What I am about to write has been on my heart for quite some time, but I’ve had a difficult time putting my feelings into words. Ya’ll, I am writing this only because I want people to understand us a little more and for other adoptive parents to not feel alone. I don’t want people to look at our cute instagram pics and think our lives are all fun and games. The pictures we post on social media are very much real, but they are only a split second of “real life”. These pictures aren’t the end of the story…God is still in the process of writing it right now. I am also writing this to remind myself that it is “not the same” because sometimes I forget. I forget the difficulties Max has had to face in his short two years of life. I forget that some of the really difficult behaviors we face day in and day out may look like normal behaviors, but they stem from pain that is much deeper than I can comprehend.
When we spent that long year preparing our family to adopt Max, we read all the books, attended training seminars, filled out workbooks. We were prepared for everything, but the real learning didn’t happen until we met Max face to face. In college, did anyone ever tell you that you don’t actually learn until you are “in the field”? For example, when I majored in Social Work we were required to work a full-time internship for a semester before we received that diploma we worked so hard for. It is TRUE – you can take 30 hours of Social Work courses but you don’t “get it” until you are out there working. It takes time, and experience, to truly grasp what you have learned. All of the intensive studying, exams, and papers you have written? Yeah, they are important, but through experience you make mistakes and eventually the real learning begins. That has been what Dave and I have been doing ever since we became parents, and that learning supposedly never ends!
One thing we have learned is that parenting a biological child vs. an adopted child is different, very different. Having a biological sibling vs. an adopted sibling is different. Am I saying one is more difficult than another? Nope, not even close. They are both unique, challenging and rewarding in their own ways. Am I saying one is better than the other? Absolutely not. Our love for both of our boys is deep. My love for Max is so deep my heart hurts when I think of what he has been through in his very short two years of life.
Even though Max is only two, and may not remember specifics of his early life, it doesn’t mean everything he experienced before us just goes away. What it does mean is that we see behaviors at home that other people in our lives don’t see. Even though some of these behaviors might look the same, and sound the same, as any other two year old, they’re not. They are rooted in experiences much different than a child who has lived in the same home, with the same mother, since conception.
Tantrums might look “normal”, and some might be the same, but they may be rooted in a much deeper issue. For example, Landon might have a tantrum in the grocery store because he wants a candy bar because it will satisfy his sweet tooth. Max might be having a tantrum in the grocery store because at some point in his life he didn’t eat for a few days. The sight and smell of food might trigger something in him to tantrum. That memory of not having enough food may be long gone, but the fear is ingrained in him. It is not something that he can just get over in a few weeks, months or even years.
Even though my boys might look like they are having “normal sibling rivalry”, they aren’t. Landon didn’t watch my belly grow for 9 months expecting a younger brother/sister to join us as a tiny infant; He got a rambunctious, toy thief that has rocked his little world. We are seeing the beauty of their relationship unfold, but we are also seeing some pretty nasty behaviors on both ends. And yes, I know siblings fight, but it’s different when things gradually change and you have time to get used to a baby brother crawling to your toys vs. grabbing them and throwing them at you!
I guess it is difficult to feel “heard” when others assume the hard days are just normal – the same that any mother experiences. It’s not the same, never will be, but you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world because my love for Max is rooted in me, just like my love for Landon was rooted in me when God placed him in my belly.
My friend Brittany, who has walked this long road of adoption with me at the same time, recently wrote the following and it is EXACTLY how I feel:
“Its seems like it’s going so perfect, right? Her transition has been beautiful, correct?
The beautiful part of this is that she is thriving, growing, and learning. But the brutal part of the story is that two MONTHS home, doesn’t erase the two YEARS before.
There are days that she kicks her happy little legs and wiggles her little pink toes with delight and we make progress. Then there are days where in a moments notice I sense her hurt. I feel her pain. I see her pull back and then I wipe her tears.
Someone asked me recently, “Why is it so hard?”
It’s hard because its the Fathers work. And work it is. Messy and sometimes lonely. I am in a battle everyday to win her heart, to win her trust, to win her love that for TWO years was lost, hurt, and broken. Sometimes I feel like the “new boyfriend” on the scene who is trying to tell his new once brokenhearted love that he will never leave her, hurt her and will love her forever. The only solution….time & faithfulness.
It’s hard because this isn’t how things are suppose to be. We live in a fallen world and we are picking up the pieces as a result. Hard work? Yes. And it is only by HIS power that our hands have strength to pick up the pieces at all.
And ironically, it’s hard because she is doing so amazing that people assume that the work is done…..she’s home, she’s happy, she’s attaching well. Mission complete, she is now a loved, lucky American. That should equal happiness, right? Nope.
And last but not least, it’s hard because we have a long road to go. Maybe a lifetime of healing. Mending a broken heart takes time, prayer, patience, and Jesus. Because Jesus paid it ALL, ALL to Him I owe. So we will keep walking alongside her until she realizes that her heart is safe in our arms. No matter how long it takes. Just wait, sweet girl, you will see……
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3″
Recently, my friends Shannon Dingle wrote an article about this exact same topic. I am so thankful for other adoptive mommas who get “get it” and a God who gives me grace when I think I have messed this whole “adoptive momma” thing up.