adoption, family, parenting

And Then There Were 5: Aftermath of a Failed Adoption


There are no more boxing gloves in the basement. His bedroom walls are bare and his bed is stripped down to nothing. All of his Rubik’s cubes and puzzles are gone. I can’t even find one bottle of Gatorade left in the refrigerator. It’s official. No more 17-year-old. Marcus is gone. We’ve only got 5 little chickens left.

He came by to get his things this weekend. He didn’t say a word to me. I greeted him and helped him and asked how he was. Marcus would only address my husband. He wouldn’t make eye contact with either of us. Although he claimed to be mad I sensed guilt and sadness. I can still see through his facade.

Afterwards I tried to send him a message via Facebook to let him know that he would always have a place in our home and in our hearts. I received a brief auto message from Facebook that read “This person is not accepting messages from you at this time.”

I don’t think social media has ever been more insightful. It’s true. Marcus cannot accept a message of love at this time. He won’t hear me right now because he simply can’t. But is there someone who can hear me? Someone who needs me? It would appear so. After all, there are still 5 chickens running around, needing a mama.

Since Marcus left I have been grieving the loss of a child. I try not to let it affect my day-to-day interactions but I have felt such a sense of failure. I’ve been just so sad and so heartbroken. It took me a few weeks to notice that Sean was different.

It started when he emerged from the basement (the Marcus lair) and began to interact with his younger siblings again. Gone was the jealousy he had been presenting about his older brother “getting more stuff” or even “getting away with more stuff.” Instead we saw him laughing and participating in family art time or movie night or game night again.

Not long after that he began hugging me again and seeking me out for comfort. He made me a beautiful carved heart with needlepoint stitching in the middle. He never would have done this while Marcus was around. It seems that he is once again finding his equilibrium after the tornado that hit our family. The Marcus tornado.

Sean started high school last week. Our boy is now a high school freshman! The most amazing thing started to happen. He had one friend over to the house. Then two. Then he began asking to go to do things with a group of friends 2 or 3 times a week. He never socialized beyond Marcus before. Sean loves to be at home making sure the family is all safe and together. We’ve been waiting for him to start some outside friendships. I’ve been recounting tales of high school fun and hi-jinx for months now. Is he finally taking my advice?

Last night he asked me to tuck him in before bed. I know he’s 14 now, but it’s nice to give him the kind of mothering he never had before. As I rubbed his back and listened to him talk to me about friends and high school classes I realized something. He wants to be close again. I think I’m getting through to Sean.

I am still grieving my lost son. A part of me will probably always hold this grief. That empty space in his room is like an empty void inside of me.

But maybe it’s time to shift my focus. Perhaps I’ve lost in the struggle to help heal one child. But I am a part of the healing for another. Sean is flourishing. This child is beginning to “accept messages from me at this time.” Maybe Facebook can tell me all about it someday. Until then, this is enough. Isn’t it?

**The names in this blog have been changed to protect those involved.
If you’ve ever considered fostering or adopting, I encourage you to start your adventure!

adoption, family, parenting

Adoption Disruption: An Open Letter to My Teenage Son


Although he may never read it…..

Dear Marcus,

Being adopted must have been the hardest struggle for you. Harder than I can imagine. How could you know how to handle that at age 17? After having been in the system for 4 years, in and out of placements, “forever” must have seemed like a foreign concept. I want you to know that it is ok that you were scared.

We got to know you over the last year and a half through visits on the weekends or vacation. You told us so many times that you didn’t need anyone, you didn’t need to be adopted. Sometimes you wanted to be with us and sometimes you didn’t. It must have been hurtful that your 3 siblings were placed with us before you were. I’m glad that you decided to try to live with us even if it only lasted for 2 months.

I want you to know the things I loved about having you here. I will always remember the way you played Legos with your younger siblings. Every time I look out the window I can see the landscaping you completed in the back yard. I loved to spend time with you at your horseback riding lessons. I loved to see you show affection and care with that donkey named “Mr. Pickles.” I will always remember you starting to open up around the horses. That was when I saw you genuinely happy.

I was so excited to watch you playing football. I couldn’t wait to cheer you on at games. I was looking forward to your junior prom and your graduation. I never realized how much pressure this must have put on you to have a “normal” high school experience.

It must have been scary to have family dinners instead meetings with your parole officer. It must have been weird to be hiking around in the woods instead of walking the streets with your friends.

I want you to know that as angry as you are right now, you are probably more frightened than anything. Fear is what causes your intense rages. Fear of getting close to us. Fear of being looked up to by your younger siblings. Fear of hurting one of the family during your violent cycles. Fear of getting close to yet another mom.

I know that you are mad at me for trying to take your birth mom’s place. It must have felt so disloyal to her to let me in. We were so different she and I. She gave you alcohol and taught you to fist fight. She left you alone to jump off of buildings and stay out all night. Sometimes when you are mad at me, you are really mad at her. I gave you hugs and you hated it. I’d have dinner ready for you every night and I expected you to be there. You don’t understand why I wanted to see you every day. You didn’t understand why I didn’t want you out all night or jumping from buildings.

You flinch from hugs and snarl at compliments. You think it’s deranged that our family says things like “I love you.” It’s scary because you haven’t had that. It must feel like we are all so close it hurts. I’m deeply sorry if I pushed you too much with kindness. I realize now that you didn’t know how to handle it. Your most intense rages were always after a fun family trip or a compliment or hug.

The day you left it felt like I was having a limb ripped off. I uttered the 3 words that sealed our fate when I said, “Sweetheart, come upstairs.” The social worker was there about the adoption agreement. Sometimes I think that you sabotaged that day because deep down you don’t believe you can ever really be a part of a family. You don’t believe in love. That day I remained calm while you shouted, swore at me, kicked me and threw things. You slammed doors around and showed your anger. Maybe you wanted the social worker to see your anger and stop the process.

I never reacted negatively to your rages. I always reassured you that I still cared. I offered you comfort when all you were feeling was pain and fear. It angered you that I wasn’t mad and yelling. You must have felt like the only one in the family with unresolved issues. Although that isn’t true, it must have hurt you to believe it. I’m sorry that I let you believe this about yourself.

I want you to know that it’s ok for you to hate me right now. It’s ok for you to choose to live elsewhere. It’s ok that sometimes you broke things or threatened your younger siblings. I don’t blame you. I blame your past. I wish you could have hung in there and worked through it with the family.

I also want you to know that it wasn’t safe for us when you had rages. It wasn’t even safe for you. I realize this but I just didn’t want to give you up. In a way I’m glad you were the one to walk away because, as a mother, I’m not sure I could have ever given up. The cost to our family was great but the cost to you was far greater.

I want you to know that I will never give up on you. I still hope that one day you will change your mind and try to have contact with us, or at least with your siblings. I am grieving you. I am also relieved that it is over. I’m sick with guilt about it but the truth is this family was hurting you. We were hurting, too. I am relieved the drama and hatred I felt from you is gone. I am not and will never be relieved that we don’t have you.

Please try and accept help in the future. Listen to your therapist. Just try and let them in a little bit. Please take your medication. Please finish high school. Please try not to get arrested again.

No matter what happens my heart and my front door will always be open to you. Please take care of my boy. I know you tried. I tried, too.

Love Always,



**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.