I loved this book so much I read it in less than two days. I just couldn’t put it down. I laughed, I cried, and I marked sections to go back and reread later. This is more than just a “how to adopt” book. It covers the transition of a new child into the home and how to connect with your child over the next few years. It’s not super in-depth, but it covers more than most of the introductory adoption books I’ve read. Plus, the author admits her mistakes so that you can avoid making the same ones in your own adoption.
Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting, by Mary Ostyn
I loved this thought, which echoes some of the material covered in our 10 week parenting class:
But children can’t model positive behavior on the outside until their brains heal. Amy Monroe, from Empowered to Connect, said that expecting emotionally healthy behavior from an emotionally wounded child is like setting a three-month-old baby in the middle of the living room and telling him to walk to you. He’s not mature enough to do it yet.
We parents desperately need to understand the level of woundedness that drives difficult behavior so that we can remain compassionate toward difficult behavior over the long term. We’ve got to address the root of the behavior instead of focusing on the behavior. Only then can we create a healing home (page 65).
In a section that offers suggestions for bonding with a newly adopted little one:
All these activities are ones we tend to do naturally with little ones, but they’re especially important for adopted babies who need extra time and interaction to make up for the time you missed before you became a family. And don’t listen to the folks who say you’re spoiling your baby. Spoiling is something that happens to fruit that is forgotten, not babies who are well loved. So love on that new kiddo of yours. It’s one of the joys of parenthood, and it’s just what he needs (page 78).
This next quote is something I need to remind myself often.
John and I assumed that once their behavior improved, our relationship would grow too. We didn’t realize for years that we had that little equation exactly backward. It goes: first relationship, then behavior. It’s how we did it with our babies, right? We build the relatioship for many months, saying yes to their needs thousands of times before we ever add in behavior expectations. But somehow with our hurt kids, we expect all sorts of things just because they’re older. Well, guess what? Relationship still needs to come first. The more we tried to change our kids’ behavior via consequences before we had the relationship piece in place, the further their hurt hearts fled. The more I tried to encourage right behavior using typical parenting methods, the more like a drill sergeant I became. The gentle, patient, intuitive part of my soul was getting buried. And drill sergeants aren’t so easy to bond with. I had to take control of my frustration and learn a new way to relate, one that looked a lot more like the love that comes from Jesus. Instead of being a nagging taskmaster, I needed to be a channel of His grace (page 154).
That last section was reinforced by a Bible text quoted later in the chapter. Romans 2:4 says, “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” There is a lot in this chapter to chew on, both in how I relate to God and how I should relate to my children.
Ostyn also quotes John 10:27, which says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” She adds a note to say, “our kids won’t follow us until they know us (page 162)!”
One of the last chapters includes advice directly from adoptees. I love what this adoptee had to share:
Be patient. Most older-adopted kids are broken people. We don’t trust easily and we are cautious. Once we feel secure and safe, we open up. Be kind. Harsh words and anger tend to hurt us more than the average person. For me, knowing I disappointed my parents was enough punishment. Be kind to yourself. You are going to make mistakes, but any parent will. Know that being a parent of an adopted child is harder and more emotional. Have faith in yourself and God. Know that all we as adoptees want is a loving, stable home (page 203).
Overall, I loved this book and would recommend it to any parent who is getting ready to adopt or who has already adopted but is looking for encouragement. This book is going on my bookshelf to reread right before my daughter comes home. Thank you to Booklookbloggers for a copy in exchange for my honest thoughts. I would have bought this book had I discovered it at the bookstore before being given the chance to review it!