From the online class
older children internationally:
Making a decision and coping with
Much of the attention to bonding and attaching
is from the perspective of the child's ability to bond and attach to
the family. There is not a great deal of focus on your ability
to bond and attach to your child. Folks eagerly anticipating the adoption
of a child, find it almost incomprehensible to imagine not being able
to love or connect to a child you have longed for.
Imagine yourself in a room of ten adults. Look around.
First let's start with appearance. Aren't there a couple individuals
that you may feel drawn to based on looks? Maybe it isn't necessarily
beauty or attractiveness or whether or not he or she is handsome or
pretty. Maybe it is their dress, their mannerisms, their facial expressions,
the way they carry themselves, their smile or their sense of confidence.
Maybe they just have this approachable, warm demeanor. Maybe they have
what you consider to be the "it" factor. Look again. There
is probably someone that you notice immediately that may present or
look like someone you have no interest in getting to know at all. Maybe
they slouch or look mousy or overly loud and full of themselves. You
feel almost a visceral dislike. Shift your focus to a classroom of children.
Aren't there one or two that you are drawn to immediately? Maybe it
is the quiet, soft spoken, seemingly intelligent little girl in the
back. Or the one with the shy, sweet smile. Or maybe you are amused
and instantly attracted to the boisterous, mischievous little boy who
needs the occasional reminder from his teacher to quiet down and focus
on his work. You see a little boy over in the corner sniffling and whining
because one of the other children took his pencil. He keeps raising
his hand and tattling to the teacher. You feel instantly annoyed and
turn your attention to the other kids.
Now you have your own child that you have waited a lifetime
for. At first giving him gifts and providing all the things he didn't
have, gives you great pleasure. Now he acts like you owe him and every
time you say no, he looks at you with loathing and pouts and turns his
head. You tell him a thousand times not to ride his bike in the street
and every day it is like beginning again and you find yourself resenting
the fact that he doesn't "get it" and you have to be outside
supervising rather than getting your chores done. He doesn't smile much
and when you tell him no, he says he wants to go back to the detsky
dom and sometimes he even smiles and mocks you as he deliberately does
something you tell him not to. This isn't what you signed up for, anticipated,
invested in! You look at him and you just feel a deadness inside, you
can't conjure a feeling of love, not even a feeling of liking him. You
feel ashamed, you wish you never did this. You long for your old life
and feel angry at your agency for not telling you the truth. These kids
don't want a family. They don't appreciate what you are offering them.
How can you admit you don't even like this kid? You feel like a failure,
an impostor, a bad person.
Guess what? You aren't the first. You really cannot just
tell anyone, because not every one will understand. Some folks may even
think you are a bad person and that there must be something wrong with
you. Don't talk to them. Suddenly, you recall how critical and superior
you felt when, while you were exploring adoption options, someone shared
their negative adoption story with you. You did judge them and you actually
thought there was something wrong with them; you wrote them off as the
"glass half empty" type.
Adopting an older child is similar to an arranged
marriage. You basically "sign up" before you have the full
story; there is no courting and getting-to-know-you prior to commitment.
Beyond first impressions, there are a myriad of challenges in merging
histories, world views, personality, interests and styles of coping
as you build a history together. Family members are rarely clones of
one another but they generally begin with a shared history and experience.
It is difficult to work towards that if you are stuck in "I don't
like this child." The lens through which you view his every action
and behavior will be distorted by your negative feelings.
ISOLATE. Talk to your agency, your local support group, another adoptive
parent, a therapist. Get help and support. Believe it or not, they will
help you find a way to take care of yourself, validate your feelings
and connect with your child.
Jody Sciortino, LCSW,
Boris Gindis, Ph.D.