Here’s my PSA for the day. You cannot judge parents by their kid’s actions. I don’t care how much you think you know or how it looks. Today I am the mom who appears unable to handle her child in the store.
What you see is a writhing two-year-old trying to wrestle her way out of my arms running up and down the aisles with no shoes on. What you see is her rolling around on the floor climbing on shelves. What you hear is her constant babbling repeating the same sentence over and over and over again while I seem to ignore her. What you hear are her screams of “NO! NOOOO! NOOOOOOO!” as I try to carry her in search of what I came into the store for.
My face looks blank and tired.
I seem to be ignoring her behavior.
What you do not see is her past. You don’t know she is a foster child. You don’t know what she has endured. You don’t know what hypervigilance or trauma are. You don’t believe that a 2-year-old can have anxiety or mental health issues. You don’t see that today she is understimulated because her brain finds it boring being home alone with just Mom. Her brain craves chaos because that’s it’s the norm. You see the tip of the iceberg out of the water that looks like a poorly parented child. You don’t see the submerged part of the iceberg that consists of things that are entirely out of her control. She is a two-year-old whose brain is processing damage, issues and trauma that even us adults struggle with.
Here is also what you don’t see.
You don’t see me rubbing her pressure points trying to calm her. You don’t hear me humming her favorite song in her ear in order to distract her triggered amygdala. You don’t feel me four-square breathing against her chest trying to get her to mirror my breathing. What looks like me ignoring my child is actually me trying to remain calm in the face of my own trauma. You see an adopted person parenting an adopted person who knows all too well what her child is feeling internally.
I caved. I couldn’t do it. I could not parent her today. After I called daycare and dropped her off knowing I will have to find a way to pay for the extra day, I cried. I cried because I feel like I am failing her. I cried that I am not enough for her. I cried because I know what she needs and somedays it isn’t me. I cried because I know all too well what she is feeling. I cried because it’s all overwhelming always having to be contemplating her current needs and adjusting our lives in the moment to fulfill it.
This is the flip-side: real-life foster care and adoption. There is a video going viral about a two-year-old reflecting on how great her adoption is and how much she loves her parents.
Adoption is a great thing. Sometimes it is necessary.
But what that video doesn’t show is this. It doesn’t acknowledge the hard parts. The 2-year-old has no concept of her entire situation or what she has to process yet as an adoptee. A struggle that will accompany her the rest of her life. I LOVE that this little girl in the video loves her parents. I love my adoptive parents! I don’t think of my adoption as a negative thing. However…
Many will watch that video, judge her parents and call them heroes because they chose to adopt and are clearly raising her right. An hour later they will run into me at the store with my soon-to-be adopted daughter and give me the side-eye, or an eye roll, or a snide comment about how I should handle the situation.
The rhetoric and the assumptions about adoption need to change.
My daughter is not lucky.
No one is lucky when they are taken or put up for adoption by their parents. It creates damage that can only be repaired by years of hard mental for that adoptee.
I am not a hero. I am not adopting to gain brownie points with St. Peter. I am not adopting because I thought I was lucky as an adoptee. I am foster and adopting because these children need a safe place to land while their brains live in chaos. That’s not being a hero. That’s called being a responsible human.
So, next time you see a video embellishing adoption, or eulogizing it… think of me in the grocery store wrestling a writhing 2-year-old off the floor while they are trying to lick it.
Or her sticking the paintbrush into the toothpaste top and eating watercolor tinted toothpaste.
Because that’s been my morning.
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