852 days

We’ve all seen those pictures – the adorable kids holding a chalk board that say something like “I was in foster care for 852 days, but today I am adopted!”  It’s cute.  At first glance we think – I’m so happy for that child!   Or maybe we think something about the adoptive parents “saving” the child.  We click “like” on facebook.

But you know what?  Someone offered me another perspective recently, and I think it’s right on.  One of those 852 days that child was physically torn from his Mom’s arms.  One of those 852 days was the day that visits stopped.  One of those days was the day that a judge terminated parental rights.  A day soon after that was the day a social worker told the child he was never, ever going home again.   Probably several of those 852 days were days when a child packed their stuff up in a garbage bag and left everything behind.  Again.   One of those 852 days was a goodbye visit, where the child said goodbye to her first Mom and Dad forever.  One of those 852 days was the day the appeals ran out.  These 852 days are not inconsequential days spent waiting for heroes to save them – they are pain and grief and loss and fear and a sense of “limbo” most of us could never understand.

I remember thinking about making one of these signs – and had I been better at math, I would have.  Adoption has been a giant learning curve, and I’m still learning.  My daughter misses her first mom so, so much.  She told me – “Mom, I can love having you for a Mom and still miss my other Mom.”  And – she’s right.  I am grateful for adoption – it gave me two of my children. I celebrate my kids, but I won’t celebrate their pain or minimize it in the form of days…not anymore.

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3 thoughts on “852 days

  1. I think there’s a lot of gray area here. Yes, those days had pain and loss – that can’t be minimized. But in those days, you fought for your kids. You told someone – maybe many someones – not to separate siblings. You fought to get a better IEP, more therapy hours, or fewer appointments so your kids could just be kids. You argued for your kids subsidy benefit or with medicaid for service coverage . You reminded people every day that these kids were NOT a job, not a case number, not a diagnosis. They were kids. And they were your kids. Those days represent a season of growth as well as loss, where you learned about being THEIR mom.

    To me, all of it is a personal thing – the loss, and the joy, too. I don’t share a lot about my kids and their adoption either way in public venues. So, yes, I have a sign with the number of days my kids were in care before adoption. There’s even a picture – that we never shared publically. But I kept the sign. It’s in the file with the adoption petition and other paperwork from that day. It reminds me, on the rare occasion I have to look for something in the file, that our family has been built – it’s not accidental or incidental. There’s a lot of loss, a lot of work, a lot of joy built into it.

    Should people share the signs? I have no idea. It depends on the family, the kids, their intent behind it. Maybe it reinforces the ‘savior’ adoption perspective. Maybe not – from a picture, it’s hard to tell.

    • HI Emily – I completely agree there is both joy and loss! This post was not meant in any way to shame or blame families who have chosen to do this (and like I said, I seriously would have if the math didn’t feel so overwhelming – ha!). I only meant to offer another perspective, as someone else did for me. It’s not meant to focus completely on the sign, but more the complexity of it all (and yes – the “savior” adoption perspective). Hope you are well!!

      • It’s always good to keep varying perspectives in mind (and something I think is so good for productive dialogue).

        I think the public eye on adoption has changed a lot in our lifetime, from a very quiet/private/borderline shameful thing to now a very public and often celebrated thing – people like Angelina Jolie, Mariska Hargitay, JillIan Michaels, and Sandra Bullock have all made adoptive families more visual in the public eye; there’s also been a big religious “help the orphans” campaign, with positives and negatives.

        Just as we have learned about how stigmatizing and hiding adoption wasn’t good for adoptees, I think we’ll see a swing of information about how oversharing or not really thinking through the long term impact of what you (as a parent) might casually say impacted a new generation of adoptees – about them, about their history, about adoption in general.

        It’s a constant evolution as we try to learn and do what is best for our kids, and I’m glad you shared what you’ve been thinking about.

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