I’ve been thinking about that phrase a lot lately.
No, I’m not talking about the trip home from the airport after you get back from vacation.
I’m talking after the airport.
With a capital T and a capital A.
THE airport. The one where you come home with your adopted child(ren). The one where the family meets the cousins, nephew, niece, grandchild etc. for the first time.
THE Airport – the place where your adopted child(ren) are thrust into a whole different world. A world where there are a lot of people who know them and love them. Or at least love the picture of them and the “idea” of them.
THE AIRPORT – where everything changes. Where your child goes from being one of many to suddenly being the center of attention. From being on a trip to going to a strange house they’ve never been in before.
There are times where, after the airport, it truly is a “happily ever after” story. Child adjusts well, learns a new language, learns to like chicken nuggets and fries, loves mom and dad and does well in school.
And there are times when it doesn’t.
When after the airport is a whole lot of work. And a whole lot of pain. And a whole lot of struggle.
An example of that – a friend of mine wrote a post on her blog about dealing with the trauma that many adopted kids struggle with. You can read it at http://outofshemind.com/2015/01/dear-adoptive-parents-hard-lonely-road/. It was shared on Facebook over 14,000 times and was read by over 60,000 people. Think about those numbers. 14,000 times. That means that 14,000 families are acquainted with the struggles that many adoptive families go through and felt others should know about what Heidi wrote. 60,000 views. That means that 60,000 people read what she wrote about it. 60,000 people – even if you figure two people per family, that’s still 30,000 families.
Those are vulnerable children. Children who have a new family. Children who aren’t vulnerable to malnutrition or preventable disease, but children who are vulnerable. Vulnerable to the scars of their past. Vulnerable to the culture shock of going to a new country, a new language, a new…….
Those are vulnerable families. They are, mostly, experienced parents who know a bit about parenting. But they haven’t been adequately prepared for THIS.
For Reactive Attachment Disorder.
For what PTSD looks like in adopted children.
For a whole host of other scars.
How can you prepare for the unknown? It’s not easy.
But, there are things you can do, before the airport, to make “after the airport” go smoother.
I’ll expand on this in the future, but a couple of quick thoughts:
- Make contacts with some experienced parents – people you can call or text and say, “oh my goodness, what do I do?”
- Read – read books, read blogs, live into the experiences of others who are walking that trail and sharing it with others. And don’t let just one spouse read and tell the other about it – both should read…….
- Plan for chaos – plan for how you’re going to handle chaos. Look at it sort of like going white water rafting. The time before the airport, you’re riding in the raft and it’s relatively smooth. But you know big rapids are coming. You don’t know how big they are, but you know they are coming. Prepare for it – talk through what you’re going to do. Talk through how you’re going to communicate. If the rapids are minor, it will have been a good exercise in communication. If it’s a really wild ride, it could be life saving.
Remember, you are not alone.