Adopting an Older Child: ‘Firsts’ Don’t Just Happen With Babies

Adoptive father teaching young son to ride a skateboard.

I am one of “those moms” who seems to save everything. I have Rubbermaid tubs full of first Christmas outfits, first baby shoes, first birthday party momentos. I have photo books documenting all the firsts and baby books—every line filled with memories of the little firsts I wanted to have written down and remembered forever. I even had the “Baby’s 1st AND 2nd Year Calendars” to jot little things down everyday. I did not want to miss or forget a second of my time with these loves of my life. More than anytime in my life, when my children were babies I thought of my mom and the many “firsts” she missed with me, as I did not come to her until I was 14 months old. She did not see my first smile or laugh, she did not feed me my first babyfood or anticipate my first steps, all of that had passed when I came to her.

Madeleine Melcher & her mother

I remember asking her when I was a teenager  if she were sad that she did not have that “baby time” with me. She answered that of course she would have loved to have every minute with me, but that she had so many more firsts with me, and every minute after I came to her for us to be together. Everything we did together was a first. I am thankful to her for so many things, but not the least of which for wanting to be a parent—to be a mommy—more than she wanted “a baby.” I am thankful for so many parents who take in children who began their story before coming to them. Children who may have already experienced firsts, like walking and talking, may have experienced things that no child should, but who may not have experienced firsts that so many of us take for granted.

As I followed the story of sweet 15 year old Davion, reaching out to a church and the world in hopes of finding a forever family, my heart ached as he explained that he had not ever owned his own pillow. Let that sink in—15 years old and that child had never had a pillow of his own! There is no doubt that even at 15 years old, that first, the first of having his own pillow would be celebrated. Think of the many children who have not known a time when they had a home to live in that they knew they would never have to leave. A forever home. A family of their own. That is a first that makes others seem so small.

I do not know anyone who was with me when I was a baby. No one to tell me if I was fussy, or when I first clapped or rolled over, but I found my story, nonetheless, in the memories that were to come. My mom may not have given me my first bottle or fed me my first solid food but she always remembered the first food she did give me when I came to be with her—Mary Bryan’s famous peanut butter fudge. I know that too. That is my story. That is my first. My memory. And everything that was to come there after. All my firsts.

My own children are school aged now but still experience firsts all the time. First time riding their bike with no hands. First time reading a whole chapter book. First crush. First dance. First time on a sports team. There are so many children still waiting for their forever homes with so many firsts still ahead of them. Children who are waiting for so many firsts we take for granted, that up until now they have missed—a pillow, a place to call their own, someone to come to a school program just for them, a note on their lunch napkin, a true family.

So, if you are considering adoption and had feared that if you did not have an infant you would miss the firsts, take heart; there are firsts with all children who are waiting for their forever homes and some may be more meaningful than you had ever imagined.

Continue reading about adopting an older child HERE