The announcement that you are going to be a grandparent again… this time through adoption.
Being a grandparent is one of the most amazing experiences we could imagine. When our daughter and son-in-law announced the pregnancy of their first two children, we were so excited. When they announced their plan to adopt a child, we found as grandparents we each responded slightly differently, at least at first. Much of my life’s work had been in foster care and adoption. I had hoped in my own life to be able to foster or adopt, so when we learned of our adult children’s plan to adopt my heart was flooded with joy. So many children need a home and I felt so proud that a member of our family had decided to take action to make a difference.
Because my work had been in Indiana and I knew the needs of children in our home state, I initially struggled to some degree with adopting from anywhere but here. What I easily transitioned to is the realization that all children need the love of a family and that is not limited by boundaries of a state or a country; children need families.
For my husband, he was excited because he loves children, but was initially challenged intellectually because he could not understand the choice of adoption; if they wanted more children, why not have more biological children? What he easily transformed to was that he did not need to understand the choice of adoption, what he needed and wanted to do was to support his daughter and her husband. Doing that came easily to him because he focused on his love for them. After going through the first adoption and experiencing his heart explode with a love never expected, my husband (Grandpa) easily hopped on the road of support when the announcement of the plan to adopt a second child came along.
Preparation as a grandparent.
Because there are differences with bringing home a 2 year old child through adoption than from bringing home a biological child from the hospital, our daughter and son-in-law wanted all of their close friends and loved ones to be educated about how best to welcome the new grandchild into our family. We were invited to participate in a webinar from their adoption agency that explained the needs of an adopted child so that he/she can develop a healthy attachment to their parents and family. This education, coupled by education from our daughter and son-in-law, was extremely helpful.
When you hear that you will not be hugging on your grandchild for 3 months or more it is difficult because as a grandparent you, too, have longed for this little one who is joining your family. When he is finally home you want to love him, as you typically know how to love. But that is where we had to remind ourselves that to love our newly adopted grandson, we needed to follow our training and allow his parents and siblings to love and cuddle him until he had the opportunity to begin to bond with his family and understand that his parents will be meeting his needs.
The goal is that he will learn to rely on them and trust them as his providers. When a child has had multiple caregivers and possibly had needs not met, trust and attachment are not automatic for a child. Healthy attachment allows for trust and when it is learned, it can be transferred to other trusted loved ones, but first we knew our grandchild needed to learn to rely upon and trust his immediate family.
It was interesting to witness the response of friends and extended family when we tried to explain this. Without information and training, which we were fortunate to receive, people want to follow what they intuitively know. My husband (Grandpa) handled this best by just saying, “This is what the experts have explained is necessary to help our grandchild, and it works!” Because we saw that it did work, it was easier to handle for the second adoption. Like anything, knowledge and experience help.
Finding ways to help.
1. Caring for the other children while parents travel for the adoption
With the adoption of a child, and in our case a trip by their parents to China for 2+ weeks, there was going to be a need for the care of the 2 children they already had. For me, I saw this as an opportunity of a lifetime – 2 weeks with my grandchildren. We were blessed to care for our grandkids while our adult children traveled to bring home our adopted grandson, but soon after it was decided that we would be the caregivers during this time, I was flooded with questions. I knew it would be important to follow the routine that their 2 boys were used to following and to handle things as closely to how their parents would handle them as we could. I wanted their parents to trust us fully in the care of their sons so they could be totally available to participate in the experiences they were going to have in China with their new son.
Regular communication began between our daughter and us with questions about everything possible: how to work their three TV remotes, what to do if something goes wrong with their house, but most importantly, what to do if one of the boys got sick, what types of things are comforting when the boys are scared, and what works best to support the boys in their daily routine. To capture all the information, our daughter typed her responses to all the questions we had, along with additional things she thought of, and it was nicely organized under headers. I then created a manual so I had everything I could possibly need from teacher’s names, insurance cards, local friends/resources, fun things to do in the community, etc. The manual was a sense of security to me because I knew what an honor and privilege it was to care for their sons in their absence and I wanted our daughter and son-in-law to feel confident in how their children would be cared for in their absence. We also created a calendar of what would happen each day so we had a schedule/structure and our adult children knew what was happening with their kids each day.
Our daughter and son-in-law provided wrapped gifts for their boys to open each day while they were away. They were not high dollar gifts, but simply little things that helped the boys feel special and thought of while their parents were away. They also made a video for each day that we played and they video -taped themselves reading the kids’ favorite stories. These were a fun part of our routine and helped our grandsons stay connected to their parents. We also arranged a FaceTime call each day so our grandsons could see their parents daily and talk with them, and their new brother. It was a joy to share in that communication, but as grandparents we were conscientious to make sure we allowed this to be time between our grandsons and their parents. We, of course, loved hearing from them too, but our role was to listen and support! We would have plenty of time to catch up when they got home!
For the second adoption we again cared for our grandchildren while their parents and their oldest son traveled with them to China. Although we had been through the process before, I still pulled out the manual, updated it with our new questions and answers, created a new calendar for the days the boys would be in our care, and created some additional sticker charts to help the boys have clear expectations and rewards for behavior. The goal remained the same, to be as consistent as possible to the expectations their parents have for them, so the transition home would be as smooth as possible.
This time we had our 4 year old grandson who had stayed with us before when his parents went to China to bring home his brother, but instead of his older brother with us, his 4 year old brother who was adopted from China just a little over a year ago was with us. This was his first extended stay away from his parents. Although we had had several weekend stays with us in preparation, it was still different for him to be away from his parents for 2 weeks. It was also very hard for his parents, especially his Mother, to leave him when she had worked so hard to assure him she would always be there for him. She had prepared him well though, including teaching him the song from Daniel the Tiger which says “Mommy comes back”. Our evidence that he fully understood that was when his cousin came to play with him and as her Mom left, our grandson sang “Mommy comes back” to his cousin.
2. Supporting adoption through love and prayer
As a grandmother I have crocheted a baby blanket for each of the grandchildren prior to their birth. I wanted to provide the same to our adopted grandchildren, but since they were not infants, I instead made them a larger blanket to coordinate with their rooms. When I am crocheting a blanket, this is a wonderful time to lift up prayers for my grandchild. For me, I feel my relationship really grows during the time of making the blanket because while I am making the blanket, my thoughts are on the new child coming into our family and the hopes and dreams I have for him.
3. Helping with fundraising
My husband (Grandpa) had the opportunity to tour MudLOVE, a local organization which makes bracelets. MudLOVE has a unique business model; they not only sell their bracelets to fundraising efforts at a discount, they also donate 20% of their gross sales to Water for Good, a group that drills wells to bring clean water to villages in the Central African Republic. Each product sold delivers 1 week of clean water to someone in need. When he met them he knew this would be a great fundraiser to assist in bringing home our second adopted grandson!
He told our daughter that we would buy 100 bracelets if she would organize selling them. She chose five different inspirational words bracelets (inspire, adopted, hope, redeemed, be the change) and placed the order. Once they arrived, she wrote the fundraising announcement in her blog offering the bracelets for sale. She closed her eyes and prayed as she hit ‘enter’ to post the fundraiser, hoping they would sell. Within five minutes the first bracelet sold. An hour went by, and 50 had sold. Within 3 hours, 97 had sold and people requested that she order more!
A second, and then a third bracelet order was placed, and MudLOVE provided these with an additional discount as they were ordered within 90 days. In total, 460 MudLOVE bracelets were sold, $5,106 was raised to bring our newest grandson home and 460 weeks of clean drinking water was provided. Our daughter went on to raise additional money through various fundraisers, but we were so happy to have helped by funding the MudLOVE fundraiser.
4. Displaying family photos
We are a family that loves to display photos of our family in our home! As soon as possible, we incorporated photos of our adopted grandchildren into the displays. Unbeknownst to me, this is possibly more important than I had realized. Our first adopted grandchild while eating a meal with us in our dining room one day shared with me the number of photos he had found of him on the walls of our home. He had also counted those of his two brothers and with a smile shared the number was the same.
How our hearts have grown.
Each of our grandchildren are so precious to us. We feel blessed by how they are each so unique. We feel thankful that our daughter and son-in-law expanded our family and our hearts through our grandsons who are adopted. We are excited by the learning that has happened in our family as a result of adoption and we are reminded that it will not stop. We feel thankful, lucky, proud, and blessed that adoption is a part of our family story. These boys have changed our lives and we are so fortunate to share in their life journey with them. God has filled our hearts with a love that we are so grateful to share. “We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19
One thing to remember… it’s time to revise the will (again).
– guest post by Tom and Danette Till – parents to Amy
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