Adoption and adaptability

Adoption and adaptability
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First Published: Fri, Oct 30 2009. 09 53 PM IST

Updated: Fri, Oct 30 2009. 09 53 PM IST
We have been married for five years. I am 33, my husband is 35 and we’re both government servants. We are childless and I am keen to adopt a child. I’m trying to convince my husband, a caring man and one of my best friends. However, he doesn’t seem interested in adoption, saying, “I don’t feel any urge for a child.” I feel he is apprehensive about the fact that the child will be a stranger to him. What can I do to convince him?
I would like to tell you that your husband’s hesitation is natural and common. Rarely does a couple proceed down the path of adoption without one of them experiencing hesitation and fears. As long as your husband is not full of negative ideas and attitudes about adopted children (some people are), you could both take this further. However, do keep in mind that it is not wrong to feel no urge for a child, as he puts it. This may be a genuine feeling. Some people are also anxious about what it will be like to not share a biological tie with the child.
If you strongly and clearly feel that you would want a child and cannot think of being without one, then you do need to explore the idea of adoption, after communicating to your husband how important it is to you.
A spouse’s initial reaction need not necessarily be the final word. The reservations reflect the hesitant spouse’s awareness of the many issues and nuances involved in the decision to adopt, and the bringing up of that adopted child.
Good adoption agencies have experienced staff and counsellors who will talk to you both about the emotional aspects of considering adoption. Find out which is the most reputed and well-established adoption agency in your region, and go speak to its staff. They may also introduce you to adoptive parents who may share with you their own initial concerns and the joy of adoptive parenting.
The big step: Tell your spouse why adopting a child is important to you.
This is just the initial groundwork for both of you to get a sense of what is involved in adoption and how it could play out. Your discussions need to equally address the reasons for wanting to adopt as well as your husband’s resistance to adoption. In both the long and short run, it is better to discuss the anxieties and doubts, rather than covering them up and rushing headlong into what is perhaps socially the right thing to do, but may not be emotionally right for you as a couple.
Accept that there will be ambivalence for a while. Both could keep an open mind right now—he to the idea of adopting, and you to the idea of remaining childless. And see how you both feel about things.
Do note that you need not and should not swing into “convincing” or “canvassing” mode. All you are doing is putting together information and experiences of other people to help you arrive at a decision and at options best suited to you and your husband.
I am a working woman and the mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy. My husband and I are planning to relocate to Paris for a year in a few months for work-related reasons. We want to take our child with us but he is very attached to his grandparents, who care for him while we are at work. How do I help him settle in at a foreign playschool or crèche minus his grandparents? I am wondering how he will cope.
I would advise you not to be so anxious about how your child will adjust to a new environment. He is at the age when all new inputs are hungrily ingested and processed and he’ll do just fine in whatever new atmosphere he finds himself in, no matter how different it is from what he has experienced so far. Children at this age are tremendously adaptable, so rest assured that the anxiety and sense of uncertainty are mainly an adult worry. However, if you continue being tense, some of that may be picked up by the child, which would be unfortunate.
A parent in a similar situation recently told me: “My three-year-old was nattering away in Japanese after a few months there, and translated for us too! Children cope wonderfully with languages and alien surroundings, much better than us... We had gone from Bangalore to Chicago to Tokyo in those three years, and our child coped with the drastic accent change in English, as well as with a brand new language, Japanese. He also speaks Kannada. And he managed to smoothly switch between languages as the context demanded.”
Let me reiterate, children do fantastically in new surroundings. For them it is not even a matter of “coping”, as it is for us adults—it is nourishment for their budding minds. And, in fact, language learning at this stage is easy for children, unlike the confusing and intimidating chore it is for many of us adults thrown into a new culture!
As for missing grandparents and others back home, it will be the grandparents who will find it difficult and miss him a lot. The child will do fine, as you’ll see. I don’t mean that he will not miss the grandparents and his old surroundings. However, rest assured that he will be so busy and occupied with his new surroundings that the “missing” component will only be a small part of his day.
While your doubts and fears are understandable, I would caution you not to turn what should be seen as an opportunity—not just for you but also for your child—into a threat in your mind. That would predispose your child to be frightened and tentative and shrink from doing the thing that children do most naturally: rushing into new experiences and enjoying-absorbing them quite outside of the grids that we adults tend to think in.
Gouri Dange is the author of The ABCs of Parenting.
Send your queries to Gouri at learningcurve@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Oct 30 2009. 09 53 PM IST