Today we had yet another vaccination appointment, and this time both Joshua and Kenny needed shots. So off we go to the County Public Health office, all 3 kids in tow. The last episode there was actually surprisingly good, with Kenny being very brave and having no fear at all.
Today it was a new nurse, and as soon as Kenny realized this it seemed to throw him into a tailspin. We hadn't even sat down yet and he was whimpering, and said "I want my old doctor!!" thinking that the nurses are actually doctors. This nurse was fairly new, and she was unfamiliar with Kenny's chart for catching up his vaccinations and took about 10 minutes to figure out what to give him. She kept asking me stupid questions and I was getting more and more irritated as Kenny was getting more and more upset. "Does he have any allergies?"...which I answered twice "None that we know of but we are not sure". "Why not??" she bluntly asked and I replied "Because he has only been in our family for 10 months.". She then asked me three times as she was looking at some sort of reference chart "So he is 7 years old?"..."No, he is 9". "But you said he is in 2nd grade", losing my patience I said "I told you he is 9, do you need a birth certificate?".
Kenny is meanwhile getting more and more agitated over all of this, watching as they finally draw the vaccine into the syringe and starting to cry already. This woman then really brought out the Momma Bear in me when she said to me "Oh it's not a big deal..." as she then tried to grab his arm and pull him toward her as he is clinging to me and the panic rises in his eyes. I then told her quite firmly "Stop...you will stop right now. You do not know his history and I will not have you rush this, I need to talk to him.". I got a disgusted look from her as she backed off.
I had Kenny on my lap and I made him turn around and look at me, and I spoke softly to him telling him to remember his bravery last time, to remember that it didn't hurt that much, telling him that Joshie was watching him and I hoped he could show Josh that there was no reason to worry. After a couple of deep breaths he hopped back on my lap, and trembling he gave her his arm. He was really sobbing as she had to do each one, but was so relieved when it was over.
I was uncertain at that moment what was the best course of action...do I take them and walk out of there, knowing we still had to do it and he would then continue to worry about it? Or just get it over with? I chose to stay but am not sure tonight that it was the best course of action. We have so much ahead of us with Kenny, and he has such an overwhelming fear of all things medical that I wish I knew what was the best way to handle all of this. He is literally terrified every time we go to the doctor, although he seems to have calmed down about the orthodontist. Several trips with no pain have helped that a lot.
And I struggled with the insensitivity of the nurse, who thinks I am an overprotective mother rather than a parent with real life concerns about her child's psychological well being. She was so dense, and kept asking questions about his history that were obviously unanswerable by me...I had made it clear with the first question that he was adopted and we had no health history whatsoever. I haven't really run into this kind of blatant insensitivity to adoption issues before, and it was maddening. The funny thing was that by the 3rd time she asked mindlessly if Kenny was 7 years old, even he glanced at me and rolled his eyes!
Later in the day I had the honor of having an intense conversation with Kenny, as we talked about what we might say tomorrow at an adoption presentation we are going to. We were at Matt's soccer game and it seen became so cold that Kenny and I went back to watch from the car rather than freeze our booties off on the field. We jump in the car, settle in, and Kenny turns to me and says "Momma, you wanna talk?" and I say "Sure! Whatcha want to talk about?" and he hems and haws for a couple of minutes and says "I don't know...my operation?" and so I ask him if he is scared, and he admits he is very, very scared. I reassured him once again that our appointment in June at Shriners would be painless, that it was only for pictures and so the doctors could examine him, and I let him know we had awhile before surgery was to start so he could relax about it and not worry for now.
Conversation then switched gears a little and he started talking about how he wasn't very handsome, that his nose wasn't "pretty", that his mouth was "bad", that "my talking ugly", that "I too white", that his hair "not nice". All the while he is saying this, he is looking in the side mirror, carefully examining himself, making observations as if he was a clinical scientist remarking on a test subject. I took his hands in mine and told him that was simply not true, that he was a very attractive little boy, both inside and out. He said he thought he was handsome on the inside but not on the outside. We talked about character and kindness, about all the things that really make someone attractive, but it didn't seem to sway him at all. Then he said with a gentle smile "You only say I handsome because you love me...you think I handsome because you my mommy.". I said that was partly true, that mommies all think their children re the prettiest and handsomest, but that even before I was his mom and I showed others his picture and everyone thought he was handsome. I then made a strong point of telling him that we were NOT getting surgery for him so he could look better as we thought he looked terrific right now, but so he could talk and eat better.
We talked a bit more about all of that, then he got quiet, turned to me and I suddenly saw a 20 year old man sitting next to me, with such sincerity in his face. He then says "Can I ask you an important question?" and I said "Of course!", he got quiet and then looked up at me and asked "Why you want to adopt me? Why you want more kids? It not easy to adopt, why you want to bring me home? Why me?".
Now how can I explain to an 8 year old that sense of tucking my kids in bed every night and feeling that someone was missing? That my heart didn't feel full enough yet?
So I tried, I told him that I felt we had a lot more love to give and that someone out there was missing and not home. I said it was a lot like we all feel right now about the girls. He said "But you not know me, how you know I missing?". And I said honestly that I didn't know how I knew, but that I was obviously right because look how well we all fit together, how perfect we were as a family. He got quiet and with big grin he then said "I know, God told you about me". And I thought to myself "Duh...that's the truth, why didn't I just say that?".
He then got quiet again and with a very sad look on his face said "At Detsky Dom no one say they love me, no one say I handsome. They just get mad if I bad and that all. I like being in family, it super nice.". I then asked him a question of my own "Kenny, what if you could have been adopted by a family in Kyrgyzstan and stayed there? Would you have liked that better? Speaking Russian still? Eating the same foods?"...wow, the silence on that one was very interesting, and he looked quite puzzled as he pondered that one. With a far away look he said "Maybe Momma, that a hard question. But I so scared when I come here, I not speak English,I not know anyone. And I very, very afraid you not keep me, that you get mad at me and send me back and I not want to go back to Detsky Dom. I think I wish you and Daddy and Matthew and Joshie live in Kyrgyzstan and I live with you there, but now it ok and I like here very much."
We talked about how he would never, ever go back....and he said he wasn't afraid of that now but he was very afraid for a long time. And he added, almost casually in a way that almost broke my heart "I afraid that you come see me and think I not handsome like Matthew and Josh and then not want me go home with you and Daddy.".
Oh, what our older adopted children go through...the fears, the transitions, the years long struggle to catch up. Throw in a special need and how can you not walk away from meeting a child like this and be filled with admiration for them? There are so many people in our lives who think it is we, the parents, who are to be commended and admired. What misplaced admiration that is, for that is due our children who are at the mercy of a system and new people that they have no choice but to trust.
I have no doubt that Kenny will lead a successful life, that he will achieve a great many things in this world. I also happen to find him to be a very, very handsome little boy.
My challenge for now is to make HIM believe all of these things.