Transition from the adoption honeymoon phase

Tantrum – When a kid wants something you can’t give him. 

Like them wanting to go back. To the foster family. Almost every night, they cry. 

And they will smell your insecurity the way a shark smells blood. 

Do you give in? 

That’s crazy! You can’t take the kid back at 10 pm or the next day. Not when the adoption papers have already been issued. The kid’s home is your home. They don’t belong with the foster family. They belong with you.

During the matching month we used to drive back to the foster family late at night. It was an adventure in a way. J was dozing in the back. The sound of the engine is soothing. We listened to music.  

But when we arrived she cried that he wants to come back with us. Ad that was not an option. Those are the rules during our matching period. She wasn’t allowed to stay with us days on end. Oh, we’ve “blamed” the rules many times, and it saved us face. It actually protected us and her. It set clear boundaries even when we didn’t know we needed them.

Having experienced the taking-back-at-night we gained some confidence to stand our ground. She didn’t really know what she wanted. Except maybe just not going to bed at all.

Kids love confident parents who tell them what to do, when they don’t know what they want or what they need. They may not show it, but they love confident parents. 

So fast forward to the time they are home for good. The papers were signed and they are yours full time. What do you do? Do you question your decision? Do you think taking them back would be good for them? How confusing will that be? 

I had committed to taking my eldest to visit her foster family after the first three months of being home full time, when her new certificate got issued. It was a good play tactic. We were confident a visit will happen. And it did. Eventually.

It crushed me to hear her cry night after night for a few weeks. But I kept it together, and it eased over time. My eldest doesn’t even remember those tears. Though she says she remembers very well that during those nights of holding her in my arms and telling her that we adopted her, that she is our daughter forever. Something stuck. We’ve talked about adoption many times before and after. But for her, the clarity of her situation happened then. During those tearful nights.

Both kids have asked for things that we couldn’t give them even if we wanted to please them. A brief joy or relief from the pressure in the moment, might be a price too huge to pay in the future.

So we acknowledge and accept our status of authority, and do the best we can. The key is to be honest. And fair. And repair when we make mistakes. 

I realize that guilt and uncertainty is often part of the parenting menu. We trace general guidelines of boundaries, of fun and responsibilities, and that makes it easy for all. But as kids grow, and circumstances change, and we change, adapting our authority and boundaries can cause discomfort. Alas, we don’t shy away from a little pain now, so we don’t all cry a lot more later.

Enjoy the honeymoon of those first months together! Embrace the warmth. Help the kids feel safe, seen, heard. Play with them. And when boundaries are set, be reasonable, be clear, be fair. We have earned their trust. Our kids know we love them and I know and they know there will be times when they won’t like the house rules, or they may not fully understand the why behind a decision, but they will have to listen well and obey. Again, when we build a relationship of trust, of love, when we truly see them, hear them, before they even ask, we’ll adjust our expectations or demands.

My eldest daughter is nearly 9 and just the other day, we incorporated the negotiation card. She hadn’t thought about, but she liked the idea. I learned about in in a class with ARFO, but didn’t think to bring it up until now. She has a few responsibilities: back stretches, practicing the clarinet, reading, writing in her journal. She may not always be in the mood to do one or any. She may be in the middle of something and doesn’t want to switch gears. So I suggested to her to use the negotiation card by saying: “I don’t feel like doing my chores now. But in 1 hour, after I finish playing with legos (or after I eat lunch, or I go for a walk) I can do do my stretches (or I can play the clarinet, or read…)” We can be creative with the negotiation, but she needs to keep her word, so this arrangement could work and I can trust her and she can trust me.

It is exciting to see progress! Oh my goodness! After years of repeating ourselves (on and off) about different things, when we see them click, it’s like magic! And we relish these days in such a season of fruitful parenting results.