Monday, August 24, 2015

the Control Conflict

In this post, I'd like to talk about two items on the "R.A.D." list because I feel that they are branches on the same tree.

#2 Lack of eye contact on parents' terms
#4 Not affectionate on parents' terms

The key words are "on parents' terms." You could fill-in-the-blank with almost anything; the point is, if it's on the parents' terms, adopted kids aren't likely to comply. This is because it is all related to one issue, CONTROL. I could generalize the entire adopted population in the following statement, but perhaps I should stick to what I know and tell you about what my experience has been, rather than lumping all adopted kids together. The fact is that our girls resent that we are in authority over them. I can hear some of you parents out there saying, "My kids aren't adopted and they resent my authority, too!" I get it. Authority is an issue with all kids. Manipulating the person in authority over them, in an attempt to gain control, is also an issue with all kids. I hear ya. The authority thing isn't unique to adoption. However, it is most definitely the root of all of our issues. 

Our girls will often sabotage a perfectly happy experience because a) they aren't in control of the situation, b) they aren't the center of attention, c) it wasn't their idea, or d) all of the above! For them, it's all about what they choose, what they decide, it must be their way. Sounds similar to the behavior of a 2 or 3 year old, right? That's because it is. I believe that removing an almost teenager from a structure-less environment, where she has been "free" to make her own choices from a very early age, and placing her into a home with parents, rules, and expectations is VERY MUCH like the "terrible twos" stage of early childhood. Tell a two year old she can't have her way and what do you get? A complete and utter melt-down! That is also what you get when you tell a not-so-little girl living under my roof that she can't "have her way."

To say it has been a struggle would be an understatement. It has been exhausting trying to search out ways to maintain our parental control without living in an absolute war zone. Sometimes the war is explosive and there are "casualties" and sometimes (like our present situation) it is a "cold war" and her retaliation is silent, very literally silent; like "even if you try to engage me, I'm going to look right through you - SILENT," and the silence can last for days on end, accompanied by a miserable scowl of course! Because, THIS is her response to parental terms. 

When you want her to engage at the dinner table, she will not. When you want her to join in a family activity, she will not. When you want her to look you in the eye when you speak to her, she will not. When you want her be ready to leave the house in 10 minutes, she will not be ready, because it will take her 12 minutes to be ready. She will not do things on your terms, because SHE MUST BE IN CONTROL! SHE will decide when she wants to engage you at the dinner table. SHE will decide when she wants to enjoy family time. SHE will decide when to look at you, when to speak to you, and when she's ready to leave the house. 

There was a time when I was "lured in" and fell right into the traps she set for me. But, I have since learned that all of these things are an attempt to manipulate me into a power-struggle. As difficult as it is at times, I have to avoid the traps and simply look past her rude behavior. Most of the time, Blaine is the one to confront her about her behavior. The reason for this is because there is mounting tension between her and I and it's rare that we can have a calm exchange (relating to her behavior). He is, quite literally, our mediator and I LOVE him for that! Hear me when I say, I COULD NOT DO THIS WITHOUT HIM! So, when you pray, pray for all 4 of us, and then say an extra prayer for Blaine, he definitely needs it!

Thank you, yet again, for allowing me to pour my heart out. Writing about my experiences is very bittersweet for me. I don't really enjoy regurgitating all of the "not-so-pretty" details, but it is so helpful for me to get it out! Once again, I hope that my honesty has been helpful for some adoptive mom out there. And please just know that, even though I sound defeated as I write, I full-well understand that God is the author of this story; nothing has happened (nor will happen) by accident. I know He has a purpose for us, but the struggle is real, and it is daily. My dad said this in his sermon just last night, "You must walk through difficulties to experience God's faithfulness." God is SO faithful and He encourages me daily through His word. He gives me strength sufficient for each day and I that's how we get through, one day at a time! 

Until next time, God bless...

Monday, July 20, 2015

the Superficial Struggle

I've decided to start at the top of the list because not only is it the first thing mentioned in the video, but also because it's a crucial part of the "dysfunction" we live in as adoptive parents of older children.

#1 Superficially engaging and charming

This is actually the reason some of you who know us are questioning what could be so "hard" about parenting the girls you know to be so poised, polite, and sweet. It's like two different children inside of one body; the girl at home and the girl in public.

(Most days) The girl at home stays in her room all day, only coming out for necessities, avoiding all parental contact. (Some days this behavior is only directed at me, but other days Blaine is included)

The girl in public welcomes the conversation of others, especially other parents, and is warm, bubbly, and engaging.

(Sometimes) The girl at home will go a whole week without saying a single word to me; on a good day she'll say "good morning" and "goodnight." 

The girl in public loves to chat! She especially likes to chat with others in front of us, so that we can take notice of how much she is enjoying herself.

When asked to clean up after one of our pet's accidents, the girl at home will refuse and disrespectfully say "No! It's not my mess!"

The girl in public is always respectful, responding with "yes sir" and "yes ma'am" when addressed. She is submissive to authority and always well mannered. 

Each and every day, when asked how her day was, the girl at home will respond with a simple "good," never offering more information. Even when prompted with other questions, she would prefer to sit in silence on the ride home from school.

The girl in public will gladly talk about her day with others at church; she prefers surface, nonchalant chatter over deep, meaningful conversations that would allow her to connect with her adopted parents.

The girl in public seems well adjusted, happy, and completely embracive of her new life, but the truth is she is broken, numb to feeling, and unsure if she wants this "new life."

I could go on listing examples of how this plays such a huge role in our day-to-day life, but I feel sure I have made my point clear. So often I am told of how the girls have "come a long way," how they are "well-adjusted," and how they are just so "precious," "sweet," and "lovely." My sharing this is not about correcting those who have said those things nor is it meant to tear down our girls. It is for those adopted moms out there who are in the same struggle; who, like me, wonder what they're doing wrong. How can the girls appear so comfortable with everyone else? It must be me! It wasn't until someone else had the courage to speak up, in a blog just like this one, that I finally realized it wasn't me! For so long, I harbored so much guilt, I believed it was because I wasn't good enough, brave enough, strong enough, kind enough... but, it wasn't me and it's not you! There is so much freedom in realizing that. 

I think the kids want us to think that it is our fault. Maybe you don't agree and maybe you just don't understand how that could be true. But, I believe all of our kids have lived in misery for so long that they don't know how to live at peace. Misery is familiar, misery is what they know, misery is what they feel, and they aren't satisfied until everyone in their house is miserable, too. That is the cold, hard, honest, truth. Just like the old saying, "Misery loves company."

We must be aware, but not overcome. We must not allow the root of bitterness to rise up and give place to anger. These children are to be pitied. But we must not only pity them, WE MUST PRAY; pray that God would deliver these children from the awfulness of their past and the depravity of their nature; pray that He would restore what is broken and give them everlasting peace through His saving grace; and we must pray that we would be a vessel of His redeeming love in the providential goodness of their adoption into our family. 

There is so much to share, this is but the tip of the iceberg, my friends. But, I pray that you'll stay with me and that you'll come to know my heart in this matter. The adoption of older children is so complex, there is no cut and dry, no black and white, no short and sweet answer to the question "how is it going?" It is my prayer that this will be a window into our world, to inform our friends of how you can pray for us, and to help other families who are in the trenches of parenting adopted children. 

Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them. Hebrews 7:25 AMP

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hard to live it - even harder to re-live it

It has been 4 months since my last post. I fully intended 4 months ago to begin opening up and sharing the "real" story of our adoption and what it looks like on a daily basis. I don't know how to explain why I haven't started sharing except that it is just plain hard. Hard to live it, even harder to re-live it. I spend most days looking forward to the little things that help me escape, like tending to my flower garden in the evenings or watching a cheesy love story on Netflix, and the thought of sitting down to write about things I've tried hard to forget sounds more like torture than therapy. But, I keep telling myself.... you need to do this, it will be good for you, it will be good for others, so here I am again.

I find it difficult to know where to begin. The trouble with sharing something so deep is, to be blunt, it's a lot like throwing up, once you start you can't stop and you're left with a nasty mess to clean up! If I'm being honest, I am fearful of the nasty mess my sharing will leave behind. However, bottling everything inside feels like a poison eating away at my very soul. Regardless of how it makes others feel, or how it makes me "look," it must be said.

To avoid "word vomit" and scattered, disconnected rambling, I feel it best to use the video I shared in my last post, regarding reactive attachment, as a guide. In the video, Todd Friel listed 20 characteristics that are common in adopted children who experience reactive attachment. Out of the list of 20 characteristics, there are only one that we have not experienced with our girls. In the event that you haven't seen the video, the characteristics are listed below. I will choose at least one characteristic as a frame of reference for each blog post. 

I do want to point out that, no matter how negative some of these stories may be, I have never known the Lord like I know Him now. That is not to say I have achieved perfection in my walk with Christ, but it is a confession that I have never needed Him the way I need Him now. I can say with full confidence that His strength is made perfect in my weakness, because I am so weak. No matter how difficult my days are, I lay my head on the pillow each night knowing He has called me to this task and He is refining me through the flame, and to know Him and to experience Him in this way is worth all of the pain - ALL of it. I hope that sharing my experiences can, in some way, be an encouragement to someone who is struggling to hold on to the Lord in the midst of their "storm." He is near. It is dark, but He is near. Hold on to His promises.

20 Characteristics of Reactive Attachment:
  1. Superficially engaging and charming
  2. Lack of eye contact on parent's terms
  3. Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers 
  4. Not affectionate on parent's terms
  5. Destructive to self, others, and material things
  6. Cruelty to animals
  7. Lying about the obvious
  8. Stealing
  9. No impulse controls
  10. Lack of conscience
  11. Abnormal eating patterns
  12. Poor peer relations
  13. Preoccupation with fire
  14. Preoccupation with blood and gore
  15. Preoccupation with bodily functions
  16. Persistent nonsense questions and chatter
  17. Non-stop demanding of attention
  18. Triangulation of adults
  19. False allegations of abuse
  20. Creating chaos

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reactive Attachment Disorder

This video is a great segue into what I will be sharing. Todd Friel's zany personality aside, this video couldn't be more accurate. If you have 20 minutes to spare, please watch this very informative presentation of Reactive Attachment Disorder (R.A.D.).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

2 Years Later

February 7, 2015 marked 2 years since we adopted, what where then, 12 year old and 10 year old sisters from Colombia, South America.  I blogged about our entire journey leading up to the placement of these girls in our home but after much consideration I decided to refrain from sharing our story in such a public way.  The reasons which led me to this decision were many, but my primary reason, to be quite honest, was fear. 

What would people think?  How would people feel?  Those precious people, who with love and their own pocketbooks sent us to fetch these 2 girls, how would THEY feel if they knew the REAL story?  Because let me tell you, the reality of our day to day life in no way matched up to the fantasy that even we had succumbed to.  No matter how many adoption seminars you attend, how many books you read, how many people tell you not to, or even how many times you tell yourself not to, you still have expectations.  Not only do you unintentionally develop expectations, of how you’ll bond and the beautiful family you’ll become, but you live a daily struggle to let go of them.  You try, oh how you try, to let go of the expectations, and with each disappointment you ultimately do… just like each tear that falls from your eye and rolls down your cheek, you let go of each expectation, one by one.  
Then there’s the pain… the pain that comes with adopting 2 (almost) teenagers is big enough, but to re-live the pain to tell our story, that was too much for me to bear.  But as it turns out, bottling everything inside doesn’t feel so hot either.  

For more than mere therapeutic reasons, what leads me to my decision to speak up 2 years later is, I want people to know the truth.  With international adoption within Christian families on the rise, I feel that the truth is not only beneficial, it’s crucial.  If only it were easier to speak the truth, maybe I would’ve said it sooner.  And as hard as it is for me to say what’s true, it will be that much harder for you to receive it.  I’m reminded of the scripture “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60b) The truth can be perplexing and hard to receive.  As we see in another scripture the truth is also “sharper than a two-edged sword,” (Hebrews 4:12). The truth can be divisive.  My prayer is that as you read what I share, you will not turn a deaf ear, nor will you be offended, but rather you will accept it as an outpouring of my heart through a difficult experience.  You may not agree with my story, but after all it is mine to tell.

Where do I begin?  It would be difficult to say everything that I’d like to say in one sitting.  Not only would it be emotionally taxing, but it would be more along the lines of a novel than a blog post.  So, I’ve decided to just share… however it may come out, in whatever order it comes.  I hope that it will be beneficial, but I cannot promise that it will be uplifting.  But the Lord is able… “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20) may He use what I share for the furtherance of His Kingdom and the edification of His saints.

Until next time…