As an adoptive parent sometimes it feels like we are going into the wild – the mysterious, unexplored territory that none have dared to dread before. Of course many have. There were nearly 4,000 adoptions that took place in 2013 and all of whom I’m sure felt like they were going into the wild. The fact that the process up to approval is so much shorter these days (guidelines are 6 months) means that many people coming through the system have not had much time to process and reflect on the journey. They also don’t seem to feel the need to attend support groups until they get their children and these are the places where you hear the real stories of what it’s like to raise vulnerable children. It’s kind of like going into the jungle with no guide, no compass and no supplies.
Perhaps because I run support groups I tend to meet many adopters who feel that each day is a walk in the wild country – either that their children are out of control or the stress of life is wearing them down. I’m sure there are many adopters out there who are surviving and even thriving as a family, but they don’t tend to come to groups to give all of us some hope.
I am fortunate I think on my journey in the wild landscape of adoption that we have lots of support around us and sometimes the tools and resilience to survive and even thrive. There are other times of course when we feel bereft wandering around unfamiliar territory where it feels no-one has trod before. That is what is so powerful about support groups of any kind – that you know you are not alone. There are others who share your pain and your joys and somehow that makes the wandering a little easier.
One of the children’s stories that I’ve never really been able to understand is ‘Where the Wild things are’ – it’s a story of a boy who’s told off by his Mum and sent to bed with no supper. He then embarks on a journey into the wild where he meets some creatures who he eventually rules over. The film itself was more confusing than the book for me and quite dark I felt for a children’s book. However as I’m thinking about this subject this week I am drawn to this story. Maybe there are wild things we imagine in our lives that are overwhelming and dominating that we need to overcome in some way. Sometimes for me it’s the relentless issues that arise with adopted children – the lying, stealing, friendship issues, anger, low self esteem, shame, fairness, attention needing behaviour – a whole raft of things that tower over us threatening to push us over the edge so that we lose control and become wild ourselves.
But that is the nature of adoption many times. Unchartered waters, an adventure to an undiscovered place within ourselves. I’ve certainly learnt more about myself since we had our children and am learning everyday to live in the now and try to be centred so that peace does reign and not chaos. What do we need on this treacherous journey?
- A map or a direction of where to go – without this we can wander round in circles getting more frustrated and confused. When I look back over the years I can see how far we’ve come but of course you can’t see the path in front of you at the time. We don’t know what will come ahead and what issues we may have to face. But we can try to forge a path for others as we go. When you go to support groups or meet with other adopters you can actually see that they have gone before and can give you more of an idea of what might be ahead. Talk to other adopters, especially those who are further on than you – they may be able to show an easier way or a path already travelled.
- Stop and take a breath – when you’re hiking through wild country you will need to take a breath, stop and rest. I need this all the time. To have people who can help with this is essential – people who will have your kids for a day, night or weekend is amazing. It will give you the space to recharge and be refreshed to continue the journey.
- Take enough supplies with you. I’m convinced the more I meet new adopters that we are not prepared enough beforehand. I don’t mean about understanding the children but about equipping ourselves with what we need for the tough journey ahead. We need emotional resilience, we need knowledge and strategies, we need places to go for help, we need to be self-aware and look after ourselves first. Without the right supplies any adventure in the wild will be dangerous.
So wherever you find yourself today – about to start the journey or right in the thick bushes of the jungle I hope this helps you just to step back and take stock of your life. It may feel wild and our of control sometimes but the journey is well worth it.