shall ever remain--or so it seems.....
It seems this craziness shall ever remain. I crave sanity in my life. When will my world become normal? Dare I even hope for that? Raising difficult children is almost more than I can do. This is not what I signed on for. I wasn't warned about this. Don't get me wrong. Before we applied for adoption, I had been a school teacher for nearly fifteen years. My sister worked in Children's Protective Services, and another sister had been a foster mom. I knew raisiing children wasn't a piece of cake, even when they are your natural children. Foster care and adoption were sure to add their own challenges.
But this! My life's a psychiatric ward! I didn't realize the impact that foster care and adoption have on children. Both my children are scarred from events that took place before they were old enough to form the words to express their feelings. The effects of abuse and neglect are not erased just because they are adopted into a loving family. Rest assured of that. Be sure your friends who want to adopt know that. Adopted children come with baggage and need counseling to deal with the baggage. I wish the social workers had expalined that to me. I love my adopted children as much as any mother does, whether natural or adopted.
Part of their baggage is the fact that they almost invariably feel abandoned by their mother or father or both. I wish I had known how strongly these factors affect adopted children. I would have had them constantly in therapy from a young child. We did get them therapy, but not enough for my daughter and not as soon as I should have for my son. Ah, the things we look back on with regret. As they say, hind sight is 20/20.
Watching those you love make harmful choices is heartbreaking. Feeling powerless to help is a searing pain. Just as I feel that I will never feel joy again, one of them does something that makes me smile, and fills my heart with life-giving hope. That is what keeps me going as a warrior mom, a mom who fights for her children's welfare, for their own health and sanity.
December 24, 2008
Our daughter continued to make bad choices during her teenage years, and we eventually had to ask her to leave at age nineteen. However, she's a survivor and managed to find a place to stay. Eventually, she married and gave me a beautiful grandson. Things for her are better, but she is still far from responsible enough for her age. She could be a lot worse off. She made dangerous choices, but not as bad as they could have been. She showed more common sense than I gave her credit for at the time. Of course, you don't assume those things when you have a teenager who lies and steals and rebels at every turn. I imagined the worst and have been relieved to find out that she was never in as much danger as I had thought.
My son did get counseling, though I wish it had been sooner, before all the chaos that was part of his first ten years of his life with us. He actually suffered from Attachment Disorder. If you look that up, you'll likely quake in your boots if you plan to adopt children. It's a very serious disorder that affects children who were abused at a very early age. They learn when they're still very young to not trust adults to take care of them since they've been neglected and abused. They only trust themselves. They insist on being in charge and are defiant to an unbelievable degree. My son could not love me as his mother until he had much therapy in that regard. The therapy included in-office therapy by a specialist in Attachment Disorder and home therapy designed to help him bond with me.
Though he was ten years old, we spent a specific amount of time every day just cuddling and talking about how mothers love their children. It was a specific routine the threapist prescribed. We would always have a piece of chocloate of some kind. (That was part of the routine.) I would let him snuggle up to me, or lay his head in my lap. I would tell him how much I loved him. Most importantly, I would gently tell him that mothers know how to take of their children, that I knew what was best for him. I would assure him that I would always protect him and do what was best for him, but I would emphasize that mothers know what's best. Children need to obey their mothers because mothers know how to take care of their children. I would be in charge of when we had our time together, and I would always be the one to end it. That reinforced the concept that I was in charge. It was a fascinating routine. Each part of it was integral to its success.
Believe it or not, this was a turning moment in our lives. Over time, he began to bond with me and feel a genuine affection for me as his mother. We learned from the specialist how to handle his behavior, and he learned how to be "responsible, respectful, and easy to be around." That was the motto she taught him. That was the goal he aimed for. And he made it too.
Connected to Attachment Disorder, you will find names such as Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer. Thankfully, my son got excellent help from a counselor who specialized in AD. She taught me how to deal with Tony and his problems. She taught him how to better manage his behavior. Most importantly, she taught him how to love me as his mother. This child who had given me two black eyes by the time he was ten years old now kisses me on the cheek at bedtime and asks me how my day went when I come home from work.
I would never discourage a couple from adopting. The rewards are amazing. I would, however, caution them to learn more about what might be ahead for them. These problems are not rare. They are commonplace. They are the rule, not the exception. And I would beseech them to give adopted children counseling, whether they see the symptoms or not. I didn't see the symptoms with my daughter. Her disturbance was much deeper, and she held her feelings close to her chest. Her rebellious behavior started with puberty and just worsened with time. Had she had a red flashing warning light on her forehead, maybe I would have realized what she was holding in. Unfortunately, children aren't equipped with those things, and most parents aren't psychology majors. It's important that the counselor be experienced particularly with foster care and adopted children since their situations have specific challenges.
I'm glad I can give you an encouring follow-up to my orignal post. At the time, it was most difficult for me to believe it would turn out as well as it has. Fortunately, I had a good support system of family, friends, and church family (and a really top-notch counselor). Without them, I would surely have collapsed under the strain. Today I have a precious grandson and a sixteen-year-old son who is learning to drive. He's a good kid and gives me no problem other than being a typical teenager.
Times like those I suffered through can shake your faith, and mine was shaken. It's easy to have faith when things are going well. During the really rough patches, encouraging friends can make all the difference.