Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios
This article originally appeared in Axios Finish Line, our late-night newsletter about living, driving, and wellness. Register here.
Four years ago, a 14-year-old boy who lost both his parents suddenly fell into our arms, Jim writes.
- We knew Kelvin From earlier years, when he was playing soccer with our biological son. We mostly lost contact.
- Yet it was here, We asked if we would take it. Four days later, his uncle was at our door—box with birth certificate and other papers in hand, and Kelvin in a carriage.
why does it matter: Saturday is National Adoption Day, so I wanted to share our thoughts on the wild—and wildly unpredictable—hop of bringing a new member into our family.
- framework It helped me think of it like a startup: You take a big risk trying a few others, prepare to overcome the ups and downs, depend on others — and realize that failure is very possible, but it’s not an option.
High risk, high reward: Kelvin was in a dark place when we met him – he was rarely in school, and often got into trouble. He suffered from behavioral problems, depression and ups and downs.
- Kelvin “I was lost, insecure, sad, left school and made bad choices,” he said — who is taking his first high school journalism lessons, and helped shape this story — he said.
- But flash From a tender heart, an examining mind and a genuine concern for others lighted the way to hope.
The long view: During Kelvin’s three travels through inpatient treatment centers in three states, we often worried that we were putting too much stress on our two other children and our marriage.
- Nobody changes quickly. Especially a child who feels unloved, unwanted, and unknown. You have to prepare for the very difficult moments and believe that small things will make a big difference one day.
- “I never spoke about my father’s death. “I had to pretend it never happened,” Kelvin says. “It pissed me off because I was keeping everything inside. So when I popped, I really popped.”
Get the basics right: When starting and running a couple of companies, I obsessed with the founding core being strong, and then relied heavily on it when bad times hit.
- Adoption is similar. You need to have a clear set of boundaries and expectations, teach them and live them for yourself, and anchor them tightly in the mess.
Love is your secret sauce: You have to say it and show it relentlessly. You have to invoke the truest form of unconditional love: expect no reciprocity in the short term.
- You have to imagine Loss of both parents or feeling completely abandoned. It makes love seem elusive, unattainable. The door to a happy practical life does not open until one allows love. Only then can one show it.
- Often anger Drugs, escapism are simply cries for love, a person who does not yet know how to experience it. Hold on to that.
Team building: My wife and I, might have stumbled if we had not made a large network of friends and family–our other children, who have risen heroically up to this point; Kelvin’s extended biological family, who remained involved; A wonderful healer and generous friends.
- Kelvin says His world began to turn for the better on his sixteenth birthday, when his biological uncle, then us and then Kelvin himself, gave tearful toasts to the slow but steady progress. “It was the first time I ever felt true love,” said Kelvin. “I felt like it was reset.”
Never lose hope: Kelvin just turned 18. He’s getting good grades, becoming a star on his high school’s football team and acting (mostly).
- but most importantly, Feel and show love. He speaks confidently of his journey, is filled with gratitude, and lights up a room with his kindness and cheerfulness.
The Big Picture: There will be many twists and turns to this story. But this is absolutely certain: Autumn, our other two kids, and I all count adding Kelvin to our family of 5 as the best and most important thing we’ve ever done.
Here is the biggest surprise: You often get more, grow more, and feel more from the person you’re with. Even in the most painful moments, beautiful things are revealed.