Friday, March 29, 2013

Family - every child's right

"Growing up in a family is a child’s most basic human right."
 As I scooped up my kicking, screaming 2 year old and cradled her in my arms... I could feel her body tense up. She began to pull my hair, scratch and bite me.   I took a couple deep breaths, forced a smile and looked into her defiant eyes.  Beneath those eyes was a little girl that was taught to fight and fight until she got what she wanted.  I held her close until she finally melted into my arms, calmed down and immediately apologized on her own for her bad attitude... suddenly, my mind began to recall pictures of all of the beautiful faces that I saw last night on the movie
 "Stuck." - produced by the - Both Ends Burning Campaign  A film that MUST be watched.   The purpose of the movie is to promote awareness and create a movement towards the International Adoption crisis. It features adoptive families that are stuck waiting for paperwork to be released, reviewed, approved and orphaned children stuck in institutional care waiting to be loved and released to their appointed families. 

" Growing up in a family is a child’s most basic human right. Today that basic human right is denied, in many cases, simply due to a dysfunctional adoption system. Both Ends Burning works to protect and advocate for the rights of orphaned children in an effort to minimize the devastating effects of institutionalization, while stressing the importance of protecting birth parents and ensuring that proper safeguards are in place for the children." - Both Ends Burning Campaign

After watching the movie, I had flashbacks of our adoption process. 13 months of time spent choosing our agency, getting accepted, home study after home study , fingerprints, mountains of paperwork, waiting for approval and then waiting in excitement for "the phone call," - our referral.
$25,000 later and 10 months on the waiting list... we suddenly felt the desperateness of thousands of children in urgent need for a family... why where WE waiting SO long?
Then it happened on a Tuesday morning when I glanced over 4 children on our agency's waiting list. Suddenly time stopped... "Who would take 4? What's their story? Could they be our children?... " I scrolled past more faces of children waiting... waiting for families, waiting to be loved, cared for... by a forever family.  I went back to our 4 children... -  I immediately noticed our son, Stephen's age... 13 years old.  How many of those years did he experience neglect, malnutrition, lack of education, social development etc.?  13 years.  This was enough for us to say " yes." -  we couldn't stand the thought of glancing over his picture and have him continue to wait. He only had 3 more years before he would age out of the system.

Even though Stephen lacked much... he NEVER lacked the desire for a family. He says,
" Everyone needs a family... I always prayed that God would bring me a family." 

Prior to our children's homecoming, several friends assured me that our 2 year old would be the easiest to adapt and attach to. 
Unfortunately, she has and still struggles to accept us as her new parents.
I'm okay with it.  We will persist in loving her and nurturing her little body back to health.
She was never held like a baby.  She never experienced the healthy, tender loving touch from a mother. She never had a father to snuggle with, throw her up in the air and catch her with his strong, loving hands.  By the age of 1 to 2, she was forced to survive, act like a teenager and learn to fight for whatever she needed.  Until now, our little girl still thinks she has to fight. 

Our 11 year old son never experienced the love from a mother and a father.  His explanation of his poor behavior is that he always got to do whatever he wanted to do.  Basically, he just learned to survive. 
The Both Ends Burning Campaign states:

" Cross-cultural studies of children have found that the length of time spent in conditions of social deprivation, like orphanages, correlates with a wide array of psychological and developmental challenges."  

Unfortunately, our son is barely at the reading level of a 2nd grader with the emotional capacity of a 3 year old.  We can only cling on to the hope that God can and will heal him... perhaps through the love and security from our family.
11 years... - how many other 11 year old boys are still institutionalized because of the adoption bureaucracy or parent's fears of adopting an older child?  I know... the challenges are overwhelming. Perhaps I've scared several families from adopting. It's okay - because not everyone should adopt. But isn't every child worth fighting for? Doesn't every child deserve the love and security of a family?  Shouldn't we ALL fight for children's rights to a family?

I couldn't help but smile as I watched my 8 year old daughter splashing her way around the swimming pool. She was like a kid in a candy store.  I remember the first time we brought her swimming.  The numerous fears she had. The lack of trust she had in us.  We laughed and joked about it... it was a distant memory that has now faded into the background.  Healing.  She is slowly but surely healing.  Our Mount Everest - I refuse to stop climbing.  I will not give up on loving her, nurturing her, walking with her through her painful yet hopeful journey.  Just like her siblings, she is and has always been worth fighting for. 

Just like every other adoptive family, we have our own "stuck" story .   Why DOES it have to be so hard, so complicated and so expensive?  Yes, children are worth the hard, the complicated and should NEVER come with a price tag because they are priceless... so shouldn't WE advocate for changes to be made for MORE adoptions to take place so that MORE children can be released from institutions and adopted into families?

Please sign the petition to support and promote policy changes within International adoption and if you already haven't watched the movie, " Stuck." - please watch it!
Remember, EVERY child deserves the right to a family.

Friday, March 15, 2013

6 months of plowing

It's been 6 months of hard work.  6 months of bonding with our kids, teaching them, trying to build a deep rooted foundation. 6 months of pouring into their wounded, hurting hearts.
6 months of  " plowing the fields to prepare for the first season of healing..." 

I'll admit... lately, I have been feeling pretty defeated. A few days ago I hid myself in my closet and threw a "mommy style" tantrum. How long will Sol and I be "plowing" in this same area of our field?  How much longer until "this child" decides to reach out, grab our hand and never let go?  How much longer until our children stop fighting and sabotaging themselves?  When will our children start to relax and realize their extremely passive aggressive behaviors are not a successful way of communicating? I know, I know... it takes time. But at that moment of my tantrum... I didn't want "THAT answer"... I just needed hope.  Honestly, right then and there... I wanted a quick fix.

During one of my lengthy conversations with our 8 year old daughter, I asked her to stop and take a few deep breaths to get her to relax and reminded her that she was only fighting herself.  I let her cry and gave her the freedom to express her pain.  As exhausted as I was, I tried so hard to communicate our love and God's love to her. At the end, we both realized that she didn't even know what love means. 
I took a few deep breaths and gave her a tight hug.  I was out of words...I hoped and prayed that my hug would be just enough in that moment to pour into her confused and broken heart.  There was nothing more I could say or do that would provide instant healing. 

Our journey seems so heavy, lonely and overwhelming at times that it's easy for me to forget that He never asked us to do this alone.  He promised that He would equip us even during the moments where we feel so deflated. 
This week was just one of "those" weeks, full of home school battles, defiance, passive/aggressive attitudes, doctor's appointments etc...  Perhaps we started on the wrong foot or maybe it's been 6 months of hard work and I have finally hit the wall. I felt alone, exhausted and so depleted of patience and grace.  I had friends (non-adoptive) that tried to comfort me by relating their parenting struggles with ours... I have always been so grateful for their support... but this time I so badly wanted to remind them that "it is not the same... adopted children bring completely different's as if we have 3 kids with special needs."  As much as I didn't like how sensitive I was... I realized it was brought on from my own weariness.

Adoption is beautiful... but it is undoubtedly hard work.  It's days, months, years of plowing the fields of our children's hearts for various seasons of healing and freedom.  Every moment and every day counts. As defeated and exhausted as I feel right now... the plowing must continue. 
I can't blame our children for their defiant, manipulative behaviors. They had to survive and it's taken them years to become this way... it's not their fault and neither is it our fault for not being able to attach with them in the way that we had hoped for by 6 months. I am slowly learning to set low expectations of myself each day, say "good-bye" to guilt and genuinely be thankful for what God has blessed me with.
On the other hand, when mommy is running on empty... the rest of the family suffers. My goal for tomorrow and the next is that I will find a way to take care of me.  And yet even on days when there is no time for me... I know that
" God will meet all your(my) needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."