When you are a parent, there’s always someone at the ready to give you advice, to tell you that you’re doing it wrong or that you could be doing it better. Adoption just adds an extra layer of complexity to parenting advice because…well, adoption just makes being a parent more complicated. Not harder, because parenting is freaking hard no matter how you get there. Just more complicated. adoption advice
The best adoption advice I've ever received
Adoption doesn’t happen without loss and the children (and adults) involved in the process have varying degrees of feelings about loss. Different people process feelings of loss – and feelings in general – in different ways. Bonding and attachment can mean something different for adoptive families, especially in the case of older-child adoptions. We adopted our boys at ages two and three, respectively, and we got a lot of adoption advice, most of it unsolicited and all given with good intentions. At least I hope that second thing is true!
Definitely cocoon*. Don’t cocoon, you’ll go crazy. Don’t let anyone babysit your kid until they’ve been home at least a year, maybe longer. Only feed your kids familiar Chinese food. Learn how to make congee (a type of rice porridge) and use Chinese Five Spice in everything. Get them used to eating chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese right away. Co-sleep. Let them cry it out. Talk to them about their birth parents every day. Wait for them to ask questions about their birth families. Don’t use the term birth family; say first family instead. Plan big adoption day celebrations. Never celebrate adoption day and for the love of all that is holy, don’t refer to it as “gotcha day.” Don’t let grandma give your kid a cookie, it’ll confuse him. You have to read <insert title of one of the bazillion adoption books in print here> because it’s the absolute, be-all, end-all authority on adoption.
*Cocooning refers to keeping your newly adopted child’s world very small and sticking close to home for a few weeks or even months. The idea behind this is to give time and space for bonding and adjustment while limiting the child’s access to people outside the immediate family. Allowing a grandparent, older sibling, babysitter, or other adult to dole out food and comfort may potentially cause confusion or problems with the parent-child bond.
I felt guilty because we didn’t cocoon because I knew that being housebound would have driven me crazy. Both of our kids went to daycare shortly after their homecoming, because I was still working full time. I felt guilty about that, too, both the daycare and the working. My husband and I left our son (the one I was struggling to bond with) with a sitter so we could go out to dinner when we’d been home with him for less than a month because I desperately needed a break. Guess what? Yep, all the guilt.
I got a lot of adoption advice, most of which I didn’t listen to. But, I got one piece of sage adoption advice that I did listen to and it’s stuck with me throughout this crazy train of adoption and being a mom:
Remember, you are the mom.
You are the mom who might not always know what she’s doing…but no mom always knows what she’s doing.
You are the mom who sometimes gets it wrong…but all moms get things wrong. We beat ourselves up over what we do wrong and forget to congratulate ourselves for what we’ve managed to get right. Like loving our kids unconditionally, even when they drive us nuts. Like putting food into their bellies and yes, pizza counts.
You are the mom and probably a damn good one at that.
“You are the mom” is the best adoption advice…make that the best parenting advice I’ve ever received. It doesn’t mean I know everything, because I don’t. It doesn’t mean I don’t screw up because I screw up royally.
But, I am the mom. When I mess up, I try to own it and vow to do better. And when I get it right, I try to own it, recognize it and give myself a virtual fist bump.
Adoption advice is most always given with the best of intentions. And yes, adoption complicates parenting and makes your family dynamic just a little bit different. But you have to decide what works for your family and guess what? That's going to involve trial and error.
Because you are the mom. And you know what works for your family. And if you don't, you're gonna figure it out.
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