Dr. Ray Guarendi weighs in on the important things about welcoming new family members.
Editor’s Note: Adoption offers Dr. Ray’s signature advice via answers to questions married couples pose about adoption. This excerpt centers on a question asking if adding to the family as older parents is prudent.
Aging our way through parenthood has brought pluses and minuses. On one hand, we didn’t have the energy toward the end that we had in the beginning. We had to work harder to supervise, follow through and keep up. On the other hand, we were less uptight, more relaxed about the ways of kids and more practiced in discipline. We knew better when to be alarmed and when something was passing kid goofiness.
All in all, my wife believes age has made us better parents. I think that’s only because she’s a girl. As Dad, I cling to the illusion of being able to outwrestle four of the kids at once. And I still could if they were preschoolers.
As people are marrying later in life and trying to conceive later, infertility rates are rising. Thus the average age of prospective adoptive parents is rising too. … In the end, whether or not you are able to adopt will depend not so much upon your ages as upon your perseverance.
… As said one mom, “I’ve got more mother left in me.”
Of course, parents seldom ever stop being parents. My mother, even as I moved through my forties, felt obliged to ask me, “Do you have your jacket?” whenever the temperature dipped below sixty-five degrees, “Are you hungry?” an average of six times per visit, and “Did you finish all your antibiotics?” whenever I had strep throat. To this day I’m grateful to her for still seeing me as her young son.
Something similar could be at play for you and your wife.
Your kids better brace themselves for more of Mom and Dad’s solicitousness in their adult years. Further, it sounds as if you want more direct, hands-on parenthood right now. Hence your thoughts of bringing another person into your home, one below the age of majority, that is.
What you might have lost in youthful zest you may have found in veteran savvy. You’ve got lots of something you didn’t have years ago: experience. You’ve traveled through this parenting journey three times. What you’ve gained is invaluable. You’re ready to use it again. You’ve got the love; now you’re looking for another recipient or two.
Your thinking “older child” is common for veteran parents. From baby to toddler to preschooler to pre-teen to teen and beyond may look years longer and more exhausting than it did twenty-some years ago (though grandparents raising grandkids is at an all-time high). Then too, you’ve already had babies.
Younger, childless couples have not. Your looking toward an older child may be at once both practical and altruistic.
Also, older child almost always equals harder-to-place child. You possess the skills, the knowledge, the resources, the family — all of which point to a good second go-around. At one time, adoption may have been only a blip on your radar screen. You were immersed in the busyness of family life. Now, with that busyness easing, the thoughts of adoption arrive.
As noted prior, your age is not much of an obstacle, particularly as you are not thinking infant. Neither is it a hurdle if you want to foster first. Likely an older child would be readily placed with you, with adoption possible.
What will your older kids think of your foray into more parenthood?
Each will have his or her own personal perspective. Insightful, aren’t I? Their responses may run the gamut from “That’s wonderful” to “Are you nuts?” Whatever they think presently isn’t set in stone. Their reflexive reactions may not reliably portend their ultimate acceptance of your decision or of their new sibling.
Were your children raised by loving, stable parents? May I assume so? Then they should better comprehend the reasons behind your decision. For years, they watched Mom and Dad raise a family. All that should help them understand why you want to do what you want to do. Put succinctly, kids who are loved much are more willing to love much.
Elicit any and all questions your children might have. Use a rationale my wife and I used as we moved to adopt again: “You guys are such great kids. We want more of that with more kids.”
In essence, this whole idea is your children’s fault. If they hadn’t made family life so nice, you wouldn’t be wanting any more of it.
Will it take long to adopt? Probably not. In my home state alone, many thousands of children over age ten are waiting for parents.
As the story goes, a little boy was walking along a starfish-littered beach, every so often tossing one back into the sea.
A more practical adult observed, “You can’t possibly make any difference to this many starfish.” The little boy answered, “Not to all of them, but to the ones I throw back, it makes all the difference in the world.”
To the child you take in, it could make all the difference in his world, as well as yours.