“Why did we even adopt the boys?”
This was the question my six year old son asked me yesterday. We were driving home from school and J was clawing at him, trying to pull his hair and blowing some really impressive raspberries that Caleb did not appreciate. This is totally normal. Car rides are the worst and particularly for Caleb if he is sitting in between the boys.
I was slightly caught off guard by his question. I say slightly because he and I have had conversations before regarding the boys behavior toward him. One evening after a few stories, I was laying next to Caleb before bedtime and he asked me why they were “so mean to him”. I know this is hard for Caleb. He’s been the youngest for a long time and had two very sweet, accommodating and patient sisters. On one hand I recognize this IS difficult for Caleb. He’s only six. At the same time I see tremendous opportunity for growth in his character. Of course it’s hard for him, he’s never been challenged in this way. He’s never had to love the hard to love. I reflect on when Jesus instructs his disciples, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” Luke 6:32 NIV Caleb is not the only one who is getting exposed here, our whole family is. Because trust me, I struggle to parent children that are unkind to my other children. I’ve never dealt with that, and it’s tough. In those moments I forget their past and their trauma when they are being so mean spirited to Caleb. Or me.
After a few moments of silence Caleb began answering his own question. “Is it so they can learn to not be mean and to stop saying no all the time to you, mommy?” Six year old minds. 🙂 I responded, “Caleb, the boys have been hurt. Hurt by their mommy and daddy, hurt by all their moving around. They act the way they do because they are hurt. And Jesus calls us to love them even when they are unkind to us. And yes, I do hope they will learn to be nice and obedient from living with us and seeing how much we love them. I hope they learn how to love because we loved them when it was hard.” That seemed like a good enough answer for Caleb. How do you translate the gospel in six year old terms?!
When we got home I suggested he play with J for thirty minutes before doing anything else. Because it was just the two of them this was doable. There are definitely some strong bonds that make it hard when the three of them are together. Caleb is the outsider to them. But when he can get one on one I get little glimmers of hope. Hope that he can love them. Hope that they can bond. Hope that one day all three of them will be a band of brothers.
I will not give up hope.
C and K working on Christmas lists.
Upon hearing that our three year old suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder (a lot of children in foster and adoptive situations experience to some degree attachment issues) I have been on what feels like a Psychology crash course. Maybe you’ve never heard of RAD, maybe you are unfamiliar with attachment disorders. I can not even begin to express the tremendous weight and importance that I now realize proper, healthy attachment holds. The things I naturally and unknowingly was giving to my biological children that make them into the happy whole kiddos they are today. Simple things that I did a hundred times a day and each time forming not only a bond and relationship but the foundations of trust and security. When I nurtured my kids in my womb, giving them proper prenatal care, giving them a safe, peaceful environment to develop in, it all played a critical role in their understanding of felt safety.
These two little guys didn’t receive this. Their life in the womb was considerably neglected. Their first years in this world were harsh to say the least. Every time their needs were ignored their brain was rewiring itself into a state of survival and their emotional stability was being disturbed. Young children have no other option but to trust and rely on their caregivers to meet their needs and when that is disrupted it’s extremely detrimental. The first three years of life in particular are so formative, so critical.
Every time we hold our babies, give them food, change their diapers. Every time we get them out of bed in the morning when they wake. Every time we smile and coo with them. Every book we read. The times we swing them or dance with them in our arms. The times we give them structure and discipline that they can depend on. Every time we make eye contact. Every brief touch or long hug. I knew all this mattered, but I didn’t realize how much until now. Now that I’ve seen the effects of its absence.
And I’m a scared mom wondering if they can recover.
It’s not a simple fix by any means. It’s not a matter of giving them those touches and meeting those needs and wants. Because the effects have caused them to distrust and act in ways in an effort to keep a safe distance. What happened in those first few years legitimately effected the way their brain works. They have to ensure their survival and self preservation. They have to be in control. Of everything. Adults have neglected them, left them, failed them. They don’t realize they are safe and loved here and can trust us. They don’t even have the communication and developmental skills to process all they’ve been through. But they KNOW.
This is hard for them.
This is hard for us.
Its hard to give and love and nurture and be met with opposition and screaming and fits of rage. To be hit or spit on and told “Don’t touch me!” I wonder how so much anger can come out of such little bodies? And even in what I’m learning and understanding about attachment I still fail in my responses. I become impatient, frustrated, and defeated. I wonder if I have what it takes? Do we have what they need? And what exactly DO they need? My former naive self thought “love is all they need”. Love and affection and a safe home. To an extent that is true but I’m learning what they need is so much more complex. And it’s been exhausting trying to parent.
Enter the Holy Spirit whispering His Word.
“My grace is sufficient for you……” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Enter encouraging words from another author/blogger, Abigail Dodds, “Elisabeth [Elliot] was right, “God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.” And what we do need now, we do have now: God the Father’s loving, sovereign hand working all things for our good (Romans 8:28); Christ the Son as our advocate, Savior, and righteousness (1 John 2:1; Philippians 3:20; 1 Corinthians 1:30); and the Holy Spirit’s intercession, help, and comfort surrounding us day by day (Romans 8:26–27).”
This is for me.
This is for our boys.
This is for our family.
I bought J a “taggy” hedge hog. Well actually my mother in law purchased it but we were checking out at Belk and I could not resist this adorable stuffed hedge hog and J has a thing for tags. In some of my researching I recall an author (likely from the book Parenting the Hurt Child) comparing hurt children to hedge hogs. I’ll allow this little snip from an article to explain:
“When a hedgehog is calm, their quills are in a relaxed position. It is at this time that a hedgehog can be held without worrying about the sharp quills……
A scared or angry hedgehog is another story though since the quills are raised and tend to point in all directions. Trying to handle a hedgehog in this defensive posture is sure to be a prickly experience…..” (Taken from article at The Spruce Pets)
And thus, we have two little scared hedge hogs that we want to promote a sense of calm and trust and safety deep within them.
Please pray we would be directed to the right material, services, and professionals that can inform, equip, and assist us in helping these boys continue the healing process.
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many……..
On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
1 Corinthians 12:14, 22-26 ESV
We studied this passage in Sunday school this morning. It’s a pretty familiar one but it struck me like I was reading it for the first time. Maybe it was Jake’s carburetor analogy. He was showing us this little teeny tiny piece, an air screw, that allowed the carburetor to even work. Not only did you have to have the piece but it had to be set just right or the carburetor would not work. Paper weight.
I loved it.
Its got me thinking though. We live in a VERY individualistic society. A society that kind of says if you can’t do it yourself you probably shouldn’t do it. The biblical model of relying on others to accomplish things flies in the face of a “you can only rely on yourself” kind of world. And the thing that really stood out to me in this passage is, “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” And in the NIV translation it goes on to say, “while our presentable parts need no special treatment.” Basically I take that to mean the parts that stand out, the ones we see in the forefront and spotlight, maybe even the people that we view as the “super Christians”, they need no special treatment and they can not do what they do with out the “less honorable” parts upholding them. And actually, those “less honorable parts” really deserve the highest honor because their role is SO important. They are indispensable.
Jason and I answered the call to care for orphans and vulnerable children through foster care. Many people think we are special angels and they could never do what we do. I don’t want it to sound like I don’t appreciate the encouragement but we are not special. We are totally normal. And I wish people would quit thinking we are special because I’m starting to wonder if they even understand how much help we need. How we can’t do this alone. And currently we are desperately trying! Often I have thought to myself, “Lord, I KNOW you have called us to these children. But why have you called a family that has such limited local support??”
I think I know why.
I think he intends to use us to invite others along on our journey. To invite other parts of the body of Christ.
Some may look at us and think “Wow! Look at what they are doing. What an amazing role they are playing in the body of Christ.” But honestly, sometimes….. we feel like we’re missing our air screw.
Maybe you couldn’t do what we do. Maybe that is because God meant for you to play a different part. A more INDISPENSABLE part. Maybe you’re an air screw. 🙂
Please take a moment to watch this short video. And if you are interested in pursuing the call to care for orphans in some capacity I welcome questions and would love to direct you as best I can.
Whenever this much time has passed between writings I just start to miss it!! I love writing so much. But it does require time and right now my spare time is so limited. I so badly want to squeeze it in but when I start a new post I just realize the deep, honest, heart felt posts rarely can be put together in 20 minutes. Once in a blue moon that has happened to me but typically I need a couple hours to sit, process, edit, and read 20 times.
I have so much on my heart! God is not failing in teaching me new things and refreshing my mind on stuff I’ve known for years. I’ve started two other blogs but they just aren’t ready and yet I still desperately want to post something. Maybe it’s because it’s Friday night and Jason is still at work and the kids are settled down, some asleep, one just woke up from a nap at 7:30(what?!?!) I’m past the point of wanting to clean or fold laundry and well, lets call it what it is, I’m bored! So this will be a mixed bag sort of update.
Our life is crazy right now. I just can’t even get into it. The boys have started going to therapy which is such an unexpected blessing for me. Their therapist is a Christian and a fellow foster mom. She gets it and I love her. We’ve been given a RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) diagnoses for our three year old and he seems to get more rad every day, let me tell you. Then our two year old…. well, one minute he’s the sweetest most precious toddler you’ve ever seen and the next he’s spitting on you or pulling your hair. Nothing Lil John can’t fix though because I kid you not, when I play “Turn Down For What” his mood totally changes and he’s back to a silly cute dancing machine. How did this get on my iTunes??? Don’t judge me. It’s like that episode of Friends when Ross and Rachel sing “Baby Got Back” to baby Emma because it gets her to quit crying. You just do what you gotta do and sometimes you sing questionable rap music. YEEEEAAAH!!!
Fall has arrived and we are enjoying all the glorious activities. Calebs class had a pumpkin patch field trip and we are all very excited for Halloween. It’s gonna be quite a collection of characters this year. K is carrying on the Big Al tradition and he knows exactly what an elephant says. 😉
We are becoming closer with our new church family week by week. I recognize Gods tremendous grace and love for our family in the timing of bringing this church into our lives. When the days are hard and I think I’m about to fall apart I find myself on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening surrounded by Gods people and sense his strength in numbers. I have ladies I can text and meet with and ask for prayer and in this I feel Gods mighty hands upholding me. We can’t do this alone and God knew that. How good of him to perfectly time all this.
I hope to write more another time. And I know this is not very put together or poetic or deep but I just had to write something. Gotta keep the blog alive! Love to you all!!!
Praying and singing this song over my precious family members.
Yesterday marked five months since the boys came back to live with us. I think I can officially say we are out of the weeds. (Or maybe you prefer “woods” but for those of us that worked in the restaurant industry, it’s “weeds.”) We still face our challenges. There are still hard days, many behavioral and trauma related issues, and plenty of legal annoyances to settle (the boys are still not officially adopted) BUT we are eating less corn dogs, our home is a little less dirty, we are getting a lot more sleep, and I’m not crying nearly as much from exhaustion and being overwhelmed. Yay for progress!
I’d like to share three things the Lord is teaching me.
1.) Appreciate each little step.
I find myself more and more in these moments where I can look at the boys and really FEEL in my bones they are mine. I smile and giggle over their little personalities and the unique ways God has created them. I can envision the ways He might use them in the future. The frustration of their negative behaviors lingers less and has been replaced with a passion to equip them however I can for life. I appreciate little things like leaving undergarments ON and making it to the potty. Snuggling up for a book and going to sleep without tears. Learning to like tilapia and other healthy foods. And being the one that can fix their boo-boos. For the first four months I was not the one who could fix a boo-boo, it was “mawmaw will fix it.” And one day K got his fingers caught in a door at school and it was pretty bad. He only wanted ME. “Mommy will fix it. Mommy will make it better.” I never realized how something that simple really signifies me being the mommy.
2.) Be content when there is no progress.
This is a hard one. There are definitely days when you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. When the tears never end, and the kicking and screaming is volatile, when the aggressive behavior continues, when all you here is “NO!” or “I don’t want to!”, when you look at your children and just wonder, “Are they happy here?” “How can I help them?” “What’s happening in their little minds?” We all want for our children to be peaceful and happy. No one wants to see their child in turmoil and chaos all the time. As a foster/adoptive mother I also want to be confident that I am actually helping my child move forward in healing. So a lack of progress can make you feel like a failure in that. But instead of focusing on progress God is calling us to have patience, trust Him and love unconditionally. Love when there is no progress.
3.) How much are you willing to give?
Being called to foster/adopt you know it will involve sacrifice. But you can never know what little daily things God will ask you to give or give up for these children. I have a tendency to think that “I’m sacrificing this so I deserve this.” That’s just not a Biblical way to view sacrifice. There are so many moments in my day where I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me, asking me “Can you stop that for now?” “Can you put your phone down?” “Can you let the laundry pile up a little bit more?” “Those dishes can wait.” “Will you read a few more books?” I know its opportunity to serve my children better and to be more intentional and present in my parenting but many times I respond, “No, I can’t do that.” or “I deserve this bit of down time.” I’m praying for growth and maturity in this area. That I would see the immense value in all those little mothering opportunities and that my heart would desire pleasing the Lord over what I think will make me feel better in the moment.
Yesterday I went to the library and checked out a stack of books in an effort to continue my education on the layers of adoption, trauma, attachment, sibling rivalry, and developmental delays. I’d like to ask you to pray that I would be able to become well informed on how to meet the various needs of our children. I’d also like to continue asking for prayer that we would not run into any more delays or hang ups with the TPR hearing. It’s so important for these boys to have stability and with rights still in place it puts them at risk for unnecessary interference’s. Thank you for all the ways you continue to encourage and support our family. We are blessed beyond measure.