When Jason and I talk about our children, we obviously never introduce them as our “biological” son and our “adopted” son. They are just our sons, our boys, our kids. They both make us laugh, they both drive us crazy, they both go to time out, they both love trains, and we love them both unconditionally.
But there are some things we have come across in parenting the boys that are just not the same. Maybe they will never be the same. Don’t misunderstand, we have the same hopes, dreams, and loves for each boy…..but.
The first difference that comes to mind was totally to be expected. Obviously Isaac joined our family as a newborn and was soothed and comforted by everything I did for him. Our “getting to know you” time with him was an easy, organic thing that happened all on its own. When Matthew joined our family, he was confused, traumatized (rightly so), and just because I was now his mother, it didn’t mean that I was someone who was always comforting to him. Our “getting to know you” experience was forced, difficult, and took a really long time. Not to mention that 2 year olds will tantrum, act out, and fight you, while the worst a newborn can really throw at you is projectile spit up.
Another difference is discipline. Believe me, Isaac gets his fair share of scolding and time outs….sometimes even, God forbid, losing his bedtime stories or taking away trains. And he is not happy about that, to say the least. But, Isaac is so comfortable and secure in our relationship. He knows that all is forgiven when his punishment is over and he knows that there really isn’t anything he can do that would change our love for him. Matthew is getting there in his security, but there are times when a scolding, punishment, or even a gentle correction seems to shake him to his core. One day not long ago, I had been clipping coupons at the kitchen table and I left my work there unfinished. A few hours later, I found him at the table playing with the scissors–big, sharp, grown up scissors. As I saw what was happening, I did a very loud, surprised intake of breath, “HUH????”. He dropped the scissors so fast, and completely broke down, devastated. Obviously this was my own fault for leaving the scissors out and he wasn’t even in trouble, but it was like the end of the world to him. And then there are the times when he is sent to time out for an infraction that is a known punishable act, let’s say hitting. Sometimes he will sob and look at you with a look that says, This is because I’m adopted right? You realize this simple punishment is going to cost me years on a therapist’s couch, right? Just checking. Okay, maybe he just flashes a really pitiful look, just like the pitiful look Isaac flashes during a punishment. And maybe I am processing it all through my filter of adoptive mom guilt (see below for more on that one).
Here’s a really odd one, and one that I didn’t anticipate. On our way home from our vacation in Pennsylvania, we had a layover in Detroit. Matthew and Isaac were going berserk on the moving sidewalks in the airport. We warned them to calm down or they would have to be carried. Well, they didn’t calm down, so we scooped them up, much to their dismay. Matthew had one of those back-arching, I-have-no-armpits-so-good-luck-picking-me-up, head-thrown-back-so-I-can-project-my-screams-to-the-heavens tantrum. You know the one. Everyone was staring and I thought, Oh crap, it looks like I’m kidnapping him. Never before had our difference in appearance seem so pronounced as it did at that second.
No matter how you become a mother, you will have guilt. Did I nurse for long enough? Do I let them watch too much TV? Am I a good enough role-model as a stay at home mom? I buy organic milk, but still can’t wrap my head around paying that much for organic produce! Guilt, guilt, guilt!! Go ahead and multiply that by about one million when parenting an adopted child. Am I doing enough to incorporate Korean culture in our lives? Am I making sure that we are surrounded by a diverse group of people? I still haven’t finished his lifebook!! On a level much, much higher than average mom guilt comes the adoptive mom guilt.
So far, I think we are navigating the differences fairly successfully. I do believe the differences will be somewhat less as the boys grow up, but now I understand that there are some things we will ALWAYS have to approach from different angles. And that is okay, and it is to be expected.
Thankfully there is so very much more in raising them that is the same. Kissing boo boos, bedtime stories, taking cuddles whenever I can get them, and laughter, lots of laughter.