Friday, January 18, 2013
"Cool," I told Sabrina, when I'd seen this photo of the guy she asked to the Sadie Hawkins dance, "I know his mom." Words no teenager really wants to hear. But hey, they live in the very nice upscale neighborhood near the entrance to our dirt road.
"I feel like I was forced to grow up too fast," I've been recently told by a tearful teenager.
That's only partly true, the more complex story is that she wasn't adopted until age 10 and had spent most of those previous tumultuous years parenting three younger siblings against tremendous odds. Arriving here in March of 2005, near the end of her fourth grade, the next 8 years sped by mercilessly and the passing years were unconcerned about her lost childhood.
She and her siblings had had been sorely neglected, left all alone in dangerous places, dropped off into shifty situations, had had multiple caretakers, several stints in emergency shelters, and some time spent busted up as a sibling group, further damaging their trust abilities.
Her youngest two siblings were then so young that they have no memories of life before our home - other than a vague undercurrent of fear, chaotic thoughts, and something they just can't put their finger on - which would be the lingering after effects of trauma. The second oldest came to me labeled "difficult." He was not nearly as difficult as those whom I'd previously raised.
So what to do? I can't hold her back from growing up, nor would she want me to do so.
I just have to keep reassuring her that nothing will actually change. She'll go away to college and come home as often as is possible, still keeping the original master suite as her bedroom. She can keep her clothes in those bureau drawers, that which she won't need at college, and her stuff stays where she will leave it. This is still HOME.
Another older daughter reminded me on the phone yesterday of having to call up her own BFF, a social worker, to talk her down from her own jitteriness as she too stepped once fearfully into adulthood, and this was after she'd completed college. This really never goes away. Never. The lingering after effects include very deep fears that most likely are unresolvable. The progress though comes when the child finally comprehends that it was not their fault.
So I sat and thought about all of my other children, those with less reasoning facilities. No wonder they self-medicate, trying to drown out their bottomless raging pain that they simply aren't either aware of its causation, nor even able to articulate. This unpegged feeling blossoms into a deep, searing anger, and we all know that anger turned inward is depression. So if they feel bad all the time and thus only are able find relief in a bottle or a pill, then how do I help them break through? Especially when they'd argue with me about the whole thing?
Me modeling not medicating, even after the hell they've put me through, doesn't speak to them at all - even though I want that to be a role model thing.
I have slowly learned that with the passing of time, comes a certain level of improving maturity, but not before they've either badly sabotaged their own forward steps, racking up court fines and lawyer's fees, but they've also left a trail of broken hearts, banged up relationships, spotty education, and a crappy employment pattern.
When I long ago set about to adopting I just had no clue as to the long term ramifications of what they, and I, would face over the years. I dumbly thought that love would prevail. Sally Sunshine knocked out in the tenth round, but modeling how to keep on getting up in spite of it all, wiping tears, both theirs and mine, taking deep breaths, reconfiguring another plan of action.
It's been heart wrenching. It makes me so sad to see themselves cost themselves so dang much. All of my boring discussions, explanations, old-school advice and conservative suggestions are generally falling on deaf ears. I've later been told by them that they simply wanted to reject all my middle class advice and return to their roots. That was what they thought they missed - the instability, the drunken parties, a life of trying to stay one step ahead of the police or the landlord, needing action, chaos and confusion because that was where they thought they were most comfortable.
The reality was that they simply, yet profoundly, missed their birth parents - no matter how badly they'd been treated back then, it was a primal need from within to have those now missing parents in their lives. They've taught me this one indisputable fact. I do understand, I've witnessed their inner pain for so many decades, wiped their tears, and tried, tried, and tried to reassure them that it's all gonna be alright somehow in the end.
Therapy didn't get to the root of the problem, and Lord Have Mercy I've chased after every therapeutic avenue possible.
But that just wasn't the issue.
The intense debilitating grief over loosing one's roots, and all that it psychologically entailed, seemed insurmountable to those kids who had little inner gumption or abilities to cope.
So how do we fix this? That band-aid called Love just isn't enough.
I just don't know. I recognize the issues, but I don't have answers. Neither does the adoption community as a whole, nor do the professionals. We are all struggling and stumbling along. I'd venture a guess that much of humanity struggles with something or another, trying to find meaningfulness in a world of grief, hardship and challenges.
As a mom, I just have to keep plowing forward, being rejected quite often, simply because I visibly represent the original one that they feel once rejected them. The Mom. Not always a pretty place to be as they express their enormous inner rage that is quite understandable.
Some have proven to be too dangerous for me and for my other children, leaving us classified as domestic violence victims, police reports serving as documentation I never ever believed would ever happen to a strong woman like me.
I'm fairly shaken up by what we've lived through and I'm an overly educated adult, imagine how much more bewildering this all has been for the severely traumatized children.
My daughter, mentioned above, doesn't necessarily comprehend how rare it was at all that a sibling group of four even found an adoptive home, the statistics were certainly stacked against her and them. Or that she's making it into college - what were her chances? She beat the odds big time. She's smart for sure, but sometimes that intelligence can only fuel a righteous fury and terrible indignation regarding her early childhood trauma. It was all so unfair.
Sweetheart, I truly do understand. I really, really (and sadly) do get it on your behalf.
I'm celebrating her resiliency, holding her hand through this tough transition period, and praying for the best. Self-sabotage sucks and I've witnessed it way too often over the years.
That she totally trusts Dr. Mandy and responds very well to therapy is in our favor. Dr. Mandy suggested I take the baby sister on the college trip to help her with her own abandonment issues - an idea that hadn't even occurred to me, another illustration for the adoptive parent's need for therapy. I the poster child.
I really want to recommend this post today about happiness. This is gonna be our dinner table topic tonight. My kids have been receptive for the most part about no cell phones at the dinner table. Last night Grandma'd made homemade chicken noodle soup for the meat eaters and I was supremely gratified to hear my nearly grown sons thank her without any prompting by me.