It’s Different

Surviving and Thriving in Pre-Adoption

It’s different. There, I said it.  And to be honest, it feels pretty good to get it off my chest.  For over a year now, I’ve struggled with guilt over the fact that I love James a little differently than I love Isaac, Hannah and Lydia.  Before you think I’m a terrible, awful mother, let me say that it’s a common thought among adoptive parents.  Not all, but many adoptive parents, particularly parents of older adopted children, talk about these things in hushed voices behind closed doors.  Most of the time, you can see some distress on their faces as they gingerly say the thing that terrifies them the most.  And yes, they are worried what you might think of them, and they are also worried that they are somehow cheating their adopted child, maybe not doing the job that God called them to do.

The absence of those precious early years with James haunt me every day. There’s not a minute that goes by that I don’t wish that I had gotten to hold him, cuddle him, and rub his tiny hand as he drifts off to sleep in the comfort of a crib set up just for him.  It pains me to talk about the things that my biological kids did when they were babies.  I show them a video from the past, and I can see it in his eyes, the hunger for a video of him when he was a baby, the wish that I had a cute story about him.  I wish it too.  But it’s just not there.  This is a hole in our history that we both will always grieve.  And due in large part to this fact, our love is on a bit of a different course.

As I’ve tried to put an adjective to my love for him, I’ve only come up with one. Fierce.  My love towards James is a fierce love.  It’s a love that is determined to prove to him his worth.  I refuse to allow him to believe that he will never amount to anything.  I refuse to accept, “Nah, I don’t want to learn that new thing,” because he says it out of fear that he will fail, but I know he will fly if he just tries.  I refuse to allow him to gain acceptance through acting out or acting babyish.  Because I know who he is…he’s a bright, sweet boy that anyone would love to get to know.  It’s a love born out of determination, and it’s a love that is slowly and tenderly formed alongside each other.  As I’ve walked this adoptive parent path now for over a year, I have come to realize that not everyone understands a fierce love.  But I think this is what adoptive parents have in common…the ability to love in many different ways.

And it’s my prayer that this post might comfort prospective adoptive parents who say the words that have fallen out of the mouths of thousands of adoptive parents before you…”But what if I can’t love them like I love my other child?” So let me take this opportunity to tell you that you probably won’t, and that’s okay.  A different love doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  And even a different love…a fierce love…has the amazing ability to grow over time.

I believe with all my heart that God has a plan for James.   A big plan, and as much as I’ve tried to be the perfect mom for him, I’m still just me-completely imperfect me.  So, I’m slowly coming to accept the idea that God knew that I would love James in a fierce way.  And maybe that’s just the different kind of love he needs to be everything that God wants for him.

Advertisements

One Year of Trusting God

Surviving and Thriving in the Pre-Adoptive Stage

It’s been one year. Okay, one year and 28 days since we added our fourth child.  In some ways, it seems like the past year has been going in slow motion, but in other ways, it flew by.  Life is funny sometimes.  We had a lot of “firsts” last year.  On Valentine’s Day this year, I realized that it would be the first holiday that wasn’t a “first” for James.  It seems like such a long time ago when he wasn’t quite ready to make Valentine cards for the family.  I still remember it like yesterday though.  When I explained to him that every year, we write each other Valentine’s and have a special Valentine Day dinner, he said, “That’s weird.”  But that night he sat down at the table and couldn’t keep himself from smiling when he opened one Valentine Card after another and read about how much we love him.  It must have felt strange to him.   I can remember wondering if our Valentine’s Days would ever be the same again.  After this year’s celebration, I can say they’re not the same.  They are even better.

This year, James was on board from the beginning, helping with decorations, making Valentine Cards for everyone, and excitedly preparing the traditional Valentine supper. It was so fun to see the difference a year has made.  It filled my soul and renewed my hope that broken things can be beautiful again.  Here’s a taste of this year’s celebration:

brothers valentine

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, I think about these blessings that I would be missing out on if we hadn’t obeyed God, and I just am saddened by the sheer possibility. Hearing your biological child say, “I love you,” is absolutely amazing.  Have your adopted child say, “I love you,” is a totally different kind of amazing.  Not necessarily better or worse…just a feeling that I wouldn’t want to miss out on experiencing.

 

James has made leaps this year:

  1. He has grown like a weed! I have no doubt we’ll see a good two inches of growth this year on his ceremonial birthday doorway marking.
  2. He has flourished in (home)school without the assistance of medication.
  3. He is sleeping regularly.
  4. He is becoming a great brother.
  5. He no longer becomes hysterical at bumps and bruises.
  6. He is starting to trust us.
  7. He has accepted our traditions and added some new ones.
  8. He freely expresses his love for us.
  9. He expresses remorse when he does wrong.

This isn’t even half of the list. The confidence I now see in him, the peace I’m seeing growing in him…

 

I wish that I could say, “Look at what we did! We saved this child!”  But there’s no way.  It was much less about what we did and much more about what God did.  Last year, most days I felt as though I was drowning, struggling up to the surface every few days just to get a gasp of fresh air before heading back down.  I experienced my first (and hopefully last) round of serious depression.   Looking back, I think it was just the perfect “thorn in my side” to remind me that God is doing this…not me.  God was making us a family…not me.

On the very day that marked one year since James has been with us, I could literally feel a big sigh from deep inside. I looked around and suddenly saw James, who seemed like he had just always been there.  I looked at my biological kids and said, “Wow!  You’ve grown since last time I really saw you.” And I had this renewed sense that I’m still here.  I’m not coming up for air every few days anymore.  No, I am swimming strong, and all my little ducks are right beside me.  While I wasn’t looking, they were having the time of their life learning to swim strong too.

When There Isn't Enough Mom to Go Around

That phrase that I said every day last year as soon as my feet hit the floor…do you remember it? I trust you, God. It got me through, and not only did it get me through, but God was right.  His plan for our family was and is good and right and perfect.

So, as we close the door on this first year together, I am climbing out of survival mode. I’m shedding the extra pounds I picked up on the way, but even more than that, I’ve shed many of the worries I carried with me, seeing once again that God can be trusted.  And now, my faith is just a little-or maybe it’s a lot-stronger than it was.  Now the next time God asks me to do something hard, I’ll know without a doubt that it’s a good plan, and maybe, just maybe, I won’t worry so much.

It’s Just a Tongue Depressor

It was Just a Tongue Depressor

You might have thought he had a broken arm. If you were outside in the hallway of the doctor’s office today, you probably would have suspected a possible dislocated shoulder that they were trying to reset.  One thing is certain, you never would have guessed that it was a simple tongue depressor.

My adopted son, James, hates to hurt. Now, I think that’s true for everyone, but he really hates to hurt, and I know that, but he was sick and a doctor’s visit was a must.  I did everything right…

I prepped him…I told him before we left exactly what to expect. “The doctor will look in your ears, your nose, your mouth.  You might get a flu test, but probably not…etc, etc”.

But there’s one fundamental problem with that-he still doesn’t completely trust me. And he certainly doesn’t trust a doctor.  Honestly, I knew that there would be some hiccups in this trip.  James was really, really sick, but I never expected the hang up to be right out the shoot…on the “Open your mouth and say ahhhhh….” part.

But we’re talking about full blown panic mode. I mean, screaming, kicking, crying, over a tongue depressor.  Yeah, you would have thought we were torturing him.  I had to physically restrain him so the doctor could just get a quick peek down the windpipes.  It was at that point that I knew that taking James to the doctor rivaled taking my four-year-old Lydia to the doctor (one of the Winter Olympic Sports).

So when the doctor said that he was going to do an injection, my heart sunk like an anchor off the side of a cruise liner. Oh boy….

I did everything right….

I prepped him. I told him exactly what to expect.  We related this shot to the flu shot, which he said wasn’t bad at all.  Personally, I think a flu shot stings like crazy, so for a moment, a fleeting second, I figured that this might just be okay.  But then, I looked into his face, tears still streaming down his cheeks, a look of complete panic in his eyes, and I remembered, no, this child needs more healing than a family doctor can offer.  So I hunkered down, and made the decision that we’re going to get through this together.  We’re just going to survive.

The nurse came in, and we got him ready. I’ve seen him jittery, but this was a new level of panic for him.  He asked to hold my thumb, and I offered him that, and took his other hand in mine.  Even though I told him every single step, the alcohol swab alone was enough to send him into a fresh batch of tears.  The shot came and went, and for a split second, I thought it was over…maybe not as bad as I thought.  And then the wailing began.

I have no doubt that the shot hurt like blue blazes, but what followed was not the typical reaction of an eight-year-old. In fact, my toddlers handled antibiotic shots better, I thought.  But then, they knew that I would immediately grab them and give them the comfort they so desperately needed at that moment.  The crying then lasted for mere seconds.  James just doesn’t have that history.  He isn’t sure that I’ll be able to provide him comfort.  So when he hurts, no matter how big or how small, in his mind, he’s handling it alone, completely and utterly alone.  That’s why the smallest hurts hurt so bad.

The odd thing is that since he missed that toddler experience of being swooped up and comforted, he has to be dealt with completely differently. I can’t just swoop him up and it’s over.  No, because he’s expecting everyone in his life to hurt him, he goes straight to the fight or flight response.  So in these situations, he has to be talked down from the ledge.  I’m sure that I looked like an insensitive parent when I looked at him and firmly said, “James, stop.”  But the thing is that if I allow him to keep going, we will be completely out of control in a few seconds.  Once I interrupted the immediate shock, I start in gentle and firm, “James, it’s over.  It’s done, and you’re going to feel so much better. James, you’re okay!  Look, you made it through just fine.”  It’s a long process of talking him off the ledge.  Over the course of the afternoon, we ordered a milkshake, talked about the doctor and how he wants to help us, how our doctor can be trusted to do the right thing to make us well.  We even talked about the best way to take a shot.  It’s been a long day.  In fact, he was still talking about his shot tonight when I put him to bed.  Because the truth is, it was traumatic for him.  Not just the normal traumatic doctor visit that every kid (and adult) makes from time to time, but worse.  Exponentially multiplied by the past.

Teaching Your Adopted Child to Trust Again

We have to teach them that fear is not a wall that stops us…it’s a wall that we climb. We have to equip our kids with the footholds they need to climb those walls.

And here’s where I have a choice….I could simply say, “Well, I tried. I guess this is just what it is to go to the doctor with him.”  But I won’t.  Because that does him a disservice. I want him to know that fear is not a wall to stop you, it’s just a wall to climb, and I want to give him the footholds he needs to help him climb those walls.  That’s one of the things we do as parents.  We make life a little less scary for our kids, right?

 

So this week, we will be playing a lot of doctor. We will be practicing our “Ahhhhh” tongue depressing skills, and we’ll do pretend shots.  I never knew that I’d have to use every ounce of patience and creativity I can muster for something as simple as a doctor’s visit.  Sometimes, it seems like my patience has run too thin…but right about that moment, we have a breakthrough.  Suddenly, he can tie his shoes.  Suddenly, he doesn’t cry endlessly about a minor bump.  So while this was a tough experience for us both, I’m keeping in mind the victory we will share when we finally earn his trust.

ADHD vs. Hypervigilance

ADHD vs. Hypervigilance

It was a family movie night. James had been cuddled up on the couch opposite me for about an hour, intently watching the show.  Slowly, he rose from his place, gathered his blanket, and trudged over to me to climb up in my rarely empty lap.  He got himself settled, and we sat there for a few minutes together.  Then, I gave him a little squeeze.  When I did, I noticed something….his heart was racing.  Not just beating fast, but literally racing, and he had been sitting completely still for a few minutes.   The strange feeling that I had about his ADHD diagnosis started creeping into my mind once again.  But, I filed it away in my mental notebook so I could research this later.

It was several months before I realized why I had such a strange feeling about his ADHD diagnosis and medication. After researching and reading, I found out that while James certainly has some hyperactive tendencies, he isn’t truly ADHD, he’s hypervigilant.  And hypervigilance is completely different.

In her (outstanding) book, The Connected Child, Karyn Purvis outlines hypervigilance:

“We have encountered many harmed children who are not truly hyperactive; instead they are hypervigilant. This occurs when children were so traumatized by abusive and unpredictable caretakers or situations during their earlier lives that their primitive brain remains locked in a state of high alert, keeping them perpetually on guard.  The ‘fight or flight’ stress hormones continue to rage through their bodies and set these youngsters in motion, making them fidget endlessly, unable to sit still and focus on any single activity because they’re constantly scanning their surroundings for danger.”  P.51

Reading that made everything click for me. Dr. Purvis described my son perfectly.  When I researched it further, there was no mistaking…I didn’t have a child with ADHD, I had a hypervigilant child.  And the treatment for that is very different.  Once we realized what we were working with, we changed our approach.  Thankfully, we have the privilege of homeschooling James.  And that has made a huge difference.  Because of homeschooling, we were able to work with his medications without disrupting his school routine, and we have been able to address the root of the problem…security.

If you want to evaluate your children (or students) for hypervigilance, here are some of the symptoms:

  • Fidgeting, lack of focus on any task
  • Pupils are often either enlarged or unnaturally tiny, even during calm circumstances
  • Rapid heart rate even during quiet, still moments
  • A sense of aloofness, a defense mechanism so as not to get too close to anyone
  • Extreme sleepiness

 

Hypervigilance stems from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD). And due to unsafe living situations, many of our children have it, yet it goes widely undiagnosed.  The problem is that medications that target ADHD don’t always work best for hypervigilance.  So it’s really important to distinguish the difference.  Here are some of the things we’ve done to help James:

  • Sleep: The first thing we noticed was that James lies awake in bed all through the night. He will lay there are stare until 2 or 3 AM, leaving him exhausted every day. I can always tell when he hasn’t gotten enough sleep because he gets big purple bags under his eyes. So, we spoke with his doctor and we started a blood pressure tablet that helped him to feel sleepy and relax at nighttime. Once we started that, I noticed that he was better able to focus during the day, so we were able to cut his ADHD medication in half.
  • Safety: Safety is tied with sleep in importance. Children with hypervigilance need to feel safe always. We made sure to tell James often that we are here to stay, that no one is going to come to our house and take him away. He is ours. Period. We give lots of hugs and kisses and we try to cuddle often to increase the feeling of safety. We also try to make sure to take care of his needs. If he is hungry, even if it’s right before dinner, I’ll allow him to have an orange or something small so he knows that there is food available.
  • Routine: Like most homes, our family has a natural routine. With homeschool, we also follow a daily routine. If there are any variances to our daily routine, I always begin the day by telling James the revised schedule. This also increases his feelings of safety and security.
  • Work with the need to fidget: Instead of fighting the fidgeting, I try to provide James opportunities to fidget. When we read, he gets to quietly play Legos. During math, he holds a pencil and twirls it. He tends to have some destructive fidgeting patterns (he likes to peel things), so I try to provide him an acceptable fidgeting tool. A rubber band (as long as he doesn’t shoot it), a small squishy ball, or a pencil to twirl are all acceptable for me.

 

Over the past year, we have seen major improvements in James. He now takes no ADHD medication, and he’s doing really well with his schoolwork.  There are most definitely hard days, but overall, he is succeeding!  And we are all so proud of him.  Having James has caused me to think about all the children who are diagnosed with ADHD, but really have hypervigilance.  I wish that there was more awareness about hypervigilance.  The treatment is somewhat different from ADHD, but it could make a world of difference for a child.  In addition to the above suggestions, here are some other ideas for working with hypervigilance:

  • Medication: I am by no means against ADHD medication, but for hypervigilance, it’s not always the best choice. After addressing sleep, talk with a doctor about the options. These may include anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, and hypertension medication. Communication with your doctor is key.
  • Weighted Blankets: Feeling secure is not natural to children with hypervigilance, so a weighted blanket can provide that secure feeling that they need and help them to better focus on their tasks.
  • Watch out for sensory overload: Children with hypervigilance can react badly to too much noise or even too much decoration and color in a room. Hypervigilant children benefit from home-like environments with subdued colors and décor.
  • Building Trust: Hugs or pats on the back can help build trust. Also, encouraging words make a big difference. James loves for me to sit beside him while he works. He doesn’t always need my help, but having me near him helps him feel safe and secure.
  • Speaking softly: Children with hypervigilance have very likely been yelled at often, so speaking softly and gently (but firm if needed) can help disarm the fight or flight response.
meerkat cuddles

Safety and security is the key to helping a hypervigilant child.

 

A little bit of further research will give you a few more ideas to implement. But we have seen such improvement in James since we realized the root of the problem.  It’s ongoing, but the success is so encouraging.  It is my prayer that parents and teachers can take this information and apply it accordingly.  Again, I am NOT against ADHD medication or even the diagnosis.  Some children really do have ADHD and need the medicine.  But maybe not all…let’s raise awareness and look at a child’s background and see if hypervigilance is something to be considered.

 

*I am not a doctor, a therapist, or anything with the ability to diagnose.  I am simply a mom who has done her research and wants to help others.  Please talk with a professional about any concerns you may have.

A Future and A Hope

“I just feel like any minute, this could all just fall apart,” he said.

His chin was quivering in a way that strangely reminded me of a newborn baby’s chin and tears welled up in his eyes.  It had been a good 20 minutes since we started talking, and I had been working hard during that time to peel away the layers to reach that confession.  Finally, I had figured out the key to his sadness that particular day.

 Surviving and Thriving in Pre-Adoption

We had been having a great week.  I was so pleased by all the progress that James (and all of us) had made.  But that day, he was sad, and I could tell.  It seemed as if he woke up with a dark rain cloud over his head.  I let it go for some time, hoping that the events of the day would help the rain cloud to lift, but when I realized that it wasn’t going to happen, I headed back to his room where I found him lying on his bed.

After several surface complaints which in usual fashion, went something like, “I wish we could move”  “I wish we lived in _________”  “I wish I had  __________”, I finally hit the chord.  The one that caused him to share his deepest fear with me.  I guess he realized that I wasn’t going to leave until he told me what he was thinking.  And the words he uttered broke my heart.

“I just feel like any minute, this could all just fall apart.”  When I asked him what he meant, he went on, “Any time, everything could change.  It could be different so quick.”

His reality hit me really hard.  I suddenly understood that everything in his life has changed in an instant.  Little, if any warning, no time to prepare…just seemingly in the blink of an eye, everything is different.

I felt his pain so deeply.  So I did all I knew to do.  I held him tightly, and we talked about the future.  Once again, I assured him that we aren’t going anywhere.  We are in it for the long haul.  We talked and chatted about his favorite thing….that one day, I’m going to be Nana to HIS children.  And I talked about everything that I plan to do to spoil his kids…large Sonic milkshakes and candy slushes and all the things that I never let my own kids have.   Oh yes, I’ll be that grandmother.  And I’ll love every minutes of it.  After all, I’m rather looking forward to getting gray hair.

“Mom, when you are a Nana, I want you to be exactly like OUR Nana.  Like, EXACTLY, ” he said with conviction.  “I can probably do that,” I told him.

I talked about how he’ll leave one day to start a career and have a family, but I told him that he’d better come home often, or I will have to come find him and bring him home myself.  “Don’t make me do that!”  I teased him.

 We talk about how when everyone is grown, they will all come home for Christmas and bring their children, and our house will be busting at the seams with love.  We’ll talk about what it might be like when everyone is grown.  This always seems to bring a big grin and an assurance that we’re going to be okay… that maybe, just maybe this will work out after all.  Talking about the future seems to give him just enough hope to take another step forward.

It’s amazing to think about what so many children go through in life.  It’s amazing to think that this sweet boy lives with the idea and the fear that any minute, his life could fall apart…again.  It’s not fair.  And yet, I have to believe, I have to hold on to hope that all this…all these things he’s experienced in his eight short years have been for a purpose, part of a greater plan, part of God giving him a “future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11) much like God’s plan for Joseph.  Oh how I pray that God will give him a “Joseph story”.

Of course, in the meantime, while we’re waiting to see how his story unfolds…you’ll find us dreaming about our future…together.

Do you know a child who would benefit from having a grown-up dream about their future with them?  Our kids need us to dream with them.  They need us to explore possibilities with them.  And even if you can’t promise to be IN their future….you can give them a gift by helping them dream of one.

Commiting to Love

I love You heart

This little corner of the internet has been silent for quite some time now.  Partly, because it is my “busy season” where homeschool and public school is in full swing for us, and it’s just plain crazy around here.  But also partly because though I have so much that I want to share with you, I’m trying to be wise and seek God’s direction on exactly how much to share.  As you know, the specifics of my family became quite a bit more detailed and complicated following our recent adoption of our 8-year-old son, James.  There’s so much of his story that needs to be his to tell…but at the same time, there is so much of our collective story that I feel compelled to share in hopes that somehow, the glory of God will be evident.  So that’s what I’ve been grappling with lately.  I say all that because today I’m sharing a very vulnerable detail of my life right now.  A detail that I have struggled with daily.

LOVE…..

 

Yes, love.  Before we ever adopted James, I asked God several times if I would be able to love a child who did not come from my body in the same way that I love the ones who did.  It was one of my greatest fears.  After much prayer, I felt confident that He wanted not only to help me love this child, but that He wanted to show me this whole new side of love.  So, I forged ahead resting in this promise that God would be with me.  I never imagined that the route that I’ve taken in the last year would leave me so much in awe of this thing called love.

If I can be blunt right now….everyone is annoying at times.  Even me (maybe especially me).  But it’s interesting how with my biological kiddos, when they are annoying, when I’m not feeling super lovey-dovey toward them, I have this well of love to draw from.  It comes from the many long nights of rocking them as restless babies, the many days of nursing them to health during a sickness, the sweet times of joy when new skills were learned….all of those moments in life create this deep well of love.  Loving them was so natural.  So when Isaac, Hannah or Lydia are being not-so-loveable, it’s easy for me to draw from my reserve love to deal with them.  On the flip side, it’s also easier for them to deal with me when I’m not being loveable.  They know that I’m there always and forever.  So this deep well of love goes two ways.

With James, that deep well isn’t so deep.  In fact, it’s more like a small bowl of water rather than a well.  Of course, every day we are building that well.  We build it when we talk about his future and the fact that I will be in it.  We build it with every bear hug.  We build it with every shared life event and every tough conversation.  But the fact is that crucial moments have been forever lost.  Unfortunately the building moments of a year still amount to only about a bowlful.  So in those moments when he’s being not-so-loveable, there’s not much to draw from.  It just feels bankrupt.  On the flip side, when I’m being unloveable, there’s not a whole lot for him to draw from either.  It just feels bankrupt.  The well seems completely dry.

And it’s that dry well that God keeps bringing me back to.  I’ve cried many tears over this dry well in the last year.  But, God is teaching me one of the greatest lessons of all…that love is not a feeling.  Loving this little guy may not be the most natural thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I keep coming back to it every day.  I keep showing up.  And maybe that’s exactly what he needs…his mom to show up every single day.

Maybe the goal here is not to continually feel this bubbling up, overflowing, warm fuzzy kind of love…maybe this is the “I’m determined to love you every single day” kind of love.  Maybe that’s just where we are in this journey.  Every day, I wake up and pray that God will show me how to love James well.  And while I feel like I fail at this task daily, I’m still showing up.

He’s also still showing up.  He shows up every morning with a hesitant hug and a slight smile.  He shows up every night when I tuck him in and he keeps coming up with questions and things to talk about so that I won’t leave.  I know that he struggles with this love thing too.  He rarely ever says, “I love you.” And when he does, I can see this little part of him that isn’t really sure.  But that’s okay.  I know how he feels.  But he’s still showing up, and I’m so thankful.

Maybe that’s what the nitty-gritty love really is…just showing up every day, and not giving up simply because we aren’t feeling it today.  Maybe it’s this continual process of denying yourself in order to learn the depths of another.  I think that maybe this is what’s wrong with the world…we think that love is a magical baby angel who shoots arrows at us.  Well, it’s not.  Love isn’t always easy, but if we keep showing up, keep fully surrendering to God’s will, keep asking for His help, maybe one day, this “treading water” kind of love will start to collect in the bottom of a deep, deep basin.  And over time, when we both keep showing up, the water in that basin will rise and rise.  And one day, the well will just be there, deep and cool as ever.

I don’t think my story is true of every adoptive parent.  In fact, I actually really hate being this honest with myself.  But, as tough as this lesson has been (and is) to learn, I’m eternally grateful to God for taking me there.  God is not only showing me how to love James well, He’s showing me how to love Him well and how to love people well, even the least of these.  He’s showing me a whole new side of love, not the easy, fairy tale, princess kind…but the kind that is born out of determination and complete trust in God Almighty.  As weird as it may seem, maybe this kind of love is what the world needs more of.

When I began this blog over two years ago, adoption was not even on our radar.  I named the blog Redeeming the Days because I wanted to slow down life for my kids and reclaim the time to teach them the things that really mattered.  It was the beginning of this movement in my life, this movement of trusting God with EVERYTHING.  I had no idea that over time, that simple blog name would take on so many different meanings.  Now, I’m redeeming the days with my son that I didn’t know the first 7 years of his life.  It’s by far the hardest, but one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.  And I’m so grateful to have this space to share this crazy journey with you.

I Hate Halloween…But My Son Doesn’t

 

I Hate Halloween...but my Son Doesn't

In the wee hours of the morning, as I was going from child to child supplying fresh buckets, Ibuprofen, Gatorade, and cough medicine (I’ll let you guess what we’ve got going at the Wood house right now), I probably should have been dreading which kid would go down next (or worse, which parent!).  But instead, I spent my precious brainpower dreading something else…Halloween.

I hate Halloween, and in all honesty, I reserve the word “hate” only for the one or two things that I truly loathe.  So trust me, the strong language is accurate and needed to convey my feelings toward the holiday.  I’ve always hated Halloween.  As I’ve mentioned before, I was a fearful, anxious child, so for me, Halloween was like a sick joke.  People walking around in all-too-real zombie costumes was not my idea of a fun holiday…it was a terrible nightmare that everyone but me seemed to enjoy.

Early on, my parents realized that Halloween was not my thing (and really, I think they were probably quite thrilled about that discovery), so I began staying home and handing out candy, which I thoroughly enjoyed for the most part.  Our neighborhood was a thriving Trick-Or-Treat community, so I stayed busy, and somehow, scary looking people coming up to my house seemed to be less frightening than going out into the night for me.  And as long as I stayed away from television the month of October, I was okay.  That worked out pretty well for years.

I Hate Halloween...but My Son Doesn't

And now, thankfully, I’ve spent enough time with Jesus on this issue that I’m no longer fearful on Halloween (although I still avoid television during the month of October).  I’m sure that maturity and rational thinking have something to do with it too.  But, I still hate it.  So our policy for the past ten years on Halloween has been that we just don’t celebrate it.  Aside from our church fall festival and a Pumpkin Carving party, we just kind of let it pass.  Some of that is by default (we live in the country..no trick-or-treaters).  But much of that is intentional.

But this year is different.  First of all, I have a public schooler this year who has already spent a night awake because of the Halloween-ish things she’s heard from the kids at school.  This year, we can’t just glaze over the day as if it didn’t exist.  Secondly, James apparently loves Halloween.  Though he’s terrified of certain elements of it (with good reason), he was very disappointed to find out that we don’t celebrate it.

And that was why I was thinking about Halloween last night between checking temperatures and administering medicine.  We are grafting in this child to our family, but part of that is layering in his past with ours.  It’s important to him, so it’s important to us.  And that’s where I am right now…how do we incorporate this part of his history into our lives?  How do we take a holiday that we’ve always avoided and “redeem” it for our family?

So today, as my crew lays around and tries to keep their minds off  being so sickly, I am busy thinking.  It’s funny how things that used to be so simple suddenly are not.  That’s life I suppose.  I’m thinking that an evening at home cuddled up with board games, Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin, and a pizza (maybe even some brownies and candy corn) will be appropriate.  Because when it comes down to it, for James, it’s probably not about loving zombies and witches (we know that isn’t the case for him).  For him, I’m sure it’s really tradition and the comfort that we find in the predictability of tradition.  And really, that sounds like a great excuse to do all those fun things.  It’s amazing how much James has brought to our family without even knowing it.  I feel like in so many ways, he has breathed life into us, he has pushed us to be intentional, he has quietly encouraged us to make everything count. So, this year, it looks like the Wood family will begin a new Halloween tradition, and I’m actually pretty excited about it.

I Hate Halloween...But My Son Doesn't

I’m curious…what does your family do for Halloween?