By Henry Amador-Batten
Having just been placed with a six year old child whom we will eventually be adopting has been an eye-opening and humbling experience.
You can “feel” that you are as prepared as you like, but emotionally it is an entirely different story.
Adopting a child through the Foster Care system is not for the faint of heart. Once you are licensed and cleared for a placement, you already understand what the scenarios might look like. You know that so many of these children come to you badly bruised, sometimes physically, but always emotionally.
That has been the case for us.
This sweet little boy has learned to mask so much pain beneath that gorgeous snaggletoothed smile.
We often heard during initial classes that a child might “honeymoon” for a while after coming into your home. That’s a phrase that means that they will present one way for a while and then when time passes and perhaps they feel more relaxed, the behaviors that you read about in those earlier days begin to surface.
Our soon-to be- son’s honeymoon ended pretty quickly.
Without getting into sensitive and personal issues I will just say that some recent occurrences shook our family to its core. We are planning to get past them and to move forward with the blessings the universe has sent our way but truthfully, it’s been terribly difficult.
As I said earlier, “feeling” like you are ready and really “being” ready are two very different things.
Like many children in the system, ours has been seeing a therapist for quite some time.
During a recent session she spoke to my husband and I and shared something that I found quite interesting.
She asked if we were familiar with the concept of “The Invisible Suitcase.”
I had read the book, The Invisible String, which is a great read for children who have been adopted or have faced loss. It teaches them, and us, that all the people whom we have loved and who have played significant roles in our lives are forever connected to us by this beautiful invisible string. Even when they are gone, they are still attached to our hearts, and we theirs, forever.
I love that book and although that was what I thought she was referencing, I was wrong.
The idea of the invisible suitcase is what so many of us have negatively labeled as “baggage” over the years.
She let us know that even this small child was coming into our home with more than just a few boxes of clothes and toys, he was also bringing his invisible suitcase.
We all have baggage right? When families are formed we all bring our things with us and over the years we may even repack them jointly, have what appears to be a new set.
But what happens when the new suitcase doesn’t match the others?
As a gay man, I can easily insert a joke here about my luggage not matching, but I won’t, .
It was naïve of me to assume that any child would flourish in our home simply because we were are a loving, safe, and even kind-of-cool family.
I was naïve to think that all we had to do was to welcome him into the tribe and every sock in his bag would find itself to the right drawer.
That’s not how this matching luggage, thing works.
We are still so hopeful that we are what this child needs, yet my husband and I have each shared the contrasting emotions that come from believing our decision was heaven sent and our biggest mistake, all at the same time.
We are allowing ourselves those feeling’s, they are normal and expected, and making for some very heartfelt conversations.
We’re going to dive into this with all we have. We will let the experts guide us and direct us as best as we can.
We will soon start some special therapies that will help us help him through this difficult time in all our lives, but at the end of the day we will have to trust our guts and each other as to what is truly best for our family.
All we can hope for at this very moment is that we find a comfy closet where all of our luggage will feel at home.
Photo credit: HaJime Nakano