Well, friends, it’s been a year since we showed you what we really look like. It’s time for an update. We’re a year older and wiser. We have matured.
We have our third (out of four) post-adoption home visit coming up, and we had to whip up a fast family photo again for Spaghettia. Last time we were professional and had “real” pictures taken. These ones, of course, are fake.
This is me, every morning before Vin goes to work, with my very best “Noooo! Don’t leave meeee!” expression.
Reagan is clearly the only normal one among us.
How are we doing? It is up and down, forward and backward…I think that’s the same answer we’ve given for the last 18 months. It’s still hard. Progress is measured in micro-steps. We still deal with diapers and purposeful misplacement of bodily fluids and manipulation/disobedience that borders on levels of insanity.
We’ve learned that both of our adopted children are actually terrified of (and resistant to) many forms of success, celebration, and achievement (not super uncommon with kids who have similar backgrounds of trauma, neglect, and abandonment) and often regress instantly and violently after a victory. It makes things like school, potty training, holidays, and, uh, waking hours difficult.
Birthdays, too. Today was our Andrey’s birthday. We had presents wrapped and an awesome, low-key dinner planned. Just us. And yet…
No bueno. Misbehavior followed misbehavior, poor choice after poor choice, and he sabotaged his special day at every opportunity to turn it around. It’s been Proverbs 26:11 almost daily for the last several months, and his much-anticipated birthday was no exception. It was pretty rough, both to watch and experience.
Last year I wrote this about our Reagan:
She is rejecting us to keep from being rejected first by us, but she doesn’t realize that. She chooses to stay in a cage with no food and water, though the door is wide open. She is like an abused woman who has been in a bad relationship for too long, but refuses to break it off because freedom and healing are just too foreign and frightening.
And it still happens with Reagan, and it’s the same but different with Andrey. We offer chocolate – love, belonging, fun times – and he refuses it, only to go back to maggoty gruel.
It breaks my heart, over and over. His birthday should have been so fun. We want to celebrate his life with him. Holy hormonal weeping, Batman.
We notice the raised eyebrows when people don’t understand the level of trauma they came from, and don’t understand the boundaries we have to place because of the amount of healing they need (No, I’m sorry…you still can’t dote on them, pat them on the head, or give them presents. We ask adults to “kindly ignore” them as much as possible so their attention and attachment will be for us, their parents…more on this in a future post). It hurts when people ask, “You’re still dealing with that?” as though it were our fault (I know this isn’t how the question is intended, it is just how it feels on our end), and surely Andrey and Reagan should be delightfully law-abiding citizens after being in a loving home for 18 months, despite the fact that they were neglected and abused for almost seven years.
And I want to say this in as loving a manner as I can muster: Friends and family, please don’t rush us. Man, we want this way more than you do. We hoped it would be easier. Of course we hoped attachment wouldn’t be an issue. We knew it was likely, though.
There’s this annoying little reality/theory/fact/whatever out there that says for every year your adopted child was in an institution, that is how many years it may likely take him or her to heal. I did the math, and thought…By then, Mattie will be 18. He might be moving out of the house by the time our house feels normal again.
And then I thought about binging on ice cream and moving to a convent and how bad it hurts when mascara gets in your eyes when you’re sobbing. I thought of other things not fit to print. And also how I’m married, and not Catholic, and the nuns probably wouldn’t take me anyway.
And I thought of how He feels when He offers a new beginning, and we reject Him over and over. The book of Hosea is all too real to us now…we know what it is to love and to be shunned, to pray and cry and offer redemption to people who persist in choices that hurt them and us.
I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him.
I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him.
– Hosea 11:3-4
These kids are hurting, and we are often hurting, too. They came from awful circumstances, and they sometimes cope with that by creating chaos around them. Adoption always starts with grief, and, ready or not, adoptive parents choose to live it out with them.
It’s lonely, but so common – just not talked about openly very often for many reasons. We don’t want to dissuade people from adoption. We don’t want to be judged by the ignorant. And we don’t want advice from armchair quarterbacks who confuse watching an episode of Ellen or Nightline with authoritative experience in early childhood psychology and attachment disorder.
We want to be nice. Usually.
One of these years (hopefully before our oldest is eighteen) Andrey will take the chocolate we offer him daily – love, belonging, fun times – and stop going back to maggoty gruel. He will seek out and enjoy victory. He’ll be the same person at home that he is in public. The quick insta-grin he gives the camera in the midst of a sulking fit will actually be a genuine smile, instead of a mask that covers anxiety and anger.
He will be older, and wiser. Hopefully before he is eighteen, too.
We love him and long for his victory. The daily decision-making of how best to deal with each new spin is frustrating, but we have great hope. We intimately know how God brings people out of mucky history and into joyful relationship with Him, despite our initial lack of cooperation…despite a past that was no picnic.
He’s in the business of redemption, and it’s messy.
So…our house wasn’t meant to be normal.
It was meant to have lots of chocolate.