There is another adaptation of this classic on TV right now and it sparked some thoughts for me this week about my own expectations. As an adoptive parent it is something we are encouraged to examine when we start this journey. What are our expectations of adoption? What do we expect from the children who are waiting to be adopted? And do we think those expectations might change along the way?
I have been confronted with the disappointment this week of my expectations regarding how our life has turned out right now. I say right now because I know how things can change and what seems ok or not ok can drastically reverse in a moment. Whenever I meet up with people I’ve not seen for a while I am forced to consider that my children’s experiences are unique. Of course, all are, I hear you say, but the journey mine have been on and are still navigating is not ‘the norm’.
For myself as well as a divorced 50 (ish) year old, starting a new job and trying to find the joy in a brand-new life has been difficult. My Mum also died a few years ago so all those life stressors have been there for us as a family, not to mention COVID and the cost of living crisis.
“Very cheery today Nicola”.
I decided not so long ago that I would write about what is real for me and my children on this blog. I wanted to raise the awareness of a life after trauma, a lifelong journey that effects those who experienced it (my children) and those around them (us as parents, their teachers, friends etc). The hope is that in being honest people can relate to us, but also those who aren’t living this journey but trying to support others can glean some understanding about the issues that come up for us.
So, this is this week’s issue for me. I must continually look for the things to be grateful for. My children aren’t working as others their age might be at this point, but they are trying in different ways. Their mental health may mean they aren’t going abroad with friends, moving out or going to university. But they have friends, interests, go out for a walk with me and the dog occasionally (today). When I meet friends, whose lives are what I imagined mine might be at this stage, I try to hold onto the good things and the fact that no-one has the same life journey.
This feeling isn’t exclusive to adoption of course. You may have experienced sickness, redundancy, wayward children, all manner of things that have put obstacles in the road. That is life after all. Children not achieving their academic potential is something said in households up and down the country – my childhood home being one. I hated school. At least the academic side. I always felt stupid and just did the bare minimum to get through without being noticed. I did like the social side more and excelled at hanging out and falling out with people every week!
I left school with those comments on my report cards – “could do better”. However, I know my experience was very different to my children’s. I didn’t have childhood trauma that held me back or impaired my learning. I did experience some difficulties as we all do, but I knew the security of loving parents and a strong faith in my family. This, I believe, pulled me through and helped me to look to achieve things later in life as I figured out what I wanted to do.
As adults we are all walking round with scars from our past that we feel limit us in some way. I have just started reading Gabor Mates book Scattered Minds on ADD and he references the 100’s of adults now being diagnosed with ADD who have waited years to know why they have felt different to others, and why they felt held back in certain ways. I have seen this in my son, as mentioned previously, at 19 diagnosed with ADHD and in today’s standards that seems to be young. People in their 50’s and 60’s are now understanding parts of themselves that have always eluded them.
I hope that my children as they are transitioning into adults can work through the barriers they have, in a way that will lead them to happy lives. Jobs, relationships, living situations, friends, mental health, and money issues all seem to be a huge challenge.
So, what can we take from these great expectations? I know sometimes that I am still holding onto great expectations because I feel envious of others whose lives are where I thought mine would be by now. Even after all these years of adjustment I still need to bring myself back to the foundations of what we are trying to do in adoption. To create the space for children who have had terrible starts in life to be able to break the cycles of abuse. That isn’t going to mean that after 15 short years they will have healed completely and not be affected by anything that happened to them. Unfortunately, this is a lifelong journey for them and for me it seems!!
So, as I say to my friends sometimes, I need to put on my big girl pants and hold fast. We need to ride this rough part of our journey together, take small steps to some but huge to us and try to move into the next stage of our lives together.
If you are journeying with people who are struggling in similar ways, then standing with them and listening really helps. I have great friends who do that, people who know the struggle personally and people who don’t. The commonality is that they can listen and not judge. Listen to someone else’s experience of their life. You might think you KNOW them because they give a certain picture to the world but as Robin Williams says in the quote at the top of this blog – Everyone is fighting battles you know nothing about. Children are no different, except they don’t have as much capacity to manage those battles. They need us to help them.