Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why We Adopted An Older Child

We asked our adoption agency if there was anything we could do to help get the word out about older child adoption. We wrote the following entry which was recently used in their newsletter. Thought we'd reprint it here for those who do not receive the newsletter. The question we seem to be asked the most is "Why did you adopt an older child?" Here is the answer ....

Every morning when I crawled out of bed my line of sight was focused on the room across the hall. Our baby nursery was full to brim with a crib, toys, clothes, diapers … everything except a baby. The nursery had sat empty for so long that dust was actually creeping up everywhere because I really never wanted to go into that room much. The room reminded me of too many dreams and too much emptiness. Our dossier was sitting in China waiting to be matched with a child, but the progress had started to crawl along and we knew it would be months and months before it was our turn to be parents.

There was nothing my husband or I could do about the wait to adopt a child, but we could do something fun and worthwhile with our time. He focused his spare time on enjoying the outdoor life of fishing and hiking. I focused my energy on my hobby of entering cooking and recipe contests. One day our two hobbies collided as I was called as a finalist at a national cooking contest scheduled for the same time he was planning to be out hiking the Appalachian Trail. So we decided to combine our two trips. We would drive south together, attend my cook-off and then I would drop him off at the trail. Once on the trail, he intended to hike for three weeks and would be without cell phone reception most of the time.

The day of the cook-off was gorgeous weather and tons of fun. After not winning a cash prize that day, we headed back to our hotel to relax and to get ready for our drive the next day when we would be saying goodbye for a few weeks. Kevin turned on our laptop computer and at about the same time we remembered that Great Wall China Adoptions had planned to post a new waiting children’s list that day. We logged on and read through many of the files. We were reading the special needs files more out of curiosity than anything. We had never fully considered the waiting children’s program because we knew that in a few short months our dossier would be at the top of the pile and ready to be matched with a non-special needs infant. Our empty nursery soon would be full!

He was the first one to read through the list and then he passed the computer over to me. After a few minutes, he said, “Did you read the file about the 13 year old girl?” Actually, I had not yet. So I opened her file. No photos were included but I read the few pages of text about her. After 13 years of walking on this earth there were just a few sentences describing a young girl who had endured much in her life yet still after seeing many younger children being adopted she had asked that her file be sent out in hopes of finding a family .

At this point she was 13 years old and just 8 months away from being considered “too old” to be adopted. On the day a Chinese child turns 14 he/she is no longer available for international adoption. On a 14th birthday when many kids are excitedly opening presents and eating cake, a boy or girl residing in one of China’s orphanages is experiencing the first day of the rest of his/her life … a life without the hope of every being adopted internationally.

Something in this young girl’s file clicked with both my husband and me. We talked endlessly about “why” we had decided to adopt and finally were able to put it into words. We simply wanted to be a family. I wanted to be a mom and he wanted to be a dad. Together we wanted to be parents and to be part of a family with a child. We thought back and laughed at how we had contorted our faces when in one of our adoption seminars we had been asked to draw an image of what we thought our child would look like. We had no set ideal image of our child – no race, no gender, no age and no size. So, we had drawn a stick figure with an arrow pointing to the image labeled “our son or our daughter.” We knew the rest of the information would be revealed to us in time and we were excited to meet the person who would one day replace that stick figure drawing.

We stayed on an extra day at the hotel to give us time to talk more and to think. We sat together and carefully went over each question on the special needs adoption request form. We said we realized as first time parents that we lacked the background in having raised a child through the teen years, but we actually saw a huge bonus in our ability to spend all of our time with our child. As first time parents, we knew we would have the extra time needed to help an older child to learn English, to be there to help with homework and studying, to help our child adapt to a new culture and to simply be there for “whatever”.

The phone call that changed our lives came in the early morning hours on July 5. We had stayed up late watching fireworks and were still in bed when the phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “You’re parents! Run to your computer and I’m sending you photos of your daughter.” We almost fell down the steps trying to race to get there! We kept hitting the refresh button on the email until finally three pictures arrived. There she was …. our teen daughter! We were parents!!

The next few weeks were a blur. The nursery came down and the teen girl room went up. We talked with our school system about what options our daughter would have. We secured an English tutor. We chatted with other parents about what things their teen kids liked. We filled our daughter’s new room with all things girly and pink. We bought an Ipod and Kevin’s Chinese students helped select some current Chinese music to put on it. We packed and we flew off to China.

And we’ve never looked back. We’ve been home 2-1/2 years now. Our daughter is 16 and in high school. I would by no means attempt to tell you that it’s been an easy road. Sarah knew no English when we met, she left her country and her friends behind to start her new life and she had to get to know two crazy Americans who showed up and wanted to be called “mom and dad.” But the one constant thing in our lives is family. We experience the ups and down together. We are family.

12 comments:

Norah said...

Thank you for sharing this!

Heather said...

Love this post! And, as always, your daughter is just beautiful!

Brycie and Jim said...

Your family is such an inspiration! We adopted our daughter from China in November 2008. They said she was 11, but we think she is about 2 years younger. We will soon bring our son home from Beijing. He will be 12 on May 18. We are also adopting a little girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She will be four next week. We are praying that our two new children will adjust as well as our daughter has. God bless you all! You can visit our blogs at http://proudtoberomancatholic.blogspot.com/ and http://ourjourneytoclareisabella.blogspot.com/

Joanne said...

This is such a great, honest post and I know it will help so many people! I love reading how families come together - it's just a miracle :)

Tori said...

This brought tears to my eyes. In the end, it's why we all look to adoption: to be part of a larger family.

My 4 yo wants desperately to have a sibling. I hold your family dear in my heart as we move to make this happen for her. We are only in the "idea" mode, but you never know where an idea can take you.

Thanks SOOOO much for sharing. The three of you are so brave, you were definitely meant to be together!

connie said...

Beautiful post! You are an encouragement to many families considering older chid adoption!
Blessings~

4ever said...

I have been a silent follower of your blog for quite a while. I found it through RQ and there was just something so amazing about your story that I kept coming back. Your daughter is beautiful and talented. I'm grateful that you posted your letter. Although we completed our adoption from China last year and our daughter is now two I know in my heart that if we ever go back it will be for an older child. Thank you for sharing your feelings.

Galen Pearl said...

I loved this story. Even though I already knew your story, I loved hearing it again. Your description will be an inspiration and a reassurance to so many who are anticipating. And for those of us who have already brought our older children home, it will brings smiles of memories. Thank you.

Stuart and Summer said...

A gift from above that I found this post today.. my husband and I are on the waiting list for an infant from EThiopia since last year but with all of the changes that have happened in that country recently, the wait is getting longer by the day.. maybe 2 years, maybe a little less but anyway.. We are still on that list but God threw a little surprise into our plans yesterday morning when I, like you once did, looked at the Waiting CHild list and saw that sweet face that I never imagined would touch my heart so deeply and perfectly. He is 15 though and turning 16 in August! He will age out of the system in 5 1/2 months and my husband and I are praying and believing that if He brought us together to this point, He will make it happen. But I'm a little terrified about the unknowns! I have read that some of the older children are "resentful" that they had to leave, almost like they maybe didn't want to be adopted? I don't know.. e is actually in a small group home in Hong Kong, not in CHina but I just wanted to tell you thank you for your honesty and for sharing so much.. I'm still in a bit of a swirl of thoughts so I apologize for the random post! :)

Shala said...

Thank You for your post. Sometimes my husband and I feel alone in our adoption. We adopted and brought home our twin 10 year olds this past November. B/C we live in Saskatchewan Canada most of the adoptions are either under 3 years old or they fostered thier children before they adopted. It was nice to know we are not the only ones to miss the first decade of our little ones lives and who are trying to make the most of the many decades ahead. Blessings!

Guy Chambliss said...

This is so inspiring. Some will say that it's not practical to adopt an older child, but you guys proved them wrong. Adoption has no age limit. So long as you will treat her like your own child, give her love and comfort and be there when she needs you. The law is on your side.

Beth said...

Thanks so much for posting this. It's beautiful and so encouraging!