any and all kinds of people who, after a good preparation experience, are willing to unconditionally commit themselves to a child no matter what behavior that child might ultimately exhibit.” Teenagers need first and foremost at least one adult who will unconditionally commit to and claim the teen as their own. Any thing less is an artificial relationship. Teenagers need unconditional commitment before anything else constructive can happen.
This is the key. Claiming the child and knowing that you will never give up on them. They might not always be able to live with you, but regardless of what happens, they will never cease being your child. And if you can make this commitment, which you can, you can keep it.