I am going to state the obvious here. We are an adoptive family. We have adopted 6 of our 8 children and they have all come in sets of two. I will tell you that I love my adopted children just as much as my biological children. In fact, I just love my children. However, loving and parenting are two different things. I love them equally, but I must parent them uniquely.
Raising these children has been quite a ride and I do mean a very twisty roller coaster ride. Most of my adopted kids have experienced varying levels of neglect. Some neglect severe enough that at first the children had no desire for physical touch or refused any eye contact. Reactive Attachment Disorder stopped in for a dance at our house. A lot of my children have been exposed to, experienced or were pretty much totally traumatized, from the domestic violence in their homes of origin. All of my adopted children are dealing with loads of grief and trauma from losing everything they have ever known or loved to be sent to our home. I also have biological children who asked for and agreed to every adoption -- even after strapping in for the roller coaster ride more than once. They wanted all the children as much as Jerome and I did.
So, if you saw us at Walmart or the grocery store, we would probably look pretty normal. But how this plays out in the day to day life at home is all but "normal" in the sense of "normal" that most families would have. I am not the only one -- I read a few blogs that keep me inspired from Moms like me who are doing their best. There is a plethora of books and websites and researchers who deal with adoptive families and things like ODD, ADHD, RAD, PTSD... and a lot of other initials.
I would like to give you a little peek at some things we have come across with various children at various times over the past 9 years.
Pee = Power You know you can never control what goes in or what comes out of a child. Believe it or not urinating is a huge tool for a kid feeling a ton of loss. Bed wetting is par for the course, but I am talking about wetting on purpose when fully awake well after potty training years.. Like, when the child is really mad, or maybe you have an important appointment, or you have just walked into a place with a "no public restrooms" sign up.
Food Food issues tend be high on the list. We have experienced gorging until vomiting. Stealing food or candy in the middle of the night and HYPER focus on food. Also, hoarding or hiding food in the bedroom.
Resistance Sounds like normal kids not wanting to obey. However, it is beyond that. Left is right, black is white, all day long to the extreme. If I say sit down for dinner, a child may approach the table. Sit in your chair please, may mean the child will kneel or squat in their chair. All day -- every request -- it's pretty tiring.
Screaming Lots of screaming. Very loud, very long, very ugly.
Destruction Meaning that if the kid is having a bad or mad day, something is going to get broken.
Manipulation Wow,this one is subtle. The most amazing thing is how young children can work this one. They can say anything sweet and nice and bammo! Everything turns around in a minute. Anyone outside the family sees all the sweet nice, very compliant, very sweet child. Even Jerome gets a different view -- when he pulls out of the driveway for work; the gloves are off. Very frustrating trait when teaching school. Do they know the answer -- or do they just want to work me today? Here's a great example. Counting --I have watched this child count all the time. Can you give me two clothespins?, one? this time three? She can do this with no problem. Ask her to do this in a "school" setting. It is like she never heard it before.
Strange Talking It can be hard to get a straight answer out of some children. After awhile I am not sure what we are talking about. Random talking about strange things -- keeps people at a comfortable distance.
Chaotic Thinking When your brain has laid down some of its growth in very chaotic circumstances, that chaos doesn't necessarily disappear. Some children have to be told over and over again to work one thing at a time -- finish! -- before taking up another task. It can be difficult for them to "think of something to do". At times they can't seem to develop their own person. They can just wander around doing what other people do.
If I think hard enough I could probably make a longer list. My point in writing this post is not to complain about my kids, but hopefully to educate those who haven't considered the challenges of parenting traumatized kids, or maybe encourage some other families -- you are not alone.
So why do it? Why adopt kids with problematic backgrounds? They are worth it. There is no other answer. When I think of what Christ did for me on the cross I know that loving children with challenges is a small thing. I was not worth it, my behavior was not looking promising .. but he died for me and he took my place on a cross before I could understand that I needed him to do it. So, every kid is worth the "hard" it takes to raise them.
I have another list in my head too. It's those moments that tell me that despite my weak abilities, healing is occurring. Like the time my son looked me in the eye with a smile and instead of saying those little "I Love You" words that we hope for he said, "Mama, YOU love ME!!!"
Yes, I do, I most certainly do.