Q. I can’t decide whether to adopt another child.
I am a woman, 45 and unmarried, who adopted a precious baby through an international agency six years ago. Today, he is a happy, healthy, smart and kind little boy and I am so glad and grateful to have the joy of raising him. He is the reason I get up in the morning.
My company did a round of layoffs, however, and I lost my high-tech, high-paying job. After some floundering around, my son and I moved back to my parents’ home in Texas and I now teach high school physics. My father passed away four years ago but I live rent-free with my 79-year-old mother so I can increase my retirement savings much faster. In return, I help her with anything she needs or wants.
I had always planned to adopt another child, but after losing my career — and everything else — I don’t know if I should adopt from a foreign country again. I had a much higher income when I adopted the first time, and it may be difficult for me to get time off to pick up a child from overseas and hard to leave my energetic son with my mother for very long.
This leads me to think that a local adoption agency would be better but I would probably be directed to a foster-to-adopt program and then worry that I’d have to give him back if the birth mother regained custody. That would have a truly terrible effect on my mother and my son, and might make him question his own security.
I also worry about getting a child too damaged to live a normal life. I took that chance when I adopted my son, but the stakes seem much higher now that I am responsible for both my mother and my son.
Am I letting fear get in the way? Or is my inner voice telling me that I have enough responsibilities already?
A. The journey of life is full of hills and dales, but the potholes can be our undoing. Retirement planning helps, of course, and so does a strong savings account but money won’t soothe your son’s hurting heart if something happens to you.
That is true even if you have a will and you leave enough money to support him and send him to college. Like every parent — particularly every single parent — you also need to ask someone to care for your son (and maybe watch out for your mom) if you can’t do that anymore, and you have to tell him who his guardian will be. If you don’t, he might get quite scared if you ever got seriously sick, although he won’t ask you what would happen to him if you died. Children never do.
Therefore, a second adoption depends on whether his guardian says that she will watch out for your mom, care for your son and care for a second child, too. If she will, then try to adopt but consider going through an adoption attorney instead of a local agency. A woman who’s asking for a private adoption sometimes has better prenatal care and therefore a better chance of having a healthy child.
If you don’t have a good support system, however, you can still satisfy your longing for another child by unofficially adopting many children, one at a time, because so many children need it. A lot goes on behind closed doors.
If you ask your school counselor, she may tell you which students need help the most and then you, your son and your mom can decide who would fit in best with your family. Would your mom like to read to a third grader? Would you like to be friends with a child whose parents are getting a divorce? Or would the three of you like to take a teenager to a museum so he can forget about his mother who drinks too much and his daddy who’s sitting in jail?
If you take these children on jaunts, one by one, and invite them for dinner regularly, you’ll be the richer for it and they’ll get away from the chaos at home. Give them some chores to do, too, because life isn’t all fun and games, and if they’re old enough to mow the grass, pay them the minimum wage (or more). You want them to know that you think they’re worthwhile.
Don’t feel that you have to talk with these children about their problems, however, unless they bring them up and even then, tread lightly. If you simply accept them and appreciate them, you’ll be rubbing their souls with the salve of love and that’s what every child needs most.
Questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.