5 Monthes ago on this very day, Tony and I drove out of a gated Transition Home with two new children to add to Team Dragovich. In the adoption world, we call this "Gotcha Day". It is the day that you pick up your children and they become forever a part of your family. Your "forever family"-- another adoption phrase. To try and go back and thread out the emotions which were flashing in and out of my entire being is about impossible. Some days I look back and it seems like that was forever ago. Some days, it was only last week.
Now, here we are, 5 months later. Could I ever have imagined the impact this adoption and these children and our new "forever family" dynamic would make into the very center of my soul? Absolutely not. I'm still imagining it and being opened up to it and walking through each new fold that opens. There are some days in which I still feel like I am swimming in a fog-- less and less this is the case, but still sometimes. The funny thing is, I remember thinking that way BEFORE adoption! Now, I think-- Gee, Shari-- you sure did have it easy "back then"!!!
In five months I have experienced some amazing transformations in my children. Sam and JB are fast becoming inseparable. And Risa is usually in there somewhere. Wyatt and Isaac are working hard to be helpful, positive and interact with the kids in playful ways. The majority of their time together-- which is considerable since we homeschool!-- all 5 of them are playing contentedly and enjoying one another. One of my favorite things is to hear one of the big boys explain to a new friend or some confused child; "YES. We are ALL brothers and sister. We ALL belong to the same family. This is my brother and this is my brother and THIS is my brother and THIS is my sister!" There are soooo many other things they could say, "Yeah, this is my adopted brother," or "He is my brother, but he is adopted...", etc... but they don't. It never even comes close to being uttered from their mouths. They claim JB and Risa with certainty and conviction. You may think I am weird for thinking such things, or offering my praise to my bio kids for saying something that I would hope to goodness that they would say anyway... but I take nothing for granted. Of course, Tony and I have always taught them that GOD alone puts a family together and He has put OUR family together-- through birth and adoption and both are of equal, eternal value. No difference, in that regard. But THEY have to accept this truth within their own hearts. I cannot force them to believe it. So... to have them be so positive and proud to others about their new brother and sister... like I said, it is one of my favorite things.
The transformation within JB and Risa continues to work itself out. Now that they have been home 5 months, we can sort of see what behaviors are still lingering and what deeper issues such behaviors may be pointing to-- beyond just the trauma of moving them from their homeland and into our family. JB in particular, exhibits behaviors which directly point to a lack of emotional health. He is attaching more slowly-- though he desperately works for our attention and affection-- it is spastic (for lack of a better word), controlling and tense. I have been re-reading some of my adoption literature on attachment, especially in regards to emotional development-- phases of, milestones of each phase, reviewing checklists for emotional health of children at the end of each phase, etc. JB has some gaps. Though there are many emotionally healthy things that JB DOES do-- and even has begun to do since he has been home-- there are a few key things that he does NOT do which, I believe, if we do not address them directly, will cause his emotional "heart" to mature in a warped, unhealthy way.
What is challenging about the things that we are directly tackling is that they are things that any child raised in a safe, secure, loving environment from early on would naturally develop. For most of us, we don't even think about having to "teach" our children how to accept affection, allow us to comfort them or relax in our arms. We take for granted that when they are hurt they will tell us what is wrong and cuddle into our comforting arms. When our children are older, we USUALLY don't have to worry about them throwing a temper tantrum of a 2-3 year old EVERY time they are mad (which happens A LOT in a day)-- or become reduced to a fit of crying when one of their siblings does something they don't like, ESPECIALLY if what the sibling did was meant as a gesture of love-- like patting the child's back, or trying to put their arm around him like a buddy does.
This is where we are at. I have always known-- like that crazy mommy instinct-- that JB's "heart" seemed to have some holes in it-- holes that went beyond the normal trauma and attachment issues all families walk through with their kids who are adopted-- especially those who adopt older kids. I think it is a super great place to be, because it is a place of deeper understanding, concrete and direct interventions/strategies... but best of all, it is a place of being in total and utter dependence of My God who does NOT withhold any good thing from His children! I know that I am so out of my realm of human wisdom, savvy or strength. It is only by the daily, moment by moment grace (action) of God in and through Tony and myself that JB's heart will heal. God's gotta do it-- but we have been chosen to be His hands and feet.
The final piece of all this is my own health and well-being. For 5 months, I have been in a whirlwind of emotions, added workload, added needs, adjusting to 5 children who are in a constant clamor for my love, attention, help, etc... This has left me, well... Exhausted. Beyond the normal "I have 5 kids" exhausted. Strangely, this was a light bulb moment for me-- I know, I'm quick, aren't I? :) All the sudden it dawned on me that for as many strides as JB has and continues to make, and as much as I am working with him on specific emotional issues-- he leaves me sooooooo weary. I mean-- that boy WEARS ME OUT!!! If you have someone you love in your life who is depressed or emotionally unstable and they just seem to suck life OUT of you, then you know exactly what I am talking about. (Note: if you are thinking, "Well, YEAH, Shari! Just reading your BLOGS sucks the life out of me!!"-- kindly keep it to yourself!). Strangely, this "lightbulb" moment was somewhat of a final confirmation that we are dealing with some issues of woundedness in our youngest son. So, part of our strategies for helping Joshua Biruk also need to include strategies for allowing me to experience some way of finding respite and an outside interest to invest more creative energy towards-- even if it is just getting to pursue new running goals, study more about gardening... or... maybe... learn a new language --just kidding!
5 Months ago Tony and I drove out of a gated Transition Home with two new children we didn't know at all but we called them son and daughter. Today... I am still getting to know them; but one thing I DO know in the depths of my soul-- Joshua Biruk and Rebekah Selame Dragovich ARE my-- God given, God designed and God planned from before the beginning of time-- son and daughter.
Grace and Peace,