We see it in the eyes of fellow foster and adoptive parents often. Desperation, and shame. If you were offered a spot on a private island, where you could hide from the world, you would take it. We understand because we’ve been there.
I decided to wait an extra hour before making the 20 minute drive home from my office. That way, it would be dark when I pulled into my garage. None of my neighbors would see me. They would all be settled in for the night. I had a reason for this. Earlier that day the police had been to my house and escorted one of my children away in handcuffs. Handcuffs.
To say it was embarrassing would be stating it mildly. It was humiliating to the point of restricting air-flow into my lungs. Kristin had handled the entire ordeal, on her own, which only added to my guilt. I knew all of my neighbors in our upscale suburban neighborhood had witnessed the incident. Multiple police cruisers in a neighborhood like ours meant 2 things: A home-security alarm had been tripped or somebody was in a lot of trouble.
We would surely be the hot gossip at the bus stop the next morning. I wanted to pull a Baltimore Colts and bring moving trucks in that night, gather our belongings, and escape.
The Urge is Real.
This is real. I’m willing to bet you just read that and replayed your own instance where you wanted to hide. You recounted all the times your family was completely on display (not for a good reason) and you felt exposed as a parent. Most of the world will never understand what we go through on a weekly, even daily basis…
- Your daughter with major attachment issues threw an enormous tantrum in front of your house (and all your neighbors).
- The son you adopted from a traumatic past acted out sexually on another kid at school.
- Your daughter stole things from her teacher’s desk drawer and then destroyed an entire bulletin board in the classroom when she was caught!
- Your son who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder threw himself on the ground in front of his entire baseball team and 50 other parents when the coach put him at a different position from the one he wanted to play.
- Your son threw a violent screaming fit at a home where your family was a guest for Thanksgiving dinner. It was so bad that you had to drag him kicking and screaming to an upstairs bedroom until he calmed down!
These are all true stories. And nearly every one of the parents involved wanted to do the same thing- Hide away from the world! Wear a disguise in public! Pretend not to exist!
We fight the urge to hide away from the world all the time. Sometimes, we don’t want to show our face in public after our child has done something horribly embarrassing! Being an adoptive family, we are already on display, despite the embarrassing things our children do sometimes. We have 8 children, all of whom are adopted. Three of our children are African American and two are in their 20’s. We even have a granddaughter. Besides looking different, we deal with severe behavior issues and impulsive choices brought on by things that happened to some of our children before they came into our care. Sometimes it’s all we can do to not run and hide!
We FIGHT that urge. Even when we feel like giving in (which is a lot), we continue to fight. The reason? We’ve discovered that giving into this urge is not a healthy option. It only makes the problem worse and it makes us feel imprisoned.
How Do you Overcome?
If you’ve felt like this, you’re not alone. Raising children from traumatic pasts, or with extreme special needs, can often hang you out to dry in front of people who don’t understand your situation, or even try to. You feel hopeless. You wonder how to face another day. Here are 3 things that have helped us over the past 14 years in the trenches…
- Community. Surround yourself with people who care and understand. Seek out people you can trust and who will listen. Make sure your community is made up of people who would never judge you or your children. The day the police led our child out of our home Kristin’s best friend was there with her, loving her, and loving our kid regardless of the circumstances. Seek out trustworthy people who fully understand what’s going. In your darkest moments, you need community more than ever.
- Honesty. Be honest about your situation. We all fight the tendency to make excuses and duck and cover when something embarrassing happens. Being honest about your situation brings strength. One area of caution though- be careful who you share certain aspects of your story with. Not everyone should be privileged to know everything about you or your children. Make sure you keep your circle of listeners close.
- Movement. As hard as it is sometimes, we have to pull ourselves together and move forward, in-spite of defeating moments. The reality is, your son or daughter may continue to humiliate you in public. They may continue to manipulate, destroy, or abuse. They may still flip out in front of guests when they don’t get their way. And they just might make an impulsive choice that puts you in an embarrassing IEP meeting with their school. For your own sake, as well as the sake of your family, you must continue to move forward. It’s the only way you’ll grow.
As I sit at my desk, in the early morning hours, tapping these words on my keyboard, my heart and mind fill with hope. While our circumstances may not change any time soon, and while our children’s special needs can still be embarrassing in front of neighbors and friends, I’m hopeful. The reason is simple: I know I’m not alone. I know my best friend is in the same trench, and I can call him anytime, day or night, and find reassurance.
Maybe you can’t do that, but you can read these words, over and over if need be. We understand the battles you fight. We know how you feel. We understand the urge you have to duck and cover. You are not alone.
Question: Have you fought the urge to run and hide when your child does something to embarrass you? Share your story with us. You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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