Funny how when things feel easy and like they are going smoothly, I feel less inclined to write. Then when the “ish” hits the fan…I mean, why not blog about the fiery crash on your way down? Might as well…
The past 3 week since my last post have been pretty much awesome. If we had a “honeymoon” period, I would say the last 3 weeks was pretty telling. It’s been filled with daily trips to the local outdoor pool, complete with risk-taking, take-the-bull-by-the-horns-kid diving off the diving board, touching the 11ft. bottom of the pool, learning to tread water, and doing cartwheels off the edge of the pool. We had several huge “wins” attitude-wise, with Wesley doing an amazing job regulating himself when he got to a difficult moment. We learned some great tactics by trial and error that have allowed him to process his feelings in a way that works for him, but at the same time, still come back around to restoring the peace and restoring relationship (in an abbreviated way). We’ve had near-daily evening bike rides to the park for family games of tag and lava monster on the playground, and Wes experienced his first kids’ birthday party at a friend’s house.
So, basically three weeks of constant stimulation – and in the adoption/kids from hard places vernacular that spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.
Although, I’m totally over-stating the actual disastrous end – because in comparison to the first couple weeks home, it has so far been completely mild. I think, though, that I was just beginning to get a little prideful in thinking, “Wow – I think we maybe have made it through the worst! Wouldn’t that be awesome if this was it, and he’s just great from here on out, and he just ‘gets it’ and it just is normal life for the rest of this transition and growing period?” Ha. Ha. Ha. Funny joke.
BUT – before I get into all that – there’s been a handful of really cool, beautiful revelations – which absolutely deserve to be noted!
Talking – Wes has started opening up a little more at random times, answering questions about his past or elaborating on experiences, or even talking about his early-years with his birth family (this comes in bits and pieces and the story changes a bit each time – he was only three at the time, so the reality is that he probably is building memories on fleeting images from that short period). He is also beginning to use his words more to express his frustrations and talk about why he’s “grumpy” or what he wants/doesn’t want. This can get tiring, as I hear about 47 times a day, “I don’t want to do that,” or “I’m not gonna do that/go there,” or my personal favorite, “I’m not gonna eat that.” SIGH. I think the hardest part of parenting a child from trauma is that I can’t just deal with these statements/attitudes the same way I would with my last 3 bio kids who don’t struggle with control or manipulation, who understand that they are safe and will be taken care of no matter what…Wes is still learning all of that.
(Mom’s revelation) – His “happy place” is outside. Period. This past week we had the blessed opportunity to go stay 4 days at a working cattle ranch on Puget Island (across from Cathlamet, not to be confused with Puget Sound). It was absolutely incredible – some intense moments out in the middle of a field of mooing, disgruntled cattle, on horseback, looking around and feeling that my heart was so at ease and peaceful that I just might melt into the serenity of the hay fields and never want to return to real life! My second, more sane thought process was, “if I moved my family out to this peaceful surrounding, would it just ruin it, or would we all actually thrive here?” 😉 Anyway – we went on this trip with another family, some long-time friends of ours who also had kids near our kids’ ages which meant built-in playmates and some great memory-making time! We had borrowed another good friend’s boat and inner tube tow package and spent the afternoons on the Columbia river, towing kids in the tube, and feeling the wind on our faces. Wes displayed yet another example of completely fearlessness when it comes to trying new activities – he flew down the river in the tube with his friends and siblings, huge grin plastered to his face, and even jumped in the river to swim when given the chance!
But back to the revelation – as I sat in the back of the boat, bombing down the river, watching Wes having the time of his life in the tube, thought came to me suddenly: “this is his happy place” – being outside, experiencing everything that the outdoors has to offer – the water, the sun, the sand, the sky – he loves it all. When he’s having a tough attitude moment, he just wants to get outside. He does his best regulating outside, he’s happier outside. I looked out across the river and took in the expanse of the sky unfolding over the trees as they rose up from the river banks. Beyond the trees, there were hills and more trees as far as the eye could see. I realized that his happy place was outside because that was most likely where he felt FREE – where he could be unencumbered, unfettered, un-held (I know that’s not a word – but the feeling for him is important and I don’t know how else to say it!). As I saw it in that moment, he loves to be outside because he spent the last 4 years of his life penned in. The walls and fences of the orphanage compound and building itself was all he’d known for the last 4 years outside of walking the well-worn path to school, and the Sunday morning trip to church. He didn’t get to walk down the street and take in the smells and sights. He didn’t get to look up at the sky without seeing walls lined with broken glass and barbed wire in his peripheral vision. The school is barricaded in with a huge metal door and tall walls, once you’re in, you’re stuck until they release you home.
Outside is FREEDOM for him. His happy place – where he can just BE. I began to think beyond that – and tried to ask myself, “where is my happy place? Where do I really feel freedom and that unencumbered release?” and then, even more – how do I build into that for my son? How do I build into that for my husband and kids, my friends and family? When I recognize someone’s picture of freedom, how do I play into that as much as I can and encourage and widen that scope of freedom for them?
I didn’t really come up with answers, but they were good questions! 😉
Cutest Turnaround/Regulation WIN – While we were on our trip, Wes did an overall fantastic job dealing with the unstructured days, the constant activities and late nights. However, the last day there they pretty much caught up with him. After a minor correction for an obnoxious behavior early on in the day, he decided that he was going to pretty much pretend I didn’t exist for the next few hours. One of the other “hardest things” to deal with for me is the Hot/Cold nature of Wesley. I’m pretty sure it’s just the fight for control, the experimenting with manipulation and others’ feelings, and just figuring out how to deal with frustration and negative feelings toward others. But for him, he will be happy and engaged one minute and then turn on a dime and not want to accept any affection, give me the cold shoulder, etc. I try not to let it bug me but as a mother, that is REALLY difficult. I want so badly to love and BE LOVED in return, and the moments that he lets me give physical affection these days are few and far between.
Anyway – this day he was keeping me at arms length like inspector gadget would with his go-go-gadget extending arms. Grumpy looks, grumpy attitude, dismissive body language, etc. Kris left on the boat to take the big kids tubing, which left me and my good friend with Wes and the other three younger kids. Due to Wes’ sadness about being left behind on a boat trip, he decided to go “take a walk” outside to process and get away from me and everyone else. I asked him if he wanted to go to the dock (across the road from the ranch) to watch the boat leave and he nodded, so I trailed him down to the dock. We then spent the next 30 minutes, him staring off thinking who knows what out at the water, and me sitting quietly observing, mostly leaving him alone, sometimes talking quietly about random things like “wow, look at these spiderwebs! Do you know that bugs fly into the webs and get caught because the webs are sticky and then the spider comes and rolls the bug into a ball and eats him?” and interjected a couple strategically placed, “sometimes I’m sad when it’s time to go home from a trip”…but mostly just waited it out. After about 35 minutes I sat down on the top of a low table and stretched out my legs in the sun. I sat quietly staring off at the water simply praying for his attitude, the day, and a change. A few minutes later he slowly got down from the chair he was perched in, crawled up beside me and leaned his body into me. I slowly leaned my head to rest on the top of his head and we watched the water together. We sat there staring at the water and the birds flying over head for about 10 minutes before he pointed out another spider web and the unfortunate bug stuck in it. During those 10 minutes he let me rub his back, hug him, kiss his forehead and tell him I loved him. He let me pick him up, and clung to me as we looked at the 40 bazillion webs strung out along the dock railings, chatting softly and enjoying each other’s company. This was just one example of a beautiful turnaround from a rough attitude!
Today, however, was what the writing on the wall the past few days predicted. 😉 It wasn’t awful, but after 4 weeks of peace and fun times, it was certainly not peace and fun times. It all began with a simple direction to put something away that he just flat out refused to do, “I’m not going to do that.” Oh. sorry bud, but, yes. You are. It’s really hard to come across a behavior that you think in the moment, “Unfortunately, this is the battle I’m picking today, and it is likely to be a bloody one.” I hate those moments, but we are coming to the place where we have let things go with little to no discipline or correction for too long, and we have to reign it in. For the first several weeks, we try to build relationship and trust, being much more lenient with behaviors because he’s still learning how to function in a normal, loving family situation. But, at this point in time, we are seeing the immediate need to correct the behaviors, which means we are probably in for some hefty tantrums…ugh.
Anyway – today’s fit was short, but the mental battle of wits and minds was definitely longer. Eventually, though, he slowly moved toward the item he was supposed to put away, and put it where it was supposed to go. We made a huge, loud and obnoxious deal about him making a great decision and being proud of him for putting it away, and that was that. But, unfortunately the funk carried with him the rest of the day. I’m praying hard that sleep will reset him – but time will tell.
A huge prayer request as I sign off for the night – school starts in 2 weeks, and he has been adamant that he “doesn’t want to go” – which gives me crazy anxiety. He will be going to the same school as the other kids, a local, private school, and it will be a safe, flexible space for him. However, I am taking a part-time teaching job at the school this fall as well, so I won’t be able to have the constant 100% flexibility to drop everything and come help if he needs help durin the day. I’ve got anxiety about his wilingness to go to school, his ability to make friends, and his behavior while he’s there.
Could you add this to your prayer list if you’ve got one? I would love prayer for his heart, and his attitude, that he would embrace school as a fun opportunity, instead of a chore, and that he would just love it and have very few issues there during the days. I would love prayer that my anxiety would cease and that I would just have a peace about the position and my availability for him during the days.
Thank you for prayers, for following our story, and the encouragement along the way. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Blessings to you all as you move into fall, and the school season for all you parents! 🙂