My 3 ½-year-old son is squarely in his toddlerhood. He is at the age where he is super cuddly, sweet and playful; he gives the best hugs and kisses; he’s super fun to play with and chase; and he is also right in the center of one of the hardest tantrum years. Yea – forget the terrible twos, anyone who had a toddler child will tell you the threes are where it’s at. He challenges us daily. He is very demanding now about what he wants, which is great that he is seeking out his independence but not so great when we try to get him to do anything where he has a different agenda than ours.
If he doesn’t get what he wants when he asks for it you can guarantee there will be lots of whining, manipulating, begging and often crying. All of that is annoying as heck but stuff that I can handle. It’s the escalated version of this tantrum which follows, not always, but on occasion, that is concerning to me. If a tantrum goes too far or if our son feels physically threatened in any way he is flat out violent and completely out of control with physical rage. He will try to hurt me (or my husband, or whoever else is ‘threatening’ him or getting in his way) and it is all we can do to hold our son down to keep him from hurting us during these times. It’s a crazy wrestling match between me, a grown adult, and my boy, a 34 pound toddler. When I’m alone with him during these times it takes all of my physical strength to ward off my son’s blows and bites and it terrifies me to know that if he gains just a few more pounds he might actually start winning these matches! Both my husband and I have consulted with our parents about his violent tantrums to ask if either or us had ever given them any trouble is this area in our childhoods and neither us (nor our siblings) had been so violent. We certainly were not angels in our toddlerhood but we were not violent children; this territory is completely unfamiliar to us and our families. Our son’s very demanding and aggressive behavior has led me to utter the phrase more than once to my husband “If this were our biological child we would not be dealing with this!”
This statement causes my husband to roll his eyes at me. I’m aware that it is completely ludicrous and completely unfair to our son’s birth parents. The stone throwing quote from the Bible fully applies here completely even though I’m am not one to normally quote the Bible: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 This most simply translates to: my genetic history isn’t perfect either so basically shut my pie hole! But I don’t care about any of this rational sometimes. What I want is to scream out at the top of my lungs, “I HATE THIS! I’m not equip to deal with this behavior and I didn’t ask for this! A biological child of mine would NOT be acting like this!” I want to blame someone for my adopted child’s violent and demanding behavior because deep down I think it might somehow make me feel better and less like an inadequate parent who has no idea how to deal with her child.
But my logical rational knows something different. I’m well aware that traits in children can sometimes come out of nowhere. Parents with no family violence in their history can have a violent biological child. Parents who are perfectly healthy have disabled children, kids with autism, kids with ADD, or any number of any undesirable traits that they didn’t expect. One may not ever know where a characteristic of a child comes from. But even if our son’s violent tendencies do come from his birth family, who am I to cast the first stone.
I begrudgingly remind myself that had we had our own biological child we might not be dealing with anger management issues true, but rather a whole slew of other problems and there would be nobody to blame. There would likely be autoimmune issues, skin cancer issues, tendencies toward depression and other mood disorders, horrible acne in the teenage years, infertility issues later in life, just to name a few things on my side alone. And what then? Pointing fingers at myself or my spouse for these things would be completely unproductive.
What I am trying to learn as a parent, not just as an adoptive parent, is that there is no room for blame in parenting. Yes, some traits might be inherited from the birth family, in which case, can an adoptive parent of an open adoption swallow their pride and touch base with the biological family members to work together to come up with possible solutions for their child? If the adoptive parent does not feel comfortable approaching the birth family, or does not have access to the birth family, what can they do in the present to help their child? We must use all resources available to us; and like all families, biological or not, we must learn to accept what is in a person, without blame, and move on from there and try to focus our attention on the bright side: marveling at how amazing it is that each or our children are all their own very unique persons.