I have had a hard time with this story for several reasons. Yes, it horrifies me to imagine a child being treated this way. But I also can truly understand the mother's frustration. Probably, the most important thing that adoptive parents need is support. Not monetary support, although many more people would adopt if it weren't so expensive. Emotional support is something that we all need but adoptive parents need it particularly. I am an adoptive parent AND I am adopted so I come at this issue with a fairly unique perspective.
As a mother specifically I think we women emotionalize our parenting abilities and when things don't go well we believe it is because we have failed somehow. I'll never forget the first several months after the birth of our fourth child and first daughter. She was an answer to many prayers. But those first few months were horrible for me. It seemed that in the evenings especially when my three young boys needed me also was the time that my little one cried and wailed for my constant physical attention. Finally, I remember distinctly one night that I just lost it in front of my husband. I think he feared I had lost my mind.
"I can't do this! I don't know how to make her happy!" I cried. Craig looked at me like he had no comprehension of what I had just said. To him I just needed to chill out and not worry so much about why she was crying. But I felt as though I was FAILING as a mother because my young baby was fussy. Thank goodness for the day that my infant found her thumb and fell in love with sucking it! We went from unhappy to happy very quickly. The thing is I felt somehow personally responsible for my child's unhappiness.
And so it can be with my youngest daughter who happens to have been adopted from Russia. I can most assuredly relate to a mom who has lived through screaming fits, irrational fears, hateful tirades and even times when I was afraid of my child. I have often felt like giving up and so has my spouse (probably more often than me). That is precisely why parenting is meant to be a plural arrangement. Two parents can help each other. When one is barely hanging on the other one can be the stable rock of loving discipline and vice versa.
One of the things I see from this story is that this woman was trying to do it all alone. That is not how it was meant to be. Now, I know that we can't always help our situations but to CHOOSE to parent a child alone, to me, is just emotional suicide.
So what is the point of this blog post? Well, I guess it is just this: we NEED each other's help and support to raise our children. Not in a "it takes a village" sort of way but in a "bear one another's burdens" way.
If you know a parent of adopted children or even a parent of several small children, one of the best ways to help them out is to just give them a day or a few hours break from parenting. It sure beats sending them back to Russia.
Which is my second gripe with this whole story. It is being portrayed in the Russian media that this child is being welcomed with open arms and receiving only the best of medical and emotional care. If that had been true in the first place no one would have needed to adopt him. There are possibly close to 2 million children in orphanages in Russia. It is a country that disposes of its children into institutions rather than love and care for them through adoption. Our daughter's orphanage was quite "nice" in comparison to many but even at that it was poor and had little to offer her in terms of relationships and schooling.
It is true that once they turn 16 Russian orphans are turned out of institutional living and put on the streets literally. We met a family while completing our adoption who were there to adopt their 13th and 14th children from the country. They had met a young girl on one of their trips and tried desperately to adopt her. For some bureaucratic reason (and believe me there are some doozies) they could not adopt her. When they came on a later trip they learned that sadly she had gone into prostitution at 16 to survive and by the time of their return was dead.
This is a very good article written by an adoptive father of Russian children. I cannot agree more with his statement: It would be quite different if there were a vibrant adoption culture in the former USSR. This is not the case. Adoption is extremely rare in Russian culture. The very few families who adopt, and children who are adopted, are often stigmatized.
So, if you are troubled by what you have heard in the media, think about what you can do to help the world's orphans. It might be giving someone money to help fund their adoption, taking the time to take some kids off of overwrought parents' hands for a short break, or maybe just praying for families who are dealing with adoption related issues. Parenting is hard no matter how idyllic we paint it in our imaginations.