Before our sons came home, my husband and I studied A LOT. We also knew our sons and had seen their rages and insecurities. We prepared like champions (or so we thought) to bring them home. We had an amazing, supportive community of people ready to welcome them.
One problem: we didn’t realize how much it would have helped to provide a couple of succinct expectations for our family and friends so THEY would know the best way for them to welcome our sons.
The result: we unintentionally hurt a host of relationships, many of which are unlikely to be repaired.So, in a better-late-than-never kind of way, I would like to share with you, “The Letter I Should have Written” (if I had known then what I know now):
Dear Friends and Family,
You have prayed for, waited for, and hoped for our sons, and you have also supported us so well as we’ve waited for them. You have seen us preparing like crazy for their arrival. You know we have been reading, connecting with adoptive parents, connecting with adoptees, connecting with biological siblings of adoptees, and even building furniture! We are writing this letter to share with you some of how our lives might look when we become a family of five, and we’re asking for your patience during the transition. Here is a general description of what we expect:
- We plan to stay home (as much as possible) as a family of five so that our sons understand who their new family is.
- We will try to establish a predictable routine for our sons.
- We do not expect to be able to answer many phone calls, text messages, or emails because we will be super focused on bonding with our children, learning how to care for them with their special needs, and setting them up with services they need to have in our hometown.
- We will be thankful for any meals you would like to bring, but, for the near-term, we won’t be able to invite you into our home because visits could add to our sons’ anxiety.
Our children are lovely. They are amazing! They are scared. The request that may sound the most unusual is…
- When you finally do meet our children (and we look forward to that day--even though we have no idea when it will be), we ask that you please do not show them physical affection.
Our children are very confused about relationships.
As is extremely common with children who have experienced trauma, our sons have a tendency to show an inappropriate amount of affection to strangers. We have seen them sit on the laps of people they have never before met!
Our two sons have lived in three places so far. In all three places, the people closest to them hurt them. The only people they trust are strangers.
As they come to know us, as their parents, it is likely they will no longer “feel” safe with us. We need to patiently provide them with [what they realize as] safety so they will eventually feel comfortable enough to accept hugs from us, as their parents.
So, please remember, that while our children are not strangers to you, you are strangers to them. You could very much complicate their ability to bond at home, with our family, if you are too physically close to them (as a stranger).
In closing, I want to thank you for sticking with us through this journey so far. It has been emotional and unbelievable at times! We hear the most trying times are ahead. Please do not take it personally if we are too overwhelmed to be good friends. If you are getting this letter, we love being in community with you! It would be very meaningful to us if you continue to call and text, even if you don’t hear back from us. We likely will be too overwhelmed to be part of the planning but please know that we will enjoy every bite of a meal you drop off for us.
It is awkward for us to ask for such a high level of support from you when we know that we will not be able to reciprocate in the near future. We’re asking you to stick with us when we have nothing to give and for your support of our family even though you won’t be able to hug our beautiful children. We’re asking you to help us build a safe foundation for our family so our sons can grow and thrive and feel connected in our family and in our community.
We’re looking forward to the day when our family is a stronger part of our community, and when it is healthy for our sons to be hugged by all their amazing friends, aunties, uncles, and grandparents!
We cannot do this alone. We are so thankful for your support!