Recently I had a discussion with a friend of ours who is in the adoption process and we were discussing the frustrations that come along with international adoption. As difficult as that part of the process was, I often find that all of that, as tedious and as frustrating as it could be, was so much easier than the post adoption. It has felt like, from day one, it has been all uphill. Now I'm not a mountain climber, but I know that it takes strength, endurance, and sacrifice (three things definitely needed for anyone adopting a child) to succeed in climbing a mountain.
Whenever I've talked to someone who enjoys mountaineering, they all say that it is critical to do your research before ever undertaking mountain climbing. This is also something anyone who's adopting needs to do just so that they will have realistic expectations of what raising an adopted child is like, although many of the books focus on extreme cases. Long before we ever adopted Cava, I was reading book after book on adoption so that I would understand how to parent a child who's spent his whole life in the orphanage system. These children are damaged and are suffering from wounds that can often take years to uncover. Knowing that it will not be an overnight process and that it will take more than love to heal them is critical.
They also say that successful mountain climbing is all about your mental attitude. You have to be able to assess your circumstances and make sound judgments because the choices you make are critical to your life. The same goes with parenting adopted children. We could not approach Cava in the same manner we did Benjamin. Cava had his own emotional and psychological baggage that came with spending eight years, his formative years, in orphanages. Raising him requires far more patience than our biological child. Nor could we assess him in his development in terms of Benjamin and where Benjamin was at the same age.
Like in mountain climbing, one cannot give up, though there will be many times one will feel exhausted and ready to. A child who's lived their life in orphanages are used to people giving up on them, abandoning them, and they are expecting that. The biggest shock for Cava is that we are there for him through all of his ups and downs, at his worst and his best moments. We have loved him no matter what and have told him so, even when he has rejected that love. Adoption like mountain climbing is all about endurance. Cava has to know that we are always going to be there for him no matter what. He is not climbing this mountain alone.
Nor should the parents of an adoptive child do this alone. One of the biggest blessings we have had throughout this adoption process from the beginning until now, is having a strong support group. We have others who can come along beside us who have either been through all of this or are going through all of this and can be there when we need them or when they need us. Sometimes all an adoptive parent needs is for someone to just listen and say, "You're not alone," because one can often feel that way.
For us, there was no "honeymoon" period and, at times it has been extremely stressful on all of us. But despite this stress, it has brought all of us closer together as a family. In the midst of the storms, we come together, we don't pull apart. When one is struggling, the other reaches out and helps the other along. Danelle and I tag team with the kids, both of us taking turns with each of them so that neither feels left out and both feel that they are getting their Mom and Papa's undivided attention.
Sometimes we all just need to rest and set up camp where we are and not try to push forward, as fatigue is a real danger. It also gives us time to get perspective on not just where we need to go to climb ahead but to appreciate how far we have come - and we have come a long way in just over a year. It has amazed us and those who know us to see the progress that Cava has made. He's not the same kid and he won't be. Through love, patience, and therapy, he continues to make great strides.
Cava has begun to open up to me and I cherish those moments because that means he is not only trusting me more, but it also means he's allowing himself to share what he's feeling, thinking, or what he's been through. Because these moments are ones he's entrusting with me, I have also held that trust by not putting them on this blog. Like all of us, he deserves his privacy and should not grow up thinking that his life is just fodder for a blog. I am very protective of Cava. Everything I have written and will continue to write will be with the upmost delicacy and love.
Adoption, like mountain climbing, can be both exhausting and exhilarating, but in both, it is always worth it.
Our family is not the same and I don't want it to be. Instead, I cherish each and every moment I have with my wife and both of my sons, and I celebrate every moment when we can stop, enjoy the view, and rejoice that we can continue the climb together.