Parenting children from hard places is extremely difficult. It’s a good, and sometimes, hard life, that leads you down paths you never thought you’d take. A lot of people equate hard with bad. In our family, we disagree. Hard is growth. It’s about parenting differently, living a life that others don’t understand, but it’s a good, happy, fulfilling life. It’s a life where hard beginnings don’t equal bad endings. Many adoptive families have to make hard decisions that typical families don’t understand, don’t have to make, and would never think of doing. That doesn’t make it weird, wrong, or bad. It makes a home safe, protected, and different. What about our journey hasn’t been different already? A lot.
In our family, we have done both homeschooling and public schooling. This next school year we are going back to homeschooling; and I, for one, am excited about it. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many typical families that homeschool as well. A lot of them are my friends. But we chose homeschooling for different reasons.
We have an alphabet soup of diagnosis around here. The only reason we sought diagnoses for our children is to get them the extra help they need whether that’s physical, occupational, or speech therapy; mental health and behavioral therapy; educational services such as IEPs (Individualized Education Plan); or additional help. It’s not because we feel it makes our children anything other than who they are.
When those assistive measures failed, we were at a loss. Anxiety caused several missed days of school, many tears, and much heartache for both of us. I spent hours driving around town, waiting for his anxiety to subside and for him to decide that he could do school. And after each of those incidents (where he begged to be homeschooled), I would cry and wonder why I was putting them all through the stress and anxiety every day.
In addition, one of my children has been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Now, this is a very complex, frustrating, not-always-negative diagnosis. He is a sweet, kind, loving child who is able to connect with certain individuals namely teachers, especially female teachers, but it’s not always a healthy connection and we have had to intervene several times. We have also had issues with abnormal, inconsistent, obsessive relationships. We have now begun meeting with teachers before the year begins to explain the diagnosis and the parts of attachment he struggles with. However, it feels very intrusive and dishonoring to him. He’s a good kid. He’s sweet, kind, and struggles. Also, we have noticed that the more time he spends away from us, it makes our relationship harder. In addition, he is a pleaser in personality and this has proven to be very damaging to our relationship.
Other reasons that homeschooling is a good fit for our family include educational differences. Two of our children are very close in age and different in education styles and personalities. This makes grade placement very difficult in a traditional setting. I have worried endlessly about how to not hold our youngest back without breaking the heart of our middle child. It’s been impossible to figure out. However, with homeschooling, we are able to go at their pace, adjust to their strengths and weaknesses, and personalize our approach accordingly. While both my children are intelligent and I don’t have concerns about their ability to learn, they are different beings with different needs and different styles of learning. With homeschooling, I don’t have to worry about grades and how they work through. We can take the time to let my youngest spend hours on a project, and we can help my middle man slow down to work in a more concise manner. There’s also less distractions with only three children in the home.
There are many reasons why a family would choose to put cameras in their home. And while those decisions are foreign to typical families, they are often made out of love and the intense desire to protect all members of the family.
Unfortunately for adoptive families, we haven’t always been there. We don’t know what our children have been through before us. Even for my so—adopted at birth, I don’t know how the process affected him. He’s just as special, unique, and perfect as any other child, but it’s different. For my other children from foster care, we have some details, but we will never truly know what all they endured in those first years before our home. And even in our home while going through the process of termination and adoption. This is true of many families and they put up cameras to help protect all members of their families.
It’s not that we don’t know that our kids can’t help their diagnoses and what happened to them, it’s that we do know, and we want to be sure that they can’t hurt themselves or their family despite their diagnoses and their shortcomings. Sometimes that’s to protect against false accusations, sexual abuse (child-perpetrated), damage, stealing, or self-harm. This can all sound daunting, but just having video available to see and know that your family functions normally helps guard against all of these things. It can be hard knowing that cameras or someone are watching you 24/7. You will grow used to their presence, and find comfort in knowing that should something happen you have irrefutable proof that you are safe, and so are your children.
When our eldest son was diagnosed with his differences, I was adamant about not medicating him. Adament. I had heard, read, and seen the horror stories of robot children, overmedicated, and not normal functioning. However, after much reading, conversations with doctors, and listening to people who have survived his diagnosis with or without meds, we decided that he would be more successful with medication. Thankfully, the very first medication we tried was a huge success for him. And yes, I know that’s not the norm—but it worked.
We tried medication for our second son and it was an epic fail: different human, different diagnoses, different needs. Having him on medication was an utter disaster. He became unable to differentiate truth from lies, he was totally not himself, and it was so, so hard. Once we took him off the medication and put him into therapy, he was completely himself, and possibly even a better version. There’s no black or white, yes or no, easy answer. There is trial and error. Pain and gain. Growth, and most of all, love. Thankfully we live in an age and era where trauma is much more known and treatable. No, it will never leave them, or us, but we do have tools to help them heal and become the best version of themselves.