Progress and Perspective.

{I took these pictures one morning when he was working really hard at walking.  He was overheating during his workout and taken off his shirt. Karate Kid and Rocky have nothing on this kid}

We've had this boy in our arms for nearly four months now.  Hard to believe it's been that long, and yet  I struggle to remember life before all the changes.   Honestly sometimes I try to remember and resurrect a glimpse of the longing and waiting feelings, so I don't take for granted the reality that he's here. 

 I try to remember the "me" that couldn't wait to kiss these chubby cheeks, the "me" that soaked up all the newness and beautiful fulfilment of those first few weeks. 

 I try to remember that child we knew for those first few weeks that seemed to "good" to be true, the child that never fussed, deceived  demanded, or defied...but I know that was just the surface facade of self preservation, and now we're mucking through the layers of hurt that are hiding underneath.  
Now it's just life.  
The daily grind.

I'm having a hard time stepping back and having perspective sometimes.  Maybe like that saying "I can't see the forest through the trees".  Some days I feel one of the trees has actually fallen on me (or maybe five or six of them), which makes it even harder to step back and appreciate the beauty.  Mostly I'm too tired to crawl out from underneath, so I strain my vision to catch a glimpse of the tiny, easily missed beautiful things down here in the dirt under the trees.  

I know the beauty is there though, and I trust that even in the hard moments, this is the gritty work of redemption.   As his muscles and tendons are being stretched, pulled, and strained....my own heart is being stretched, pulled and strained.  Like he does when I stretch him physically  I find myself resisting the internal work, wishing for comfort and familiarity.   This work of progress is hard stuff. 

It's not always pretty.   The progress is not at all linear. 

 Some days I still see that side of Elijah that I  did at the beginning, the quiet perseverance, the tenacity, the cooperative eagerness to please.   Other days we begin the day with whining, tantrums, and tears and carry it on through until bedtime.  Some days he wants to put his own socks on and some days he cries and tells me I'm mean and throws his socks.  

Every day he swings wildly between being terrified he will be sent away, or abandoned, and then telling me, with a cold glint in his eye, that he wants to leave and go to China (or anywhere)....then he's back to crying " no bye-bye" and clinging and telling me that he doesn't want to go on an airplane.  

It's heart breaking to see his turmoil.  I have to be his rock, the steady one, I do my best to remain calm, to let my love be consistent, to reach out and draw in the rage, and hold it in my arms.  Taking his hurt into myself. 

...but on the inside I just don't feel like that rock.  Sometimes I feel like I'm close to being the child in response.  There are moments I think he deserved better.  A mom with more patience, more strength, less selfishness, and someone who knows a heck of a lot more about parenting a child with a difficult past and about cerebral palsy than I do.  I remind myself that God placed him here, this was his idea, and he is sufficient to carry this through to completion.  

Gotcha day, and arriving home at the airport is a beautiful completion to all the work it took to make a child our own.  An orphan became a son, but in reality, gotcha day is just the beginning of a journey we won't be finished on this side of eternity. 

 The Lord uses the flawed and the weak, to show his grace and strength

..thank goodness for that because that's the only way that anything good can come out of crazy household.  

I've been really conflicted on how honest to be on this blog about our adoption and experiences.  While I want to be vulnerable and real I also don't want to moan, or whine, or somehow paint adoption as anything less than awesome.   It is awesome...and hard...and beautiful...and ugly...and rewarding...and demanding.    Each situation is so different, and I know from what I read about the experiences of others things could be a LOT harder.  

He really is a sweet boy, he loves to be loved, and he has adjusted well in SO many ways.   I think anytime an older child is adopted there will be challenges though.  You bring home, with that child, their whole history full of hurts, abandonment, loss, grief, memories, fears, and survival techniques.  They are little survivors...and sometimes what helped them survive in an institution, doesn't blend in seemlessly into a family setting.  It's a learning curve wrought with failures along the way.  For each of us.

I share these things because I need to be able to look back four months from now, or one year from now, or ten years from now and thank God for how far we've come.  Like a little map through the forest. 

Things that are sometimes a challenge with Elijah are:

-extreme insecurity and hyper-vigilance.
-still missing his foster grandparents (although less intense as time goes by)
-extreme jealousy (mainly of mom's affections and full undivided attention)
-entitlement/ demanding
-hoarding, stashing, sneaking, hiding things (especially in little bags by the back door...just in case)
- relentless clinging and whining.
-fear of all animals.
-indiscriminate affection.
-requires a lot of lifting, carrying, and assisting for daily activities (we're hoping that before he gets much bigger that his mobility will increase as well as our accommodations) 
- he gets very frustrated when his speech is not understood.
- Sharing.  Someone getting something that he doesn't have is a guaranteed anger trigger (and in his mind solid proof they are loved more than he is).  
-A general lack of content independent activity (which I know he has the capacity for)
 - Spitting when mad.

Some of the success and things we're very thankful for are:

-He, for the most part, accepts our love and his role as our son. (which is huge)
-He understands and uses basic manners, please and thankyou etc. (although being a 6yr old boy still forgets sometimes)
-We see the results of some loving parenting/ training that he has had in foster care (basic boundaries, self care, relational skills)
-He is fully potty trained day and night. 
-He sleeps all night independently
-His English vocabulary is increasing (although his pronunciation has not yet caught up)
- His walking is really starting to take off. 
-He doesn't have scoliosis yet, and he doesn't need hip surgery.
-He doesn't generally lash out physically when he's upset (only on one occasion of extreme duress did has he resorted to trying to bite and pinch my arms).
- I've discovered he loves to sit on the deck and blow bubbles.  It's the only thing he'll happily do independently  and clearly we will be going through a LOT of bubble solution this summer. 
- he's been healthy, growing, and has a good appetite for a variety of nutritious foods. 

We just got approved for funding to get him an adapted bike!

I would say that any older child adoption is a "special needs" adoption for those reasons, but then when you add a new realm of parenting through particular disabilities or medical needs....that's a whole new learning curve added in there too.   One "special need" doesn't cancel the other out.  

My challenge is figuring out how to balance it all, parenting this child who needs so much time and attention without neglecting the various needs of the other four kids, schooling, household, and husband. Someday's I feel like I've got the hang of this...and someday's it feels like there isn't quite enough of me to go around....and I start to resent anyone asking anything of me at all.   At that point the focus shifts from the One who can sustain and back onto "me".  There in lies the biggest problem.

He didn't choose to have cerebral palsy.  He didn't choose to be an orphan.  He didn't choose to be put on a plane and flown to his new home across the world.  He didn't choose to have to learn a new language and not be understood by his new family.  He didn't choose to be dealing with any of the struggles he has to work through.  He isn't choosing to be difficult.    I have to remind myself of that sometimes....as ridiculous as that might seem.   

So many of the issues he's struggling with are just symptoms of deep fear and insecurity.   I'm praying that the longer he's home, the more safe and secure he will feel.  Once that assurance of our love starts to take root those other things will start to fall away.  

I see the boy that's hiding beneath the fear and he's a pretty amazing little guy. 

"Elijah strong"

"good good"

This little guy truly is a blessing, and he is so very loved.  He is extremely generous with affection, and soaks it up from us as well.  That truly is a gift.  

Look at that posture! 

Life is full of light and shadow
O the joy and O the sorrow
O the sorrow

And yet will He bring
Dark to light
And yet will He bring
Day from night

When shadows fall on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When darkness falls on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When all seems lost
When we're thrown and we're tossed
We'll remember the cost
We're resting in the
Shadow of the cross

With every breath I take, every heart beat
Sunrise and the moon lights in the dark street
Every glance, every dance, every note of a song
All a gift undeserved that I shouldn't have known
Every moment I lie, Every moment I covet
I'm deserving to die, I'm earning your judgment
I, without the cross there's only condemnation
If Jesus wasn't executed there's no celebration
So in times that are good, in times that are bad
For any time I've had it all I will be glad
And I will boast in the cross, I boast in His name
I will boast in the sunshine, boast in His reign 
What's my life if it's not praising You
Another dollar in my bank account of vain pursuit, I do
That count my life as any value or precious at all
Let me finish my race, let me answer Your call

1 comment:

Chris said...

Oh Carla
It is such a long road, and your feelings are really OK-I oftenam sure God made a mistake inmaking me mama to 4 with pretty intense needs-I fail miserably, a lot!!!
it is rough-keep looking up, and take time for yourself-I am finding that is CRUCIAL for our survival as any kind of family unit-even tho it is next toimpossible to achieve without outside help!