Today I want to talk about something that has often come up in conversation when talking about our adoption process. Whenever anybody talks to us about Shawna and Seth, they get about as excited about them as we are. Naturally people then want to know to what extent this feeling is reciprocated by our kids. The answer is as simple as it is unexpected and therefore requires some explanation.
At the moment, Shawna and Seth know nothing about us.
“How can that be?” or some variation thereof is the natural reaction we get from people. I say natural because we as humans instinctively understand that relationships are bi-directional: people are in relationship to each other, with both parties reciprocating to some degree. Our culture in particular takes it as a given that a relationship cannot exist if effort and affection are not extended in roughly equal amounts in both directions. Relationships between adults do and by and large should operate this way, but where adoption is concerned this is not often the case, and it starts this way from before the adoption is finalized.
The principal reason Shawna and Seth know nothing about us is the Eastern European government is very strict about protecting the emotions of their children, as they should be. Children who are available for adoption are not told of a prospective adoptive family until that family is in-country to get them. This protects the children from being hurt by an adoption that may fall through, for whatever reason.
As tough as this is conceptually and emotionally, we wholeheartedly agree with this policy. Children living in orphanages are often so desperate for a family and can have such a difficult time attaching to adults anyway that anything that further disrupts their ability to attach to others can set a child back many years developmentally and psychologically. Protecting children from failed attachments pre-adoption as much as possible is absolutely the right thing to do.
This protection is especially important for Shawna and Seth. Several years ago, an Italian family pursued adoption of the siblings. The adoption process got to the point that the family had met the children and began bonding with them. A medical test during the final stages of the adoption process, however, revealed Shawna’s medical condition, and the family declined the adoption and walked away. While we have every intention of following through on this adoption and have already completed most of the paperwork hurdles, such that very little at this point could or would prevent our adoption, the last thing Shawna or Seth need is to have their hopes raised only to have the adoption fall through yet again, especially with Shawna being three years closer to aging out. So, we won’t meet the children until after we have signed “intent to adopt” papers at our appointment with the adoption regulators in Eastern Europe.
The important thing to realize at this juncture is that neither Jennifer nor I are in any way worried about the kids not knowing about us right now. As parents we naturally want our kids to love us and to attach to us; we want that two-way relationship I talked about earlier. The fact of the matter is this kind of attachment and two-way relationship could take years to establish with our children. We have missed out on their early childhood and never had the chance to establish the crucial bond that develops between parent and child from infancy, even from the womb. As far as the kids are concerned they will be, at least for a while, no better than strangers in a strange land. So in a way this is an appropriate way to begin, a good way to dispel any illusions and fantasies of having a warm fuzzy relationship with our children at the start. That will come, but it will take work and it will take time. For now, we know about them and we love them.
And at least for now, that is enough.