My adoption journey has had a common theme from the beginning to now… from the time I decided to become a mom, to the four years of paperwork and international bureaucracy that kept me from bringing my girl home, to the now six years of patiently working through many emotional and behavioral issues that resulted from her early childhood trauma.
The theme? Have faith… and WAIT.
Have faith… and WAIT…. for the powers that be to figure out that the adoption is legitimate and there is no need to delay the process yet again.
Have faith… and WAIT… for the immigration officers in the Houston airport to call our names after a 5 hour layover when they finally decided that my just-adopted 10-year-old was not an international terrorist and could have her passport stamped for entry to the U.S.A. as a new citizen.
Have faith… and WAIT… for the violent, aggressive meltdowns to end so that I could either help her solve the problem that caused the dysregulation or take her to the emergency room if she was a danger to me or to herself.
Have faith… and WAIT… for the qualified sign language interpreter to show up in the E.R. after we have told the 5th or 6th person that “No, we will not go ahead and do the psychiatric evaluation without an interpreter because her mom knows sign language.”
Have faith… and WAIT… for her to make good decisions about her body, her life, her choices now that she is a teenager and I have a good relationship with her and can INFLUENCE her decisions, but the choices are ultimately her own.
As the mom of a 16 and 1/2 year old daughter, this last one is probably the most difficult one of all because I feel so POWERLESS to make things better for her when I can see that she is struggling. But if I have learned anything at all in this journey of compassionate, relationship-based parenting, I have learned that in order for her to move forward, she must do it of her own will and in her own time.
And her timing is definitely not mine!
I just made it through another “teen trauma parenting” adventure this week, and I thought I’d share it with others to encourage you on your journey of having faith and waiting.
My daughter has terrible, debilitating school anxiety.
She has been afraid of school her whole life – starting with the horrendous and traumatic experiences that she had to go through as the only deaf child at an orphanage where no one learned sign language to communicate with her and then a special oral school for deaf children where sign language was forbidden.
Coming to the US at age 10 with basically no fully developed language at all, she has always had major gaps in her learning that have made school not just hard but also very frightening with all the social skills most typical hearing kids have picked up by that age through incidental learning.
She is now fluent in American Sign Language, but these learning and social gaps along with extreme anxiety and complex developmental trauma make every day at school an ordeal to endure.
We have tried so many IEP modifications and accommodations and have changed placements a few times to find a good match for her needs… so far nothing has been a true “fit” for her. But we recently found a placement that we thought would be a good one, so we made the switch last week.
She went for one day.
The second day, she declared this to me, “I am never going back. I hate that school. I hate all schools! School is not for me. I’m not going to school. I’m not ever graduating or getting a job or doing anything. I’m just going to stay home forever.”
Inner monologue: Three deep breaths. Say nothing, mama…. listen, LISTEN and have empathy….
So… I tried asking her to share more about why she doesn’t like the new school. She shut down and would say nothing.
I called the school attendance line, called to cancel her special services, called to cancel transportation.
I gently asked her again the next day. “What is it about your new school that you don’t like? Is there a problem we can solve together?”
She shut down and said nothing. Later, “I’m not going. Never. I’m not going back.”
Have faith… and WAIT….
I got on the phone with the special education teacher, then with the school counselor, then with another teacher who knows her from before, then arranged for her to meet with the former teacher to talk about it…. they talked, but she shut down every time the subject of going to school, graduation, and her future came up.
Today it’s now been SIX days of patiently having faith and waiting for her to open up and talk about this. Everyone said and did everything they could to make this placement as easy and low-pressure as possible for her. It’s just a half day for now. No grades for now. Yet she still was unwilling to try.
Several people asked me how she is doing, and I told them the truth. “I can’t force this kid. I have to be patient with her.” Looks of judgment and disbelief… yeah… I know this kind of parenting isn’t what they are used to. Their kids would be on that bus and in that school no matter what, and you better believe there would be CONSEQUENCES if their kids decided to defy the rules!
I’m committed to a different kind of parenting, though. And their judgmental comments and smirks have zero influence on this commitment. If they were parenting this kid, they would have given up YEARS ago, and I know it.
I am a Warrior Mama, transformed by trauma. I will have faith, and I will wait.
This afternoon I had a talk with the school guidance counselor and relayed a story to my daughter that he told me. He said that he understands why she is anxious and that all teens feel awkward like everyone is looking at them. He told a story about his daughter who was afraid to go into Walmart with him once because she had just come from volleyball practice and was sweaty and her hair was messy. He also suggested that I bring my daughter to the school in the afternoon when everyone was gone so she could just walk around the building and get a feel for it… make it HER school, in her own way… get comfortable in the space.
And guess what? She agreed to do this!
We just got home about an hour ago from a self-guided tour of her classrooms. She showed me a few things in the building that I didn’t know about. She walked out of the building with more confidence.
“Do you want to start back tomorrow, or on Thursday?” I asked her.
“Ok… I’ll call the bus driver and let her know.”
Parents who are travelling this hard, hard journey of trauma with me:
Have faith… and wait.
When you have a strong relationship build on trust and truly BELIEVE in the power of transformation, your kids WILL (eventually, on their own time) rise to the challenge.