Families are complicated. More and more we see different types of blended families. No matter who makes up your family or how your family is made, I assure you it will not be perfect. It is no different for adoptees. Perfection is unreachable. Families don’t need perfection; they just need love.

I was adopted as an infant. My early childhood was seemingly uneventful. My mom was a member of the PTA. I was in Girl Scouts with my mom as my troop leader. We participated in all the activities that went on at our church. My dad worked a lot, but he still found time to spend one on one with me. During all of that there were still imperfect times. The emergency room staff knew me by name. I was a clumsy child. I was always getting injured running or climbing somewhere I shouldn’t have been. That led to plenty of stitches and often a dislocated shoulder that needed to be popped back into place.

Every year my church held a father/daughter banquet. It was a big deal for me and my dad. One year though, he was so busy with work that he sent an employee of his in his place. Talk about crushed. Then there were the handful of times my mom got busy with errands or chores and forgot to pick me up from school. I got to be the last child standing with the teacher at the end of the day. As a parent now, I know there are times when those types of circumstances are unavoidable. Such is life.

The truth is humans are flawed. We make mistakes. Life happens to us, and we sometimes act in unexpected ways.

Fast forward to 1992 when my life took an overall downward turn. My dad moved his business out of town for an opportunity to make much more money. Not long afterward, the rest of our family followed. In a very short amount of time, we went from being a middle class family to having more money than we knew what to do with. We lived in a huge house and went on lavish vacations. It really was an amazing time. My parents decided that they wanted to adopt a baby boy. In their previous adoptions, they had not specified, but they were getting older and my dad wanted a son to carry on the family name. Our home visits from social services went great. We got reports after each doctor’s appointment as to the progression of the pregnancy. There had been three ultrasounds confirming the sex of the baby. Our excitement grew. My mom had the nursery painted blue. She had the diaper pail personalized with his name on top. My dad drove a racecar that had our names displayed in vinyl on the side. He added, “Coming Soon: Lil’ Louis” underneath. You can imagine how shocked we were when we got the phone call to come pick up our baby girl from the hospital.

About a year after my sister’s adoption, my dad’s business started to have problems. He’d had some issues with partners, and his finances took a big hit. We lost almost everything. He stayed with the company, and we moved back home. Not much later, they started talking divorce. My mom tired of all sideways glances and the endless questions. We moved up north for a change of scenery. My parents went back and forth between fighting and not speaking. Everything was a wreck. My mom became so depressed that she refused to get out of bed. She was supposed to be homeschooling me, but wasn’t. I had become a middle schooler raising a toddler. I honestly don’t know how we survived it. I didn’t know how to really cook, so I made scrambled egg sandwiches for every meal. Mom became suicidal. I used to have nightmares of her running her car off a cliff or taking an overdose of pills. I would startle awake from phantom gunshots. I even covered for her once. After a suicidal threat, Dad sent the police to the house. I lied for her and said everything was fine. I was afraid of what would happen to us if I told the truth. We were several hours away from family, and I didn’t know where they would put my sister and me until someone could pick us up.

When I started high school, my mom’s sister came to live nearby and things started to improve. My mom started working and looking after her little girl, while I got to focus on school and have a regular social life. As soon as I was able I moved out, got my GED and got an apartment with friends. Once I had gotten on my feet, I moved back to my hometown, got a job, and started college at 17.

There are an endless number of mistakes that are made in life. Some are big, some are small, and some fall in between. You can’t use the mistakes of others as weights holding you down. Use them instead as lessons learned. Let them be reminders of what you want to do differently. There is a misconception that families who adopt are perfect. After all, there is a careful selection process involved on all sides. The truth is humans are flawed. We make mistakes. Life happens to us, and we sometimes act in unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s not. There is no such thing as a perfect life or a perfect family. Don’t aim for perfect, aim for better.