What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

Today we celebrated three years as an adopted family. We celebrated something that has and will shape the course of the rest of our lives as long as each of us will live. We celebrated adoption. Considering the significance, we celebrated fairly modestly. We went to the Lodge in Baxter, MN, a water slide park. We splashed in the pools, went down the water slides, soaked in the hot tubs, and ate pizza. The kids had a great time. I had a fairly good time, and we all left with a smile. I believe that celebrating these milestones is important for many reasons: for the kids to feel for at least a short time that their non-traditional family story gives them a benefit (an extra party a year), to associate a fun experience with adoption, to bond as a family, etc. but for me this anniversary allows me to remember and reflect.
Hooray for Adoption!

When Kassie first established this blog, she invited me to participate in it a few times, and I usually declined- she is a better writer than I am, and I always teased her when I referred to this space as "her blog" - but I also think it was because I don't think I had anything yet to say.

Tonight - after three years, I do. Adopting two boys has probably been the most significant decision I have ever made in my life. It has changed me. And I am thankful for it.

These past three years have been the hardest years of my life. They have not been the most fun or enjoyable, but they have been the most significant by far. They have caused me to question previous assumptions about the world, other people, let go of some hopes and dreams and relationships, create new ones, live without answers to questions, face fears and unresolved personal issues, and redefine what "normal life" is. I didn't set out to do this. I didn't want to do this. I had to do this. Adopting two boys with complex early childhood trauma requires one to do this to be the best parent one can be to help two boys heal.

Parenting is hard. It is often said that there is no instruction book that can be used to assemble your child from birth to a twenty-four year old adult with a graduate degree. Parenting a child adopted from foster care is even harder.  These past three years, we have been told more than once that we were "doing it wrong"-- that the kids' behavior was our fault due to poor parenting, lost contact with some friends due to our lack of social engagement due to needing to be with our kids, and had many awkward conversations with school staff and care providers regarding our children's behavior. We have also been told many times by well meaning individuals how "lucky" our kids our to have us as parents - side note - I know those comments come from a place of trying to be affirming and positive, but they aren't true. Our children were particularly unlucky. There wasn't and never will be a good reason that they needed to go through the experience they did of hurt and loss and be adopted. I once read a quote that was something like "Adoption isn't beautiful - it is a story built upon pain and loss". Anyway, when someone tells me how "lucky" our kids are, I usually smile and reply that they weren't lucky at all, but they are incredibly strong and are now incredibly loved.

So, what I am getting at here is that this experience has forever changed me. It has changed who I am, what I care about, how I think about facts, ideas, and others people. It has caused me to grow. Because of this experience, I have a better appreciation for the fragility of life, the importance of relationship, more empathy and understanding for the trials and tribulations of others, and a greater curiosity for life. I have also been humbled. Prior to adopting, I think I would have stated something like "I don't have everything figured out" - but internally, would have had somewhat strong belief that I still knew quite a bit about the nature of existence and reality. Now, I am sure I do not understand most things,  but am also much freer in my bewilderment with life.  Over the past three years, I have never regretted my decision to adopt. We are living the credo "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger", and I am certain that is true of us; I am stronger now than I ever have been, and I attribute much of it to two little boys who were and are innocent bystanders in this whole thing. I look forward to what the three years will bring.

Just because I have indicated that these years have been hard doesn't mean there hasn't been sunshine. I have participated in so many firsts - first Halloween, first Christmas, first loose tooth, first bike ride, first day of school, first "I love you daddy". So many memories to experience. I have watched my children heal before my very eyes--I have watched them develop, mature, and love in these past three years. In the same way, our family has grown, matured, and loved more deeply as well.

So, thank you Gavin and Finnley, without you I would never have had the opportunity to be so challenged to better understand myself, better understand others, to love unconditionally without return, and to have a cause - that cause being our family to fight and live for.

These years have been the hardest years of my life, but also have been the most important as well. Easy-no; but important - yes. I will take important over easy any day of the week. And that is cause to celebrate - for now, pizza at a water park will have to do.

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