My child had a rough morning. I could see it all over my darling’s body; eyes a bit wilder than usual, hair somewhat disheveled, and arms flailing with impulsive movement. It reached a game-changing moment during a redirection. I looked up and saw that hand, the one that often grabs mine when walking together, fly up in the air and smack hard against my skin. Sure, it was a slap on the arm but it hurt. It left a red mark. It was not a “toddler testing boundaries” kind of hit. It was meant to hurt me and it was full of pent-up angst.
First, came the shock, followed by a brief moment of anger. Just as soon as my anger began to swell, I melted into tears; sadness took over. My child fell back into the seat and started to cry. I sat there for a moment not knowing what to do. We were loaded up in the van and on our way to school but the last thing I could focus on was getting there before the bell rang.
While trying to find the right words, I heard, “You are going to just give me away to another family.” I could not believe my ears. With the sting of my child’s hand still lingering on my arm, I said, “No, of course not”.
Soon, my child said, “I just get so mad. I have anger issues. I’m sorry.” I tried to find the right words but it seems during moments like these, words can be elusive. I offered the knowledge of “Even if someone has an issue with anger or whatever, it is still up to them to make better choices. You have to choose to do the right thing and ask yourself, “Is this worth it?”. I don’t know if that was good enough or if that is what my child needed to hear but it was all I could come up with at that moment.
There was a hug, followed by an apology, and a statement regarding the worry about other kids noticing my child’s tear-stained face. “Just tell them you had a rough morning,” I said. The van door slid open and I watched as a piece of my heart formed in the shape of a child slowly walk to the doors of the school, pause for a moment, and then look back to make sure I was still there before entering. My kiddos know I always stay put until they enter the doors to their school. On this morning, it was especially important for me to stay a while.
Ugh. Of all the things that happened, the saddest and hardest part was hearing the words, “You are going to just give me away to another family.” Where does this come from? My child has been with us since infancy and despite filling the space between us with love, this child still seems to meander carelessly somewhere between the knowledge of being adopted and the full measure of being in our family.
Sure, there’s counseling, training, and all sorts of ways to intervene. We’ve set up boundaries, applied consequences, talked openly about adoption and biological parents, followed through with providing moments to build self-esteem and show our love, but there is still a void that is hard to fill. When the void gets too deep, the claws come out.
My child thinks deeply and has big emotions. This child is sensitive, inquisitive and always wants to know more and more…even when there’s not a lot more to offer. Moments like these are tough to swallow. Knowing how to respond is even harder, and I tend to receive the blunt end of all that emotion welled up inside a youthful body.
Being an adoptive family is a wonderful thing but it is not perfect. It is filled with a lot of loss. We do our best to weave the tapestry of our family with as much good as we can but there are issues. We’d be foolish to think that everything is okay all of the time.
This is a part of adoption that others don’t see. This is the part of parenting children with invisible special needs that are often unseen by many. This is hard.
Even with all of the intentional efforts put into raising a well-rounded and secure child as one can raise, we still have to navigate these valleys and they are deep, my friends. We put on a smiling face that does a good job of covering up some of the battle wounds we’ve endured. We pretend that everything is great but sometimes, it just isn’t.
Telling an adoptive family, “Oh, kids will just do that, sometimes” is useless. We know that kids, regardless of their histories, will do things that can break one’s heart. We are well aware of that but there is a difference, you know. When your child is exhibiting things that seem to carry an invisible message, it is hard but it is not impossible to manage.
I guess that is where the fortitude to keep going comes from – the awareness of possibilities covered in a glaze of hope. Hope is found in the possibilities; hope for change, hope for better responses, hope for a recovery and hope for healing. If it weren’t for the belief in possibilities and the endurance of hope, nothing would be gained and so much would be lost.
There will be tremendously painful moments full of emotion throughout our life as an adoptive family. Yet, in many ways, the complex splendor of life is often found in the midst of incredibly hard times filled with blood, sweat, and tears.
My child, the one with the big emotions wrapped up in a small frame,
I love you. I have always loved you. I will always love you.
Nothing you have done or ever will do would cause me to not love you.
I have never regretted adopting you. I never will. I am yours and you are mine.
I wish I could retell your story minus all the bad stuff, but I cannot.
It must be scary to feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Let Momma carry it for you. If I could, I would swallow it up so that you never have to feel it again.
I will never be able to claim myself as your biological parent. I know that breaks my heart and I suspect it breaks yours.
You are unique. You have a gift to give this world, baby. You’ll find it and when you do, hang on and hold tight. I believe you could be a world-changer.
You may feel broken at times but history shows us that the Lord uses broken people for mighty things. That’s the incredible part of faith – knowing that our weakest moments can become part of our strongest testimony.
You have a place in our family. You always will. Don’t lose sight of that, my child. Don’t lose sight.
My child, there are better days to come.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.