Adoption remains a topic near and dear to my heart. When this post crossed my path for a guest article, I jumped at the chance. My guest today, Heather, tells a very touching story about how she managed to end up adopting a teenager by accident.
How you might be wondering? Read along and find out.
I don’t know what I was thinking…
For starters, I have done this raising teenagers thing already; I should know better! It is why I have grey hair and stress wrinkles. I managed to survive while raising three. Through some fortunate combination of alchemy, circumstances, perseverance, stubbornness, lots of love and probably a large dose of luck, I survived the ordeal, and they all turned out to be wonderful and amazing functional adults. They also have all moved out and have jobs, and sometimes they pay for dinner now.
This is my 18th year teaching in public schools, and I’m here to tell you, teachers see a lot of things that are pretty sad with their students.
Trust me; it isn’t just teaching the three R’s, then off you go home, done with the day. Some of the situations that our students have to live in day in and day out is enough to make it hard to sleep at night just thinking about it. Teaching is a very mentally challenging field to get into, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you look at the field from a very dry, statistical point of view, the amount of trauma in one classroom is staggering.
Alaska has the highest rate of child abuse and neglect in the nation. Also, Alaska has the highest rate of violent crime, sexual assault and spousal abuse rates in the nation. Alaska is near the top for alcohol and drug abuse as well. Looking across my room full (as in really full, like 30-35 students) of middle or high school students, it is likely that 3 of 10 have experienced some kind of severe trauma in their lives.
But that is depressing; I don’t want to talk about that.
After 18 years of teaching, even though I was occasionally tempted, I had never brought one of my students into my house. There have been times when some of my own kids’ friends thought they lived with us, but that probably happens to everyone. How did I actually end up with an extra kid at this point in my life? I’m an empty-nester! I love my carefree existence! My three children have grown and scattered like dandelion fluff and planted their roots elsewhere.
It happened like this…
I have this one student, who is just the sweetest and hardest worker that has probably ever been in any of my classes. She was one of those that you point out as being the exemplar of what you can do with “98% perspiration and 2% inspiration.” In other words, one of those really rare students that work extremely hard to be successful. This child indeed is a rare gem.
She grew up in foster care. Her mother is a drug addict that lives on the streets, her father has multiple children scattered around with multiple partners, and isn’t that interested in parenting. Granted, she owns that she has made many mistakes in life, and created a few of her own issues. But this girl was trying to make something of her life.
At 15, she was working two jobs and staying in school.
I started spending a lot of time encouraging her to stay the course when she would melt down, and helping her with her online course work. At some point, she figured out that if she doubled up her course load through online learning, she could graduate early and get emancipated so she could get out of her current living situation. She ended up transferring into one of our correspondence school programs to make it easier to flex her schedule around her work hours and completed courses over the summer to get additional courses done.
She continued to come in periodically to get help with math, and to just talk about life.
Just before Christmas break, she was expressing frustration about the fact that her dad was moving to the other side of the Valley (it’s big, so we are looking at a 45-minute drive on winter roads). This was a huge deal as she had to get herself to two jobs and school and at 15 had neither a car nor a license to drive, so it was a rather dire situation for what she truly needed to do.
I asked her if she would be able to house sit for me for three weeks over Christmas, as I was going to be gone. I would pay her to watch the house and the dog, and she could stay in town and work, at least for the interim. Of course, she was happy to do so as it saved her transportation problem for a little while, plus some extra funds as well.
When I returned from my trip my house was clean and my dog was happy.
We had a nice dinner, and she said, “I love your house. It is so clean and quiet and drama free. This is the first time I have felt like I was safe and didn’t have constant stress on my life since I moved in with my father. Is there any way that I could just stay with you for a while?” How could I not say yes?
Living alone in a three-bedroom house I had plenty of space, and could still have a guest room if my other kids wanted to come to visit. Also, she was planning on graduating in the spring (at 16!) and filing for legal emaciation, so I would only have a short time before she was technically an adult. How hard could it be to raise one more teen, you know, for just the next few months!
So, that is how I accidentally adopted a teenager.
For inquiring minds that want to know… she bought a car, got a drivers license (more grey hairs for me!), graduated at the top of her class, AND took her emancipation papers to court and got approved for full legal emancipation at 16 years old. My teenager is now attending college, working, and is living in her own apartment (shared). She plans to join the military when she turns 17.
She is still mine, and I’m happy to claim her! She still comes to me for math help and to talk out her teenager problems. I have my entire clan of kids together in Seattle for Thanksgiving, for which I am feeling so blessed and grateful for, and she even paid her own ticket to fly down to spend the week with the family. So, even though it was an accident, I consider it a lucky accident to have adopted a teenager!
Hi! I’m Heather.
I live in the beautiful state of Alaska, where I have been since 1979, I came to Alaska on a whim when young (18), and somehow, I just never left. I got married and raised a lovely family in the Matanuska Susitna Valley, where I still live. After 30 years of marriage, I found myself suddenly a widow… follow my journey through travel, family, and life for how life begins again after a devastating loss that really changed who I am, and how I see the world on No Flight Plan, No Reservations.
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And grab your freebie on how to Get Lost in Your Child and really engage with them even on busy days. (I’m off to spend the day with the girls before brother gets out for the long weekend.)