I realize it has been a while since I have updated everyone on how TM is doing. The short answer is incredibly well. His language ability is equivalent to D's (with his pronounciation being, perhaps, a little better.) Every so often we run across a word that he has to ask the meaning of....but then he's only four. He has amazing physical ability. He loves riding anything with wheels, and rides them well. We fully expect him to learn to ride his bike without training wheels this summer. (This does cause D some jealousy, having just recently conquered riding the tricycle.) One of the most amazing parts of TM's development has been watching his drawing skills develop. When he first came home, it was pretty obvious that he had never really had the opportunity to color and draw. His first attempts at coloring looked very similar to something an 18 month old might do....just scribbling. He had no idea of what the lines in coloring books were for or any concept of representational drawing. Over the past 10 months, we have watched him move through all the stages of drawing and coloring that our other children have experienced. The difference is that where they took several years, TM has taken several months. He moved from scribbling to drawing basic figures (the circle for a head with the arms and legs coming directly out), to slightly more complex figures (adding a line for a body) to geniune four year old type drawings. Now he draws many pictures of vans and cars (complete with doors, windows, tires, steering wheel, and windshield wipers) with people inside. It has been incredible to watch.
Attachment-wise, things have improved considerably. The concerns I voiced the last time I posted about this have pretty much disappeared. The need to talk all the time has abated. He still talks a lot, but it seems to have lost its controlling edge. The amount of things that were "accidently" broken has also lessened. TM is learning to be more careful and is developing self-restraint that he didn't have before. He can still get wound-up when stressed, but like everything else, its intensity is less. He seeks out hugs and attention from J and me and it has been a long time since I felt as though he is avoiding eye contact. TM and D have become the best of friends. They play together, often by making up elaborate imaginative games, all the time. Except when one has punched the other one....then they are upset with each other for a few minutes, after which they go back to playing. As I was describing this process to a friend, she said that sounds just like any pair of four year olds....perfectly normal...what beautiful words.
As I think about the last ten months, I'm coming to the conclusion that in some ways the whole process has been the most difficult for me. (By saying this I in no way want to discount the enourmity of what TM has weathered...4 placements in 3 1/2 years, loss of loved foster parents, loss of country, loss of first language and having to learn a new one...it's huge. Looking back, I'm suprised how few problems we've really had.) While I knew that TM faced many challenges in joining our family, I didn't fully acknowledge the challenges which faced me. I didn't fully understand the work and faith it takes to fall in love with a child...especially one that isn't acting very lovable. With my biological children, there was no effort in loving them. The minute each of them was placed in my arms, I was madly in love. It just happened; nothing was required of me. With TM, I overestimated the automaticity of this process. I didn't immediately love TM (or even really like him) at first. I had to decide to love him. I had to decide to act toward him as if I felt love, even if it wasn't what I was feeling. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that love is a conscious, intentional act; it is so much bigger than just what one feels.
Through this whole experience, I have learned many, many things about God and about my relationship to Him. I have learned that good and safe are not the same thing. To worry about doing what is safe is to miss out on something that can be wonderful. I have learned that God will get you through the hard parts. Adopting TM is one of the hardest thing I have ever done. There were times it was so hard I found it difficult to pray. I relied on Scripture which I had memorized (it would come unbidden into my mind) and on the support and prayers of friends. I have learned that in order to see God work, you have to take an initial step in faith. You have to be like Peter and get out of the boat.
Now all of these things are good and wonderful things to know about God, but I believe that only by watching and experiencing human adoption can we even come close to understanding the idea of being adopted by God into His family. We initiated our relationship with TM, just as God initiates His relationship with us. TM didn’t really want to be part of the adoption. In fact, he openly fought it tooth and nail (literally). During his rages, J and I would hold him and tell him over and over again how we loved him. If we, as imperfect, human parents, can do this, even if we are not necessarily feeling love, how much more does our Heavenly Father love us? I will forever have the image in my head, whenever I am feeling upset with God and spewing my anger at Him, of God holding me in His arms while I rage, telling me He loves me. We chose to love TM, even when he wasn’t being lovable. I am sure I often act in an unlovable way, but now I am absolutely certain that God loves me in spite of myself. Adoption is truly a miraculous thing.
There is one last thing I have learned. From TM's point of view, the worst had happened. He lost everything: home, country, language, and the only parents he could remember. To him, our adoption of him was a tragedy. But, from an adult perspective, the situation was very different. As a ward of the state, TM had no future. There was no guarantee that he would be able to stay with his foster parents. They were an older couple and it was uncertain if they would be around to support him as he grew older. His prospects were not very rosy. Through adoption, he has a permanent family with a secure and bright future. How often do we bemoan events, when our viewpoint is too limited to make a real judgement about the “goodness” of things? I am certain, if we could see things from God’s perspective, we would find ourselves saying, “Of course, this is the way it has to be.”