Monday, August 18, 2014
Preserving Connections in the Midst of a Closing Door
It was that time of year again... for LIMIAR’s reunion weekend for Brazilian adoptive families. It had been two years since we were at the last reunion, with last year’s reunion having been cancelled when there was not enough interest for it to have been financially sustainable. This year’s reunion, our third, was being heralded as LIMIAR’s last as the organization was getting ready to shut down its operations completely. It already had ceased its involvement with Brazilian adoptions more than a year ago. The number of international adoptions from Brazil had been on the decline for several years now, and the Brazilian government was initiating changes in the way agencies would need to apply for official sanctions to provide adoption services. Sadly, LIMIAR's closing of its doors somehow seems rather ironic in its imminent departure from the word's Portuguese reference to the threshold of a doorway, and the symbolic act of crossing over to a new beginning.
The four hour car ride was rather swift, and upon arrival to Bradford, we grabbed pizza at our usual place, hit the same grocery store for Davi to get snacks to bring back with him to camp, and the boys spent a little time at the hotel’s pool after dinner. Sean wasn’t with us this time around, as he had moved back to his hometown a few months before, and he couldn’t afford to fly in to meet us. Still, though, there was that same familiar feel in the air for us as we readied ourselves for the initial gathering of everyone for the reunion at the university campus the next day.
As had been typical for me, I most enjoyed sitting in on the first parenting support group that morning. These groups have been one of the very few places and times I have felt most comfortable with how I am faring in my parenting, and basic survival in the face of my boys’ sometimes still rather challenging behavior and attitudes. It’s the sincerity and honesty in the way these parents share of themselves and their experiences, and offer their support that lends itself to the authenticity of the interactions between us. The more that is shared around the table, the more incredibly normative is this particular game of parenting we all are solidly invested in playing—where the rules seem to be forever changing, and with stress being an all too common experience that bonds us. Parents appearing to fare well reported how they played by the simplest of rules in deferring judgment, keeping expectations realistic, and retaining unconditional, positive regard for their children… even now, especially now for those parents whose children are young adults.
As I felt last time, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat discouraged, even a bit skeptical in wondering "what happened” to many of these now young twenty something youngsters. Albeit rather superficial in context, in addition to their apparent commitment to and love for them, many of these parents obviously had the financial means to provide the kind of advantages and resources that could practically guarantee their children's success in life. Still though, relative to societal-related hopes and expectations, there didn’t seem to be a shining star in the bunch. Too many of these young adults seemed to be floating from one menial job to the next, dodging responsibility and personal accountability, and/or making life choices for themselves that defied sensibility and logic.
The young adults at the reunion seemed very sweet, personable, and somewhat humble in how they projected themselves. Nevertheless, their parents offered many examples as to how immature they still were in their social and emotional development, and how they tended to behave impulsively and carelessly—forethought often seemed to be lacking in how they went about their daily lives. Apart from whether or not these kids are more vulnerable because of the harshness of their earlier life experiences, the frontal lobe of the brain still does not appear to become fully formed until one reaches their mid twenties. Hence, difficulties properly managing impulse control, making sound judgments, utilizing insight, and controlling emotions still can be problematic for the young adult—it’s not that they lack the life experiences to know better, their brains still have difficulty assessing consequences for their actions. Yet, it still is unclear as to the extent their earlier life experiences might further complicate these matters of brain development, delaying even further the normal maturation process for these young adults.
Aside from those stories that only left us slowly shaking our heads in suspended disbelief, what I did not hear was the flagrant existence of problems with substance abuse, delinquency, and/or social alienation. And, even with the hard road many of these young adults were on, success was not as fleeting as one might suppose. There was the boy with cognitive limitations who recently passed all of his state's series of standardized tests to graduate high school thanks to his parents unrelenting emotional and tutoring support that got him through; when his mother tearfully told of how he broke down and cried when first hearing the news that he had passed the final test, tears dotted my own eyes. He was working now in a job that did not necessarily require great skill, yet he was learning and gaining the respect of his employers and fellow workers. His twin brother also was working, taking post secondary classes, and committed to his girlfriend/fiancé in a long-term relationship. In spite of the twins' sometimes crass attempts at humor that implied a sometimes weakened sense of appropriate social boundaries, it was noticeably toned down in comparison to two years ago. And, they exuded endearing sincerity in their relations with others that was a rather direct reflection of their parents' genuineness in their own relations with everyone.
(*) If I had not yet published See You Tomorrow... Reclaiming the Beacon of Hope, a year ago now, this piece would have followed the epilogue that detailed our experiences at the second LIMIAR reunion two years earlier.
Dr. Gary Matloff is a licensed psychologist, and a proud single, adoptive father to a pair of brothers, now thirteen and sixteen years-old. He is the author of See You Tomorrow… Reclaiming the Beacon of Hope— A true story about resilience, and the journey of a lifetime for this pair of brothers and their new father against the sometimes all too uncompromising reality of adopting older children and international adoption.