Adoption is not about getting the perfect child but getting the child God has for you.
This is not an easy fact for some to come to grips with. So often when we go into the process of adoption we have a mental picture of what we want, perhaps even an internal list of what we want in a child. I know I had one. As we did our home study, my wife and I answered what we were and weren't willing to adopt in a child, in regards to their mental, physical, and health attributes. Certainly, foremost in my mind, was the question:
And my answer was a resounding: GIRL!!!
Needless to say, when we met with the SDA and our options were very limited and none of the viable options were a girl, I was disappointed and dejected when I left their office. I was not one of those people who knew instantly when I saw a photo that a specific child was my child. When we drove from Kyiv to the small town where Cava's boarding school was, I wrestled with the image of the child I had in my mind to the reality of the one I would be meeting. The two were not at all the same and, internally, I kept asking God, "Why?"
Even as we met Cava for the first time, I remember how I felt no connection to this child who so desperately needed love and a family. I sat on the floor and played with him with the toys we'd brought him. I felt sorry for him, but my sympathy did not extend to wanting to adopt him. When we were asked, "Do you wish to adopt him?" I was startled and frightened. How could I answer that question so quickly when we'd just met him? I didn't say that, but, instead asked if our family could go outside the director's office and talk about it. God moved through my son Benjamin and my wife who were both sure that this was our son. If they had not said "YES" I know that I wouldn't have.
As we spent time with Cava, I still didn't bond with him.
Because I was still clinging to that child I had in my head, that imaginary, nonexistent child that I wanted to adopt and not this real child who needed us. For me it was a real struggle, of not only letting go of what I wanted but trusting God for what he had for us. Trust is not easy for me and never has been.
For anyone who's read this blog before might know, it was one day at the boarding school and Cava had climbed up onto one of the bunk-beds in our room and wanted me to catch him. I did, swung him around like a plane, and then held him in my arms like baby. He looked so happy and it was obvious that he deeply needed to be held and loved that at that moment I knew he was my son.
But he was not and is not the "perfect" child. No child is, but adopted children bring with them their own set of struggles and wounds that will begin to manifest themselves in ways that will challenge the adoptive parents to their limits. I once saw the question, "When your adopted child doesn't fit seamlessly into your life, what do you do?" This is not an easy question to answer. These children are in pain, struggling with being unwanted and unloved. Their stories are painful and full of loss. They may come from neglect or abuse. They may or may not know their parents but they do know they were given up for whatever reason and for any child this is a hard reality to comprehend.
We adopt these children and bring them home. It takes more than prayers and love to heal them. Sometimes it's not a day by day thing, but a moment by moment one. And there can be moments when it feels like everything is falling apart. What can often make it harder are people outside our families who seem to think that this child should just get over it and be like every other child (this can be especially true of schools). There are days filled with setbacks, frustrations, and sometimes defeat. They can bring chaos that feels more destructive than a tornado or hurricane, leaving behind more than just broken household items. But all of this stems from their hurts and fears and their struggling to feel at peace. When one is in the middle of just such a moment, it can often be hard to see this behavior as a child's acting out because they are hurting. Outbursts, anger, tantrums, and complete breakdowns are often part of this process.
One thing we as adoptive parents have to do is to get past the action to the reason behind the action. This is far from easy and it has tested my patience and my sanity some days. Yet, during those moments that I do, and I allowed Cava to express the anguish and hurt that was in his heart, that was when small steps towards healing really began.
Yes, he has broken things and he has raged against us.
There has been aggression both physically and verbally from him. But it is sometimes only through those actions that he could communicate because he had not been taught otherwise. He acted non-verbally because he couldn't say what he wanted to say verbally. I had to get past "me" and see that all of this was not about me but about him. He was telling me that he was scared and he only knew how to respond through chaos. He was his own Thing One and Thing Two running chaotically through our house, upsetting our day, and our "perfect" family. Once more I had to let go of perfection and focus on the child God had given us.
God gave us Cava not only because Cava needed us but because we needed him. He is part of our family.
There have been no quick fixes or instant answers. It is a slow and often painful process but through all of pain we have become a stronger and closer family. Through heartbreaks we have often found the greatest break-throughs.
We have slowly been replacing the poor self-images Cava has had of himself with one of being loved, wanted, and needed. This requires constant reinforcement and the realization that there will always be setbacks but those are not defeats but another moment to grow and to show not only our love to this child, but, more importantly the unconditional love of God.
For those considering adoption, let go of the idea of adopting the "perfect" child and allow yourself to love the child God has for you. It won't always be easy, but it will always be rewarding.