Last night, I started reading some blogs about adopting an older child on the website adoptivefamilies.com (and whatever I have to say below aside, it's a FANTASTIC resource). I actually googled "older child adoption success" looking for some happy stories to tide us over. Somehow I ended up reading the ones that said things like "After many, many years of HARD, EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL PAIN, things finally improved..." and "Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't do this again."
I went to bed feeling scared and discouraged. Actually, I felt terrified and frozen. I felt relieved that we hadn't yet committed to a particular child, and embarrassed about what I was going to have to tell my few friends and family who know we're in the process of trying to foster/adopt an older kid. Why were we doing this? We have a great life, and we're pretty happy with our routines. Why throw that all away? Was I being COMPLETELY idealistic and naive? Worse yet, was I destined to fail?
This morning I got up and read a story in the paper about four Mission High students in San Francisco who are graduating this spring and going to college (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfmoms/detail?entry_id=40827). All of them have faced significant challenges. One girl ran away to Los Angeles in her junior year, stopped going to school altogether, and was living in a foster family that barely cared for her. The attendance liason from her old school in San Francisco called to see where she was and learned she was in LA, not going to school. They got talking, and the girl asked the woman to be her foster mom. After thinking about it long and hard, the woman said yes. So the girl returned to San Francisco and moved in with her new foster mom, who set just three ground rules: no tv on weekdays, we go to church on Sundays, and I'm doing this so that you go to college and have a career. And the girl had a stellar academic year - she designed a class about the Pan-African Diaspora; she served as president of the school's Black Student Union, and this fall she's starting at Spelman College, an all-Black women's college.
I felt so happy reading these stories, I got tearful. I looked up all the profiles of all the kids in our program and started looking for those who resembled the kids in the story. I felt like I could hardly wait to get started.
And so it goes! I don't know, I bet maybe parenthood feels this way, full of highs and lows. I'm trying to manage my feelings so that the rollercoaster evens out a little bit. My partner is better at is than I am - better suited by disposition to maintaining an even keel and following through on a commitment. He doesn't worry much about the daily fluctuation of emotions. Clearly I have some work to do. I intend to follow through, and I KNOW there will be some rough times and some huge hurdles. Sometimes I wish I could find more examples of people who have done this before, successfully, rather than all the gloomy warnings one finds by googling things like "older child adoption." Maybe I'll just stop googling. There's an event coming up, sponsored by our agency - show up and wash dogs with kids who are looking for adoptive parents. I'm sure I'll learn more by washing dogs alongside teenagers living in group homes than I will be late-night googling.