Monday, January 28, 2013

Capable of So Much More Than We Believe

I love when I find an article about foster parenting. It really is a subject that deserves much more attention. But I love it even more when it truly gives people a glimpse into the reality of this world- for better or worse. The following article does just that. But it also speaks to the truth that we all underestimate ourselves. Makes you wonder what you could achieve if you'd allow yourself.

Foster Parenting Creates a Future, Without Erasing the Past 
by Brittney Dalton via The New York Times

My husband and I adopted our three children, now ages 11, 10 and 7, in October 2010 (we had to wait another nine months for our oldest daughter, the eldest of three biological siblings). We hadn’t intended to adopt this many, but we did not know how to answer the questions of desired age, sex, race and quantity on our paperwork so we left it blank, which the social workers took to mean, “We have a blank, load them up!” During our last training, we got a call that the current foster parents wanted to hand them over A.S.A.P., and we had to leave early to pick them up.

“Wait!” the instructor yelled as we ran out of the door, and handed us our Certified Foster and Adoptive Parents paper, still warm from the printer.

It wasn’t until the second week with the kids that I called our social worker to say that something was wrong. Our youngest had rages around bedtime every night, in which he threatened to stab doors, his own head and us; our 11-year-old was sick or sleeping all the time. Most disturbing, though, was our younger daughter. Her avoidance of eye contact, her superficial charm and eerie disposition were what prompted me to call. Something in her demeanor made me want to lock my door at night.

This call ushered in our new life filled with therapy, neuropsychologists and developmental pediatrician appointments. Our kids were poked and prodded, asked a thousand questions and sat in front of countless puzzles, and what we walked away with was a copious stream of initials: PTSD, RAD, F.A.S.D., O.D.D., O.C.D. and more.

After all the diagnoses, I devoted nearly every minute of my life to heal my children. Nothing mattered but these youngsters in front of us, still trapped by their past, calling us Mom and Dad. I read everything, talked to everyone and did every unconventional therapy known to man to meet their needs. I home-schooled and bottle-fed. We even moved to 155 acres in the country, away from judgmental know-it-alls and greedy pastors who wanted our family exploited on a stage for the cause of orphan care. We have worked and loved and struggled together.

Two years later, what you don’t want to hear me say is that not a whole lot has changed.
Granted, two years isn’t a very long time, but what we are told is that if there was going to be significant change in certain areas, it would have happened by now. My girls are not only damaged by their past, but in many ways are still caught there. Some part of them is still hiding under the bed, maneuvering to miss the jabs of the broomstick.

People think the miracle of adoption is a rescue and a happy ending. My children are safer and loved now, but that’s not what people want. People want to know that it can be undone, that these children will be given back the life that was initially theirs. It’s not what happens.

For my husband and me, accepting this included a terrible loss; it broke our hearts and nearly sank us. But the space in letting it go made way for a new miracle that supplied the buoyancy to hold our heads above water.

I thought love was a comforting emotion. Instead, I have found it to be an unbridled force, stretching my heart to make room for that which I once would have found unlovable. I will be the first to admit that this sounds worthy of a cheer, but to be the person whose life demands this love has been the most difficult experience of my life.

The miracle is that we are all capable of so much more than we believe. The miracle is that love may not conquer history, but it can conquer our conditions for love. The miracle is that all it takes is for someone to keep showing up, to do the work, to allow their life to change and for the pieces to fall where they may. It didn’t take changing our children to make us love them. We will never erase their past. We don’t have to. They are ours now, and we will love them through whoever they become from here.

The miracle is that we truly love and adore our children. That we were given eyes to see the sacredness in their design, and to not give up on drawing it out. Mary Oliver warns us to leave room for the unimaginable. I cannot imagine what my children will do with their one wild and precious life.


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