Parenting an adopted child is not at all like parenting a biological one. Of course, I didn’t know that until we got Joshua. You really can’t know what it’s like until you do it, you can read books and talk to people but it’s not the same as really doing it. There are many ways it’s different, but mostly it is different because you are parenting a hurt child. Joshua has been with us since he was 8 days old so one would think that should be just like having a biological child enter your family, but it’s not. Before his birth we have no idea what he experienced, and if I didn’t believe in good prenatal care before, I sure do know the value of it now. In addition to that are his special needs and his prematurity, both make him different to parent than the average child. And on top of that are attachment issues. You would think that a child that comes to a family shortly after birth would not experience attachment stuff, but they do. Joshua goes through a grieving process for his birth family that we cannot understand. Some days he is just like any other toddler, but others we struggle. Today is one of those struggling days. He is going through the “terrible twos”, but with Joshua it’s magnified by 10. He doesn’t just throw fits he throws tantrums that now involve kicking and hitting and throwing things. He cannot calm himself down so we have to help him do that. To be honest, it’s really hard sometimes. I struggle not to get angry when he is angry and hitting me. It’s hard to remind yourself that he doesn’t want to be this way, but he is hurting. It’s hard to walk a line between being understanding with him and not wanting the behaviour to continue so we must discipline him. And for me it’s hard to not go into toddler mode and be mad right along with him. My natural inclination is to put him into time out and let him get over it, but we know from experience that doesn’t really work. He will scream endlessly because he is no ability to calm himself like most kids do. So, we have to actively try to distract him and calm him. It also becomes exceedingly frustrating, for him and us, that he cannot express to us what he is feeling.
I say all this to help people better understand Joshua and other kids like him so that everyone can be more understanding when you see families with what seem to be unruly and defiant toddlers and you think to yourself, “if they would just discipline that child…”. Some kids are much more complicated than that. I also say this to encourage other mothers out there who are dealing with these same issues, you are not alone. We are hopeful that in time things will resolve for Joshua and he will find ways to control his impulses to be angry so quickly. The brain is a mysterious organ and it amazes me how experiences can affect one so deeply at such a young age. We are working with specialists to help us better understand and help Joshua, so don’t think we are just enduring this alone, but it all takes time and patience. We know we will experience some of this same stuff with our daughter, but we know so much more about how to handle this than when we started.
Some might say, “I could not handle all that, you must be a saint”. Actually, I really hate that statement. I am not a saint just for taking on kids who need homes and I really think everyone can handle this if they are called to it. Does that mean I don’t lose my temper and end up in a crying heap every now and then? No. I have moments like that all the time, but each time I learn better how to deal with it and I find strength from reading other adoptive moms accounts of their struggles with this same thing. You don’t have to be perfect to be a parent you just have to be willing to trying again and get better.