Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Progress and So Much To Be Proud Of

         It's been more of a challenge to update on how things are going around here this time around.  It's different with an older child....more private....and also just more impossible to find two seconds to sit down.  Most of my posts are blurbs I've written here and there so I can remember these times and memories.....and progress!
         I've wondered what this Christmas would look like this year....if this time of year would elicit strong feelings and emotions.  This is an excerpt from another blog that I read recently that really explains well a lot of what we see, and is a prime reason for my wondering....

  "For adopted kids, abandonment is a deep shame so entrenched, our kids don’t even know they are operating out of it. Whether with full memories in hand like ours or kids given up at birth, it doesn’t matter. The narrative is: I wasn’t good enough to keep. This sense of unworthiness is so deep, it takes a lifetime of intentional work to overcome. What that shame tells them is this: I am not worthy of love, happiness, or goodness. It seems ridiculous to parents who love them madly, who go to every game and concert, who sing to them and tuck them in, but those affections can’t erase the beginning of their story. They don’t feel worthy of happiness on Big Days, so they sabotage to hasten the disappointment before it gets to them first. Double bonus if their behavior triggers our anger, because then their shame is validated just like they suspected." (Full post here)

         Our girl is quite incredible.....the progress she has made in just three months is hard to believe...but even more so, the genuinely kind hearted, giving, sweet, loving, affectionate, intelligent, grateful and overall happy kid that she is just seems impossible.  Given the same life circumstances, I would not be anything like her.  I just know it.  We have our struggles.....and it's really hard sometimes.....but we are incredibly blessed.  Getting her to understand that she is all of these things, and more?  So very hard.  The sense of unworthiness described above is not an exaggeration.  And for those like our daughter, who have been told these lies all of their life, it makes it that much harder to reverse.  For whatever reason, she really wants to drive.  While I'm trying to ignore the fact that it's actually only 5 short years away, she's throwing me a hypothetical story of her sneaking out to drive the car while we're sleeping.  Totally joking, trust me.  But in our joking comes the serious.  "Would you not want me anymore if I did that?  Would you send me back?"  What?!!  And then my attempts to ever so slowly chip away at the lies.....of course not....always love....always my daughter......love when you listen, love when you don't listen.....love, love, love.....unconditionally, forever.  Smiles.  Holding my hand.  Content for the moment....but it will come again.

        No matter what we do there are questions.  It's so hard to not fully know what is going on, to not really understand what is being said.  I would be the same.....what, what are you doing, why, when, where?  Today I had Luke take the first picture of my little bump.  We did it with Caleb and I'm a bit behind this time around.  She wanted to know what we were doing so I pulled out the similar photos of me pregnant with Caleb....each month showing my growing belly.  Of course since we were in the middle of school they wanted to keep looking through the photos....Caleb when he was first born....then as he grew.  And then it came....."I wish you could see me when I was a baby......I wish I had pictures.....I wish......" and the tears.  Oh how my heart breaks in these moments, but I know it is nothing compared to what she feels.  And I just hold her and tell her I wish too.

       We've had some Christmas memories shared.....some good......most painful.  Christmas seemed to be exciting, even with the limited celebration and surprises for the children there.  It was something, however small, to look forward to.  But as she recounted Christmas after Christmas where the one thing she requested was taken away, we began to see how much pain it involved as well.  Not the others.....just her.....why me?  Why was my one gift actually meant for the entire class?  And then the question....that it seemed she really knew the answer to, but just still had to ask.....will my things be taken away this year too?  And slowly again we try to chip away another layer....

        Sometimes we're honestly not sure what the best way to approach things is.....it's just different going from parenting toddlers to an eleven year old!  Things we haven't yet had to address come up and we're back to the drawing board....okay how are we going to deal with this one?  I'm so thankful to have someone who is on the same page as me, and who is incredibly supportive and fully involved.  I can't imagine how things would be if this were not the case.  Since almost the beginning, a sense of competition has started to permeate every aspect of life.  It's seeped in slowly, but has recently become overwhelming....and really started taking the fun out of everything.  Things Caleb never would have even noticed started becoming important.  We would just start talking about getting ready for bed and they'd be rushing to ask us who could pray first, or sit next to us while we read......and the reaction of whichever child did not get their way was never pretty.  We started trying to remember who did what first the last time, but that was impossible and overwhelming....and ridiculous.  There's also the constant need to please.....surprises and rushing to help me....so incredibly sweet and appreciated, but again over the top and maybe not so healthy.  I sought some advice from others who have adopted, and most advised against addressing this issue.  We understood why it was happening, and we understood that we needed to address it sensitively.....but to do nothing, or to let it continue would leave us all miserable, and that was just not an option.  And so we sat down, with Google by our side to help with what we couldn't convey (we really try not to use this as much as possible for several reasons) had a conversation about how much we appreciation the kindness, the gifts and surprises, and the desire to be close to us and take part in everything.....and also that there will never be a need to earn our love....it will always be there, unconditional.  We talked about everything not having to be a competition....how that is draining and not much fun for anyone....and how the bible teaches us to put other first.  There were tears and many reassurances needed, but it was one of the best conversations we could have had.  And we could sense the relief.....not permanently gone....but a load lifted.......

     And since......no the competitiveness is not gone altogether (it would have been ridiculous to expect so), but this.....asking Caleb where he wanted to sit during school as opposed to the usual race to be in the coveted chair (identical to the one beside it mind you).  And as he stated his preference (the typically desired chair), he stopped and then offered it to her instead.  And I stopped and listened in awe.....and then praised them.....especially the one teaching the gesture of others first.  The beaming smile and pride so evident were priceless.  It was her turn at the most sought after part of our calendar time.....one of the few things I actually do have them take turns at.......she divided the items, giving each of us (yes even me) an equal amount and we did the activity together.  And each day that it is Caleb's turn, he does the same.  And we excitedly compliment them as they put one another first and really enjoy the activities that were once a time of being consumed with themselves.  And oh how they love to hear us rejoice over this.  It's so much more than getting rid of the competition.... it's boosting confidence.....giving reasons to feel proud of one's self.....lessons in how Jesus wants us to live and love.....taking away so much pressure.....teaching them that they teach one another both positively and negatively and watching as they notice this on their own and desire the former, sometimes even grieving over the latter.  It was a great lesson for us as well....not to second guess....to know that the books, resources, others experiences are all highly valuable but not all there is.....that God continues to equip us to face things we haven't yet had to face, and he gives us the wisdom to do what is best for our family.  I don't know what I'm doing half the time....but thankfully God gives us what we need...one little bit at a time.  

        The hard days are now outnumbered.....they come less often and are rarely as challenging.  The bad dreams are fading and the friendships are blossoming.  We are so grateful for sweet friends for our daughter....truly the best and I know that this makes a world of difference.  The stomach ache's are few and far between, bedtime is no longer traumatic......there is so much hope for a future that never was, so many dreams and "when I'm big......."  We will forever be making up for the way too many lost years filled with a lack of love an attention....kisses, hugs and I love you's are never ceasing around here and we are really truly grateful because it could be so very different.  School is a challenge for many reasons, but even there, so much progress.....last week I told her I wanted to cry because I was so proud.  Three months and she's writing like this in English.....granted I told her most words to write after she explained in English what she wrote in Russian, but she spelled them each on her own.  After a couple of years of studying Russian, I have found writing to be the most difficult aspect on learning a new language and my writing does not come close to comparing to this.  So much to be thankful for and so very much to be proud of!  


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