Much has been said about the trauma of an adopted child. There are books, blogs, foster training, and conversations with other adoptive parents. It all becomes a little overwhelming after awhile. It affects how you view a child to be constantly thinking about the ways they can (and do) act out because of their fear and pain.
Hearing all of these things can be scary for potential adoptive parents. It can make this seem too intense, even beyond their control. And to be honest, some days it has felt scary, intense, and maybe even a little out of control.
But it doesn’t stay there.
You find a new normal in this strange new life, and parents and children often grow with each other towards health.
Sometimes people ask me if our adopted children struggle. They seem happy, well-adjusted and loving. And I tell them yes. They are generally happy, well-adjusted and loving. And yes, they struggle. And then I try to leave it at that. I could tell crazy stories of the early days in this process. Those stories would be very entertaining. But I can’t. It doesn’t seem right to share their behaviors and troubles from their darkest moments. We probably wouldn’t appreciate that either.
Anxiety can still creep back in when I read about the most extreme ways that trauma can affect a child. And then I remind myself to look at my child, and to deal with our reality.
It helps when I remember that this child is a person. And that this person needs love, listening, care, stability, consistency and fun. Of course, these children have had to be taught all of those things…the healthy version of what each of those things look like. But we are slowly coming along. These children are completely different people than the ones who were dropped off at our home nearly two and a half years ago.
And then some little thing will happen that reminds me to pay closer attention, to remember where they’ve come from, even though they’ve come so far.
The other day after naps I was reminded of the sheer terror these children have been through. It comes out in different ways with each of them, and with one of the children, it’s when they are half awake. As he was being carried out of bed, with a look of panic, he said “where are you taking me?”. (He was pulled from his environment at the age of two. He never knew where anyone was taking him.)
This child says crazy things all the time, so usually I don’t notice. But that phrase reminded me of so many other times he’s said the same thing.
Like in the checkout line at Costco when he has to go on the other side of the counter. For the average child, it’s a little unnerving to have your cart pushed by a stranger, but that’s about it. but with this child? I see it all over his face, he thinks it’s all over, that he has to go live with someone new…
There is brave determination in his terror, and I hear that intense little voice ask: “where are you taking me?” and I remember that his trauma and his past are right there with him, every day.
I hug him and remind him for the millionth time that I won’t leave him. That he’s staying right here with me. And he smiles. And he’ll need to be reminded again tomorrow. Or possibly in an hour.
And next time I hold him through the Costco checkout line.