Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Adopting a teenager can be a hard sell. I once had a parent ask me "Why would I want to adopt a teenager? I have one already. He's driving me crazy!" My reply was simple, "You can drop your one off, but you have to take two in return."
Most prospective parents come to us asking for the little baby (like my nephew Isaiah, pictured above). Few inquire about teens or tweens (like my sister Georgia, also pictured above, who is equally as cute as Isaiah.) For the record, neither are available for adoption, folks... but they do make good poster children!
But adopting a teenager? It's specialized parenting. It's a calling. Parenting teens is a beautiful gift, but you may not see full reciprocation for some time. After all, a teen in foster care has been taught that adults are there for the short term. Do you think some adults have commitment issues? Try convincing a teen who has been let down by every parent they've ever had that you're different & are going to stick around.
Teens are already at a disadvantage in a lot of ways.... they're generally (often unfairly) less than popular with us adult folk. They've lost that cutesy baby face. They don't "need" us in the same way that babies or toddlers need us. They use all the hot water and tie up your phone line. They might drop the F bomb, and it doesn't sound as cute coming out of a 14 year old's mouth as from a 3 year old who picked up the unmentionable vocabulary somewhere/somehow.
Teens are ready-made people.... capable of independent thought, and exploring their independence... but they still need a mom or dad to call their own. They need somewhere to go for holidays, they need someone to watch them graduate. They need a parent to call when they have children themselves and don't know the answer or just need an ear or a shoulder to cry on.
The sceptic inside all of us wonders, "Why would I bother? They won't be home for more than a few years!" Well, that's true. They won't be home forever. But the truth is that kids in BC age out of care at 19. Some US states extend fostering until the age of 21, but BC tells our youth that at 19 they are more than capable of emancipation and complete self-sufficiency.
My reply is: "How many 19 year olds do YOU know that are living on their own and functioning completely independent of their parents?"
I don't know any of the top of my head. I left home at 22 - and the only reason I did was because my parents retired and moved away! I was still in university at 23; most kids who go on to post-secondary either commute from home or live in residence.
For kids who age out of care and plan to attend university, the options are grim financially. I commuted for most of my degree and I'm STILL paying off my student loans as I approach my 30th birthday. How does someone alone in the world even qualify for a student loan? That's assuming they were able to graduate with grades good enough to continue their studies, given that they probably moved around through different homes and different schools in high school.
There are lots of positive things about teenagers, and spending time with my baby sister, who is now almost 13 herself, is a good reminder.
If you needed a good reason to consider teen adoption, here are ten to get you started:
1) We can program your ipod and dvr. (Or teach you what those are in the first place!)
2)) We sleep through the night…even if you never will again!
3) We will be ready to move out sooner…but we can still visit.
4) No formula, diapers or bottles required.
5) We can pick up after ourselves and do our own laundry.
6) We will keep you up-to-date with the fashions and trends.
7) You get to dress us up for the prom, and walk us down the aisle at our wedding.
8) We can show you new dance moves.
9) We will teach you how to be more patient, understanding, kind, and empathetic. And, most importantly
10) We all need someone to share our life, dreams, achievements, and holidays.
We took Noah to the park this weekend. It was a cloudy, cool Saturday. Despite the weather, there was a sprinkling of children enjoying the late winter afternoon.
One family played angelically with their two and a half year old twin daughters. Angelically, that is, until my son arrived.
Each girl had a bouncy ball that they passed gracefully back and forth between one of their parents. Noah bowled in and grabbed one ball, tossed it across the park, and exclaimed "Now, girl, go get it! Just like a puppy! ARF!"
I wanted to hide until the slide or launch myself off a teeter-totter. The dad raised an eyebrow and tried not to smirk. "I always wanted a son..." he said to no one in particular.
So me, with my experience growing up in large family and my insurmountable Irish bluntness, replied to his rhetorical musing with "Well, what's stopping you?"
"Fear." He replied simply. "What if we ended up with twin girls again?!"
I snickered. "You're talking to the wrong person. I'm one of 12 kids, my husband is one of 5."
He looked shocked and said "But you only have ONE child, right?" I nodded. "I think maybe I AM talking to the right person!"
We chatted back and forth about our kids for a bit. He continued musing. "We thought about adopting a little boy, but you know..."
I remained quiet for a minute. "I do know, actually! We welcomed our son home about 2 years ago. Best decision ever."
At that point Noah began barking and howling. "I'm Scooby DOOOOOOOOOOOO!" he announced. "And I'm going to get the girls!"
The dad seemed unfazed, as his tow headed two year olds were chased mercilessly by my boisterous son.
I'm not sure how we might have influenced his decision - positively or negatively - towards adoption. Perhaps it was just a fleeting thought, like "maybe we should climb Mount Everest" or "maybe I should run a marathon". Maybe it was merely a wishful thought, one that so many of us have but so few of us latch on to.
So park parents -- if you never get the chance to parent a son, at least you saw an excellent example (if I may say so, in my unbiased opinion!) of just how awesome parenting a little boy can be.... even if he howls and arfs at your daughters.