MY DAY: Older Child Adoption from Cindy

From the blog of my friend, Cindy, who has adopted older children multiple times. This lady is a gem!

Big Mama Hollers

Posted: 19 Sep 2013 04:48 AM PDT

I’ve been asked over and over again, “I did so much for my kids, why do they then dump me?  No contact, no nothing.  Is that normal?”  I can hear you inwardly screaming.

First I snicker that you think I have a normal perspective, then I set about to reassure you, that in the adoption of older children, yes this is kind of normal.”  Sadly so.  And I’m sorry that you are feeling such pain, but I share it with you.

It’s a bigger version of folks preparing an awesomely Princess room for their new daughter, with canopies, lace, toys, dresses and pinkness – a gorgeous dream room, that they joyfully decorated with love, in gleeful anticipation of the arrival of this brand new 7 year old cute child from the foster care system.

But here’s the rub.  Our prospective joy at becoming their mom is based on the terrible loss of them losing the mom that they loved deeply.

This new child?  Likely to be one pissed off, raging, scared and furious, super destructive, fit-throwing yet awesomely cute, deeply wounded, blank-eyed child.

The room’ll be in shreds within a week.

This child is overwhelmed by what you’ve prepared, it hits them in the pit of their own self-loathing that has resulted from years of extreme abuse and neglect plus multiple, extremely painful breaks with their caretakers, that they once might have allowed themselves to trust a bit in the hopes it would last.

And us naive middle-class parents sit stunned, crying to our caseworkers, we just wanted to show her our parental love and concern, but she’s hitting everyone at school, she bit the teacher, and she’s stolen all the cookies we’d bought to put in her Princess lunchbox this week.  She soaked the brand new mattress, bed set and even the pillow with urine.

This is oh so predictable.  These are terribly injured children, we can’t see it, we only see a cute scared kid in the pictures looking out at the camera, we can’t see the horribly severe emotional damage that has been done to her, seeping deep into her psyche, coloring her perception of everything.

The child wrongly figures if she destroys this room then she’s pre-empted another hurt that she’s sure will befall her before long.

Can this be undone?

I’m not sure.

I think, to some degree, emotional issues can be helped, but completely cured?  Only if the child has enough resilience to overcome, it’s gonna be a long, long process, and then  adolescence, or other losses or trauma will only compound everything. A middle-school break-up, or a bullying incidence, or any other minor (to us) incident can trigger all sorts of deeply repressed issues.

I read a horribly sad story early this morning about “normal’ teenage girls wanting teenage boys approval so badly, that they sext and send naked pictures of themselves.  Imagine how much more so for girls with severe emotional issues?

If indeed you parents do make it up to age 18 with minimal destruction and acting out, often times at that very age, 17 or 18, sometimes even younger, here comes some major rejection and abandonment issues, often in the form of choosing male partners badly, teenage pregnancy, self-medicating, and then as a final Screw You And The Horse You Rode In On, then you don’t get to see the grandchildren.  Deep within their mangled thought process they feel someone must pay, usually it’s you, because you dared to care therefore you’ll care again via the backlash – and guess what?  It works.  See?

I’ve had countless mamas crying to me – because they know I understand.  “WHY????” they wail to me, knowing if they share this with their normal friends, those untraumatized friends completely won’t understand.

They will recite to me a litany of all they’d done right for this child, how shocked they are that there’s now no response from the half-grown kid.

This is fairly normal in our world.  Read that sentence again.

Eventually they’ll resume contact, most of them do so, but now we’re the one with loss issues, we’re the ones who fear becoming attached, because we know they, the grandbabies, might be snatched away from us to again punish us for the sins of the birth parents.  Please remember this is all done to us subconsciously on the part of the teens, if we can emotionally remove ourselves from the equation, we’ll be a lot better off in the end.

Yolie’s helped me understand so much of this over the years.  When a child demonstrates feces-smearing behavior, immediately grossing us out, “My life is sh@t,” is exactly what they’re trying to tell us, yet we usually react wrongly, consequencing them for this outrageous behavior that is so much deeper than that.  This is where my brilliant caseworker would’ve long ago advised me to seek out therapy.

Me initially (wrongly) thinking, “I can handle this,” me not having any clue how deep-seated, pervasive and unsettling this behavior indicated the depth of the disturbance that their former abuse and neglect had permeated their psyche.

We adoptive parents best wake up and smell the coffee.

Fortunately for me and the kids, my caseworker pushed back, I’m a people pleaser, I wanted her approval, until I did indeed seek out a great deal of therapy, resources, programs, interventions and, even, residential placements, sometimes to absolutely no avail, leaving me buffaloed and damaged – but again, how much more so for the kids?

So I can only figuratively hold your hand, and hope that this too will pass, usually it does, in the meantime we all need to be working on our own rejection issues that we didn’t know we would be facing.

I’ll say it again, swallow your pride and find yourselves some therapy.  You will need it, find the best therapist who understands trauma.  I’m blessed to have done so.

About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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