As my kids grow, it has been rewarding to see them develop a style all their own. My kids are all unique and I enjoy each of their idiosyncrasies’. Their interests and personalities are diverse – making life interesting and, at times, difficult when they clash with mine.
My oldest son, Yosef, often has such clashes with his Good-Bad Dad. The fact that he is adopted complicates – and often exaggerates – these differences.
A few simple examples come to mind:
Yosef is slow to act, I tend to run hot.
It’s tough to drum much emotion from him, I am over-sensitive.
He’s generally aloof about most things that I stress about.
I try to embrace his demeanor, his passions and interests – most of which are so very different from mine. I do everything I can to foster those unique passions in the best ways I know how. I try my best to look at these differences as opportunities for me to change.
Doing so is a lot of hard work – an exercise that on some days, is tough to muster-up the energy for. When I don’t commit the energy, I worry that I’m dismissing deeper-seated issues. I get through today’s problem at the cost of recognizing when there may be a deeper, root cause.
The surface level differences are easy to get over. The more embedded, innate, personality-based differences that exist between the two of us are what I struggle to cope with.
While biological parents can face a similar phenomenon, mixing-in the gray area of adoption adds complexity to my divide.
Over nine years removed from the adoption of my son, I should have learned by now that I can’t fight against nature. No matter how great of a dad I work to be, there are certain qualities that I cannot coach into (or out of) my son.
To the extent that I fight his nature, I magnify the differences that exist between Yosef and me.
One of the many reasons that adoption is not for the weak is that most children placed for care were influenced by an environment, interactions and people who the adoptive family will never know.
No report can tell me what my son’s infant eyes saw before placement. No life-book can explain the level of connection that was fractured when his bio-mother made the courageous choice to provide another direction for him. No matter the age, a family of adoption will always be navigating within choppy, unknown waters.
More often than not, I never think about the unknowns that exist in our home. On the not-so-great days with Yosef – when I come face-to-face with the fact that he is struggling – I think of them often.
As he continues to grow up, my son talks about being adopted more – sometimes with curiosity, sometimes in a very matter-of-fact manner, and at all times with a nostalgic adoration that fills me with both pride and sadness.
When Yosef thinks about his biological home and family, I can see the gap that exists between us during those rough days growing. To me, the divide is widening, in part, as he comes to grips with the fact that, in some ways, he is different from the family surrounding him.
There are two actions that can break our impasse. I can figure out how to pole vault over the void created by a rough day or I can remove the taboo of talking about our differences to better bridge the gap.
The latter is my only option – and not simply because I have never pole vaulted or that I’m terrified of heights.
Building the bridge over our divide requires unending construction. There is no doubt my son and I will trip over some jagged slats along the way.
What is important is that we won’t be stumbling in silence – by failing to talk honestly and without consequence about why we have to build the bridge in the first place.
There are no blueprints for this project or deadline for completion. The solution takes hard work that will not go away.
No matter how difficult the path and no matter how wide the gap, my son and I will work through our clashes – we must.
Although we are very different, we are absolutely the same in the qualities that will see us through the rough patches.
These are the same qualities that his bio-mother personified when she created our family – having courage to take on what is difficult with a sense of unconditional love that yields nothing insurmountable.