We all have our kryptonite. Things that melt us, slay us, make us do crazy things. For me, it is the older child waiting to be adopted-- the movies, the videos, even the thought of children waiting, watching younger kids get adopted, just kills me.
I know many people thought we were crazy, or saints, or short sighted to adopt a blind, 7 year old boy from China two years ago. Several people told us so. And we kind of knew it, in a giddy way.
“I know! Isn’t it so crazy?! Isn’t it great?!”
And even though we did tons of reading, and knew it would be hard, we still had a certain number of expectations. We know that expectations set us up for disappointment, but when we dream and think of the future, it is hard not to have some expectations.
Two years ago, I would have told you that within two years after adoption, with the right amount of love and the proper parenting style, Charlie would more than likely be a normal, visually impaired nine year old. I mean two years is a long time in the life of a child, right? (I also thought he would’ve lost his accent by now, but I love it.)
Even though it seems like we have had him in our lives for a long time, two years out of nine is not long at all. And even though we have loved him well and given him tons of nurture and attention for two whole years, for over seven he had a very hard life. Those years will affect him forever.
A few things that have gone differently than I expected or planned…
For one, he is on medication for ADHD. We didn’t know much about medicating kids, and had certainly seen and heard some of the negative sides of doing so. But they have greatly helped Charlie and it is clear to him and everyone around him that they are a tool to help him function and succeed.
There are definitely plenty of behaviors that we let slide that I never would have seen coming. We have become more laid back than I ever would have imagined about certain things, and more intentional about others.
He still sleeps in our floor most nights. When he had been home about a month, I thought it was time to nip that in the bud as soon as possible. But now I have bigger things to worry about. There is so much fear and anxiety going on in his body at bedtime, that getting him to sleep and helping him sleep through the night is the goal, not where he does so.
When we first got Charlie he was 7 years old and acted about 3. Now he is 9.5 and acts about 5 or 6. So yes, he is maturing and growing, but slowly, and still far from a “typical” 9 year old.
Charlie is an enigma in many ways, as are most kids from hard places. He is very responsible and hard working; he loves to help and knows how to better than most kids his age. But emotionally he is a semi-active volcano, and physically he is still so tiny. Two years in and at 9.5 years old he still loves to be carried and babied and needs lots of praise.
He has blown us away with his love. He is very affectionate and gives hugs and kisses very easily. He is wicked smart and asks questions that we can’t keep up with. He is very independent and many people don’t even realize he is visually impaired until they see his cane or catch him examining something close up.
We expected for him to need more physical help. We thought that his vision would be a life-altering issue. We were surprised to learn that his emotional health and needs would far outweigh his physical "handicap."
Some of our expectations came from our reading and some came from our previous adoption of our daughter. But alas, each child is different, as are their experiences. And even when we think that we know what we are getting into, we don’t.
The last two years have been harder than I expected in many ways, but we have all grown and changed so much, that I honestly don’t know if I would change them if I could.
I can relate to people in a whole new way now. Especially people who are struggling with their children and feel hopeless in this journey.
Nothing about adoption is predictable, especially with an older child. I am thankful that God placed this particular kryptonite in my heart though. Because of it, I am a changed person who has learned to love on a whole new level.