Borrowing Trouble Parenting a Child of Adoption

woman reading book


We, as parents through adoption have often waited for a long time for our precious child and want to do right by him or her when they arrive. Some of us reading every book on attachment and primal wounds, readying to “fix” any problem that comes our way. Almost a self-regimen of “what to expect when expecting” for adoption. I don’t know about you, but even as a parent by adoption, I read What To Expect When You’re Expecting, and of course, What to Expect the First Year, and found that none of my three children fit the mold outlined in the book. Not because they were adopted—but because they were individuals. Oh sure, I was ready with the baby gates for my oldest to tear off crawling because he was big and strong and could get up on this hands and knees SO early. But that child did not crawl until he was almost a year old and then just jumped to walking. Our children are individuals, and whether from adoption or coming to us biologically, they will not fit into a particular mold. I think this is why I have a hard time with what my sweet momma would have called, “borrowing trouble.”

Reading all the books on anything that could possibly be related to adoption and issues your child MAY encounter, and then attempting to head off any and all issues at the pass, even if your child has not given any indication that they have them. Fearing your child may have negative feelings about some element of their adoption as you have read things from some adoptees who do. Making constant preemptive strikes at things that are not there.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Educating yourself is a good thing. I think, particularly in the case of those that adopt children of trauma, it is imperative that parents are educated and know signs of issues and strategies to address them. But what of the thousands of children adopted domestically at birth? What of the children like me, who were adopted at other ages but who have never had an issue relating to adoption? How much are we putting on our children that is not there? I see parents who do not just share a child’s adoption with them, allowing it to be just a part of that child’s story—but who, in trying to do what they feel is right, live, eat and breathe their child’s adoption. How can one be anything but an adoptee when they cannot just be your child, and when being a parent through adoption comes before being a parent? Please do not take this the wrong way. I know better than most that this comes from a place of love—that an enormous piece of your heart that belongs to your child, from wanting to do the right thing, from pressure you may feel from some in the adoption community.

Children of adoption/adoptees are individuals. You cannot impose issues on them that are not there, in hopes of treating them prophalactically, in case they eventually present themselves. Would you treat your 6 year old for bulimia just in case she might be bulimic at 16? Would you give your child antibiotics because they might get sick this winter? Of course you wouldn’t! You as a parent take the responsibility of having the knowledge—of knowing what COULD happen, so you can see the signs and help them if it does. It is your job to let your child know you are always there and to keep the lines of communication open. We cannot impose problems on our children that are not there, just in case they may be later. We also cannot allow ourselves to create problems where there were none by incessantly speaking to our children about things that are not issues for them. Educate yourself. Be honest when they have questions. Tell them their story and then let them take the lead. If they have issues you will see the signs. If they have questions, they will ask (and usually when you least expect it). Do not make their adoption “an issue,” when it should just be but one part in their life story. I have said it once and will say it a million more times—Your child WAS adopted. They WILL BE and SHOULD BE a million other things in their lifetime, as well. You cannot and should not, by your actions now, define them.

Had my parents spent much of my childhood questioning me about my feelings about my adoption, querying into whether I was one who felt the primal wound, or if they had protected me from any other child who was curious about the fact that I did not come from my mommy’s tummy, I could not have felt as secure in my story. I could not have just been who I am. I could not have just been normal. Can you imagine asking a biological child if they missed your womb or felt traumatized at the thought of having come through your birth canal? If they felt bad that their nose didn’t look like anyone else’s in the family? Then it might make that “weird” for them and make them wonder if that was the source of every other problem in their life? Now think about how you do or will handle adoption.

I know. It is hard being a parent—no matter how your children come to you. It is hard to see them stumble. It is hard not knowing what troubles may come their way and keeping yourself from heading everything off at the pass. But to become ourselves, we have to stumble and learn we can pick ourselves up, we have to learn that we do have a support system, but we have to be allowed to feel things for ourselves. We have to create some of our own perceptions about our adoption. Security in our family and our story, and knowing it is OK to talk about if your child wants to, are important elements in allowing them to create their own perceptions in a healthy way. Just know that they, like anyone else, will not fit into any mold.

So love them, teach them, and be their parent first. After all, the job of any parent is to do what is best for their child. In an effort to help your child identify and articulate any feelings they may have about their adoption, be sure you are not imposing what you think they could be feeling or what you have heard other adoptees say on your child. They are their own person. Most importantly, let them know you are always there, NO MATTER WHAT, and will help them IF they need you. Remember, “borrowing trouble” will not help you or your child. Let them be themselves—let them see how they feel, what they can do and be who they really are. They will never know who they really are (and neither will you) if you don’t let them be it.

As a last aside, I know how hard it is as a parent not to worry—not to sometimes borrow trouble.  As an adoptee, I am so glad my mother didn’t.

Read more about parenting children of adoption HERE