Adopting - Life with our teenagers
If you have been following Dad, Andy Peck's blogs about adoption in this new instalment he has fast forwarded through ten years to talk about how things are now and his life with two adopted teenage boys.
So much to be grateful for: good attachment, a sense of family, a lovely connection with the wider family and in general reasonable 'compliance' with our approaches to life. We both connect with each in different ways: the eldest is more introverted like me, but more arty like my wife; the youngest is more extrovert like my wife, but more sporty like me. Neither is into football like me, but thankfully don’t support teams other than Everton; the eldest seems to have an equal distaste for mushrooms and olives like me, though the youngest shares my wife’s palate.
There’s a significant ‘but’ coming though.
Our connection with each has been unwavering but the last eighteen months have seen real struggles and required outside help to support our boys and us. The detail that gives a blog like this colour is not possible, and not fair on the boys. I cut a lot out of my first draft for this reason. We have learned that the first years of a child’s life are crucial in laying down patterns of emotional and physical behaviour. As I said in the first blog, we are writing a new story in their lives but the story has already started and to some extent the pattern has been set. If only school teachers had a better grasp of how a child who has faced trauma develops and acts.
Is it because they are adopted?
We have often asked the question of both boys: is he behaving like this because he’s a teenager? Because he’s adopted? Because he is who he is? And in truth, it doesn’t matter why, you just try and manage it: giving space, giving advice, intervening, not intervening: the normal challenges every parent of teens face. As one post adoption worker said of one of our boys: ‘actually he is probably just doing the best he can at the moment’.
Someone once said to me, ‘you were never their age’, which sounds daft, but what he meant was that their teen years are being experienced at a time so different from you, and of course they are different personalities anyway. I had the privilege of a home where my parents were together, attended church, were reasonably well off, and valued education, good manners and respect for everyone. My boys had a different kind of start. So as well as navigating the tough stuff, it’s fascinating to learn how they see the world: politics; the need for climate change action; how mobile phones dominate their lives and which social media is ‘in’ and ‘out’ and what is cool and not, and the slang for the normal teenage stuff like pretty girls, gross behaviour and parents who aren’t with it.
And as well as the tough stuff we are learning about the teenage brain, sleep patterns (late to bed and late up) and how to negotiate pocket money, chores and attending social engagements. We are very clear that as well as being loving parents our job is to provide a learning environment where they can grow in their capacity to make wise choices and take responsibility knowing that our home is full of mercy and grace. The outside world won’t be so forgiving. We already know that they won’t make the choices we would make, or live the kind of life we might have preferred but it was never really our role to micro manage but prepare them for a life that is as fulfilling as can be and enable them to explore the richness of this life and the life to come. And for all the pain and struggle we count it an enormous privilege to be involved with them in this way.
Whether you are single or a parent of even if you are interested in adopting, I hope you know delight too in the great work of preparing young and fragile lives for adventure. There’s nothing like it.
About the Author
Andy Peck is father to adopted teenage boys and hosts 'The Leadership File' on Premier Christian Radio