The courage to get up in the morning

I had posted on a group of adoptive mothers last night that it had been a rotten evening and that I was at the point (again) of feeling as if we would never make progress with our son and that I had lost hope of experiencing a better existence with this child. Being in the place of feeling no hope is a miserable place to be. One of the other mothers wrote that 'these are the moments that we ask God to give us courage to get up in the morning... and He does." I love the phrase 'the courage to get up in the morning' because that is really what it is sometimes. A courageous act. And it can be tiring. This morning things are better, but I won't lie, I long for the day that I don't feel the need to hold my breath until I can discern what kind of attitude will confront me.

A friend recommended the book, Wounded Children Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families. As unbelievable as it may seem, this was a book on trauma and adoption that I had missed. I liked it, though I find it a bit unbelievable that a book written in 2009 doesn't mention homeschooling even once in the chapter on how to navigate school with a child coming from trauma. But aside from that, what I liked most were the descriptions of what life is like for families who bring these children into their homes. In my opinion, there is not nearly enough education about what to expect and it ends up catching too many parents off guard. I would say that all children who are adopted have experienced some sort of trauma just because of the magnitude of the loss of biological parents, and there is no way to predict if that child's behavior will be adversely affected. If the child's behavior is adversely affected, you can be sure the adoptive family will be adversely affected as well. Parents need to know this up front.

Too many people are unprepared for the possibility. "Many adoptive parents find themselves in an unfamiliar place. They perhaps have had parenting experience, but only parenting nontraumatized children. They have not cared for children who lack extreme impulse control and who have problems with boundaries, oppositional behavior, difficulty expressing emotions, and so on. They are at a time and place in their lives they have never been. It has stopped feeling good, and they do not like what they are becoming." (pp. 77-78) I found this true for us. We knew how to parent an emotionally healthy child, but were completely unprepared for a traumatized one.

And it is a challenging road. "...adoptive parents identified challenging effects they have experienced as they parent traumatized children. Frustration, which was the major effect named by many adoptive parents, comes because of three major deficits: (1) lack of validation as being the parent of their child, (2) lack of understanding about the difficulties they are living with, and (3) lack of support." (p. 82)

I would add to that list, frustration with knowing whether what you're doing is helping or not or is it ever going to get better or actually knowing anything. While more and more is being discovered about how the brain works and how to help people who have experienced trauma, it is still pretty much unknown territory. It's not easy.

I also think some of this frustration we inadvertently bring on ourselves a bit, mainly because there is a whole lot of shame that goes on as well. We are hesitant to share what life is really like sometimes because we fear people's reactions... that they'll think us poor parents, that they will think less of our child, that we will be shunned in some way, that it will be our fault another child without parents will stay in that condition because we scared someone away with our truth. But unless we are willing to share, even a little, there is no way that another person who has not lived it can even hope to understand. Or even understand that there is something understand.

This description really hit home with me. "One adoptive mother stated, "It is like living with a walking time bomb. I don't know who might be getting up in the morning. Will quiet, calm Jackie be getting up, or will it be angry, aggressive Jackie? Even if quiet Jackie gets up, I still feel like I am walking on eggshells all because I don't know just how long her good mood will last. As a result of this uncertainty, I don't know sometimes how to plan my day. Should I meet other adoptive mom friends in the park for a play day? Or will it collapse into what happened last time? What about going to the mall? I think that sounds like a good idea, until I remembered what happened last time we all tried to go together. It just wasn't worth the effort." (p. 83)

While I understand that many parents feel lack of support (even if they try to describe to friends what their reality is, they are brushed off as being a downer or making it up), I have to say that while this week has been not great, I have felt so supported by my friends. I even had one friend show up this morning with dinner for tonight completely unannounced. I get kind of weepy just typing that. I've had friends insist that they take me out to dinner as a treat. I've had fellow church members come up to me and say they couldn't sleep and had spent the night praying for my family. It is humbling... and wonderful.
This is probably the worst post in the world to remind you about Brandi...

This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.


Anonymous said…
"They have not cared for children who lack extreme impulse control and who have problems with boundaries, oppositional behavior, difficulty expressing emotions, and so on." Don't believe this MANY biological children and parents are living this same nightmare,anxiety creates the same sort of experience, and you have nothing to blame but your own genetics. Becoming a prayer warrior, seems to be the only solution.
Anonymous said…
This lack of support (after it was promised) has gone on for a long time. In the 80's I knew of a very loving couple who adopted 2 traumatized boys. This couple did not get the support promised by the agency and the couple were unprepared and literally fell apart emotionally. How is it that there are no available resources for the kids and adoptive parents? Please talk about it so that someone will take up the cause. There are so many resources out there for families,seek them out.Speak up! God Bless you, you are in my prayers to find support.
thecurryseven said…
Anonymous 1: What this is trying to say is not that parents who have only biological children do not experience difficulties, but that there are many parents who turn to adoption after raising biological children with little difficulty. It is very easy to believe that as a parent, you had more than a little something to do with having easy children... pride very easily rears its head. I know, I've been there. And if you think you have the parenting game all figured out, a struggling, traumatized child is that much more difficult to understand and cope with.

Anonymous 2: Thank you for your comment. We actually are blessed to have a lot of support. We have a wonderful therapist whom we see weekly and have a wide circle of friends and family who are understanding and sympathetic. I think it is these two things which make it easier for me to be transparent than others may feel they can be.

But I agree, support and education can be elusive, and I'm quite sure there are more struggling parents out there than anyone would imagine. Because of my transparency, I think it feels safe for others to share their struggles with me. And I hear from a lot of other parents... many of whom never put a comment on a blog or a fb post. But they are out there and hurting.

I will repeat myself again, parenting a child from a hard place is incredibly difficult at times. I really think there are more people out there who want to help, but much of the time our shame and our pride stop us from being honest with others that we need help. Because people are not mind readers! If someone asks you how you are doing and it is a genuine question, don't just say, "Fine," with a smile and then complain that no one ever offers to help you. We are all broken people at some level, and being honest about your situation, whatever it is, is a whole lot simpler and also helps others to know how to help you.

J.A.T. said…
There are a lot of us in the counseling field who want to help. Some are unaware of the real implication of attachment issues, but many of us are. Don't be afraid to call and ask - talk to specific clinicians. If you don't sense that they are on the same page, move on. But you may be surprised to find that there is more help available than you thought. Most of my fellow counselors/therapists are like me - if we can't help someone, we can refer them to the right people. I specifically changed careers mid-life to work with adoption and attachment issues and am in the process of getting the necessary training before advertising as an attachment therapist. My heart goes out to parents of children with these challenging behaviors as I know you are caught between your own feelings of inadequacy and fear and your heart breaking for the fears your children have that cause them to act this way.
thecurryseven said…
Thanks for your comment, JAT. I am happy to report that we have been seeing a therapist who specializes in my son's issues for about a year now. We deal with trauma and not so much with attachment in our home these days.

Your advice is correct, that if you feel in over your head, finding a therapist you can work with is a key to healing. But even with a good (or very good) therapist, it's not a magic cure-all. There is a lo to hard work that needs to happen and it can be draining and scary.

But sometimes a parent can be so ashamed by what they feel that they literally cannot bring themselves to seek outside help. This is especially true if that parent has only heard the rainbow-and-happy-trees adoption stories. You know the type... love at first sight and happily every after with the more honest ones including a short adjustment period. If this is the only story you hear, than it is very easy to think there is something dreadfully wrong with you as a parent. This is one of the big reasons why I share our journey. Based on my very unscientific study, mainly based on the feedback I receive... either privately or anonymously... the hard stuff is far more common than anyone lets on. And the more common the experience can become, the less likely the adoptive parent in trouble can begin to think about seeking help.

So while, yes, I agree with you that there are professionals out there who want to help, seeking help is actually something that people really need to work up to. It is often not the first remedy that is sought.

Blessings on your calling in life.


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