A sweet adoptive mama over at "No Greater Joy Mom"
has asked a few questions about adopting older children and teenagers.
Although we have been home just short of 4 months,
I feel that we have had a very realistic experience with older child adoption.
We were given the priceless gift of skyping with Aaron prior to travel!!
I cannot begin to say how that experience helped us to begin to know one another,
alleviated many of our son's fears of walking away with essentially strangers,
and it gave Aaron a window into the world he would be entering.
Another blessing that helped in the transition process was taking our children with us to the Philippines. We walked the adoption journey as a family,
prayed as a family, cried as a family,
and welcomed Aaron as a family.
This allowed our girls to have experiences with our son in the Philippines
that they could refer to once home,
and it allowed the girls to relate to Aaron's past.
The third tremendous blessing was the ability to stay at Aaron's orphanage for a few days.
It helped our son get to know us a bit in his safe surroundings,
allowed him to continue to interact with those that he loves,
and the fabulous staff there reassured Aaron that he was going home with a good family.
We took every opportunity to get a glimpse of the years we missed in Aaron's life...
we visited his school, his church, the wet/dry market, his favorite pizza shop...every possible place that would give us something more of his past!
Our time there was priceless and it was difficult for all of us to leave!
I know it is not always possible, but I believe our transition was improved by spending a few days in country away from the orphanage before leaving the country.
During this time our son was still able to eat familiar food, hear his native language, and sights and smells were somewhat familiar.
During this time we focused on family bonding and definately chose our battles.
I can tell you that it was humbling for this mama to not know what our son was saying...fully realizing by the look on some of the faces that he was speaking out of turn. It was sometimes hurtful to watch our son walk ahead or behind us in hopes that people would not realize that he was with us, the caucasian family everyone was staring at. When we spent time in our room as a family, our son was giggly and affectionate. But when we went out in public, he was a different little boy. He became withdrawn and shy, not wanting to talk to us our be seen with us. We started spending more time in our room or the pool, and went out for shorter periods of time.
BUT...this time was extremely valuable for our family and I am thankful we had it!
It was yet another step in the transition process that we needed to walk through.
While in country our transition to a family of five seemed seamless...best case scenario...
and quite frankly...it was. Our son was freely accepting and showing affection (while in our room),
and his smile and giggles were contagious.
We hit our first truly difficult moment on our long airplane ride home.
Aaron wanted to watch a movie that I did not feel was age appropriate and that I had not permitted our 16 year old to watch yet.
Aaron was so very upset and completely shut me out.
He refused to look at me, talk to me, eat his meals, or interact in any way.
To our sweet boy, he was on an airplane...leaving everything he has ever known, going to a place far far away that he knows nothing about, and he was realizing for the first time that he may not be able to get/have everything his heart desires. To put it simply...he shut down.
And this mama,well, I had myself a mini internal panic attack right there on the plane:(
What am I doing, will he ever accept me as his mama, am I cut out for this...
Quite frankly friends, the enemy of our soul wanted to place fear and panic in both of our hearts!
But our heavenly father is so very faithful!!! He reached down and soothed both our hearts...
and after about two hours, we were both able to move on.
Once home we had our romantic airport moment that we all dream about!
We were met by a large crowd of family and friends and everyone lavished love on our family.
And then real life began:)
It is so very difficult to adequately explain those first days! It was wonderful...and it was hard!
It was priceless to experience all the first through our son's eyes.
It was wonderful to watch his relationship grow with my husband and oldest daughter.
At the same time, it was extremely painful to walk through his rejection of me.
Looking back, I really don't think he intended to reject me. I was simply the one he was able to point his hurt at. The one he could get a reaction from...in his attempt to grasp at some sort of control.
He grieved much...and we hurt right along with him!
He missed those he left behind.
He missed sleeping in a room full of boys (sisters were not on his wish list).
Although I was making three hot meals a day which included rice,
he was highly under-impressed with my culinary skills.
Learning English was hard and exhausting for him.
And quite honestly, I think he was bitter that he needed to learn it.
So, what do you do when transition is hard? When your son no longer accepts your affection? When you feel like you are failing at every turn and question your ability to parent your precious treasure???
YOU REMEMBER THAT YOU BATHED YOUR ADOPTION IN PRAYER...
YOU REMEMBER THAT YOU ASKED CHRIST TO OPEN/CLOSE DOORS AND LEAD YOU TO THE CHILD HE HAS CHOSEN FOR YOUR FAMILY...
YOU REMEMBER THE MIRACLES GOD PERFORMED
TO GET THIS AMAZING CHILD HOME...
YOU REMEMBER THAT GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES...
AND THAT HE PROMISES TO NEVER GIVE YOU MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE!
YOU REMEMBER THAT YOU HAVE BE TRUSTED WITH HIS PRICELESS TREASURE AND IN HIS STRENGTH...YOU WILL MAKE IT TO THE OTHER SIDE!!!
So now sweet friends, you cling to that with all you are worth!!! You spend time with Christ like your life depends on it, and you allow HIM to pour his peace over you as never before!! Then you love your precious child even if he/she chooses not to love you back for a time...or forever. You let him/her know that you cannot make them love you, or even like you...but that your love for them is not dependent on how they feel, what they do, or how they treat you!!
We have watched our son go from asking to go back to his orphanage at least 10 times a day,
to saying that he misses people he loves but that he would miss his family if he returned.
We have watched him go from struggling to express the most basic of need,
to telling elaborate stories in understandable English.
I have experienced very hurtful words spoken in anger,
to having him return with tears streaming down his face
in regret for hurting a mama he is growing to love.
Day by day, moment by moment,
we are seeing growth of trust
growth of faith
growth of love
growth of forever family!!
Friends, older child adoption is hard...
but it is soooo very worth it!!!
Your sweet treasure that God has entrusted you with
is soooo very worth every tear, every hurt, every sleepless night!!!
(even if they talk trash on their Easter eggs:)
My unsolicited advice in helping you, and your older child adjust to your new normal...
keep your nose in your bible,
show much grace to yourself and your child
(your house may not be clean for a few months and your laundry backed up...
but that is so very unimportant in the grand scheme of things!!),
choose to find your sense of humor and laugh much,
try not to take words spoken in anger to heart. This can be very difficult but remember that your sweet treasure feels like all power and control has been taken away...and he/she may lash out.
Find every excuse to put a hand on his/her shoulder, rub his back, give a hug/kiss, speak words of love. When asked why...or when it is rejected, remind him/her that you love him and that there is nothing he can do or say to take that love away!!
God does not make mistakes friends! He believes you are the best Mama for your sweet treasure!
In this process HE strips us of our ugly selfishness and teaches us how to love unconditionally,
and in time,
the results are absolutely priceless!!!
And for the record...I would do it all again...over and over again...
forever and always!!!