You can probably tell from my last few update posts that I am not quite as upbeat and super positive as I used to be. Reading back through my blog I could see a stark difference in my older posts and my newer ones.
The reality is that we went into adoption as prepared as you can be, but full of optimism, determination, and energy. Eva's needs turned out to be more than we expected (from all the support groups I am in, this is quite common, especially from Eastern Europe). By the time we went back for Darcy, I was already getting tired and was feeling a bit beaten down. And then Darcy came home with more challenges, which we were sort of suspecting at that point. But her challenges were totally different than Eva's. So, though we had learned a great deal in the previous months, none of it helped us in concrete ways.
I went into adoption thinking the first year would be brutally, excruciatingly hard, and that the second year would be pretty darn hard. But, I kinda thought that at the two year mark we would be kind of setting back into a new normal.
I know, if you are a veteran adoptive parent, go ahead and laugh now.
There have been VAST improvements in some ways, especially for Eva. And there are also a lot of areas that we have made little progress. Or we have improved only to regress again, rinse, repeat. Such is the nature of trauma, of FAS, of post institutionalization. And the reality that a lot of this is forever is sinking in. The term "delayed" should be replaced with "impaired."
With Darcy, improvement has been much slower. I tell myself that it is her timeline. That things will get better. And there have been some improvements. But progress in most areas has been moving at a snail's pace. Again, trauma, FASD, PI, hard stuff and not going to be "fixed" in 15 months home. And, though that is OK, though it is totally understandable, it doesn't make it easy.
I know,and understand, why they have the behaviors that they have. I know about survival skills, the brain changes that occur because of neglect, malnutrition, alcohol exposure. I know about orphanage behavior. I try to remember that however difficult this is for me, the tragedies in their lives are so much worse. But living in the reality of the effects of those things on a minute by minute basis is incredibly challenging and sometimes we forget.
I am in a few support groups for adoptive parents. Some for FAS, some for older child adoption, some for Eastern European adoptions. One of the things I see over and over (and experience) is immense disappointment in ourselves as parents.
We were going to have endless compassion, unshakable patience, unconditional, instantaneous love, and boundless energy. And, you know what? That is not possible, not for human beings. Not day in and day out of the roller coaster that is parenting a child from a hard background.
And so we fail. We lose our tempers, we feel disappointment, we can't keep the understanding and the compassion at the front of our minds at all times. We get frustrated, annoyed, upset. We may not feel the love. You learn a lot about kids that don't attach, but what no one tells you is how often parents have a hard time attaching. Or that when a child does have a hard time attaching, the parent may subconsciously throw up a wall to protect their own heart. And then you have two chasms to overcome.
When the reality falls so short, day in and day out, of what we had expected of ourselves, of our parenting abilities, we tend to beat ourselves up. Daily.
I sometimes lay in bed at night and count the ways that I failed. The times I wish I could have a do over. And I hear over and over from other adoptive parents that they do the same things. But, the problem is that it doesn't help to do that. And I am committing to not doing it anymore. This is what I posted in a support group today:
ok, this is going to be a jumble. but this is what i have been thinking
about. i beat myself up so much over how i am failing in this adoptive
mom thing. i hate that i don't have all the compassion and patience and
energy i thought i had going into this. i hate myself when i lose my
temper, i lay in bed and count the ways that i messed up that day.
well, i realized that is wasted energy and reserves. and instead of making me do better, it makes me bitter, resentful, tired, and depressed.
so, though, i don't want "well, they are better off than if they were
still in an orphanage" to be the bar i am trying to meet, i am going to
count the ways that i am doing right by them. i am going to lay in bed
and think about the times in the day when i was patient, was
compassionate, initiated affection, held my tongue, handled something
better than i had in the past, and just generally did right by them.
they are better here. i am educating them, feeding them, giving them
medical care, and kissing their boo boos. i am meeting basic needs
every day that they have never had. when i go above and beyond that i am
going to allow myself a moment to acknowledge that. maybe this will
build up my reserves a bit. i believe in positive discipline for my kids so why
am i punishing myself?All parents fall short of the parents they want to be. All parents yell more than they want or aren't as attentive as they want, or work more than they want, or feel they are "failing" in some way. And that sucks.
Parenting is hard. Parenting kids with special needs from difficult backgrounds is exceptionally hard. And, yet, here we are doing it. Day in and day out. We are doing more than kissing boo boos. We aren't just teaching ABCs and 123s, we are teaching these kids (not toddlers-kids) how to be human beings. How to be people in a way that most people can not comprehend. We teach them how to eat, how to talk,how to listen, how to think, how to play, how to go potty, how to have a relationship, how to be in a family, in a community, how to work through grief, how to feel, how to do just about everything that most parents take for granted. And it goes on and on. And we may not do it perfectly. We may vent and cry and beg for a quick fix. We may lose sight of that compassion sometimes and yell or withdraw for a time. But we don't give up.
And then, on top of that, 3 times a day, plus snacks, we put food on the table. We make sure they brush their teeth and hair, that they get bathed, have clean clothes. We kiss and band aid every scrape. We wipe tears and soothe nightmares. We help with school work. We work on family skills and life skills. We go to 1000 appointments and fill out endless paperwork. We read book after book and article after article to try to find the best ways of helping our children heal.
And on top of all that, we still have other children, jobs, messy houses, homeschooling, IEPs, and all that life throws at us.
We fall down, we get up. We start over again and again. Every morning we may need to pray to whatever God we believe in to give us strength just to get out of bed and do it again, but we do get out of that bed.
I am constantly proud of the parents I
meet in the adoption world. When they express disappointment in
themselves, I always feel such grace and love for them. It is time we
all start doing this for ourselves too, and loving and forgiving
ourselves can only benefit our children.
People say "think about the progress", and that may work for some, but sometimes that just makes it worse. Sometimes the lack of progress contributes to the feelings of despair. So, I say "think about the dedication." You are still here, still being mom (or dad) every single day. And that is pretty daggum awesome. If you are having a hard time, when you lay down for bed tonight, please remember that. Think of all the things you did right today, even if it is just that you didn't give up! Think of the dedication. We are all in this together, doing the best we possibly can for our kids. Trying with all we have to provide the greatest life, the best chances, the most hope. And that is a pretty amazing thing.