Monday, November 11, 2013


Living a life with a child who has experienced early trauma is hard.  As a parent you spend your days wavering between frustration and joy.  I wrote a while back about the Fringe Benefits of this life where I talked about the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I think it also gives you perspective.

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It is heavily passed through my family through genetics.  It is interesting that while a bunch of us have it on my mother's side, we all have a different "Strain" of it.  My OCD tends to lean toward the obsessive side of the spectrum.  I fret, worry, and ruminate.  Medication has helped tremendously, but oddly enough I think living the life I do has helped as well.

There were times prior to adoption that the biggest concern I had was a sink full of dishes.  I would fret and worry about messes that seemed organized to other people.  It is funny that life now is rarely organized or neatly arranged in any way shape or form and please  don't look at my toilets!

When you consider the atrocities that were inflicted upon my child prior to him coming to our home, it makes those things seem foolish.  It has been my own version of exposure therapy.  Battling demons is hard work and also tiring.  It leaves little desire to make sure things are completely stored away in their neat little labeled bins.  It is all about perspective.  

That is why it is so difficult for me to get bent out of shape about things that seem to hold little importance.  My two bio children had parent teacher conferences this past week.  My son is brilliant and yet struggles with following through with the minor details.  You know, details like turning in work that has been done.  Teachers were appropriately bent out of shape about this and I had to muster up some concern for my face.  It's not that I am not irritated that he doesn't do turn everything in even when it is done, it is just such a small thing in my perspective.  My daughter struggles with homework.  It is hard for me fight with her over busy work that really serves no purpose other than making her do the same skill 42 times on a double sided paper.  She excels on tests and does amazingly well on her state testing and evaluations, but routinely fails her homework.  That tells me that she grasps the concepts and is absolutely unable to make herself take her time on the unnecessary busywork.  She shares my OCD and I can she her rebelling against what she believes to be ridiculous amounts of repetition.  It is all about perspective.

You see, living in our house is not the typical situation.  These kiddos deal with trauma, anxiety, hollering, mental illness and all the drama that ensues.  It is not the ideal situation.  When they were younger, they really didn't know that our home was any different.  They took the door alarms and cameras in stride.  They didn't know that other kids don't have to endure an hour long fit from their big brother that includes a restraint.  They had no idea that the police didn't have to chase other kids through the neighborhood in their underwear.   As they have gotten older, they are realizing that this life is not NORMAL in any way.

While it has taught them tolerance, I think it also has made them angry.  I have a hard time forcing homework and freaking out about a grade that is a B when I know they are capable of an A.   It might be a dangerous view, but I highly doubt that a D on a science project in 4th grade will effect their future.  

I am grateful for this perspective.  I have a feeling that I would be a helicopter parent if I had not been given the blessing of learning to CHILL OUT.  I think I simply have to learn to balance it and make sure more things are followed through on.  It is an important skill for them to learn, I just don't pretend that they should have it all mastered by now.  

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Adoption Month

This will likely be all over the place.  I have no idea where this will end up so please forgive my wandering.

November is National Adoption Month.

Let's state the obvious, Adoption is life changing.  People focus on the sacrifice that we adopted parents make.  The way we graciously open our home to an "orphan".  The way we give them a better life than they would've had without us.  How generous we are.   Love can and will fix everything.

That, my friends, is a pile of crap. 

Adoption is born from ruin.  It is ugly.  It is loss, something that if we were honest we wished would never have to happen.  It comes from pain.  It is unnatural. 

All those things being true it is still wonderful and loving.  It is done out of a spirit of helpfulness.  It is kindness and mercy.  It is a necessary evil. 

It is not a decision I regret. 

It is not at all what I expected.  It is messy.  It is hard.  It is gut wrenching. 

Working through the pain that my child suffered and the indelible scars they left behind is not easy.  It is not generous and it does not make me a saint.  It makes me a warrior.  I wish there were things I never knew.  I wish I didn't immediately go to "that place" when someone shares that they are pursuing adoption. 

I fear that they are going in blind like we did.  I fear that they are thinking they are going to have a short period of adjustment and all will be well.   I fear that others in their home will be adversely effected.  I fear that they will lose their ideal image of adoption. I fear that they think that most times love is enough.

And if I am honest with myself, I what I fear most is that their love will be enough while mine wasn't.

I fear that I drew the short stick and their life will be peachy.  I fear that I will share a small portion of our ugly with them to try to prepare them and then the get flowers and hearts instead of stinky fish and garbage to wade through.   I fear they will think I am crazy.  

I also fear that I am right, and they will experience the hard part of loss.  Their child will have attachment resistance and will struggle with e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.  I fear being "right" because that means another child and another family will have to wade through the muck of early trauma.  I fear that their chemistry, their brain is forever altered by the loss they have experienced.   I fear we will add another parent into the "trauma momma" fold and another child will have to live with the repercussions of mistakes the adults in their life have made. I fear that a child suffers. 

My family has been forever changed by adoption.   I have learned to be a fighter, an advocate, and a learner.   My children have learned  compassion and tolerance for others.  I have experienced more heartache than I knew existed.  I have also experienced more joy.  I have friends that AMAZE me daily.  I have become a part of an amazing community who hold one another up when we think we can no longer continue.  I have traveled across the country to be in the presence of women who understand.  I have met moms who are warriors and children who are conquerors.   I have met those still deep in the battle and I have met those on the other side.

I have made mistakes.  I have been forgiven.  I have learned it is not about me.  I have learned that no one really knows what we go through unless you live it daily.   I understand that you still think I am crazy.

And that is ok.

I don't really want you to understand.  I want you to reach out and help.  I want you to make a meal for a family in your circle who has adopted.  I want you to ask if you can take their child to a movie.  I want you to understand when they pull into themselves. I want you to not give up on them when they cannot socialize as often as before.   I want you NOT to say they are special, or awesome or a saint, because likely they are feeling precisely the opposite.  I want you to drop by with wine and chocolate and not blink twice when the house is a disaster or smells like pee.   Come over and ask to help with laundry.  Ask to play catch in the yard with their child so they can take a freaking nap without being hyper vigilant.

Never forget that scars from early trauma and issues with attachment do not show on the outside.  Please, for the love of all that is holy, understand that they will likely be wonderful, kind, perfect children for you because you are not the parent.  You are not trying to take over that spot in their life that holds so much pain, so much loss.  You are not the object of their difficulties.  Please don't judge the parent when you simply can't see it. I promise they are not crazy.  I promise you won't get it.  And that is ok.  Just know it.