I've had several people ask me about adoptiong an older child and what I thought about it.
I have a lot to say :)
First let me start by saying that when I started out on my adoption journey, I wanted a perfect, beautiful, healthy, infant girl. Thank you very much. And I thought people who adopted older kids were kind of weird. Why would they do that? I was a classic case of a person who only thought about the big, scary, word associated with older child adoption....RAD. That's short for Reactive Attachment Disorder. Yes, there are people who have adopted children with RAD, and I can't imagine what their journey has been like but I also know that there have been a lot of developments with how to treat it. Anyway, I was also a first time mom so there was a HUGE part of me that wanted to experience all the baby stuff. So after Nepal closed and God slowly warmed my heart to special needs adoption, I was still thinking I would be getting a very young child- in the 1 year to 18 month range.
And then I saw this face:
I was an emotional basket case. When I saw her for the first time, it felt like an electrical current shot out of the computer screen and into my heart. I could not get her out of my mind. But honestly, I struggled with her age. She had just turned 5 when I found her. Some of you may be thinking, "big deal, 5" but it was a big deal to me. I had to surrender my dreams of having a baby and that was a big surrender. She would be my first child and for YEARS I had dreamed of having a baby girl named Sofia.
Munni's face changed all of that.
The second day after seeing her face, I requested her file. Reading her file got me hook, line, and sinker but I was still struggling with the surrender of my dream of having a baby. I prayed so much over the next four days; asking God to give me the strength for that complete and total surrender, that I wanted to be aligned with his will. And on the 4th day, he whispered to me, "Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me." I felt such peace wash over me! I share this because this was a huge part of my heart opening to an older child adoption.
After I came to the place of complete peace, I contacted the agency and told them I wanted to move full steam ahead. I started showing her picture to everyone. I was so excited and to me, she was the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen! I was already so in love with her that I didn't see what other people saw. They saw an angry, troubled, little girl who seemed like a perfect recipe for having RAD. In fact, I had several people pull me aside and ask me if I really knew what I was doing. The told me they were very concerned for me to adopt this little girl based on the pictures above.
I sincerely believe that I had to go through those 4 days of prayer and surrender to get to that place of peace so that when people did question me, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that she was mine.
I prayed and prayed and prayed for her. I prayed for healing and wholeness. I prayed for peace and joy for her. I prayed for our relationship. I prayed for our attachment. I specifically prayed that from the very first moment when we met, that when I touched her, she would experience an overwhelming sense of love, peace, and safety. God answered those prayers!!!! We definitely connected from the first time we saw each other.
Now that she's home, I wake up every day and honestly can't believe how blessed I am that she's my daughter.
We have normal struggles but now that she understands English, the conflict resolution is soooo much easier. The first month was the most difficult. I attribute that to several things. The first is all the medical stuff. She was scared out of her mind and had no way to express that except through meltdowns. I was a new mom, hypersensitive due to all the pre-adoption education, that I was second guessing everything I did. Looking back, I wish I would have found the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids sooner, cut myself some slack, and trust my instincts more. When you become a first time parent to a six year old, you don't have that reserve bank built up that natural parents do. So it can be tricky figuring out how much of the behavior is just normal kid behavior and how much is adoption related.
What I have loved most about adopting an older child is watching her experience all her "firsts" with me! Her first airplane ride. Her first elevator. Her first shower. Her first time on the toilet (they use holes where she's from). Her first shopping trip. Her first beach visit. Her first swimming pool experience. Her first bubble bath. Her first bike. Her first birthday party. Her first smoothie. Her first zoo trip. Her first experiences with pets. Her first jewelry. Her first experience with electronics. Her first ice cream. It is such a blessing and is so incredibly fun to watch her face and her reaction when she experiences all these firsts! Watching her discover things has reinvigorated me and caused me to stop and recognize the beauty in things I have taken for granted. We have so much fun together and she makes jokes. She is one of the funniest people I know! We laugh and dance together. We watch Bollywood dance videos and try to dance along (who needs a Wii? lol!) We sing together. In fact, she loves the Mumford and Sons song, "I will wait." We sing along to it together and as soon as she hears the banjo in the beginning, her face lights up and she gets so excited. It's so cute to hear her sing with her accent. We have the best conversations in the car. We walk the dogs together. We garden together. She helps me fold the laundry. We read books together. We pray together. We "cycle" practice together. We go to the park and swing. And while we do all these things, Munni talks on and on; her mind is constantly thinking. She tells me, "Ma, me thinkin'!"
Another benefit of adopting an older child is that they are somewhat self-sufficient. Yes there were/are times when I baby her because she needs it but she also likes to do things on her own. Since I am single, this has been very helpful :) She loves to help me carry the groceries and LOVES to help me clean! I give her little tasks that I know she can handle and she does them with gusto! But the best part is that having her with me, and sharing these times with her has turned the most mundane tasks into times that I enjoy and look forward to. She also loves to help me cook and it's so fun for me to teach her!
I could go on and on about what a blessing she has been, but then you could just read my previous posts :) She wakes up happy every single day; what could be better than that? In fact, she has had such an influence on me that the next time I adopt, it won't be a baby :)
If you are in the process of adopting and are wondering if you should expand your age preferences, I would strongly encourage you to do it! You are giving a child life. You are giving a child something every child deserves- a family. The statistics for older children remaining in orphanages are staggering. I know that at least two families "passed" on Munni because they thought she would be an angry child and would end up diagnosed with RAD.
Their loss has been my incredible gain!