Confessions of an Adoptive Mom (a.k.a. “Great Expectations”)

Yes, we have an incredible adoption story, and I am passionate about encouraging others to consider adoption. But it hasn’t been all roses.

In fact, I have a few brutally honest confessions to make. (Shocking!)
Shocked expression
Confessions of an adoptive mom:
1 – I thought I would be more appreciated.
Does Lindsey appreciate us? Yes. But she also has a sense of entitlement. Maybe this is partly because she did not have the childhood she should’ve had. Or maybe it’s just because she’s a teen. (This seems to be common in kids of all ages, and quite frankly, in many adults.)

2 – I thought she wouldn’t be a picky eater.
I guess this one goes with number one, but I really imagined that any child who had lived in foster care wouldn’t be picky. I was naive. She’s almost as picky as Kathryn. Meal-planning got harder instead of easier when Lindsey joined the family.

3 – I’m not as amazing a parent as I’d imagined.
Parenting more than one child is way different than parenting an only. (Kathryn was effectively an only, since Brandon is so much older). Adopting a teenage daughter has taught me how much I don’t know! The good news for me is that this is not an issue exclusive to adoptive parents; most parents of teens feel clueless sometimes!

4 – I’m not the hero I thought I was.
People seem to think we are heroic for adopting a teen. Did we provide a permanent, loving family to a foster child? Yes. But we also uprooted her from her old life, as well as changed her school, her church, her friends, and even her family! We changed the rules she was accustomed to, and the schedule she’d grown used to. We have expected more out of her, and we have let her get away with less.

I did not grasp all that Lindsey had to give up in order to say yes to becoming our daughter. (This post on Shaun Groves blog is a must-read: The List.)

5 – I thought she’d want to spend huge amounts of time with us.
I wanted to make up for lost time, so I expected she would, too. But she wasn’t used to having adults devote a great amount of personal time to her, so her natural inclination was to want to always spend the night away, hang out at friends’ houses, stay in her room a lot. We’ve gradually drawn her out, and she voluntarily does spend much more time with us now, and enjoys it. But it sure didn’t happen overnight.

6 – I expected to feel love for her right away.
It’s not unusual for it to take a little while for parents to bond with their newborn baby, but I loved Kathryn from the moment I held her, and even before. But I was able to be part of every moment as Kathryn’s little personality developed and she was completely dependent upon me; on the other hand, Lindsey came with a fully developed personality, as well as her own life and history that I was not part of. I made the decision to love her immediately, but the feelings of love came later.

7 – I didn’t expect it to take so long for her to feel at home.
I won’t candy-coat it: there have been quite a lot of hard days in the past 20 months. But I think Lindsey finally feels like this is home. She’s been here almost longer than anywhere else she’s ever been. She’s made us mad, and we’re still here; we’ve made her mad, and she’s still here — because we are family. I think she is finally beginning to really “get” that truth.

8 – I didn’t expect our kids to ask to adopt again.
With all the changes Lindsey faced, and all the changes Kathryn faced when we adopted, I didn’t think they’d want to do it again. For the past few months both girls have both been seriously asking if we can adopt again. They have been conspiring about who could share a room with who, converting other rooms into bedrooms: I think they’d love for us to adopt a dozen or so more kids. They have seen how much of a blessing it is for everyone involved, despite the difficulties.

9 – I didn’t expect to want to adopt again anytime soon.
Originally, I was thinking maybe we’d do it again when Kathryn was a teen. But I’m feeling that nudge again. We know God already has a plan, so we’re just waiting til He lets us in on what that is.

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  1. says

    What is evident is that you are committed to your family – you’re committed to your children. And only love can power that kind of commitment that doesn’t falter! May God bless you and yours.

  2. says

    Jamie, thank you for being brutally honest. For someone like me, who has been thinking of adopting a teen in the future, this information is gold. My husband and I work with teenagers in the church and right now we are still too young and inexperienced, but we believe in the future we will be adopting a teenager. We have 5 biological children and are probably going to add one more. But we honestly do not see that as being the end of our parenting.
    Anyways, thank you for taking the plunge. It is very helpful. :)

  3. says

    Great post! I love your honesty. We are about 3 weeks away from being “paperwork” ready and I am scared to death. I, like you, have so many expectations. I know that is not the right attitude but how can you not? There is a child out there right now that is going to be my son or daughter. I could pass them on the street today and be a stranger but in a year from now, they could be part of my family forever! So weird,exciting and terrifying all in one!!

    Thanks again and please keep sharing your story. Such an encouragement!

  4. says

    Wow, great post. Thanks for the honesty that you weaved through all of it. We know adoption is on our radar as well… a few years down the road. And, I can imagine all the sibling-dynamics that you mentioned coming into the picture when we cross that bridge. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  5. says

    My sister-in-law has shared many of the same “confessions” with me since adopting 2 girls with Down’s from the Ukraine. God bless you both for listening and responding when God asked you to do the hard thing.

  6. Keri says

    Jamie, you really should be writing for adoption magazines and newletters. Anyone considering adoption should hear your graceful words!

  7. says

    Thanks for sharing this! I hope to adopt one day, and I know that my expectations won’t be met…things never like how we dream they’d be.

    I love that your daughters are so interested in adopting more children into the family…that’s a powerful testimony right there!

  8. says

    What a wonderful, honest, and insightful post. I have 4 adopted nieces and nephews. I would imagine that if they were honest these are all things my brothers/sisters-in-law have discovered/learned at various points over the years as well! Thanks for sharing!

    Came over from the Hop…better late than never! :-)

  9. says

    I love that you shared this…we have friends who have felt similar things and before them, I had never heard that kind of honesty about the challenges that come along with adoption. So glad you shared a real, honest perspective.

  10. says

    Thank you for being so honest. I think what you’ve described is common to many adoptive families, but not everyone has the courage to admit it. I can especially relate to the part about making the decision to love your child long before the feelings of love really developed.

  11. says

    As a mother of 5 adopted children I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed reading through your adoption posts. You are a gifted writer and your desire to listen and devotion to God are beautiful.

  12. says

    Even though I read “all” the books I needed to read before we adopted our Emma from Korea about attachment and the adjustments the child has to make. Living it is pretty different from reading about. I too, decided from the beginning to love my sweet Emma but we fell in love with each other much later. She was 2 when we adopted her and suffered much trauma in her life…the journey has been long….but the one constant thing is that God has never left our side. Thank you for this post.

  13. tammom says

    As an adoptive mom from a relative foster care adoption I love your honesty! My kids have RAD and unless you lived with RAD you really can’t understand it. We need more people to be honest about the impact of adoption on the family and the kids. I don’t mention the adoption much on my blog because my focus is on keeping a record of my homeschooling. I applaud your honesty thank you!

  14. says

    I could have written this post. Found your blog because I’m starting to homeschool my youngest but my middle child (daughter) is adopted thru the fostercare system and I can relate to everything on your list.

  15. says

    Jamie, I loved every word of this post. Thank you for being honest about how the reality of adopting an older child was different than the expectations you held in the beginning. I’ve never met another adoptive mother who has communicated this so beautifully and with so much grace and love. I experienced many of these same realities when we adopted our oldest, who was 11 at the time and now, getting ready to turn 21, yikes! :-) Thanks again for this wonderfully encouraging post!

  16. Kelli Stinchcomb says

    Thank you for having this blog. I really appreciate all the writing you do. My family has just adopted a 12 yr old (internationally) and it’s been a rather rough transition. Your blog has really helped me! I hope, that like you, with time the “issues” that our 12 yr old is experiencing will be somewhat resolved.

    • says

      Thanks for the kind words; I’m glad to know my blog has encouraged you! And hurray for you for adopting a 12yo. It’s hard, but it does get somewhat easier.

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