Last week, we posted the first half of an interview with John and Camille Wheelock, the parents of nine children, six of whom were adopted. If you didn’t get a chance earlier, we’d encourage you to also check out that post to read about how God has led them and what they want families considering adoption to know.
In ROOTED, we talk about significance of the biblical roles of moms and dads. Camille, how has John’s leadership in the home contributed to the security and development of your kids?
I could go on and on in answering this question, but I will keep it short and to the point. John’s biblical role as a father and his leadership have been crucial to the security and development of our children. I recently asked our thirteen-year-old son Clay about this very subject. Clay was adopted from Guatemala when he was two years old. He stated that John has taught him a great deal about being a man of God. Clay feels very protected by John, and he is grateful that John has taught him so much about the Bible, especially, how to treat girls and women with respect. He said that his daddy taught him that women were also created in God’s image, and that they are to be cherished and honored. They are not to be treated as if they are just objects.
This deeply ministered to my heart, because John is such a man’s man. He stands about six foot five and has a black beard. Yet John’s heart for the Lord is so strong. A father’s role with his children is more valuable than can be explained.
Could you talk about some of the challenges you have faced in parenting adopted children? How did God meet you in those challenges? If you could talk to parents who are struggling with those challenges, are there a few crucial suggestions or tips that you’d share?
We have faced many different challenges parenting adopted children, but I will focus on a few that are probably the most prevalent.
One thing parents stress over is the bonding. I would tell them just to give it lots of time and patience! As long as you are making every effort possible to love and bond with your child, God will help you with this process. I remember being so hard on myself with this when we adopted Clay years ago. Then, one day we brought another newly adopted child into our family. As we sat on the floor playing with cards and blocks trying to establish a connection with our new child, I looked over at Clay and began to weep. I had no idea how bonded I was to Clay until we were starting the process all over again with a new child. I was truly overwhelmed by the love I had in my heart for Clay.
Another challenge in parenting our adopted children revolves around their education. With our internationally adopted children, assimilating to the English language was a mountain they had to overcome. We chose to homeschool our daughter Galina for the first year and a half. It was the best decision for her for many reasons. Galina was not ready for any type of education until she learned what it meant to be in a family. We only did light school work in the beginning as we focused on bonding and learning English. I remember teaching her the English words for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I can recall one day she cried over just how difficult the words alone were for her to learn.
However, Galina did so well in that first year and a half. She bonded well with our family, and eventually made up three grade levels in one year! It was a truly miraculous day when we found out she tested in at her grade level at an academically challenging Christian classical school. Only God could have written a story like that. Our children adopted domestically did not have the challenge of learning a new language, but they did have school gaps, and one of our sons is severely dyslexic. It has been years of praying, testing, and trying new programs all designed to help our son reach his full potential. It has been a huge challenge, but watching him meet his goals is rewarding each and every day.
There are other challenges as well, but I do not have the time to go into detail on each one. A few that stand out in my mind are behavioral challenges, sibling relationships, proper communication, parenting emotional needs of children from hard places, and connection. While I do not have the space to go into detail on each to these, I will briefly speak on what we have found to be helpful in raising children from hard places. Here are a few of our tips and suggestions:
- Make sure that God is in the center of everything in the home. From the way we talk to one another, to the things we allow in our home through television and media. A truly God-centered home creates an environment of peace for our children.
- Love God and others just as the Lord has commanded us to do. Of course this is hard, but if we truly love the Lord and require our children to speak to one another with kindness and respect, our home will be full of peace and joy. Are we perfect at this? No. But it is our greatest desire that our home would be a rich fragrance that would be pleasing to the Lord.
- Focus on maintaining a strong marriage. Our children comment how safe and secure they feel with John as the head of our home, and they feel peace knowing how much we love one another. I always say that a strong and Godly marriage is the greatest gift you can give to your children. We have had numerous hard days, but we always come together with a commitment first to the Lord, and then one another to work through anything that comes our way.
- We cannot stress enough the importance of communication and family connection! We have eleven people in our family, and we talk about EVERYTHING going on in one another’s lives. You may wonder what this looks like. Well, family dinners are important to us, and we take time to talk to each child about the details of their lives. Each child has the chance to speak about challenges they are facing, good things about their day, and about how school is going. These talks are not just over dinner, but in the car and during other parts of our day. For example, Clay (age 13) knows to pray for Galina (age 19) as she awaits decisions from colleges, and she is praying for him to make a good grade on a test he is nervous about. We ALL prayed last week that Tatiana would pass her driving test (which she did!), and I had 8 other children running over to me after school to see if she had passed. This did not happen overnight, I remember teaching and training our children to ask their daddy how his day was, and remembering to pray for him as he provides for us. Not long after that John told us he had a big land clearing job he was really concerned about. He had specific prayer requests, and the next day our daughter Macey asked how his day had gone. She said she hoped it was ok, because she spent 30 minutes praying that he would have a good day. This melted our hearts knowing she had prayed so fervently for her daddy. When John eventually arrived home, all of the things Macey prayed for had come to pass. We are not a perfect family, but we do love one another deeply.
- Keep things in order. Our God is a God of order, and we must work hard to keep order in place in our homes. John and I both feel that children must first be required to love and respect their parents, and then their siblings before they can love and respect others. We are beginning to see fruit in our teenagers that have grasped this concept within our family. Fighting to keep order (our children being deeply connected first to God, followed by parents, family and friends) has been a battle worth fighting. In other words, do not be surprised when you find out that your child is disrespecting a teacher, particularly when he is allowed to be disrespectful to mom and dad at home. This order is important!
I hope this has been a blessing to families. Again, we are so far from perfect, and we are completely dependent on God each and every step of this journey. We are passionate about helping other adoptive families, and I pray that through this, you will receive hope and guidance.