I remember my niece announcing to the family that she was pregnant and the craziness that ensued in the later months. During that time, she had not one but three baby showers. Friends and family from all over the country came to the parties with gifts for both mom and baby. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, that newborn baby will have a very large, and loving support system.
Six months later my wife and I decided to adopt our thirteen and fifteen-year-old sons out of a residential facility. For some reason, I was hoping to receive the same amount of love and attention for my two boys from the friends and family that showered my niece with it just months before.
I couldn’t help but think, “Where is my baby shower? I want one too!”We knew the traditional ways of supporting your family is different with adoptions versus newborn. Nonetheless, we were still welcoming new children into our home and, in an attempt to address the elephants in the room… eeerrrr I mean to celebrate the occasion, we had a party and invited everyone. To my amazement, not everyone came.
As time went on, I also noticed that my circle of friends was changing. Family members that had once been mainstays in our house started creating space. Friends were leaving more and more time between their visits. What happened? Do they not like us as much?
I believe that in some ways, it was a two-way street. Our friends and family didn’t understand all that my wife and I were doing. They couldn’t comprehend the challenges that our teenage boys faced. Because they didn’t understand, it became hard for us to confide in them about our day-to-day issues.
So my wife and I sat down and made a very intentional list of who our support system would be. By the time our list shook out, we noticed that many of the people on it were foster and adoptive parents themselves. Those that weren’t, the friends and family who had stayed around, had really stepped up and even started coming to trauma informed training classes or foster and adoptive kid panels to get a better understanding of how our family worked.
My wife and I had to decipher the difference between our support groups. We didn’t lose friends, our circumstances just changed. When we get dinner with certain people, we don’t talk about the nuances of parenting a child that has experienced trauma because they wouldn’t understand and it is not fair to them for us to try to make them “get it.” We reserve that conversation for our friends and family that do “get it.”
They say that it “takes a village to raise a child,” and I believe this to be true. We just worked to make sure that our village, compiled of people like our Grandma, Aunt, Sister, BFF, school social worker, and coach, are individuals who understand the barriers our kids have overcome and have an understanding of what we need them to support us through.