Happily Ever After?

So, one more question that I think adoptive families want asked – and should ask themselves as well.

Are we victims of the “Happily Ever After” syndrome?

Isn’t that the American dream? You buy a house, buy a mini-van and a Chevy of some sort, eat apple pie and you’re living Happily Ever After?

Oh and then you decide to adopt (for any of a a wide range of reasons) and then you go through all kinds of “stuff” and then suddenly your child(ren) are home. Now what?

It’s happily ever after right?

I used to tell people that prior to adopting, I thought that we’d go through a period of adjustments and we’d get used to the “new crazy” that comes with going from 3 kids to 5 kids. And live would go on – but just with a new normal.

Boy was I naive’.

Don’t get me wrong, coming home with our kids on June 25, 2004 was a joy filled day of adventure. It was amazing seeing life through the eyes of the kids. It was amazing to see things through their eyes as they saw America for the first time. It was amazing to see Grandparents and cousins and friends meet them for the first time.

But we haven’t lived happily ever after. Life is good but it definitely has some major bumps in it. Bumps that none of us were expecting. Bumps that altered our reality. Bumps that changed directions on many things.

I think that the adoption “industry” and the adoption world and the church and the families who have adopted are all, to some extent, victims of the “Happily Ever After” syndrome. You know the one……

The syndrome that makes you feel less than “good” if you don’t show up at church twice ever Sunday – even though your kids couldn’t handle two “appearances” in church on one Sunday without coming “unglued” from the pressure to sit still for an hour and a half……

The syndrome that makes you feel like you have to answer, “We’re good and you?” when someone says, “Hey Tom, how are you guys doing?”

The syndrome that causes an adoptive family, when we met 6 weeks after they got their children home, to cautiously look around the room and say, “Tom, you’re probably one of the few people that we can say this to, but what in the world were we thinking?” (They actually used slightly stronger words – editing for readership).

We, the collective we, need to stop beating around the bush. We need to start being more open with each other, with other parents, with our friends, with our churches, with our communities.

We need to admit that adoption is hard work. Hard work for all involved.

And if we’re going to stop beating around the bush, what should we say and do? Three things come to mind:

  1. My children’s story is their story and I’m not going to get into the details of it but it is a hard story. And because it is a hard story, it can leave hard scars. Give them and us grace and space as we deal with, heal and work through those scars. Don’t “label” a child as a troublemaker until you know what they have had to live through in their short life.
  2. There are times when I’ll say, “We’re good, and you?” and I will mean it. There’s other times when I won’t mean it. When what I’ll want to say is, “I haven’t slept well all week, my kids are causing all kinds of problems, I’ve spent more time talking to the school principal than I have my wife and I don’t know if I can stay through supper time tonight.” If you really care, look at me, really look at me and say, “No really, how are you?” And then take the time to listen, to empathize and to give me the gift of knowing that I’m not alone and someone really cares.
  3. Random acts of kindness really do go a long ways. Whether it’s a quick text, “Hey, I’m running to Costco – need anything?” Or, “Can I pick your kids up from school for you?” Or “Friday night is pizza night – what kind do you want delivered and at what time?” Be creative, think of ways that you can acknowledge in even small and positive ways that you realize that life isn’t a Happily Ever After scenario and you want to try to make a small difference.

Let’s drop the Happily Ever After syndrome. Instead, let’s all admit that it’s hard, it’s hard for the kids, it’s hard for their siblings, it’s hard for the parents.

But if we acknowledge that it’s hard, it opens the door for healing, for help from those who can walk along side and make the journey a little bit lighter.

Thanks for caring,


2 thoughts on “Happily Ever After?

  1. Marc Andreas

    Very, very true Tom. It’s hard to be honest with people who haven’t adopted children with trauma backgrounds.

  2. Amy McCraw

    Yes! All so true! Thank you for your honesty. After just 8 months at home, I think I still dream there will be a “happily ever after” when in reality, I need to accept God’s plan and not just want to be happy.


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