The lies. The manipulation. The cheating. The defiance that says, "I don't care what the consequences are, I'm gonna do it anyway!"
It is easy to become very fearful as a parent when you see these attitudes and choices in your child. It floods your mind with future criminal trials, drugs, teen pregnancy, violence, etc. As a former law enforcement officer, it probably stirs fears deeper for me than it may for others. These attitudes and choices were present in every criminal I ever arrested. Even in counseling others, these same attitudes and choices lie behind much of the struggles people face. Fear is an easy emotion as a parent.
Grief is a thief. It comes when you least expect it. It takes you off guard. Why did it slink in today? Why during car line at the school when I'm about to pick up the kids? There was no thought or memory that triggered it. It wasn't a song on the radio or something I saw. Suddenly, I was grieving over Macayla. I miss her so much.
Why then? God had a reason today. One of our twins was struggling. I could tell there was a lot of anger just waiting to boil over. I decided to press and see what was driving it. In the process, we had a God-sighting...
Photo: Jeremy Bathan
You teach your child how to do a basic task like brush his teeth, wash his hair, or turn the light off as he leaves a room. Yet, he doesn't seem to get it. The task is either ignored or done improperly almost every time. You teach him to stop lying or being defiant over the simplest of issues, but he continues. Month after month and still there is little, if any, progress. Why?
There are several possibilities and we are learning about them. There can be anatomical problems in the brain that prohibit or frustrates learning. In our case, we have no idea with our adopted children what kind, if any, damage may have occurred due to in utero exposure to drugs or alcohol. If there was any, it appears to be very mild. Another possibility would be a learning disability or learning style issue. I put these together since their definition is often disputed or misapplied and identifying them is not always clear-cut. Then, there is also the matter of trust and selfishness. This leads to, and simultaneously feeds on, anxiety and obsessive/compulsive behavior.
I have spoken with several couples or hear of couples whose marriages are falling apart. It is common in our culture and even more so among families with special-needs children. They separate or get divorced and often point to the stresses of the special-needs as the source of their failing marriage.
I disagree. We cannot blame special-needs, finances, or "falling out of love" with our spouse for divorce. Here is why I say this...
Raising children is about transformation. Children transform physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. We can list these areas out separately as a way to talk about them, but they all are intertwined. The child as a whole person transforms.
"Regular" kids, special-needs kids, and adopted kids all go through this and along the way it transforms the parents as well. Having a special-needs daughter made us prioritize life differently than we would have otherwise. We believe this impacted Jacob, our "regular" kid, for the positive. Likewise, our adopted twins highlight the same need to prioritize life but in different ways. God is using this to shape our family as well.
One of the challenges we have had with the twins adjusting to their new home has been the issue of food. Fortunately, we don't have to worry about the hoarding food as some adopted children have learned to do. We don't have to struggle with severe food allergies. We struggle with honesty.
From the beginning, we expected that they might try to say what they thought we wanted to hear. We expected them to try to fit in as best they could, even if it meant not being honest. It's kind of like the kids who come over for a sleepover and politely eat the dinner and say they enjoyed it, even though it was something vile like brussels sprouts. In our case, we don't eat brussels sprouts and this sleepover is permanent. We attempted to protect the twins from the problem of lying to try to please...
School has been a struggle for our twins. When they came to live with us, the word "hate" was used over and over to describe school and it was only because their limited vocabulary couldn't come up with a stronger word.
This summer they have been doing a program called Learning Rx and it has helped tremendously. Michael has confidence that he did not have before. In fact, he said his favorite thing on the first day of school was math! He was excited that he could solve all the problems on his own and not miss them. Savanna is learning that she has to learn, not just guess answers or simply store it in short-term memory. She too knocked the math out of the park and that spurred her to try harder at Learning Rx the next day!
We know there are plenty of challenges ahead for them, even with school, but we are excited about this victory for now. They have needed some victories, especially with school. Our prayer is that as they learn how to learn, they will be able to grasp more important lessons about life, relationships, and Christ.
I was in a coffee shop and met a woman who I will call Kate. She is an addict and alcoholic. She has lived in abusive relationships. She has also made a lot of bad choices that fuel her problems. She claimed to be a Christian. I was able to share with her that if Christ truly lived in her, God will not let her be tempted beyond what she can bear, BUT with the temptation, in His faithfulness, He provides an escape. The moment the temptation becomes apparent, so does the escape. He does not leave us alone to fight these things (1 Cor. 10:13). This was hard for her to trust. She was about to go smoke a cigarette she claimed she didn't want to smoke because she wanted to quit. I promised her that if Christ was her Lord, there was an escape waiting for her.
Let me qualify that what is written below is written for believers in Christ. Those who label themselves as Christ-followers. It really makes no sense to nonbelievers.
Spiral Of Colors by Jay Ballanger
We've noticed with our daughter that anxiety drives a good bit of behavior. It is understandable considering what she grew up in before foster care & adoption. We are beginning to learn how to identify and address it. It is not always easy to do so and not every situation is clear-cut.
Our counselor described it as a spiral. It circles around and the longer it is allowed to continue the bigger it gets. The goal is to stop the thinking (and therefore behavior) as soon as possible. This is not always easy.
I have been reading a book co-authored by Karyn Purvis called Connected Child. I can only speak for the first four chapters so far, but I think they are insightful chapters!
The book is about how to parent adopted children from abusive backgrounds. I first heard about this book through the resources listing on the Show Hope website, Steven Curtis Chapman's adoption ministry. I think the book is worth checking out and maybe even refer extended family (grandparents and others) to it to help give them insight into what is going on with the newest members of the family.
A recent trip to the beach to hang out with extended family went well, but upon coming home, we realized how difficult it was for our twins. It was a week full of establishing new relationships and relationships are some of the scariest things for them to face because of their background. It helped us see how to anticipate their struggles a little better and prepare them for meeting more of the family.