When we first adopted our daughters, my aunt said to me by way of reassurance that she knew a family who had adopted a sibling group of three and everything seemed to be going fine. I immediately wondered exactly how well she knew them if this was her perception. Then I questioned whether I was just a cynic. I’ve come to the conclusion that adoptive families are like the TARDIS: bigger, crazier, busier on the inside. Yes, there’s a sense in which this is true of all families, and human beings in general – there’s an inner life and a face we present to the world. But in our case I feel there is more than average ‘on the inside’ that goes unseen or un-thought-about by those outside our family life. Is that true for your family too?
A change of perspective
Recently in a Facebook group a prospective adopter was asking about ‘the negativity’ they were reading about from people who had already adopted. ‘Surely the good times must outweigh the bad? Surely adoptive families are more like other families than they are different? Surely we can probably still live the general good quality of life we have now, once we adopt?’
I remember asking questions similar to these myself when we were still prospective adopters. I wanted desperately to believe it. The Adoption UK forums both intrigued and terrified me with their stories of CPV, trouble with the police, and section 20s. Six years on, though my children are still only 9 and 8, these issues are raising their heads in our family and I am no longer terrified by them, just resigned to navigating them as best I can with a sense of near inevitability that I hadn’t expected to feel. (And let’s not talk about the risk of unplanned pregnancy – if ethics allowed, I’d be marching them into the GP for a hormonal implant as soon as puberty strikes. I’m still hoping to regain my freedom for a few years once ours reach adulthood before we are required to do grandparenting.)
I know there are many adoptive families where things are working out fine. Their children go to mainstream schools without major issues. They can take family holidays in the destination of their choice without drama or disaster. They operate more or less like a neurotypical family unaffected by trauma. I have a schoolfriend for whom this is true and I follow her adventures on Facebook with – let’s admit it – a bit of jealousy.
Bigger on the inside
To those on the outside, perhaps our family looks to have ‘normal’ dimensions – the stereotypical nuclear family of two parents and two children. Step over the threshold, though, and it’s ‘bigger on the inside’: more challenges, more stress, more professional involvement, more overwhelm, more baggage. All because of our children’s trauma and the legacy it has left.Perhaps from outside, our family looks to have ‘normal’ dimensions. But it’s ‘bigger on the inside’: more challenges, more stress, more professional involvement, more overwhelm... because of the legacy of our children’s trauma. Click To Tweet
Is your family TARDIS-like too?
Do you feel the constant overwhelm of having people think you all ‘look normal’ and trying to either maintain that impression or explain why things aren’t quite how they seem? Do you long for a sonic screwdriver to reverse the polarity? Does talking to those on the outside make you feel as though you might as well be speaking Gallifreyan? You’re welcome to vent in the comments below!