Humans instinctively search for a place to belong. The first place most people feel this, is within their families, but some are not so lucky. I had the opportunity to interview a young man that was adopted. I wanted to understand what his search for belonging was like, and to begin to see life through his eyes.
I began the interview by questioning the hardest parts about being adopted. I wanted to understand what went through his head as this family welcomed him in. He began to describe the lack of trust and belonging he felt. “After you have been in and out of so many different homes, you begin to believe people don't really want you. I mean they do, until things start getting hard or you begin influencing their 'real kids' lives.” The family that ended up adopting him had two kids of their own. They were a nice Christian family. He was a bad boy; he said “I remember walking into their house thinking this will be nice for a couple of weeks. I figured that's all I would last and when the mom told me to start unpacking my bags, I refused.” He's laughing as he recalls this, but when I asked him how long it took to really feel like he belonged. His smile vanished quickly and tears began swelling up in his eyes. “I'm going to be honest, because most people think that if a family adopts you, then you should feel lucky and honored because they chose you and this immediately makes you feel like a part of their family. I do feel honored and lucky; it's not that simple though. You question why they chose you. Are you just a project for them to feel good about their lives and tell their friends about? What do they want from you?” He had been passed from family to family so many times; he couldn't believe anyone really wanted him for him. “The foster families would call me their child when I was making them proud, but when I started to slip, it became 'Oh sorry we tried, you just won't fit in here.' So to fit in anywhere and truly feel like I belonged is the hardest part about being adopted.”
This left me wondering how he adjusted and what made him begin to trust the family. He responded by explaining “Something about this family was different. It took me months before I began to believe I could stay in their life. It was because of the mom's ability to put up with anything and everything I threw at her, that I began to trust them and start to try to adjust to their lifestyle.” Because the family proved to him over, and over that they would not walk out of his life, no matter what, he began trusting them and taking steps in faith to try to make it work. He started with the little things...unpacking his bag finally, hanging up posters in his room, taking a shower without asking if it was ok, eating food from the pantry not feeling like he owed them anything. This grew into attending family functions, going on vacations with them. When meeting new people, the parents would introduce him to their friends as their son. “When they introduced me as their son, not their adopted son, something really started to sink in and I could see how hard they were trying so I wanted to do my best to make this work as well.”
This young man was very honest in explaining that he's not sure if he will ever feel like he 100% belongs, but he tells me that doesn't matter as much as it used to him. He still has moments where he questions if they still want him, but he explained he's learning this has more to do with the way he feels about himself, than the way the parents feel about him. “I want you to know something...something I think about when I start doubting if they love or want me.”. “Ok, let's have it,” I respond. “I sit and make a list in my head of all of the things they have done for me, all of the nights they spent up talking me through hard times, all of the people they have stood up to for me, all of the times they could have kicked me out but chose to work through the problems instead, the fact that they don't have to put up with me but are choosing to remain in my life. I know that this family is what I would dream a family would be like and I am extremely grateful they chose me. I know how lucky I am to be a part of their lives and I think this is also why I doubt that I belong because why did I get so lucky?”
Stay tuned next week for the adoptive parents side of the story. How did they make it work, what struggles did they face and overcome?
-A the word changes contributor