Alright, pull up a chair and I’ll tell you a little story. Imagine that you have just spent the morning wandering the aisles of Hobby Lobby and you finally make it back to the aisles that are lined with picture frames. As you browse the different sizes and styles you notice the stock photos in each one. Some are of picture-perfect smiling families; others are of mothers and daughters holding hands and laughing. Then you get to the perfect frame and in it is a photo of a dad with his son on his shoulders loving life. They are all beautiful photos of what family can and at times should be. I’ll even admit that I have that relationship with most of my family, but if I am honest, one of those stock photos in the beautiful frame would be of this dad frustrated with my arms crossed and one of my kids crying and screaming on the floor because the same playful activity that I just played with the rest of my kids becomes a “Dad did…” with him.
As a dad, that’s kind of rough. When I first laid eyes on this little boy with big eyes and curly hair only 17 months old, I had a feeling that we were his forever family. It was the beginning of our foster and adoption journey and while it was exciting, I would have never expected to have the struggles that I do with him. I remember changing his diaper for the first time and he kicked, twisted, turned and screamed but when my wife stepped in, he was cool as a cucumber. I remember throwing my girls up in the air to the sound of giggles and smiles on their faces, but with him it became traumatizing…unless mom did it, then it was all giggles and smile as well. I can hold hands, snuggle and laugh with all of my kiddos, except him. From the first days in our home we have struggled to connect and my love for him has been met with resistance and that is really difficult to grasp. I grew up in a family with connection and our family today is very connected but some nights I throw my hands up in the air and tell him that I don’t know what else I can do. I can’t want a relationship with him more than he wants one with me and that is at times hard to accept. What I can accept is that he is my son, that God has given him a smart brain and a good heart and that most of the issues we have probably stem from the trauma of a time and place that I had no control over and he doesn’t even remember.
It seems that almost every day our relationship is a challenge, but he is my son and I love him; I always will. Not only will I love him, but I will always be there for him and ready. When he wants a hug, I’ll be ready. When he wants to have those moments of play, I’ll be ready. When he wants to talk, I’ll be ready. If I’m honest I don’t always want to be ready because it is draining and I know that whatever connection we have at the moment will probably be gone moments later, but he is worth it, and he is trying his best to work through his present and past. I also know that I am not perfect and the way that I handle our relationship at times is somewhat childish and I need to work on that. Connection is a two-way street; I need to want it as well and at times the frustration blinds me from that because it is so much easier to not want it or to have my wife deal with him because he will usually at least listen to her. So where am I going with this? I don’t know…all I can say is that if you are in the same shoes as me, you’re not alone. It’s ok to get frustrated and it’s normal for your heart to hurt. It’s normal to be skeptical about the good moments and it’s ok to have your space, but the important part is that you always love, you’re always present and you’re always ready because if you’re not, you won’t notice the opportunity when it presents itself.
Brian Vehon: Adoptive Dad