Dominick and I did a lot of soul searching last night. I was up at 3:00 AM and he wasn't far behind me. As you can imagine, we have been torn up about the situation we are dealing with here, and it requires a wisdom we aren't sure we have. We also have really kept the dialogue going with the boys. The truth is, there are some pretty insightful little hearts residing in those small bodies, and we feel strongly we are all in this together, that Team LaJoy exists because of that very reason.
After much heartache, we came to the only conclusion that made sense considering all that we have been through. It will no doubt be an unpopular one with some, but this is not a popularity contest, this is life.
We made the decision to end our visitations with the girls, we will not be adopting them.
Every single one of us felt this was hopeless, that we are powerless to change the ultimate outcome, and that this is quite simply not going to work. Our interpreter/coordinator who has been there for every visit agreed as well, and is actually angry at the response we have been getting from Angela.
These are not bad girls, and I continue to reinforce that with the boys and in our minds...along with the fact that we are not a bad family even though we have suffered a terrible loss which feels like a rejection. But it is not a rejection of us, it is a rejection of a new and scary life. Gives one a much greater respect for the courage Kenny had to take that step with us, doesn't it?
We had an appointment at 4:00 PM today at the orphanage to meet with the Director's Assistant to discuss the situation. We spoke for awhile, and of course, I tried unsuccessfully to hold back the tears. We explained that Angela refuses to engage with us, that she won't look at us, speak with us, or have anything to do with us. We said we have tried all we can think of and it is obvious she doesn't want to go with us, regardless of her saying she would allow it. We are grateful that there was no attempt to dissuade us, and it was obvious that this woman felt very, very badly about the situation. We also said that we felt we had made progress with Olesya and she would have eventually fit in nicely, but that she was very much led by her sister and when around her shut down as well. We apologized and the Assistant said not to apologize, that SHE felt very badly as she understood the time, the cost, and the distance involved in this and then she acknowledged that she also knew how much emotion was invested as well.
She then went on to say it was obvious we had a very warm and loving family, and she was very sorry this wasn't working...that many children would jump at the chance to join us. She asked if we wanted to speak to the girls ourselves, or if we wanted her to do it. We said we would gladly talk to them but we didn't know how the staff preferred for it to be handled. She said she was going to go speak with the girls and would be back. We waited a few minutes and in she comes with Angela and Olesya. Angela sits at a table near the Assistant and hangs her head about as low as a child could hang it. Olesya elects to sit across the room near us and the interpreter, an act which in itself spoke volumes.
The Assistant speaks at length to the girls and questions Angela in depth. Angela admitted that part of her wanted to go, and part of her wanted to stay. The Director said essentially that this was not a time for games, that Angela had to realize this would be forever and could not be changed like a visit for a week...that she would never come back if she made the decision. We appreciated that she didn't sugar coat things and was as honest as we would have been if speaking at that moment. We also explained that having gone through it with Kenny, we understood how challenging it would be for them, and it was most important that they wanted a family...not just to come to America...because they would need their family to help them when it was hard. We added our comments that we wanted Angela to know that deciding to remain behind did not make her a bad person, that we truly wanted what was best for her and if this felt like home to her now, then we understood and she could be honest. We also said that her honesty wouldn't hurt us, but her treatment of us this past week did.
The Director said that Olesya still wanted to come with us but Angela did not, which we already knew. When asked how they felt about that, Olesya said that she wanted to go but didn't want to leave Angela. We explained that we would not want them separated anyway (although had there been a strong indication on their part that this was what they wanted we would have considered it, I guess). We explained that we cared about them very much, and we did not want to force something on them that they didn't want.
Angela sat there whispering answers, chin in her chest. I do believe that part of her wanted to go, some small innocent part that remembers the desires of her more childlike heart. But the larger part has settled in and gave up on the hope of having a family. She did what any one of us would do, she created a home for herself, she toughened up...she survived. It is what they all do. We were told years ago that around 12 or so they all become different children if they remain behind...the hope is gone and they realize they are in this for the long haul so they better figure out how to remain in it and not be crushed by their circumstances. It was this knowledge that had me growing more and more concerned as the months...then the years...passed as we worked our way ever so slowly through the government red tape. Dominick reminded me several times over the past couple of days "You were right all along, Cindy. You repeatedly said this could happen and you kept saying it wasn't a fairy tale...you knew this was taking too long and what could happen because of it, and sadly it did."
Somehow though, one would think that 11 years old wasn't too old to salvage. Some have done so successfully, but with willing and curious participants.
I was proven correct when Irina got in the car later and spoke to me after talking alone with the girls in the hallway for several minutes. Angela said exactly that, telling her "I wish they had come 2 years ago, I was really ready then...and I did want to be adopted then."
The hardest part of today, of this entire week, the part that truly made me gently lose it is when the girls left the room when we were finished, and we were all quietly getting our coats and gloves on, and Olesya comes back in and makes a beeline for me, and hugs me for all it is worth. I tried...oh, how I tried not to cry...but the tears fell despite my best efforts as I whispered "I love you" in Russian and we stood there for the longest time, clinging to one another and to what might have been. This unprompted display of true affection showed me that my instincts all week were correct about Olesya, that given the chance without the influence and fear of offending Angela, she would have bonded easily and fit in our family really well. No mother and daughter could have felt more, and I think at that moment Dominick and I looked at one another and truly understood who the biggest loser is in all of this. She turned and quickly went out the door, never looking back.
Sometimes being a loving parent means knowing when to let go. I discovered that today earlier in my parenting career than most ever do.
And I can't even type these words without crying...
We left and it was a very quiet car on the 5 minute drive back to our apartment. The boys had sat quietly in the back of the room as all of this was going on, being respectful of the seriousness of the moment and not really understanding all that was discussed in hushed tones. But they knew walking in the orphanage what was going to occur, and we had prepared them ahead of time that we didn't know if we would even see the girls or how this would work out. I was so extremely proud of them and their behavior, they have carried themselves so well over the past week or so, and looking at them and what their hearts are like has helped more than I can explain as Dominick and I have both felt as if we were incompetent and unlovable as we tried repeatedly this week to "crack through the ice" as Kenny so aptly put it.
We get inside the apartment and Dominick and I sit alone in the kitchen for awhile, talking, me crying a little, both of us feeling terribly beaten down. Broken is the only word for it. We then went into the living room to talk with the boys, take a reading on how they were feeling, explain once again that this had nothing to do with them at all and everything to do with what institutionalization does to children and how fear can cause someone to be afraid to grab hold of a love.
Kenny started to cry, he was terribly disappointed and crawled up on my lap burying his head in my shoulder. Of all three boys, he knows what they passed up and what their life is like. He said he was worried about their future, and wished they had made another choice but also realized that they couldn't go with us if they really didn't want to. Joshie sat on the floor rolling and re-rolling his blankie, and when asked how he was feeling he said "really sad, I wanted sisters.". Matthew was his usual quieter self and at first I though he was fairly unemotional until he looked up and I saw the look in his eyes. Matthew expressed deep sorrow as he had hoped he would be gaining a companion in Angela, someone more mature and closer to his developmental level, and he said he feels he is missing out on that now.
We talked there for an hour, sharing what we all felt, how awful this was, what our dreams had been...and what was the worst part of this week. Joshie replied first to that one saying "Right now, talking right now about what happened at the orphanage today was the worst part.". Kenny said it was the girls not smiling or looking at them. Matthew said "When we were bowling and I tried to "high five" Angela and she walked by like I wasn't even there, it really hurt my feelings.".
We explored what love really is, why each of us thought God brought us here only to have this happen...and none of us really came up with an answer to that one. I imagine we may never know why, there were so many ways permanent road blocks could have been erected and yet weren't. As we looked back on it, Dominick and I were trying to see if we missed God's leading in this somehow, if we pushed when we should have stopped. The fact is that other than the typical red tape frustration that made this much longer than usual, there really wasn't anything yelling STOP at us, as all the speed bumps were just that, speed bumps and not road blocks. Everything smoothed over fairly easily each time, we didn't do anything to really push it other than wait or collect another document.
Then we broached the next subject, what do we do now? We have kicked the idea around the past couple of days as we have felt where this was headed, and even made an inquiry at their orphanage today. Should we look at other children? Would THAT be pushing it? Should we just go home and call our family done? What yesterday sounded like a good plan...to go ahead and open our hearts to the possibility that the girls were merely to lead us here for another child or children...tonight seems impossible to consider. We are all so scared of being hurt again, of being rejected by another child. Each of us said that in different ways. A couple of days ago when we threw out the theoretical question each of the boys was enthusiastic in their response that they thought we should at least try. Tonight, it feels more like throwing ourselves under a train. Matthew was firmly all for it, saying he thought it would be such a waste to come this far and done so much to get here to walk away without at least checking. That is where Dominick and I were a couple of days ago as we pondered what we might do. Joshie said no, but later over dinner talked about if we bring home a brother, and I asked him if he had changed his mind and he said "Yes, I think we should look.". Kenny really, really wants a sister or two, and is heartbroken over the girls not coming but he too is feeling the pain of taking the risk.
I used how we are all feeling now as an example of how the girls must have felt about us, and talked about how easy it is to give in to those fears and not be willing to give love a chance. I pointed this out even though at this very moment I can't imagine going through the process with an open heart to discover if there is another child meant for us here. The bad part of it is that we don't have the luxury of time to reflect and heal, we are here for a limited time frame and are extremely conscious of the gift of this trip here...but at the same time we don't want to waste that if the opportunity presents itself to find a child whom we really were meant to parent. On a better day, we realize we have the capacity to love many children, would actually love to have more, and all of us have...as Matthew put it, "room in our hearts" for more. We have spent 2 1/2 years getting here, spent tens of thousands of dollars that were given us for the purpose of adopting, and we are open to God's will in our lives. Although we originally said we were here to adopt these specific children and would just go home otherwise, I had an epiphany of sorts a couple of days ago when I realized I was telling God which children I was willing to parent rather than doing as we had always done and as I had years ago promised...stand willing to parent whichever child God chooses to present us a gift. And I realized that we had no choice but to at least make the attempt to search out a heart that is willing to connect with ours.
Tonight, that is harder to imagine. As Dominick said, tomorrow is another day. I might be able to wake up and imagine it. I actually hold out little hope as despite the fact the orphanages are full, a large number of children are not legally available and parental rights are not terminated. We also only have immigration approval for up to 3 girls ages 5 - 13 but our homestudy written back when we started all of this indicates Joshua needs to remain the youngest, as we felt then was wisest. He has grown so much since then and has actually requested a younger sibling now, and we feel it could work well. But we don't know the logistics and timing of changing such things for court, how difficult it might be...if we even want to as that might be pushing what was not meant to be as well.
We are still trying to discern God's voice in all of this, and none of us seems to be hearing it well.
And Dominick is right, tomorrow dawns a new day. Perhaps it will be clear to us what we should do then. Maybe that will be hop on the next plane and go home to lick our wounds, heal, and take apart a pretty girlie bedroom that contained such joy and hope for a future we will be denied.
Maybe we will find there is someone here we are being led to, boy or girl, healthy or with correctable issues, who is open to being in a family.
Regardless of what tomorrow brings, the pain will not leave easily, it will linger for years. The questions of God might never be answered, and if anyone has a clue what all this was for I'd sure love to hear from you as for the life of me I can't figure it out and it seems utterly pointless. Why??? Did we do everything we felt was right to do? Did we ignore something along the way? Did we push when we should have pulled back?
Is there a single positive thing to come from this. I don't see it. Maybe it is there, but I sure can't find it. Maybe you can help.
I also know there are many of you who are of the opinion we should have pressed them harder, brought them home as long as we could have gotten a "yes" out of them in court and hoped for the best. I am not denying that we might have had a happily ever after. We also might not have, and that was a risk I wasn't willing to take. Call me a loser, call me over protective, call me a quitter. All might be good labels. Our gut instinct screamed out at us not to press, not to move forward, that this was serious and we would be making a mistake. We came here with the desire to offer love, not bring out anger. We came here not to save a child but to build our family. I am not the world's best mother, and I don't think we could have made it with Angela. I do know there are some who could have. But we looked at each other and realized that even if we had been childless going into this we would not have wanted to take her home. That pretty much summed it up for us and made our decision easy.
We are still at a place of relative peace with this, we feel we made the right decision for us given our life circumstances and our limited parenting skills. We are not trained therapeutic parents.
More importantly, we feel we made the right decision for Angela. Like it or not, she is at a place of peace with her life the way it is as well. After much debate about how much we should be trying to convince her, we realized we needed to do the same thing with her that we always do with the boys, respect her opinion and listen to what she did not have the ability to tell us with words but communicated with her actions.
Did we make the right decision for Olesya? Ahhh...that one is the tough one and I can not say yes to that. But in this situation we have no control over that, we can not separate them, we are at the mercy of a system we have to work within.
I will sadly be forced to forever wonder...
I will never feel as if we did enough. Of that I am certain.
So we see what tomorrow brings. Pray for us, for guidance and certainty in all we do. If there is a child who is supposed to be ours, let us find them. If we are to go home, let that be clear.
We are still intact, though terribly bruised. We remain Team LaJoy, we fought a good fight.
We see what tomorrow brings.