Although my wife and I did a lot of homework in preparation for the adoption of our two children form India, we also learned a lot from “trial and error parenting” (especially in that we had not previously been parents). Trial and error parenting is the typical route for all parents, especially for first-time parents, and even more so for first time intercountry adoptive parents. A couple years ago, I polled nearly thirty adoptive parents (both single and married) about what “trial and error” insights they would pass on to potential or new intercountry parents if they could. Here are some of the words of wisdom they offered:
“I wish I had learned earlier on to fully embrace and celebrate each child’s differences as they tested us to see if we really would love them as they are. In my desire for them to succeed and find healing, I had too much anxiety about their negative behaviors.” -Rebecca, mom to three children adopted from Russia.
“If I had to do our first adoption over again, I would better prepare myself for how long bonding and attachment can take. I would give myself and my child a lot more grace. I would know that all the love I have can never take away the pain of loss and trauma. I think I wouldn’t focus so much on milestones and catching up, but on attachment and hugs. I would also care a lot less about what family and friends thought of my parenting and techniques.” -Emily, mom to two children from Ethiopia and China.
“Our son knew very little English, and when he got here (to the U.S.) we tried to catch him up over all the subjects at once. If we could do it over, we would have focused on nothing but English for the first year. Also, really defining what it means to be grateful and how a family unit works right from the get-go, rather than waiting for something to go wrong and then having to explain why we were upset or disappointed with a decision he made.” -Jeremy, dad to a child from Niger.
Parents, as the old saying goes, “hindsight is 20-20”. However, this does not have to be a negative mindset. None of us are perfect! Always remember to give yourselves grace and allow your 20-20 hindsight to inform and teach you for the present and future, and not hold you captive to guilt over past parenting omissions or mistakes.