Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why Adopting An Older Child Can Be Awesome!

Yesterday our older child had a very cranky day. A shoe throwing, sassing back, will not listen to reason, CRANKY day.  All Day.

It was the kind of day that needed to end early. And it did. After several attempts to avoid bedtime, he finally fell asleep.

It was the kind of day that made it hard to like him. So after he fell asleep, I tiptoed into his room to look at him sleeping, and remind myself, and him, how much I love him. He's still asleep, and I'm really hoping that when he wakes up, he will not remember all the yelling and crying and consequence giving, and instead remember that half asleep cuddle. I'm not optimistic, except that I am.

Adopting an older child poses huge challenges. It is not for the pessimistic. In the face of trauma, possibly years of foster care or orphanage life, the high likelihood of abuse, neglect or years of using poor coping strategies... older kids can have lots of barriers on their way to having a happy, stable family life.

BUT. There are upsides. And this morning I really want to focus on those. Because I'm an optimist.

1. Potty training. In most cases, you don't have to do it! Hooray! For example, our son, adopted at age 5, needed just a few reminders about aiming and flushing and hand washing to be completely bathroom independent from day one. For anyone who has potty trained, you know: this is HUGE.

2. You don't need to fill up your home with baby gear.  You'll skip needing diaper pails, rockers, bouncers, cribs, high chairs, potties, strollers, car seats, etc. etc. Some people love having loads of un-stylish, bulky, hard to clean plastic furniture in their home. (No, they don't.)

3. Sleeping through the night is a very real possibility. We are very lucky. One of our children has slept through the night, every night, all night since the first night. Most children adopted an older age will have some sleep challenges: nightmares, bedtime fears, bed wetting...  BUT, older children are far more likely to actually sleep all night after the initial adjustment to home.  And, after you figure out how and where they prefer sleeping. Our son loves to sleep on the floor, with the lights on if possible. He's sleeping right now, with his gorgeous head resting on his hard wood floors and his lamp blazing.  It reminds him of his first home, and he seems completely comfortable. (Crazy African!)

4. No need to budget for day care or nannies. Older children can attend public school from day one, if you need them to. Our son started kindergarten 5 weeks after he came home. It did feel like I was sending my 5 week old infant to school, but, he thrived.  School is a comfort zone to child who has spent time in an institution. They are used to spending lots of time with other kids, and having structure and rules and projects to complete. Family life is what is challenging; school is a break. Usually. Our son liked school, but he actually liked being home more. Probably because we had a TV.  He had loving, smart and patient teachers who understood the challenges he faced, and nurtured him along with us. And, they taught him English and how to read. (The only downside to school: homework.)

5. Jump right into the fun stuff.  For many parents, the fun part of being a parent, the things they fantasize about, the experiences they treasure from their own childhood and can't wait to recreate come after toddlerhood.  Babies are beautiful and delicious and can be carried around so easily, but Little League! Dance recitals! That is parenting GOLD.  I love to watch my husband watching my son play baseball. Every time Daniel is at bat he gets up and videos it, just in case he gets a base hit.  (He deletes all the strike outs.)  Daniel's one hour dance recital: I almost broke my face smiling. I think I did, in fact, shout out "That's MY boy!" at one point.

Have you adopted or fostered an older child? What's the upside for you?

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