Thursday, August 25, 2016

Adoption: Was it a Mistake?


Six months after our sons came home, I began to wonder if I’d made a monumental mistake.

All five of us were miserable.

Was it my fault?

Would our sons have been better off in another family?

Unable to sleep, I tossed and turned wondering if every member of our family was going to continue suffering, reaping the repercussions of my mistake for their entire lives.

I wondered if my error in judgment had ruined us.

But I’m realizing my ignorant, angry, and fearful responses to my children’s pain (as displayed through their behavior) hurt our family more than any one of my children’s behavior ever could.

Every single time I took my child’s behavior personally, I made the wrong choice.

Each time I refused to empathize with the pain behind my child’s behavior, I made the wrong choice.

Each time I allowed my fear to control my responses to my child, rather than letting love lead, I made the wrong choice.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes.

Many of them leading to my family’s distress.

Bringing my children home was not one of them.

[FYI:  Matt and I make our major decisions together. Yet, this blog is where I share my story.]

Posts on Attachment in Adoption

Foster Care & Faith

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17

As a young adult I worked as a live-in houseparent at a home for children in foster care. After living with and caring for a house full of girls who had experienced early childhood trauma, I spent an hour with a college friend and former ministry colleague.  
“You’re just not the same, Nicole. At all,” he all but mourned.
“You just aren’t happy-go-lucky anymore. You seem more… you seem… you seem more… realistic. Less optimistic.”
His words stung. Not because they were incorrect. Though unintentionally accusatory, his words were accurate. My worldview had been impacted by pain and suffering.
During that year, I had learned how devastating life could be for children who were no less deserving of a happy home than I had been as a child. As I’d attempted to love children from hard places, I’d been punched in the face both figuratively and literally. My car had been vandalized, my personal items had been stolen, and I had once dislocated my shoulder commandeering a broomstick from a child who was threatening to beat my coworker with it.
Many nights I cried myself to sleep. All of my best ideas had been exhausted and I was hopeless.
I had failed many times in an area I’d once considered myself strong in… loving others.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Our Summer Rhythm

Confession:  While I love writing and connecting with friends through writing, my ability to publish a blog post is greatly hindered by school vacation.


School breaks present unique challenges in our family, often resulting in emotional regression and exhaustion for all of our members.

I want to love summer, but as I strive to meet one or two of my children’s needs, it feels as if I’m actively neglecting the needs of my other children.

For years, we fell into an unnatural, summer routine of meeting one child’s needs while everyone else waited in line- becoming less healthy by the moment.

Until this current season.

Over the years we’ve realized our two children who are adopted need an unusual amount of structure to feel safe and enjoy themselves.

This makes sense to me. When two of my sons came to live with us as older children they had no reason to trust me. They weren’t calmed by the rhythm of my heartbeat or voice, and they probably had little reason to believe I was capable of meeting their basic needs.

When my two biological sons were born, they would cry and I would meet their needs. They already knew my scent, voice, and the rhythm of my heartbeat and, therefore, my presence was regulating for them. Through closeness and repetitions of me meeting their physical needs, my sons began to expect me to to be close and to meet their needs. They began to trust me. They eventually began to sleep longer between feedings and we established a natural routine based on trust.

For two of my children, the rhythm of our routine is comparable to the regulating nature of a mother’s heartbeat. [Tweet This]

After almost six years, I see signs my children are trusting me outside of the routine. But still, they thrive with as much routine as I can provide.

Therein lies the problem:  our two children who don’t have a history of developmental trauma are stressed out and inhibited by the intense structure that causes their brothers to thrive.

Yes, our four children enjoy each other and can have one or two weeks of vacation together in relative harmony. (Which is a recent thing, a major blessing, and something we do not take lightly.)

But after that initial two weeks, two children are looking for structure and two are pining for down time.

We tried day camp to add structure, and it wasn’t healthy for our children. For a couple years our sons attended a therapeutic camp and they loved it! The staff even knew how to make the transition smooth as to minimize loss. Sadly, the camp had an “off” year and as one treatment provider said, “If you’re going to run a therapeutic camp, you can’t have an off year.”

She’s right. That camp, exceptional while it lasted, is no longer an option for our family.

This year, with the help of our state, we were able to hire a babysitter (who is a friend) for a few weeks. Each day, for those weeks, she repeated a routine that was comfortable and involved a tremendous amount of physical activity and fresh air for our sons.

They had a blast! Beyond having a blast, this is the first summer our family has continued to make real relational progress and was able to begin the school year strong.
Our summer solution this year is by no means the solution for all families with a complicated dynamic. It might not even be the solution for us next year. I share our experience because I want you to know that if you somewhat dread summer due to the unique obstacles it presents for your family- you’re not alone!

I know how it feels to take a Facebook break because I cannot read one more status update from a glowing parent anticipating the bliss of endless summer days with her children.

I know what it’s like to adore my child and cry myself to sleep because I’m not sure I’ll ever get one moment’s rest from meeting his complex needs- moments I desperately need to preserve my patience so I can love him well.

Like some of you reading, I celebrate unique milestones such as our first summer of continuous fun and uninterrupted progress.

And, for the first time, I have high hopes for our next school vacation.

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