Wedding Woes

Luna v. your own kid is apples v. oranges

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I (mid-30s, hetero couple) took in our niece (14 at the time) when my estranged sister-in-law passed during the pandemic. My husband and I enthusiastically got married sooner than planned so we could legally adopt “Luna” together, despite the challenges we knew we’d face. Now she’s about to turn 18 and graduate high school in the next few months. I love Luna so much. I consider her my daughter and enjoy my time with her, but it’s been exhausting learning to parent on Level 100. We’ve struggled to find a balance between comforting and supporting Luna through her grief and unrelated PTSD, ADHD, anxiety, and social challenges while still trying to teach her responsibility, accountability, and respect. The last year has been especially rough with Luna’s drug experimentation, ditching classes, yelling at teachers, and general neglect of her schoolwork and chores. We’ve read many books and tried many parenting tactics, but nothing seems to make a difference long-term.

Recently, Luna expressed that she wants to leave when she turns 18 and live with her older brother and his family since they’re her “real” family she feels guilty for leaving behind. We’ve always wanted to be parents, but we don’t feel like that’s who we are in Luna’s eyes (and that’s truly understandable since we’re not trying to replace/forget her biological parents in any way). However, we’ve been struggling with fertility. Part of me wonders if we should have more kids since we seem to enjoy our time best when Luna is off with friends, our parenting styles are pretty different, and the last three years have been so chaotic. My mom and most trusted people all say we’re good parents and it’ll be easier the next time around since we’ll build a foundation of values and expectations rather than “course-correct” from SIL’s questionable choices. I don’t want to go through IVF or other invasive fertility treatments, so we’ve been considering fostering/adoption. Wouldn’t the same/similar issues still exist? I always knew parenting would be hard, but now I’m wondering if I have what it takes to do it “for real” this time. Help!

—Dating With a Potential Dealbreaker

Re: Luna v. your own kid is apples v. oranges

  • Is the LW and her husband in counseling?  Is Luna?  I hope at least Luna has been.  But couples counseling will be helpful to the LW/spouse also, especially with a weighty question like this.

    I hate to say it, but there's a high chance a foster child will be more challenging to parent also.  Even a young child.  These are things they need to discuss with a therapist and I'm sure there are also resources within the foster care program for their area.  They might find they are ready for those extra challenges, but they need to make an informed decision and be 100% certain about it.

    Or maybe they discover they are only ready to adopt an infant.  There's nothing wrong with that either.  Though that certainly has its own challenges and possible heartbreaks also.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • I think this notion that it will be easier because we'll do it right from the beginning is naïve at best. But also, "we are best when Luna is off with friends and our parenting styles are pretty different" is a caution flag.
  • The fact that you adopted Luna and don’t consider that “for real” parenting is a huge problem. She may not consider you her parents but if you adopted her, legally, you are. But even you don’t seem to see yourself that way. 

    You need some family counseling before you consider more children because the way it sounds you’re no where need prepared to bring another child, biological or not, into your house. What if a biological child has learning disabilities, or physical disabilities? What if they don’t progress the way you expect? Are you just going to have another and start over? 
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