Lying in bed this morning, my mind was meandering through my mental list of the tasks I have before me over the next few days as we prepare for our church retreat and get ready for the kids to start school on Wednesday. But I couldn't focus on anything as one thought kept coming back to the forefront. Yesterday I was reading a posting from an online group I am a member of and was so saddened to read about a certain situation with someone we know and I was reminded of what a blessing...actually what a miracle we have...in Joshie.
There is no way, none at all, that I could have ever predicted that we would end up with the child we have in him. If you had asked me back when things were at their worst with the RAD when he was around a year and a half old, I would have said that my only hope was that he grew up and didn't end up killing someone. I honestly lived with that fear for well over a year. I didn't dare dream of actually snuggling with him nestled deep within my arms or of his darling smile beaming up at me.
Reading others post about their longings for "normal" children, about their day to day struggles and their moments of deep sorrow is so hard sometimes. It is why I have remained on the many lists for so many years post-adoption. I try to reach out and help those whom I might have a nugget or two that would help them over a rough spot, but I know that really I have no answers. I don't know why Josh made it and others struggle for years. I know those parents pray as long and as hard as we did, and we are not special or more deserving of Divine blessing.
And as Dominick and I both talked about last night, I also know we are not through yet. Yes, we have "made it" through the darkest of times with him...we hope. But we very realistically know that in many smaller and less obvious ways we are going to deal with abandonment and loss, with RAD and insecurity for all his remaining years with us in some form or another.
We are hitting a new milestone next week with Joshua starting Kindergarten, which will be an all day program. When asked if he is excited about starting school...which I know he is...he invariably says "No, I am going to miss my Mommy". He also has mentioned 4 or 5 times recently how now we won't our time together alone away from the bigger boys.
Now, I know many of these things are no different than any other mommy hears when her child first starts school. Many who don't understand the underlaying issues would say "So what? My kid did the same thing!". But others, as usual, don't understand and tend to minimize what we know will be a bigger issue than they assume. Luckily, we have a supportive school environment with a Principal who understands that he may not always know what our kids have been through but that they sometimes have different needs. During a phone call yesterday to find out the names of the kids teachers he said "Why don't you bring Josh down in the next couple of days before school starts and we can introduce him and show him around without all the other kids here?". That kind of thoughtfulness and support is so nice...to not have to justify or over-rationalize with someone who insists they know our kids better than we do is wonderful. To know Josh will be in a place where others will tune in to his needs is priceless.
And yet, despite our concerns for the future and worrying about what we might miss or not pick up on in terms of his needs, Joshua is a splendid success story in every possible way. He is charming and not superficially so. Although certainly no longer a baby he is diminutive in many ways and something about him brings out a protective streak in those whose lives he touches. Most importantly for me, he is happy, something that at first I never thought he might be.
I received a wonderful email yesterday from a blog reader which I have yet to answer, but it reminded me of one of the reasons I have chosen to open our family up to the world, leaving us admittedly vulnerable to the judgment and scrutiny of others and yet hopefully provides others with much needed hope...hope that kids CAN heal, hope that you are not necessarily bringing home a "monster" if you adopt an older child, hope that you can form a close knit family without blood bonds.
But I will admit to moments of fear and trembling as we one more time "tempt fate", as others would say. We don't see it at all like that, but I know many people in our lives do. It is not that we don't understand what we are getting into, well, at least as much as anyone CAN understand what they have never lived through. I "get it" that our children will come to us as what others would see as incredibly damaged goods, that their souls have been deeply wounded...and that we ourselves might find ourselves wounded as well as we discover much about their difficult past and that we will likely find ourselves squarely in front of the emotional firing squad as we try to develop trust that will need to be earned and prove over and over again that we are indeed sincere in our love and committment. We will need to be perceptive in ways we never have been, and strive to gently pull things out that may stubbornly want to remain hidden.
We aren't sadists, we aren't ignorant, and we definitely aren't considering ourselves saints. We are very realistic that the next couple of years...or sadly perhaps the remainder of our lives...could be spent in utter turmoil and chaos.
But we also recognize that we also might miss out on one of the greatest blessings of our lives if we ignore our Call out of fear. And, sometimes, those blessings come hidden inside angry, scared, hurt children.
Our church retreat theme this weekend is based on John Ortberg's "If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat". It is something that is so pertinent to us right now, as well as for so many other adoptive parents. Sure, there are risks. I am not denying that and I am not mitigating the reality of living with a child who is wandering around with the "alphabet soup" of diagnosis...RAD, FAS, SID and the like. But fear can keep you from what wonderful things God has in store for you as well. Right now, we are purposefully choosing to get out of the boat, despite our justifiable doubts and fears.
If we find ourselves facing the worst case scenario, at least we are not alone in it, for even then He is with us and we can rest secure in that.
But maybe...just maybe...our "damaged" children will show the world once again that faith and hope can be restored, that love coupled with committment can conquer many seemingly unconquerable things.
So here we sit as a family, our legs dangling over the side of the boat, swinging together in unison as we wait for our turn to stand up and walk. I am so grateful you are all there inside the boat or on shore watching, cheering and encouraging us.
And there are those of you who are on the verge of swinging your legs over the side as well...come on, hold our hands and we'll do it together.