It is hard to believe I am at the fourth anniversary of my children’s arrival. Looking back, four years ago, there were many times I was at a complete loss and felt isolated and scared. I was not new to adoption, having adopted my oldest daughter as a teenager some years prior. Having successfully navigated the teen years, I did not anticipate the challenges that were to come. Friends and family members were having babies and there were no ready playmates for my then four and six years olds. Those that I knew or encountered with kids close in age to mine had raised them from birth and the challenges they experienced were different. Often, rather than feeling more connected, the lack of shared experience made me feel more alone.
There were times in the first two years, where my children could not sit through an activity for more than 10 minutes. As someone who is not the greatest of planners, this was very hard for me. Trying to come up with enough activities to get through a day could have been my full time job. I remember weekends stretching out for what seemed like forever, and when I felt like I should have earned a medal just for making it to bedtime.
There were two things I really needed at that time; support and things to do with my kids. I am not alone in this need. All parents struggle, regardless of whether their children are biological or not. With adoption, some of the challenges are different. It was a relief when, through the Rio Grande Navigators scouting group, I met others who had or were going through similar struggles. These folks understood what it was like to have a child having nonstop tantrums every Saturday as my daughter struggled with the change in routine. They understood my son's indifference to my authority, and that his not listening was not "bad parenting".
The Rio Grande Navigators is a family-focused scouting group that involves the whole family in monthly scouting activities, called “treks.” Kids get to meet other kids, build friendships, and earn scouting merit badges. Many of our kids struggle socially, however the parent involvement structure of Rio Grande Navigators allows for parents to help facilitate these interactions when appropriate. Parents have the opportunity to meet other parents and build their own support system. The planned activities are interesting and often things the kids would not get to do on their own. I take my kids hiking all the time. But I likely would never have had them build rockets or set up a tour of a fire station. My kids look forward to the activities, though more than that, they are excited to see their friends. Building on the family-focus, each family takes a turn organizing a trek once or twice per year. Kids receive their badges, which they can display on their Navigator hat, twice a year during a formal celebratory Badge Ceremony.
I am not desperate for the activities as I was three or four years ago. We can now enjoy each Navigators trek for its unique experience. But I remember a time, not all that long ago, when something to do for a few hours on a weekend day would have felt like a lifesaver. Though the challenges I have with my kids have decreased, when they arise, it is other Navigator parents that I turn to for support.
I encourage others to participate in the Rio Grande Navigators, or start a Navigator scouting group on your own area, and become a part of our community.