A note to my pre-adoptive mom self

note to self

Dear rosy-eyed pre-adoptive mom self,

First, let me start off by saying that your heart is big and your intentions are as noble as you know how to make them at this point of your life. I appreciate your no-fear, go-big-or-go-home attitude. I also know you are as stubborn as they come, so there is a good chance that you will ignore the rest of this letter if you’ve even gotten this far. I pray you read on.

Do you remember that book by Dr. Karyn Purvis that you cast aside because she sounded too wishy washy? Get a copy…not from the library…and keep it handy. One day you will appreciate the paradigm behind it even if you will never have that sweet southern draw that seems to disarm the hardest of kids. Since you’re getting it, review the part where it talks about what institutes a child from a hard place. You don’t know much about your pre-adoption history, but you’ve definitely changed primary caregivers a couple times and bets are on that your birth mom had a stressful pregnancy. Don’t underestimate that. You. Are. A. Child. From. A. Hard. Place.

Remember those anger issues you had as a child? They really didn’t resolve, you just were able to do effective risk avoidance. You won’t be able to do that with kids from hard places in your face all. day. long.

So, that basically covers you. Let’s move on to the kids.

Like I said, your heart is big. Your first instinct will be to treat new adoptees with love and affection and freedom and choices because those are the things that make you feel safe. Not so with kids from extended trauma. You may want to consider running their lives more like an institution for a while so they’re only working through one culture shock at a time. Don’t worry. This isn’t the permanent plan, but you’ll have to follow their lead for when they want to connect—if ever.

The kids you will be bringing into your home have radically different paradigms from you. I could give you examples, but they’re so crazy, you wouldn’t believe me. I’ll let you bump into them as you go. (I mean I can’t take all the mystery out of the next couple years.) Work on radically accepting other people’s paradigms now. The secret sauce to coming out of what you are about to embark on alive is getting it out of your head that you can change your children’s opinions of anything—no matter how right you are. The only comforting thing I have to say is that you will still be right most of the time but none of your kids from hard places will believe that. Accept it now.

Remember all those lectures in school about how you needed to make eye contact, have a firm hand shake, and use proper English to get a job? They were wrong. It’s plain and simple. It may not be the life you would want, but your kids can survive on a surprisingly low quota of soft skills and basic education. Let them set their own bar.

All of this can only happen if you learn how to give up control. I know you are getting twitchy now. I’m sorry. I’m you, so I know how hard this is to read and control is everything to you (told you that you were a kid from a hard place), but you do not want to learn this lesson the hard way. If you’re unwilling to accept this paragraph, at the very least, get really well-versed in PTSD and Compassion Fatigue since that’s where you’re heading.

On faith…you don’t know what it really is yet. I’ll have to leave that at that for now.

Lastly, I know you’re a verbal processor. Set up a secret FB group where you can be your soon-to-be-snarky self in privacy and safety. You’re welcome.

Much love,

Your future post-placement self

Posted in Adoption and Orphan Care.


  1. I totally belong to one of those FB groups that let us be as snarky as we want. What would I do without those ladies.
    This is so me, all over the place. Adoption really is a lesson for the entire triad, is it not?

  2. Pingback: Adoption Prep. Don’t Miss This. – Radical Acceptance

  3. I found a letter I wrote to myself a couple years ago. I actually forgot I wrote it, kind of “if I knew then what I know now” letter. I found it in the car recently and opened it. And BAWLED. I reminded myself to give me Grace upon Grace which I am oh so willing to give to others. It can be healing, encouraging and humbling. Melissa, I love your honesty and your way with words. You are a blessing…
    Oh, and I resealed the envelope and put it back in the car to find another year when GOD knows I need it for myself. Hugs.

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