Sunday, December 04, 2005

Adoption Thoughts

Words for the Robinson family importing three new members through adoption.

People adopt children for a variety of reasons. The idea of caring for the orphan is supposed to be noble, and I would say it had nothing to do with why Buck and I decided to adopt. I‘ve always been open to the romance of adoption, because I’m the quintessential cliché woman who loves children of all shapes, colors, and sizes. Then I found my first pregnancy to be unbearable. Never before or since have I ever literally wished to die, but that’s precisely where nine months of never ending violent nausea and debilitating illness took me. It frightened me that I wouldn’t make it through another round of such torture, and I did not want an only child.

Thus, the hard road to adoption became paved with sweet smelling roses.

Ten years later, I’m so very blessed to call my Tator "son", but the honest truth is that it’s never been a walk in the park. In fact, we hit a crisis about two years ago when Boodle was eight which went on for almost a year. Almost daily, he took down the picture of he and his birthmother from above his bed, held it and cried long and real tears. “Where is she, Mommy? Why doesn’t she ever visit me anymore? Doesn’t she want to see me like I want to see her?” Some days, I cuddled him in my arms and cried with him. How could I explain choices I would not make to a little boy? Other days, I was terribly insensitive to my grieving son worried he might be manipulating me. I closed the door to his bedroom and told him he could come out when he was done. Even harder than these moments was the fact that his inborn Curious George personality took a dangerous turn toward greater risk taking and more aggression.

The negative behavior escalated and the sad sessions turned from days into months. I researched and read books on parenting and adoption, and nothing really helped. I considered therapy, and I asked to have coffee with a friend, Kyrie, who is a doctor of psychology. Kyrie has adopted and has birth children of her own and though she offered some helpful advice and her fabulous listening ear, I found she too had the same issues and no great solutions. We ended up agreeing that it would take an exceptional and rare therapist to get the roots we hadn’t been able to find as mothers. We acknowledged (and still do) the lifelong struggle adopted children have with deep rejection issues. Kyrie’s lived in Knoxville all her life and stated she’d never met any therapist with that kind of expertise in her career.

One day, I took the constant reminder of the Boodle's picture of he and his birth mom down from his wall and put it in his photo album. I told Boodle he was always welcome to get out his album and look through it, but it belonged in the photo cabinet when he finished. I can’t remember a time he’s gotten out his album himself, but the crying and questions didn’t stop.

One rescue came in the form of a rather ordinary moment from a dear friend of mine who is adopted herself, Liz. I remember our families being on an elevator together and her bending down at eye level to be with my son. She placed her hand on his shoulder and looked directly into his eyes, “I know a way you and I are alike. Did you know I’m adopted too? I know how different I felt from my parents and how hard that is at times. Is it that way for you too?” I’d witnessed a true connection between Tator and Liz in his small yet emphatic, “Yes!”.

I spoke with Liz at another time about her adoption experience. She shared her heart with me that she has always known she was hard wired with a completely opposite set of internal controls than her adoptive parents. She still doesn’t relate to her parents on the level she has with her own children, and she states it’s about DNA rather than parenting style. “It’s the way my brain simply works differently than the mind of my mom and dad. I can see it all over them. They don’t really ‘get me’ at all.” She laughed cheerfully, “Planning my wedding with my parents proved everything I’d thought about our dissimilarities.”

Different hard wiring. I put this in my pipe to smoke awhile and still do. Yes, by age three and up, Boodle had found all my hot buttons, and I believed he deliberately looked for ways to push, jab, and jam them on a daily, no hourly, basis. This hard wiring concept helped me realize what I presumed to be deliberate was actually more the way he was made not matching the way I was made. I know when he heartily jumps on the back of a unaware teenage boy he admires at church, it’s his way of saying, “You are the greatest. Someone I’d like to be.” I cringe inside when he‘s so rough and physical, because I know the injury his thoughtlessness has caused. To my horror and against my thousand warnings not to in the past, he’s jumped on one young man’s back with knee injuries requiring surgery. Tator didn't know about the guy's knee problems and did not cause further harm, but it could have been disaster. I chalk Tator’s required physical ways of relating as a hard wiring difference. I cannot compare him to my other boys, one older and one younger, who understand and respect physical boundaries and limits of others at an internal level.

This concept has also helped me see another disheartening behavior in another light. He is constantly beating, pounding, stomping, bouncing around, banging, belting out “BAH, BAH, BAH” at disturbing intervals throughout the day. He tends to jar everyone in our home at times from peaceful moments into chaos with boisterous noises. While my birth children go around singing or chanting, it’s not at the same intensity, and I rarely notice their sounds. Boodle must be made for at a higher decibel than my genes are used to.

I hope you can stand my candor here. I don’t have the same level of understanding of Tator as I do of my birth children. I’m not proud to say, I lose my insight and temper with him more quickly. While I’ve pleaded on my knees with God, and others have also prayed earnestly on our behalf, I don’t have the same heart connections which came naturally as a result of birthing my other children. So when I’m feeling frustrated with myself and my parenting of this particular blessing of a boy, which happens regularly, I try to step back and consider him for all he is made to be. Not who I *think* he should be according to the skewed grid of my limited mind.

A second rescue meant as much to me as the parted Red Sea meant to Moses. In another ordinary day at lunch, another adopted friend Kate offered profound insight. I unfolded the scenario of my son crying for his birthmother on a regularly basis. She asked a few questions on the ways I handled him during these heartbreaking moments. With these simple words she changed the life of our family,

“True, it’s time to give him in fantasy what he cannot have in reality.”

What? “Instead of offering Boodle your pity, align yourself alongside him and ask, ‘If Momma Shannon were here for your birthday, what present would she bring you?’ ’If Momma Shannon came for dinner, what would we make especially for her?’” Kate also suggested before we begin this process, to have the following conversation with Boodle. “You know how when you are eight, how you are not allowed to drive? Why is that? Not tall enough. Not mature enough to handle all the things driving a car throws at you like crazy drivers and unpredictable scary roads. It’s the same with finding Momma Shannon, you don’t have all that needs to be in place inside you at eight years old to go looking for her by yourself just now. But when you are mature and a man, you’ll have what you need to handle any twists or turns we might find in searching for Momma Shannon. If you still want to see her like you do just now, I promise I will help when you are an adult.” No need to mention the roads may become dead ends or the state we just might find her in at that later date. Ever watch the excellent movie Antwone Fisher?

Kate’s strategy worked like magic with Tator. After our conversation about driving cars and finding moms, he experimented with crying for her. Once he met the pleasant response of “I think it’s around her birthday. If you could give her a present, what would it be?” He suddenly stopped being sullen himself and engaged in the fantasy with me. He no longer cries for her. Her rarely talks about her, though she’ll come up naturally on some occasions. For example, we ran across a memory of her when visited the park we’d had our “surrendering her legal rights to him” on our behalf. He remembers the bubbles she gave him that day. Though I keep it to myself, I vividly remember Momma Shannon solemnly asking me to hold my newborn Wise One, and the faraway look in her pained eyes as she held him close to her wounded heart. I wonder if she’ll ever find the things I take for granted too often in my own life- an education, a home, children, and most of all love.

December 2, Boodle’s adoption day, snuck up on us and flew by before any of us realized it the other day. Buck called from work in the evening to remind us all as we were preparing to leave to see the Knoxville Christmas Parade. So, we’ve planned a make-up celebration for today. We’ll read Happy Adoption Day and think up other special things to acknowledge the gift of Tator to our family.

These words I give you , Robinson family, which have served our family well. I pray for parents hearts molded to the needs of these particular treasures, wisdom, and bonding as you open yourselves and home to the wonder of three great works of God.


~m2~ said...

that was really beautiful. thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart.

(keep in touch with that one gal - she is a treasure :)

Running2Ks said...

Oh my, what a beautiful and insightful post. And kudos to you, Liz, and Kate for talking about different approaches together. I am moved by your honesty.

truevyne said...

Dear M and Running,
I wasn't sure anyone would be up to reading such a long post. Thank you for reading!