Thursday, May 17, 2012

Heroes in my Eyes

I attended a support group meeting yesterday afternoon. The meeting attendees were all parents of adopted children, and over lunch we talked about challenges and suggestions and understanding. These meetings are only held every other month, but I get the distinct impression that everyone has been impatiently, if not desperately, waiting for the next meeting.

Although I am an exception, the adoptive parents all have children with very significant behavior and emotional issues. Most were adopted from the foster care system, and most of the children have had multiple foster home placements. Some even have had multiple (failed) adoption placements. I got the impression that for most of the children described, this was their final chance at a family.

The parents described aggressive behaviors - putting holes in walls, kicking in TV screens, throwing and breaking everything within reach, and/or physically injuring themselves, their parents, their siblings, and even strangers sometimes. The children curse with abandon, run away regularly, and constantly push every boundary their exhausted parents attempt to enforce. These kids sit in counseling sessions and refuse to speak. They are promiscuous - they start fires - they steal and lie - they hurt animals. In other words, they are very, very damaged human beings.

Yet at the meeting was a roomful of parents still committed to helping these children. The parents were tired and scared, at their wits end, and wondering if truly the could continue to parent these children. But they do continue. I've seen them at every meeting for years. For most of them, their lives get much harder before they get better, and in some cases, they never get better. Yet they still stand by and hope for healing for their children.

These parents, the ones you seldom see because they cannot take part in community events, school programs, or church services, the ones whose lives revolve around keeping people safe and unharmed, the ones who continue to try when others of us would throw up our hands and give up, these parents are heroes. I have no idea where they find the strength and the fortitude to go on, but with so many damaged children in the *system*, I am so grateful that they do.

So, the next time you see a parent who is struggling with a child like I have described, don't be so quick to judge. Don't try to lay blame on the parents. Do thank them, smile at them, and maybe even give them a pat on the back. You really have absolutely no idea what their lives are like, and I'm betting most of you don't ever want to trade places with them.

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