Last sunday I cooked my own meals, bought myself some flowers and uncharacteristically drank an entire bottle of wine and had a good cry.
Because yet again, on Mothers Day, I received nothing from the three children I adopted 25 years ago.
We’ve had minimal contact for the last seven or eight years. By minimal, I mean a handful of cyber messages.
But the possibility they might send a card is the emotionally charged dark cloud that hung over me a couple of weeks before Mother’s Day.
I didn’t expect; but I did hope. Hoping for something totally out of your control is ridiculous, however it is a very human quality.
Twenty Five years ago I had both hopes and expectations. I had visions of family meals sitting talking about everything and anything. That dream was one of my motivations for creating a family.
I knew the 5, 4, and 2 year old who walked through my front door in the early 90s had a tough time before I met them. Even though, I expected some challenges I expected that my love, caring and parenting would fix them.
All those expectations. Those movies I created in my head of how family life would be. Those fantasies, those stories I told myself. That happy ever after stuff. I expected it to be tricky but okay.
The reality was very, very different.
After a few years I realised my kids were significantly different to others, I started exploring the impact of infancy maltreatment and neglect. I struggled on, being a pretty good parent but not a therapeutic parent because that model had not yet been created. We knew a bit about attachment, but not about trauma, brain wiring or neuroception.
However I hoped that my full-time excellent parenting would be enough
I hoped for the best, but did not have fall back plan for the worst case scenario.
I hoped conventional therapy would help – it didn’t.
I wrote a series of large cheques for high quality attachment therapy, which had some impact on two of the three.
I expected I could make a difference. I hoped it would be alright in the end, that I could change their life trajectory. .
I think I altered it by a few degrees, but not as much as I’d have hoped.
Why I’m sharing this tale of woe? Because I want others to learn from my mistakes.
Are you an adopter or foster carer currently deluding yourself? Hoping that normal parenting will heal your little darling: believing things will magically get better.
They wont. You must view your children through the lens of trauma. Immediately.
Our kids need therapeutic reparenting to fill in the gaps and heal the damage. Start now.
Are your expectations realistic?
Are you looking at your children through rose tinted glasses?
If nothing changes, how will their current behaviours escalate over the next decade? Will you be visiting prisons, secure units or be on first name terms with the local police after countless runaways or child on parent violence incidents?
Get real. Hope for the best. Plan for the worst.
When I was approved as an adopter I did not expect to spend Mother’s Day alone (or my birthday or christmas for that matter). Equally I didn’t expect to travel the globe, learning from pioneers and world-class trainers about parenting , trauma and healing and for these learnings I am truly grateful.
Sometimes our path takes us to unexpected and enlightening places often via dark scary tunnels.
I have no regrets about my journey even though it’s not the outcome I would have chosen.
Tonight I’m celebrating Mother’s Day with three friends I made when running the local adoption support group. We will laugh, reminisce, share stories about our current lives, children grandchildren, police interviews, court appearances, drug overdoses, sexual abuse, self harming and intergenerational trauma. We will also share our professional triumphs and our varied travel exploits. Our friendship formed during years of adversity is precious and real. We prefer a private table so our conversation and laughter does not disturb other diners.
We have taken the Road less travelled. You may be on it too. So get equipped, skilled and find some mentors. Those who can guide you through the dark tunnels and black holes.
What are you expecting from this parenting journey and your children? Are you being naive and hoping for a fairy tale ending? Are you being real?
Plan for the worst. Hope for the best. Expect the unexpected.