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Really difficult question about parenting adopted children

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
Hi there -

I hope it is okay for me to ask this here, I am not a regular in this forum. However I am wrestling with something really difficult and need perspectives from parents of adopted kiddos or professionals with experience in this field.

I wrote a long explanatory post with examples but then deleted it for fear of getting too personal. So I'll stick to a short question - is it normal as an adoptive parent to feel that if your children have strikes against them already, that they are not worth going the extra mile for? By strikes against them, I mean very poor prenatal care and medical issues in the childrens' biological backgrounds.

I am close to several families with adopted children. One mother in particular has explicitly told me that she feels this way a few times recently and very obviously makes what I would consider to be deliberately "sloppy" parenting choices. Nothing even close to abuse or neglect, but knowingly cutting corners when it comes to things like health care, nutrition, education opportunities. I find this attitude so shocking. It seems to me that a child from a disadvantaged background deserves at least the same treatment and opportunities that any other child does, if not "that extra mile."

I have never ever talked about this before, even to my DH, because I know I am being terribly judgemental. But I think my friend may want to talk about it because she's brought it up a few times now and likes to compare how we treat our kids. I've never responded or engaged in conversation like this and I have no idea how to do so with an open and supportive mind.

Is this a typical stage in an adoptive parent's development? Or is it a symptom of a problem? Do you think my friend is having difficulty bonding? Could she be scared to take responsibility for her childrens' successes, as that means also taking responsibility for their failures? (Not sure if I worded that right, but I am thinking of classic fear of success behavior.) Or am I simply being horribly judgemental?
post #2 of 33
I don't have any answers, but will be following this thread to see what others say. I've wondered about such things myself. I'm expecting shortly and my husband and I want another & have talked about adoption. There's a part of me that's scared that with adoption, you don't really know what you're getting (not that you know what you're getting with a biological child, but at least you know their background, ie how they were treated as babies etc), and you don't know how you're going to react. Especially if you travel to a less advantaged country to adopt from an orphanage (so perhaps they're older, not newborns)...what happens if you adopt a child who simply can not bond to you, who has an attachment disorder, or who is so traumatized you just don't know what to do with them or how to help them? This might not come out for a while, and it's not like you can give them back. Would you end up loving them less? Treating them decently, but not going, like you said, that extra mile for them? And it's such a taboo subject, talking about the possible downsides of adoption. You're supposed to love them like your own, and I'm sure that for the most part, that is what happens...but what if it doesn't?

I'm curious to know how old how friend's adopted child is, and whether she also has biological children? Was the child a newborn when he/she was brought into the family, or older?
post #3 of 33
Heck no. At least for me. I've been a foster parent for 3 1/2 years and am in the process of my second adoption. I go above and beyond for any child in my home (and any child that I've worked with in my former life working for Head Start/Early Head Start.) It makes me sick to think that other people wouldn't do the same.

Both sets of my children's birth parents have major mental health issues. Some also have developmental and/or substance abuse problems. That's just a fact of their genetic and pre-foster care lives. But, I will go to the ends of the earth to get any help that they may need. We just wrote my son's first IEP last week. He's been struggling in kindergartend and has recently been diagnosed with ADHD (which is likely accurate) and been categorized as developmentally delayed (which I don't think is probably accurate but will give him more needed services at school.) He also goes to a wonderful OT and psychologist to work on his sensory and attention challenges. My soon-to-be adopted daughter seems to be typically developing but who knows what will happen when she gets older. I feed them what I would feed a biological child. I can't imagine doing differently.

Could your friend be suffering from post-adoption depression?
post #4 of 33
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Polliwog View Post
Could your friend be suffering from post-adoption depression?
This is exactly what I am wondering, though she doesn't show any of what I would consider typical depression symptoms. She's full of life, very vibrant and fun, totally happy as far as I can tell. She also seems really proud of her role as a mom, which is what makes this all the more baffling for me.

I'm hesitant to add too many personal details, but I'll add in response to Annie Mac's question, that she has more than one child, all are adopted, and though they weren't local adoptions, they are from the same cultural background as my friend and her DH and as is most dominant in our area. All children were adopted as infants. They are all younger than 10 but older than one. I don't know anything specific about their prenatal backgrounds except that there were issues, my friend has eluded to severe poverty and drug use, but I can't say for sure (I've told my friend that I only want to know as much as the children themselves know, or less).

I think it is relevant to note that none have any identified developmental or current health issues, so there are no "excuses" there (as terrible as that sounds, I hope you know what I am trying to say). To me they seem like normal children with all the potential of every other child on earth.
post #5 of 33
I don't think that's normal AT ALL. I do think that there are lots of things that it's often not OK for adoptive parents to express about their experience--but what you have described is not something I have ever run across.

One of my children was drug-exposed while in the womb. I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine holding back in any way when it comes to her care, her opportunities, her future, etc. That just blows my mind!
post #6 of 33
That seems like a strange attitude for a parent, adoptive or not. I wouldn't immediately jump to depression...it could be an attitude she picked up from her famiy, community, friends...you just don't know.

I have a child with severe special needs, and I sometimes get criticized by uber-SN-parents (in roundabout ways) that I could be doing more. The truth for me is that, since ds has such severe limitations, it's worth it to me to just go with the flow rather than fight, fight, fight for the absolute maximum in his achievement. To me, that fight mentality led to depression. I'd rather just do what I can, and advocate for him in common sense ways, than pound my head into the wall repeatedly.

I also have a daughter who is adopted who, to put it mildly , has big-time personality clashes with me. A big part of that is her being two, and things are getting better over time. Anyway, on days when I'm feeling fed up with her nonsense, I'm definitely a lazier parent to her than I am to my other kids. I also find myself feeling (sometimes) less motivated to do special activities with her, or special one-on-one time the way I did with my other neurotypical child, just because I'm annoyed with her, or because I'm aprehensive of her behaviors. Could some of that be going on with your friend?

As for worrying about adopting a child with special issues, or issues related to adoption...our social worker put it this way...when you adopt, you ARE going to adopt a child with issues related to adoption. They may be mild, they may be severe, but it's not as if the child comes to you without past experience or past influences, and it's not as if adoption becomes a non-issue as soon as it's official. It's important to understand that. And yes, the child may have special needs that require a lot of support or help. That doesn't seem very common, but it does happen. If those things are too scary, even after you research the type of adoption that you think you want to pursue, then adoption's probaby not for you. On the other hand, children are children. They all have issues or needs to deal with, to understand. My dd and I clash, but in ways that seem very "normal" to me in terms of some parent/child relationships. I don't blame it on adoption.
post #7 of 33
I also don't think that's normal at all, and I haven't seen this with any of the many adoptive families I know.
post #8 of 33
I agree that what you are describing is not normal at all, adoptive parenting or not. I'm shocked that she would actually admit that she feels that way. That must make you very uncomfortable.

From my perspective, as the adoptive parent of a child with special needs and as a foster mama to other children with special needs over the years, if anything, I feel inclined to do AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE to help these children succeed. I'm sad when I hear of any parent that feels that their children are not worth the effort (I'm not phrasing that well but you know what I mean).
post #9 of 33
Granted, I have no experience with adoption...

Could she be overwhelmed with having so many (?) little ones?

My first thought was that she has unresolved issued from infertility. (IF that was why she adopted.)
post #10 of 33
I personally think more info is needed before anyone jumps the gun and say "No, it's not normal at all."

I know people (online mostly) whose own bio children have "strikes" against them, who don't push and push and go the extra mile for them because it's wearying. It pushes the family into a depression. It turns every day into an uphill battle, so to speak, so much so that, like another poster mentioned, they end up pounding their heads into the wall and at some point they just stop enjoying LIVING.

Sometimes, there's only so much a human parent with limited resources can do. I know with my own bio kids (who have no "strikes" against them) that I'm not doing every possible thing to make sure they are the best they can be. I do what I can. What is reasonable.

Maybe the mom the OP is talking about feels guilt for not "doing more", but maybe in reality she can't do more, or doesn't know what "more" to do?
post #11 of 33
I don't have any experience in this exact area but this post caught my eye. I don't think you are being judgmental, you are just thinking about what you have observed. I can tell you what I do when I am confronted with something and feeling like you are (feeling like I am being judgmental about someone I otherwise like):
explore the issue with her. Next time she brings it up, ask her questions, probe deeper in a kind and thoughtful way. Give her a place and space to talk through her feelings. Keep the conversation going in a positive direction etc. If she clams up or gets defensive you can back off and MYOB or decide how you want to handle it from there (suggesting therapy, printing off reading material, not hanging out with her, whatever). You may disagree with her but knowing her heart might be key to not feeling so judgmental and give you a chance to help if that is what you want to do.
post #12 of 33
A) is she being a "sloppy parent" according to her own standards or just yours?
B) is she joking? Sarcastic?
C) is she just more relaxed about parenting now that she's experienced?
D) are there things you don't know? For example, if the baby's prognosis is poor, she might feel justified just giving him the basics.

1) there is no normal. Every adoption, every child, every parent is different.
2) she sounds a little depressed. Maybe she's sad or angry with the bmom or agency.
post #13 of 33
Originally Posted by JessieBird View Post
Nothing even close to abuse or neglect, but knowingly cutting corners when it comes to things like health care, nutrition, education opportunities. I find this attitude so shocking. It seems to me that a child from a disadvantaged background deserves at least the same treatment and opportunities that any other child does, if not "that extra mile."
What do you mean by the above? By "cutting" corners on health care, do you mean that she vaccinates according to schedule? Doesn't vax? Doesn't do well child visits? Doesn't run to the doctor for antibiotics at the drop of a hat? Does so? By cutting corners on nutrition, do you mean she doesn't feed her kids all organic? She lets them have cheetos more often than you think is proper? She puts koolaid in her infants' bottles? Her kids are on the spectrum but she pooh poohs the "Feingold diet"? They're vegans/they're not vegans? And education opportunities--you mean the kids are in school instead of homeschooled/are homeschooled instead of in school, don't participate in outside activities, she doesn't take the crew to the zoo/museum, she didn't get the Your Baby Can Read series?

I mean, "cutting corners" means a lot of different things to different people. I've had people in my type-A overachieving neighborhood give me the hairy eyeball because my kids weren't doing gymnastics, physics, algebra summer camp, swim team, and muzzy language videos when they were 4 (okay, slight exaggeration there, but we actually have "tutoring classes" for math and reading for 3 and 4 year olds in my area *facepalm*). My kids probably ate more McDonalds than is considered appropriate or non-scandalous on MDC (but, I had 3 kids in 2 years, so shoot me). I do vax, which is enough to bring on the haters in some circles--but I vaxed according to a delayed schedule, which brings out different haters in others.

I also wonder if this mother is not a little on the sarcastic side. Or she might be feeling defensive, if everyone's going on and on about all the Mommy and Me classes they go to or how they made sugar free organic scones from wheat they'd grown in their own backyard and pounded into flour themselves using organic river rocks. KWIM?

Or maybe she's a wreck and is overwhelmed. I can't say that I haven't been there and all my children are biological.

So...I dunno, I don't think armchair psychology is great in this situation. Do you think you might have taken her a little too seriously? Do yo think you might need to loosen up a little? Or is this truly a serious concern? I'm guessing not, if you're not concerned about neglect or abuse?
post #14 of 33
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post
Or she might be feeling defensive, if everyone's going on and on about all the Mommy and Me classes they go to or how they made sugar free organic scones from wheat they'd grown in their own backyard and pounded into flour themselves using organic river rocks. KWIM?

Oh wow, that was well done!
post #15 of 33
I can't make a judgement on the Mom described in the OP, but I will say that by #3 I am not the same Mom I was with #1. Since my younger kids are both adopted, and my oldest is bio, I worry sometimes that when they are older they will perceive it as "bio vs. adopted". But the truth is, I do 10x as much now as I did when I had just one and there is a lot less $ to go around proportionately. So the birthday parties are smaller, there are no preschool gymnastics classes, we eat more junk food and delivery. With #1, I had hours to sit and just play with him, cook, make playdoh figures. At the same time, I have relaxed considerably as a mother. I have now learned the cookie dropped on the floor is not going to kill them, yk? I feel guilty sometimes that I am not always the mother I wanted to be, the breadbaking, fresh baked cookies after school everyday, always include them in everything mother. But that is just life, and if I worry about it all the time, it's not going to do any good.
post #16 of 33
Originally Posted by JessieBird View Post
is it normal as an adoptive parent to feel that if your children have strikes against them already, that they are not worth going the extra mile for?
No, it is not normal. Why would anyone think it's ok not to go the extra mile for their child (taking the parent's circumstances and resources into account, of course)?

but knowingly cutting corners when it comes to things like health care, nutrition, education opportunities. I find this attitude so shocking.
I agree with you. Cutting corners in these "vital to life" areas is neglectful.

Is this a typical stage in an adoptive parent's development? Or is it a symptom of a problem?
It strikes me as a symptom of a problem.

Or am I simply being horribly judgemental?
I don't think you're judging. Her attitude is VERY concerning and not in an adoption-specific way. I'd be concerned about any parent feeling this way toward any child.
post #17 of 33
I was going to say the same thing Tigerchild said, but she did it so much better than me, I'm not sure I have anything more to add!

My first instinct, because you said you two were comparing how you raise your kids, is that you, with your one and only child, parent a lot differently than this mama of many, regardless of how they came into her family. Overall, this is probably mostly due to her being a more seasoned (and tired and busy) parent, but perhaps she was trusting you enough to share that sometimes she wonders if maybe sub-consciously she feels she can slack off because the circumstance her kids are in now is so much better than the circumstance they were in before. Maybe she was joking. I can't imagine anyone really intentionally cutting corners in a truly significant way when it comes to their kids.

Every family is different. Her kids are getting life experiences and "lessons" about the world and about family that other kids don't get. If those lessons come with happy meals on a regular basis, then so be it. I beat myself up a lot over the fact that this adoption has sucked my motivation to be the vibrant, involved, unschooling, organic mama I once was, but our family will be richer and more healthy in the end for what we DO have.
post #18 of 33
Thread Starter 
Thank you all SO MUCH for your very candid responses. I was terrified to post this question but I've been wrestling with it for months now and had no one else to ask. I'm glad that I did. You raised a lot of considerations that had never crossed my mind, in particular her being more seasoned as a parent than I, her time and attention is pulled in more directions, and also the possibility of her joking or being sarcastic when she has said the things that she's said. Honestly, I was so taken back that I never thought of that as a possibility. Usually I'm the sarcastic one of the two of us. Also the idea that she could be feeling defensive about all the pressure that exists to be the perfect parent based on the dominant views of our community. I definitely can relate to that feeling too and can see how I might be contributing to her feeling that way.

As far as my own perspective and where my judgement is coming from, I have a very large circle of friends with children under the age of 10, both adopted and biological. Though generally our community is probably (I'm guessing) more naturally-inclined/AP/crunchy than the North American average, everyone parents and makes decisions for their families in very different ways. Some vax, some don't, some are strict organic veg, some eat hot dogs every day, some have three cars, some bike everywhere. This is the only situation that sets off alarms for me, so I think I am pretty good about not judging people's parenting based on my own values. I realized thinking about it last night that I am more comparing my friend's attitude and choices to the values she held before she had children, rather than to my own standards. I've known her for a very long time and she's not the parent I expected her to be. We don't have anything in common anymore and I'm finding that really hard. Realizing this and also acknowledging that she is a more experienced parent with more on her plate than I, helps me to see my own place in all of this more clearly.

So today I am feeling like I am being far too harsh and narrow-minded. I also feel like I can now approach the conversation (if she opens the opportunity again, I'm not going to raise it myself), a lot more lightly and in a more open manner.

All that said, there are still a lot of red flags that can't be resolved so easily. Just feeling that some kids aren't worth as much, especially those entrusted to your care, is extreme as many of you have agreed. Even as a sarcastic joke, it's a very dark thought and I am still worried that my friend is struggling in some way.

If I can keep you posted and find a way to share concrete examples of what's bugging me without getting too personal, I will.
post #19 of 33
I feel this way about some small things, but not anything serious. Like, when my foster son arrived, I knew he had eaten only formula and junk food, so it didn't upset me quite as much to have to give formula, or if someone gave him a french fry or something. And it didn't bug me as much if he watched 10 minutes of TV when we were at a friends' house, because I knew he was used to watching tons.

But in terms of health and safety, anything else, I think I might put him above my bio kids, just because he had such a hard start.
post #20 of 33
good for you for keeping an open mind about this, and wanting to explore it further with your friend.

I know that I myself am a very different parent than I was before I had kids -- I've heard that joke actually, "I was a great parent until I had kids", because we often feel we have it all figured out until these little people with their own distinct personalities and wants and needs and complaints and such come along. My kids watch tv/shows or games on the internet/videogames waaaaay more than I ever thought they would when they were little. In fact we were never going to have tv at all (and didn't have cable until the other night when I was out and the door-to-door cable sellers roped my dh into it. ) and CERTAINLY not video games. My kids were NEVER going to eat McDonalds, play with toy guns, and our diet would be full of organic veggies. uh, yeah...

it's not because I don't "care" or don't want the best for them, but you have to parent the kids you have, not your idealized version of what a kid should be. and you know what else? tv and video games haven't lowered my kids creativity (that I can see...) and while I do wish my dd's diet was more veggie-filled, she eats pretty well and the occasional fast food doesn't seem to be hurting them. could we be doing better? yes. but we're happy, and we don't have any food hang-ups, and they are learning about enjoying things in moderation, and they aren't snobby about anything because we don't really have hard and fast rules, everything is up for discussion. So it's not so much a slacking off from my original parenting ideals, it's more that I've seen that there is room in a healthy lifestyle for a lot of the things I poo-poo'ed before I had kids, and when my first was a baby.

hope you can talk with your friend about this, and do update if you can...
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