I remember in our training before Matthew coming home that a social worker with our adoption agency described the point in an adoptive family’s journey when the family “normalizes” and adoption, rather than being a big deal and central to the family’s identity, becomes just past of the history but not the present. She also told us that sometimes it’s just when parents really settle into a sense of “normal” that an adopted child begins to ask the big questions about his or her birth and early months. In other words, one person’s loss and questions subside while another’s begins to increase.
One of the realities of Matthew’s current developmental delays is that he’s not cognitively or emotionally at a place where he’s even close to asking those questions. I don’t believe he has any sense right now that he is adopted, which is probably both a blessing and a curse. Who knows.
My ability to really know what his experience is like feels limited, which makes parenting him hard. There are so many needs to meet—physical needs, learning and developmental needs, and the emotional needs that present themselves through day-to-day interactions and routines. I can’t even begin to imagine addressing the deeper issues related to belonging, identity, etc. I don’t want to forget about these, as I’m sure that sometime in Matthew’s journey, they will come up.
But in our “normalizing” of Matthew into our lives, I do feel a subtle but present transformation from “adoptive family” to “special needs family.” Our family blog is listed on several cleft lip and palate websites as a resource to other families currently dealing with cl/cp or considering it from an adoption standpoint. But I find that Matthew’s issues related to cl/cp become fewer and fewer as we focus on the challenges that are currently in front of us.
I’m not sure why I’m rambling on so, except perhaps this is my way to apologize to those readers who are reading only for the cleft perspective, and to tell you that I don’t have much to say about it anymore. We’re in the long waiting stretch—several years from the bone graft and gum surgery, but already considerably past the lip and palate repair. We do have speech challenges, which are probably partly resulting from Matthew’s cl/cp, but those challenges around compounded by Autism, orphanage neglect, and what we now believe to be apraxia of speech (or some kind of oral motor delay).
If you want to talk about speech challenges, ADHD or Autism, this just might be the place for you. Each day we wake to a developmentally delayed four-year-old struggling with so many behaviors that are the result of his diagnoses. There are some ways in which Matthew is developing on track, and we could list those ways for you. But the identity of Special Needs Family seems to fit for us right now, and since this is our current reality and our current struggle, this is what I find myself thinking about regularly.
We’re still “Holding On For the Ride” (this blog’s title) at our house, so nothing has changed, but everything has changed too. This kiddo came to us through adoption, but it doesn’t really matter HOW he came. What matters is that he’s our kid—to love and care for, and to advocate for. And like we do with all our children, we are constantly refining our parenting and our rhythms so that we can help him grow and help the rest of us live fully and grow too.
So please keep swinging by “Hold on For the Ride.” Your presence and interest means a lot to me. We may not be in the thick of cleft lip and palate repairs, but I still give you the same pledge I’ve always given: to write and share with honesty and authenticity.
You won’t get anything less from me, no matter how things change here at our house.