Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Different Sense of Loss

I have said in the past that I don't really dwell on what we have missed with our kids, that all of a sudden, once you have your child in your arms you just tend to move on from there and not have any regrets about the months or years that you did not share. That has really been my truth until now...

We are struggling to figure out an academic path that works for Kenny, and while I am focused on the specifics of nailing that down I am finding myself struggling with something else...anger. I am MAD that my son, who is so bright and eager, is going through this. I see Matthew and Joshua, both of whom are good students and for whom school will not be too much of a struggle other than the occasional bump in the road, and then I see Kenny for whom school is a daily challenge, and I find myself thinking "If only..."...if only we had adopted him when he was much younger, if only he hadn't missed two full years of school, if only he had been read to continuously, if only his cleft didn't create speech issues that are making it that much more difficult to learn phonics.

If only he had been ours since infancy, life would be so much easier for him.

I hesitate to say that he would have been a better student, because in my mind he IS a good student. Being a good student has nothing to do with grades and everything to do with working hard at learning, and Kenny works HARD.

We have been so fortunate, so blessed that Kenny has thus far escaped the fate of so many post-institutionalized kids and doesn't have the usual alphabet soup of diagnosis...there is no FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), there are no processing disorders, he doesn't suffer from dyslexia. We are eternally grateful for that, but on the other hand it makes you that much more angry to know exactly where he could have been had he not been institutionalized his first 8 1/2 years of life, and what makes it even harder is that HE knows how much different things could have been.

I had a long conversation with Matt's teacher today which gave me a lot of insight, and helped me identify what is bothering me so much. I am frustrated because I can't take him back and have a "do over". We can't start him at the beginning, no matter how much I would love to do that for him. So we have to pick up somewhere in the middle and hope that eventually we make up the lost ground. Kenny's circumstance is a bit different even from most international adoptees. At 8 1/2 Kenny had not had any "real" school, he only had the equivalent of preschool before being thrust in an American English speaking classroom for 2nd graders. Most kids who are adopted at 8+ years old have had some education in their native language which can help them transfer skills to English. They might be behind due to learning a new language and social/emotional development, but they are not as far behind the 8 ball as Kenny was starting out.

I think I am having a hard time accepting that my child will never truly be able to go backwards and get all that he missed. I am having to accept that his educational road will be very different and I can't fix that for him. I can advocate strongly, I can never give up, I can keep my finger on the pulse of where he is at and do the best I can to help him at home, but I can never regain those lost years.

We still have no idea what the best thing is for Kenny right now, hold him back? Press for more services? Think outside the box for creative educational solutions? Who knows??? All I DO know is that I feel the pressure daily to make the right decisions, and nothing is clear cut.

I have tried thus far to remain a bit more distant from Kenny's education. Dominick does most of the quizzing at home, working on spelling words and math homework, etc. I do work with Kenny on writing and I read to him all the time, but we feel it is more important that I be "mom" and not teacher. With Kenny's need to be in control much of the time, we don't need to set ourselves up for battles over homework and who is the boss...we have enough of those battles without the added stress of me placing myself in the role of educator. Kenny has many wonderful people in his life who can be his teachers, he only has one person in his life who can be his mom and teach him what it is to be a son who accepts parental authority and recognizes that his parents can keep him safe, and he doesn't need to be in charge anymore...he can let go and just be a kid. It is one of the reasons I have purposely not been in his classroom much the past two years. Maybe the time will come when we are cemented as son and mom, when he feels safe enough to let go and let us parent 100% of the time. Until then, we think that keeping myself firmly in the role of mom is the best route to go.

I wonder if I will ever feel I have done my best with Kenny, I wonder if I will ever be able to let go of the feeling that I am failing him simply because I couldn't snap my fingers and magically make him 6 years old and in Kindergarten. Adopting a child in mid-childhood certainly brings with it a different set of worries. It also brings with it a different sense of loss...


Joyce said...

HI Cindy
while i was reading, I wondered whether you had considered homeschooling for a while to see if that would help him progress to a point where it would become easier for him. But I also understand your point that you want to keep it separate - mum and teacher. Im not sure on the answers - I have it easier as my boy will jsut be held back a year as he hasnt started school yet and although I think he would go well with the socialisation, I also dont want him to start when he is developmentally behind and way small for his age.
Sorry Im not really encouraging here :( but my heart goes out for you. Watching your loved son struggle can not be an easy thing at all

Anonymous said...

Kenny is receiving the most important kind of education and learning from you and Dominick: how to love, share, be part of a family, help others, and most of all, knowing God. School learning is important too, but plenty of people get advanced degrees without learning the values that carry us through life and relationships. Sometimes this is called “emotional intelligence.” This doesn’t lessen the pain of the lost years and “what might have been,” but I believe it shows great hope for a future young man who will be compassionate and understanding of the needs and weakness of others.

Peggy in Virginia

Anonymous said...


no, you can't get those years back, you can only do as best as you can from here on out. It is OK, honest. Kenny will be OK. Promise. I would put it in a different frame - which is perhaps it is not the education that makes a man, nor is the education system the front line of identifying and encouraging intelligent and innovative people to thrive. I know this is a struggle and you want to do your best for him, but trust that you are doing all that you can. Hugs from LV

Raynola said...

Cindy, I know exactly where that "what if" spot within your soul is coming from. Being the mother of a child with autism, there have been many "if only, What if" moments, I feel for you, I grieve for Kenny, but I have confidence that you are giving the best education through your love and example. See you Saturday, Hugs and Blessings

Anonymous said...

While it maybe true that there are not regrets about the lost years for those who's children are adopted very young, I think it is less likely for those of us who adopt older children (not toddlers) with challanges. There is a loss for what their potential would have been, what they could have done, what their life could have been, how much eaiser life could be for them. Not saying that they can't/don't/won't have a great life. The "only ifs" are bound to pop up now and again as you see your child struggle, unable to do things those his age do or the frustration in him.

It is much easier if your child does not see the differences for themselves. My older daughter is unaware but a little part of me dies everytime I seen the look in my younger daughter's eyes when she see others doing something she knows she can not do and wants to, relationships she can't have because of her limitations caused by her years in the institution. The pain does not totally go away, it is just not right there waiting to happen. It does came back like it was yesterday every time you read about someone with the same issues, pain, struggles.

Kenny and you will have to learn to find a work around or an acceptance of that lost time and ground. It will come because you will either learn to live with it or find a way aroung it so it is not an issue. Having said that, it still hurts that my younger daughter's issue are almost 100% enviromental and that she will never be the person she was born to be - that none of her issues had to be. But she has many more issues then Kenny has.

When my girls came home 15+ years ago, a therapist told me to let the schools do the teaching and concentrate on everything else they needed to learn - to just be mom. There is so much more then school that they need to know to be sucessful in life.

You will fingure out what is best for Kenny at that moment and it may change in a couple of months as he grows. Have faith that in the end with your support and guidence that it will be ok. It is easy to second quess yourself but you really do know what is best for him - no matter what the "experts" say.

Years from now when Kenny is a young man, you will see that you and Kenny have done your best. You will look back and see the progress he has made, the wonderful young man he has become - and if you are as much like me as we seem to be - look at the wonderful progress HE made, how far HE came, and how wonderfuly HE is and totally ignore that you had any part of it!!!!! Life will give you no choice in letting the "only ifs" fall by the way side and your focus be on the man he has become.

Hang in there.

catherine n.

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

Don't look cannot be've reached your goal already-did you know that? He's in a loving Christian home-I promise, this is what God wants for him. The rest will come. "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Phil 3:13-14
So many times I've regretted the past for our children and for my inexperience so many years ago and how that may have hurt them. But you learn to look forward and do the best with each day.
Articulation, until he has more repairs will always have him behind in that area-he won't spell right, etc, etc, but it WILL come. Oh how I hate homeschooling but have done it off and on throughout the years due to one child's needs or another. It's more flexible than you think. Yes!! Push for services-get pointers to do your own things at home. It will be fine. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 You love Him, Cindy. Again, you're pleased our Savior so much by taking in these fatherless children. You are raising His children just the way He would want you'll figure this out. Kenny WILL catch up one day.