Nearing our four-month anniversary with the boys, Ken and I often find ourselves saying things like this to each other:
"I can't imagine not having them."
"What if we hadn't listened to God's call to us to adopt these two?"
"I'm SO GLAD we adopted both boys at once."
"I have no regrets."
"I LOVE these boys!"
"I feel like they've always been with us."
These are good feelings to have. We're very blessed to be in this place.
But.... (don't you know that, with me, there is always a but?"
But they haven't always been with us. They had a life before they came to us; a life we will never truly know. For Travis he had three full years of life: One year with a mom and dad at least. Grandparents. Siblings, possibly. Then he had two very unique years in, what appears to be a decent, clean, happy-looking institution. We know he was exposed to a rich variety of people. He had friends. He had aunties and uncles he cared about and loved. Tian had two full years, one of which was spent with an extended foster family. From his pictures, it also appears he had not only his Nie Nie, but also a dad, two siblings, cousins, grandparents, and lots of friends.
While Ken and I feel very comfortable with the boys, "as if they had been born to us," we have to constantly remind ourselves that they were not born to us. You may wonder why. Why not just go with the great feeling of thinking of them as our birth kids? Because they aren't. Because we have to parent them differently. We have to view their cries, tears, rebellion, quirks, and fears in light of their history. And most of that history is unknown. When I forget their past, I do them a disservice by treating them like my birth kids. Sometimes, I'm tempted to say, "Oh, he's just being bratty" when he's throwing a tantum about not getting something he thinks is his. (Sometimes I DO say that. Sometimes he IS just being bratty.) But I have to step back for a minute and think, "My birth kids have learned to share their toys. They understand they need to share most things. This type of fit in one of them would call for specific training. With Tian and Travis, I don't have any clue what their "sharing stuff" history has been. I know from reading that sharing is simply a given in an orphanage. Kids don't have their own stuff. Who knows how their hurt feelings were handled?
Will I let them just throw a fit and never share? No way! Ken and I train the boys constantly, but we have to train them keeping their history in mind.
While we must keep their history in mind, I think it's a wonderful thing to simply feel like they've always been with us. That "feeling" indicates a level of bonding that is healthy and good. I can't read their minds, but it sure seems the feeling is reciprocated.