I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last few years, as I figure do most of us in our 30’s. One thing that I’ve learned is that I tend to write on this blog from a place of pain. It’s no doubt an outlet for my introverted self. If you’ve followed our journey, you could probably gather from the absence of recent posts that it has been overall, a season of joy, and for that I’m so thankful. And yet, here I am writing once again.
Sometimes in the seasons that are void of heartache, I completely forget that I am parenting a child from trauma. I completely forget that he is still broken. I remembered this week.
Everywhere I’ve looked lately I’ve seen the phrase, “Somebody should fix this!” more than I could count. Part of me wanted to join the fight, to get caught up in the outrage of the loudest crowd. But, I just couldn’t. I’m too tired. You see, I am a “somebody.” I’m just doing my part to work on “fixing” something different. I am a “somebody” who adopted a child from the foster care system three years ago.
Summer is always a hard time for our adopted son, even after three years. Maybe he was taken into DHS custody during the summer. Maybe he was home more often in the summertime, and because of that, was exposed to more trauma over that period of time, maybe the relaxing of structure is just that tough on his still-too-vigilant mind. Whatever it is, we know this to be the case. So at the beginning of summer, my husband and I sat down and discussed the things we could do to ease his discomfort. A simple structure for the day along with some special time with friends was on the list of to-dos. Most importantly, this summer was my chance to work on my relationship with him, which has always seemed to be a struggle for both of us.
We were going along great, but I definitely should have seen the uneasiness in his manner. I think I was probably too pleased with how well our summer of bonding had been going. We had been sharing good books, intentional and random hugs, and good front-seat minivan conversations. It seems so simple and natural to most mother/son relationships, but it’s hard for us, and it always has been. Maybe the excitement over what I thought was progress was why Tim saw it coming before I did.
I wasn’t completely blind though. About a week ago, I saw it too, and braced myself somewhat, still thinking that maybe his frustration with life would manifest some other way, that maybe I would not be the target this time. But it wasn’t so.
I sat down with him after a particularly snide display of frustration and gently asked him what’s really bothering him. And then the floodgates opened, and all the sadness, sorrow, and disappointment came rushing forward. It was the same record, but a new song.
A day or two later, he confided in my mother that I was the problem. He had no idea why and nothing specific that I had done that made me the problem. All that he knew is that it was me.
When I heard that, I felt half relieved and half brokenhearted. First of all, the fact that he finally just said it caused me to be so thankful. I don’t have to guess anymore… now I know. I am the problem.
Secondly, I was relieved because I know without a doubt that it is not truly me. He thinks I am the problem. But I’m not. It’s really her, his birth mom. And if you really want to know, I am mad at her today too. Lots of people who are better than me at forgiveness today have all kinds of warm fuzzies about birth parents. I wish that I always did. Most of the time, I feel a great deal of sorrow for her, and I even feel empathy for the addiction that caused her to throw away everything good in her life. But times like these where I realize that I have a son who will struggle his entire life to trust me just because I share her title of “Mom”…well that does not make me feel particularly warm toward her.
While the brokenhearted part of me crashed under the weight of “being his problem,” I am sitting here in the coffee shop, writing away my woes, and I am feeling surprisingly freed. There is nothing I can do to repair this. Despite all my recent efforts, I still haven’t done anything to fix it. That can only leave one thing. This is all God. It has been from the beginning, and it will remain exactly that. Finally, I can rest a little. I can try a little less to win him over, and lean a little more into God and into the prayer that one day, all things will be new. I believe it to be true. Until then, I’ll continue to be a praying mom, showing him over and over that I am safe. And the rest I’ll leave to God.
Because I’m writing this from a first-person perspective, from a very raw place in my own heart, it’s easy for this to sound like it’s all about me. But that’s not my desire at all. This is, and always has been, about giving a real, honest account of the adoption process, start to finish. Childhood trauma is a disease that courses through my son’s veins every waking moment. It’s also about the journey of children I’ve never met. Children waiting for a mom who they can be mad at for no apparent reason, but that will still love them and stay with them anyway. Children waiting for a dad because they’ve never had one and wonder what it would be like. Children waiting to be reunited with their biological siblings in a forever home. I wish that I could be an advocate for something more popular. The kind of thing goes viral quickly, and gets maximum exposure in minimum time.
But here I stand, trying my hardest to shout above the roar of many other voices, all advocating good things, but like me, sometimes forgetting the people that need our help right here, right now. Forgetting to open our doors to our neighbors, to know them, to care for the children in our own community, to take them into our homes, to share their heartache, to participate in their sorrow, to bear the weight of their anger. Keep shouting loudly, “Somebody needs to fix this!” about all the problems in the world that you see, but don’t forget to support those “somebodies” right here, right now who are called to fix the things and more importantly, every once in a while…be the somebody.