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...