Here’s what I want.

Parenting adopted kids is hard work, people. I knew it was going to be hard when I signed up for it. I am not surprised that it’s hard; I am just in the middle of it, and it’s exhausting both emotionally and physically.

The parts that make it worth it are when we get to the page in Mimi’s Toes with the belly button and he sits straight up in bed and digs his finger into my belly button. When he slides down the slide and laughs and laughs. When he feeds me a cheerio.

The worst parts, the hardest parts, are when other people tell me that all two year olds are like this. That he’s doing really well. When people expect us to be able to do the same things with our two year old as they do/did with theirs.

It was a pretty good day today. That means that he spent between forty five minutes and an hour lying on the floor face down screaming and kicking, and if we touch him it makes it worse and if we pick him up he hits and kicks and thrashes until we either drop him or set him down, and all we can do is be nearby and talk to him.

Bad days it’s multiple hours, some in the middle of the night.

This is hard, people.

What I say to him, and what I wish you’d all say to me, is, “This is so hard, and you are doing such a good job.”

When someone says oh, that’s normal, oh, all kids do that, oh, he’ll grow out of it, they are denying my experience, and it makes me want to talk to those people less.

This is so hard. Aglet is doing a great job. Matt and I are doing good jobs.

But it’s still so hard.


22 responses »

  1. I am *so glad that you articulated what you need right now so I and others can provide it.

    I don’t know firsthand, of course, how hard what you’re doing is. But I know that what I’m doing is fucking hard so I assume quadrupling it might begin to sort of kind of approximate, and holy wow.

    Parenting is hard, parenting an adopted kid with whom you do not share a language so much harder. And I can tell from the text and photos of your posts that you are all three working really hard at this together, and finding some moments of joy too.

    More affirmations forthcoming. Lemme know what else you need.


  2. OMG, it is SO HARD, and you’re doing great. Charlie spent like two years screaming and smacking me in the face, starting at 14 months, not because of adoption transition but because of stomach problems, and it was SO HARD and we couldn’t go anywhere or do anything with anybody and people would say “oh, all kids are like that” and then I would strangle those people and leave their bodies in dumpsters because seriously, NOT TRUE and these same people do things like leave their kids with their MOM yeah RIGHT.

    You’re doing so great, SO great, he needs you so much, and he’s working through his trauma with your love and protection, and it’s going to hurt you but you’re strong and you’re doing exactly what he needs.

    Even in our fairly ideal adoption – open, placement at birth, etc – Charlie recently sat on my lap and screamed for 30 minutes straight, after a skype call with his birth parents. Parenting a hurt child is HARD, so hard. And you are ROCKING it.

  3. Betsy I am so proud of you for doing such a good job. It is much harder to raise an adopted child. Then add to it that people say all kids act like that or it was your choice, it is like a double whammy. Keep up the good work! Donna

  4. If you remember what I Posted while tou were still in China and multiply it by a dozen times or so, you might get some idea of how I think, in my clumsy way, that you are sdoing. And I will apologize for letting you think that I am Negating the hell you are going through. I hope that the burests of joy that he gives you will keep you doing the awesome job that you and Matt are doing. And I probably could be better with words than I am now, but I hope that you know how much I admire you,

  5. It is hard, and you are a rockstar. You have made a choice to make sacrifices for the benefit of another. You sacrificed money, energy, time, tears, and a thousand other things. All real love is found in sacrifice and you are in the midst of writing a doctoral thesis on that topic. I am proud of you.

  6. The other thing is that lots of people had two years to get to this point of their toddlers life and you got him as he is sort of formed. You are doing a hell of a hard job and deserve all the hugs and kudos (and alcohol of your choice) in the world. Hang in there.

  7. Fucking right it’s hard. Thank you for stepping up to love and parent a kid who has two years and who knows what pre-natal distresses to work out. Kids need adults to help them work out the trauma. It’s hard damn work. You guys are doing huge, hard work and you’re doing it well.

  8. I couldn’t agree with you more! Very well said! Parenting adopted kids is HARD! Harder than parenting our bio kids, at least at the stage we’re at anyway! Your ARE doing a good job!

  9. You may not have had the time to look at the Adoptive Families magazines yet and even though I’ve not crossed the finish line I find great comfort in reading about parents and kids and families with similar experiences; traveling this alternate path to becoming and being a family. I hope you find them helpful. When I finished reading an issue I passed them around among family and friends, I do think it has been helpful to educate them about what to expect and how things are similar and different with children joining the family through adoption. MMV.

    Sure lots of toddlers have fits but not lots of toddlers have just lost everything they know in and about their world and I can not think of anything more difficult for a young child. This really taps into a childs greatest fears (and brain wiring for survival) and for our children it is a reality. I’m not sure well meaning friends who are trying to be encouraging really understand or have thought this through. An adopted toddler is not just having a fit because they lack control of their world, or because they fail to understand they will have another chance to have ice cream, or because they lack the verbal skills to express their feelings, sure maybe that is some of it or serves as a trigger but there is a lot more going on as they rage and grieve so many losses.

    I’m sorry it is hard in many different ways.

    I find it somewhat ironic that much of what I learned as a child psych major and techniques I’ve employed personally and professionally all go out the window with adoption. If anyone had told me 20 years ago I would be willing to feed my toddler candy to encourage them to let me feed them or make eye contact with them or that I would be willing to sleep on a mattress on the floor in their room, or intentionally regress a child to a bottle, etc. I would have though they were bonkers. It’s a different ball game in many respects. I often imagine how I will cope with what others have to say about these things.

  10. yep…agree! I’ve had my daughter home for a bit over 2 years. She has not yet caught up to what a “typical” 3 year old would be. It is very hard to not feel judged by others when we are out about how she “should” be. Not only was she adopted, but she was an undisclosed preemie and then in an swi for 13 months. So….yep, major (ongoing) adjustments that people just don’t “get.” Hang in there!!! 🙂

  11. I’m glad you wrote about this. I’ve thought many times about the trauma your beautiful son has been through and wondered how he and the two of you were coping. I felt a bit guilty wondering that while cooing at the wonderful pictures of him being utterly perfectly toddlerly.

    I don’t know directly much of anything of what your experiences are like, but there is no doubt that I enormously admire the work and rewards you’ve taken on. From here it looks like a large part of your job is to stay present with him when he’s in agony, working out the losses and gains and changes in his life, and for you to give him support while he’s doing that. I don’t know how well I’m grasping the situation, but what I’m thinking of is incredibly difficult to do, and I think you’re making the world better by doing so.

  12. Betsy, you are great for posting your feelings and I totally agree – it IS hard and we DO KNOW that we signed up for it, but what we need is encouragement and support. You are doing a great job!!!

  13. It is hard for certain. I hear you.
    I know you went into this understanding the challenges and things are likely going as they should.
    An additional resource might be the Deephaven Attachment Center. I have known a number of folks that have used them.
    For my kiddo, it was best to rock her during that kind of tantrum. The cross crawl stimulation eventually calms them on a brain level even though initially it intensified the tantrum. The rocking worked for so many things.
    Hugs to you and Matt.

  14. As someone who knows how hard it is, the fact that you haven’t killed him yet, it proof that you are kicking this things ass, and are doing not a good job, a GREAT job. Hang in there, I promise it does it get better in like 2 years 🙂

  15. That does sound really hard for all of you. Thank you for telling us more about it.

    You are smart and brave and I wish there were a way to give you some extra hours in the day in which the Aglet is happily asleep and you and Matt could put your feet up or be happily asleep yourselves or something.

  16. Dearest Betsy,

    Yes, it’s hard. It’s damned hard. Parenting under any circumstances isn’t easy, and you have knowingly chosen the single hardest parenting challenge there is.

    For 25 of the Aglet’s 26 months, he has received messages that life isn’t safe, that people he loves will leave him, that the world is subject to cataclysmic changes without notice, and that he has absolutely no control over any of it. And you are tasked with overcoming that lifelong refrain that has been drummed into his head and teaching him instead that reality is the diametric opposite of all he has ever known.

    That is a monumental, nay, a Herculean task.

    Thank you.

    Thank you for loving the Aglet.

    Thank you for investing your life energy and your heartbeats and your patience and your formidable intelligence in the incomparably valuable pursuit of bringing up a healthy child.

    And thank you most of all for telling us what you most need and want from all of us who love you and are cheering you on.

    You and Matt are doing hard, vital work, and you’re doing it damned well. And we are all intensely proud of you. And any old time you want to vent, you have the absolute right to do so. It’s ok, and it’s safe, and it’s healthy.

    BIG HUGS. And a shoulder, any old time you need it.


  17. Betsy, you are doing a fantastic job. The fact that you’re admitting that it’s hard, paired with the super-adorable chronicle you’ve managed to keep of your little guy during some sweet/funny moments is proof that you’re making it as a mom–a mom of an adopted kiddo, nonetheless! 🙂 It’s hard, you’re acknowledging that, AND you’re embracing the joyful stuff too. THAT, is good parenting. Real parents take the good with the bad–no matter how hard that bad is. Well done.

  18. It was hard enough with two that came to us right from the hospital, can’t imagine your hard work!
    Those that say “All two year olds do that.” are probably trying to reassure you that this too shall pass. I hope their words pass too!

  19. So much sympathy. And thank you for telling us what isn’t helpful to say, and what is.

    I’m so sorry it’s being so hard. Wishing all wellness to you and your dude and the Aglet.

  20. I’m late with it. But thank you for sharing what you need. This is so hard. Y’all are doing a great job. Sending you love. And if I could, I would send you sleep.

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