I'm off to talk to another group of prospective adopters next week.
It's something that both J and I do fairly regularly. We also help with mentoring some people who hope to adopt or, occasionally, have already adopted and are perhaps struggling in some way.
We aren't professionals. As you probably know from my other posts, J is a doctor, I have a background in business and politics. We've had no training. We don't profess to be able to do anything other than listen and/or share our own experiences. Openly. Positively.
We were talking the other evening about what common factors there appear to be amongst those people with whom we have spoken about adoption.
A strong, positive, passionate commitment to helping children was one.
The desire to build a family, one that embraces children in love, care and security they had not previously known was another.
Was there anything else that has been common to the conversations we have had with those we have mentored? Something we should always ensure we emphasise for those prospective adopters with whom we speak?
Two came to mind.
The issue of resilience. Of understanding that no matter how awful the past of your child there will always be positives to be gleaned from their experience. What doesn't destroy you makes you stronger.
The second was about expectation. I've talked a little about the expectation of immediate affection in an earlier post. Expectation of how life will change once you have children in your life is also an important factor. Those on the adoption courses who already have children nod sagely whenever we mention this.
It is inevitable that life changes when you adopt. No one who has adopted or is considering adopting we have met has ever suggested they had not considered that to be the case.
However, the degree of change. The amount of compromise from the pattern of life prior to adopting children can come as a shock.
The process through which prospective adopters go to help them obtain approval as prospective adopters and then to be matched with child(ren) does not prepare you for that degree of change.
There's no right or wrong in that statement. There's no apportionment of blame in the change coming as a surprise. There's no expectation that you should be prepared.
We were not. We knew things would change, but were unaware of just how much. Indeed, the individual needs of, successively, each of our children has meant adjustments to our routine, to the rhythm and fabric of our lives we could never have anticipated.
Prior to adopting our son neither of us had any responsibility beyond our work and our pets. If we worked late, if we went to the gym on the way to or from work, if we dawdled around a supermarket, browsed while shopping. None of that would matter.
Some of those behaviours were ingrained.
Taking time while shopping being a good point. The ability to continue doing so with a three year old in tow seemed a reasonable expectation when we first adopted our son. That proved to be an impossibility. Shopping became a focussed, controlled, hit and run exercise.
A nappy needing changing really does take precedence over everything else. No matter how important, distracting or entertaining the current preoccupation.
As adults we could understand that well.
It was harder for our son. Being five at the time he adjusted as well as he could. Sometimes it was just a little too much for him. He had grown used to a rhythm of life which was now disrupted by a tangible, identifiable source. Annoying, Disruptive. Jealousy-inducing.
We did what we could, creating time and space for our son with each of us individually. Making the most of the times at which his sister was asleep in the afternoons, or in bed earlier than he in the evenings, to make up those deficiencies as best we could.
Reminding him constantly we were doing so. Not for purposes of inducing guilt. Rather reminding him we were still there, that things hadn't changed that much. That we were still his and that he did still have that one to one time, even though at other times it must have felt as though it had disappeared forever.
There is no way to predict how your life will change when children enter your life.
That must be absolutely true for those for whom the child is a natural, biological addition. When the child is adopted. Is older. Has defined, expected needs and can articulate the same, then that is an even greater shock.
It's unpredictable. It's disruptive. It can be jolly irritating.
And for us it has been absolutely the best thing to have happened ever.