I was having lunch with a new associate last summer and the natural subject of kids came up – his were off to college in the fall.
I mentioned my daughter would be starting fourth grade that year, and without hesitation, I answered, "My husband and I adopted. She was 8 when she was placed in our home," to the, "How old are you?" question his furrowed eyebrows asked me.
His response, "Bold move."
I laughed away those two, four-letter words, but they've rented out a lot of space in my head this past year.
I didn't adopt because I was looking for a challenge, and I've never considered myself the daring type. In fact, I accepted adoption as a vocation since I got the idea or "calling" when I was a senior in high school. I never had a desire to have my own children – not until this year anyway, and I thought it was an honorable way to pay it forward.
While I wasn't intentionally seeking a challenge – a challenge is exactly what I got, perhaps the greatest challenge of my life.
Prospective foster and adoptive parents undergo an extensive approvals process including background checks, intensive interviews, training classes, and a home inspection, all of which take a minimum of 6 months if you're aggressive (of course we were). Throughout this process, everyone you encounter will tell you how challenging this will be.
I heard none of them. Well, I heard them, I just didn't believe them.
Imagine my dismay when it actually wound up being hard, when I was a year in and still hadn't bonded with my daughter, how deeply depressed I felt every time a friend made a comment about how beautiful our family was and shrieked, "You must be so happy!"
I didn't blame them. They didn't know about the temper tantrums or the compulsive lying or the splitting or the lack of impulse control. I didn't blame her either. But these behaviors were our family's reality, and no amount of training could prepare you for how challenging it is.
One night my husband and I succumbed to the couch after one of her above-mentioned behaviors left us reeling, and we turned on the ABC hit drama "This Is Us." One of the leads Randall, a successful 30-something who was adopted when he was a baby, along with his wife Beth have decided to foster.
In this episode, a 12-year-old girl named Deja is placed in their home. Randall's over-the-top eagerness to pay-it-forward balloon is quickly deflated as she rejects his every attempt to bond.
That evening, Randall and I shared more than our Type A personality, we shared a moment of clarity. Randall turns to Beth and delivers a truth I needed in that moment. He explains that his entire life people would tell him things would be hard, whether it be relationships, school, or work, but yet he's achieved every goal he'd set for himself.