They were adopted as infants. Both pregnancies—two years apart—were followed closely to ensure that the best medical care was provided, that the babies would have the best chance possible of being healthy, starting their lives with nothing but good possibilities ahead.
The dads had gone to a seminar or two on adoption, with stated emphases on gay parenting. But the majority of information they received was more about legal issues and care of young children than actual parenting. It seemed they heard all of the positive things about raising kids and providing love, but less of the issues that arise with children in adoptive homes.
It wasn’t until the kids hit four years old that the issues began for each. There was stubbornness, anger, and acting out.
Several years passed and they finally came to see me for help. They were exhausted, defeated, and hopeless.
“We have tried everything,” one of the dads said. “We have read books, talked to our friends, consulted our minister, and visited another counselor for a time. Nothing has changed, and we just don’t know what to do. The last straw was when the older of the boys took my screwdriver out of the tool box and wrote ‘I hate you’ on the hood of my car!”
The poor man cried as he went on, “I can’t believe I said it, but it just came out. I told him I wished I had never adopted him!”
His partner hugged him, and they both looked at me with such utter sadness.
This scenario is not uncommon. Also, it’s not uncommon for adoptive parents to not understand all that they may face in rearing children who aren’t of their flesh and blood.
In the 20 years I’ve been working with kids and families, a majority of the children I’ve seen are from adoptive homes, blended families, or are living with extended family. The common thread in all of these scenarios is that in every case, there is a moderate to high degree of abandonment issues. In my experience—and this is just what I have seen in my work—children in these situations will always feel insecure, and they will always challenge their parents to see if in fact they are secure.
The problem is that for parents who have no biological tie to their children, the bond is quite different.
They clearly love the child and most are committed to providing a safe and healthy home, but oftentimes the ability to tolerate challenges and rebellion decreases when these children are not blood. I can’t explain why but I can tell you this is a fact.
I thought about this in relation to all of the children in my life—both extended family and clients. I realized as I processed this that I have far less tolerance, and am more apt to dismiss children who are not my own. My own children were difficult from time to time, but in my mind I was not given a choice regarding raising them and knowing that no one else would take responsibility for them. With other children however, I would be tempted, and sometimes did, wash my hands of them.
I will be discussing this dynamic in an attempt to either prepare those who are moving in the direction of beginning a family, and others who are in the midst of rearing children and might be facing some of the issues that I have broached. If that is you, I would welcome your thoughts, questions and struggles, and will attempt to address them.