• Erica Rosi Tham

12. Preparing to Adopt as the Coronavirus Shuts Down Seattle

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

We were told there would be a few unexpected hurdles in the adoption process. Then came the coronavirus ...

First, the governor announced public school closures, and the same week, my husband was told to work from home full time.

The next week, restaurants and bars were closed, except for take-out orders.

This week, the governor announced a Stay Home policy, including mandated closure of all non-essential businesses that operate offline, and all gatherings of people, regardless the number. We have been told to stay home and avoid contact with anyone save the people we live with.

It has been a long month.

Meanwhile, we are still assembling paperwork to adopt kids from India, whatever can be done online. Of course, though, we are not over-taxing ourselves. This pandemic is unprecedented, and we all need to relax as much as we can.

Surprisingly, through this disturbing situation, I have discovered a new way of preparing for international adoption—to notice how I feel during these upsetting days in the hopes of having greater patience and compassion when the kids come home.

I teach advanced English skills to professionals, and I mostly work from home and online. As my husband is employed in the tech industry, we are blessed to have both of our jobs intact.

Anyway, long before the coronavirus, I had developed the habit of going out for quite a few walks every day. This has helped me with the downside of being self-employed, the loneliness I feel on slow days between appointments. I know quite a few other walkers by face, and we say hi as we pass.

Of course, nowadays, especially with the governor’s most recent ban on all gatherings, everyone is truly staying on opposite sides of the street. Sometimes, when dogs see their friends or when especially large families are out together, people have to take pains to create space. Some are saying hello loudly to make up for the distance while many are no longer making eye contact at all.

A very fundamental aspect of life has changed. Even as we cooperate and exercise social distancing to curb the spread of the virus, our actions draw out a basic human fear. This is our deep-level fear of each other because we know, sadly, that panicked or estranged people might do anything. And there is a second fear we are all experiencing: the fear of the unknown. We do not know how long this will last or what the repercussions will be.

When we adopt older children, we may not know the full story of their past lives, but we do know that their lives have been unstable and that they have experienced trauma. Their instinct to distrust has been heightened, and they are too young to cope with fear maturely.

How will they feel when they see that the suburban streets are nearly empty compared to the crowded streets of India? How will they feel when the behaviors of neighbors are utterly different, not to mention the differences in physical appearance and clothing? As we now deal with this coronavirus having no certainty of how long it will last or if it will return sporadically during the upcoming years, these kids will experience fear without understanding its nature, knowing how long it will last, or knowing it will end at all. There will be no return ticket in their suitcases, and everything they see will be novel.

Though one part of me balks at thoughts of fear and wishes to push them aside, another part of me listens as I realize the value of experiencing what our adopted kids will feel. When we have actual experiences in our memories, our capacity for empathy increases exponentially compared to the empathy we feel when logically putting ourselves in another’s shoes.

For better or worse, I am not a glass-half-full person. Rather than seeking the positive side of situations, I believe in being honest with myself regarding the emotions I feel and remaining open to the rainbow of experience. I have found that the more honest with myself I am, the more deeply I gain insight from troubling emotions and the sooner they pass.

From this perspective, I urge any of you who are planning to adopt kids, especially older kids, to pay special attention to the emotions that pass through you during these strange and unnerving times. This is an opportunity to feel what the adopted kids will feel during their first months with us when all of life is strange and unpredictable. Accepting the truth of these feelings within us can help us accept our kids.

And as we will care for our kids, God is caring for us, especially when the world feels upside down.

Erica Rosi Tham

189 views0 comments