Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Ordinary Parents

I want to thank all of you who wrote comments and private emails in response to my last post.  There have been times when I have really had to stop and think about whether I should reveal such intimate moments of our lives. I know most folks would not, and perhaps that would be the wisest course of action.  But somehow, this blog...this place...has taken on a life of it's own.  It has become something I never intended it to be, and it has meaning and value for many beyond my just keeping an open, online journal of one family's life.

I have thought long and hard about many of the things I blog about, wondering if it is going too far to share openly many of the things we are working through.  Had I known that our blog would ever be read by so many, I most definitely would have created pseudonyms for all of us, as others often do.  But by the time I realized that there were more people reading it than just our mom's, it seemed to be too late.

There also was the realization that part of what made people connect with what we share was that we didn't hide behind pretend names, which could also lead to hiding behind pretend personas.  There is an honesty that comes from not hiding, there are dear friends who read our blog who would "call us" on anything that rings false.  

I don't share everything here, and what you all get is a snippet of our lives, albeit enough for me to say that if you only read our blog and never met us in person, you would likely have a darned good sense of who we are in "real life".  I'd hope that not much would surprise you at all, or at least I hope we are as authentic in the blogosphere as I strive to be.

I would continue to blog even if I closed it for public consumption, as it has become a priceless heirloom for our family to use as we walk down Memory Lane.  Far better than any album, herein lies not just photos with a short comment or two under them, identifying time and place.  Our blog is our heart, our struggles, our faith...all captured here for us to revisit someday.  Once in awhile, but not often, I will go back and read old posts, usually when I am trying to remember the date something happened, and I will be re-grounded by my own words, I will be refocused if I discover I am off track.  I will rejoice when I think of how far we have come, and how difficult the challenge was.

But why keep it public?  Why share our most intimate moments with the world?  Won't our kids hate us for it someday?  I honestly don't know, but all the kids understand on some level that I write about our family here, and that it is available for everyone to read who might be interested.  If they ever objected, I would not post something, and in fact that has happened a time or two as the boys have gotten older, and I have honored that.

As adoptive parents of older kids, there is a lot of clinical information out there, written by social workers and specialists.  There are a few tales of families and their journey to adopt older kids, most often with wonderful happy endings with the story stopping when the plane lands in America and a short "Afterward" with a few paragraphs of catching up on the facts of how things turned out.  There is also adoption training which most often outlines the worst case scenarios.  There are even a few Yahoo groups and lists with active parents of older adoptees who stick around for the long haul to help, but there are relatively few who do so.

Where do you learn what it is really like?  Where do you hear what happens after the fairy tale portion of the story ends, and the "new " has worn off?  Where do you discover what happens to the kids who settle in to their new families and have challenges and struggles they overcome....but do NOT end up featured on the latest edition of "60 Minutes" because they had to be placed out of their families due to horrible attachment issues?

Where do you learn about a family who adopts a kid from a typical orphanage setting without sensationalizing it or over-fantasizing it all?

I hope that place is here, it is the single reason I leave the blog open for public consumption. Someone out there is like us, or is in the early stages, and needs to know that it is hard...and wonderful...and painful...and beautiful...and that if we can do it, so can they. They need to see that two very, very ordinary parents have created a family that consists of children from not so ordinary backgrounds, and it didn't implode. No one is standing over our beds with an ax in their hands, no one is mentally ill, no one is perfect and going to end up at Harvard at 16 years old. ORDINARY...that's us, ordinary.

That is NOT to take away from the families whose heartache knows no bounds, who have done everything they can to help their children who are terribly, horribly damaged by their previous lives before being adopted. Oh, those stories exist, for sure, and upon reading about them or seeing them on TV you can bet I say a little prayer of thanks that we are not in their shoes, for I know that there but for the grace of God, go I.

My point is this though, the above is what the public DOES hear. Stories like ours are seldom shared, for they are not as dramatic, not as spellbinding...let's face it, they don't make good copy. A little boy's night terrors that began at 11 months old and continue at 8 years old are not exactly headline making news...but it is real. A pre-teen's ability to trust and reach out for love and comfort after a lifetime of neglect and witnessing of horrors, quietly crying in the arms of her mother is not sensational journalism...but it is real. The challenges a 12 year old boy faces as he tries to beat the odds and overcome the learning disabilities that stem from who-knows-what is not something that is going to be reported all that often in adoption seminars.

I received an email from a years long adoption acquaintance this week, after having read my post about Angela and Olesya. In her email she shared that her daughter is stuck in the same pattern of behavior as Olesya is, and she said she read my post aloud to her and her siblings so that they might address the issue without personalizing it for their daughter. They even printed it out to put near her bed to remind her of her worth.

That is why our blog is public.

I received another email from someone else who said they had no idea why certain behavior had bothered them that they had seen in their daughter, that they couldn't really put a finger on it until they read that post and the lightbulb sort of went on for them.

That is why our blog is public.

There was the totally unexpected comment from "fiddlejig", who shared that, somehow, reading our blog has helped them as they worked through some childhood trauma themselves. 

That is why our blog is public.

There are many, many children whose prior lives were filled with horror, whose bios would scare potential adoptive parents to death if they only made decisions based upon what was on paper.  There are countless parents out there living out their own post-adoption stories who feel at a loss about how to deal with the grief and anguish their children feel.  They hurt for their children, they feel frustrated and helpless, and they need to know they are not alone.  They need to hear that others have these terrible moments when our parental hearts are in our throats and we have no idea what to say or do to help our hurting children.  We fear we will do the wrong thing, we don't have a guide book for the types of situations we face, and most often people are afraid to share this stuff openly.

That is why our blog is public.

If one thing we share here helps another parent walk through the dark valleys with their kids, if one thing we share here helps parents realize that NONE OF US is perfect and we all mess up, if one thing we share here helps even a single person realize that older children can heal and should not automatically be crossed off the list for adoption, then it is worth sharing our experiences.

We don't get it right, folks, no more often than you do.  We try hard, we love our kids, we have many, many regrets over the things we have not "caught", things we didn't really understand, wisdom we didn't have early on.   We are no better at dealing with these tragic situations than any of you are, we are just willing to open up and share how we handled it in the hopes that it might be something others need to identify with.  Our way of handling these issues is not necessarily "right", it is just the way we have elected to deal with it.  In time, we may very well be proven to be 100% incorrect.  This blog is NOT about us appearing to be experts, it is about you all knowing you are not alone.  It is about shedding new light on the transition and adjustments of internationally adopted children.  It is about offering hope that healing does occur, even if the process is not always pretty.

We will continue to blog, to share some of the hard times and good ones, to reveal what has worked for us and what has not.  But please don't think I am any more of an "amazing Mom", as so many of you wrote, than anyone else out there.  I am not.  I am just like you.  I have made oodles of mistakes, believe me, I have had far fewer "amazing" moments than many others have had.  I am lacking in a million ways, that many of you are not.  The only difference between you and I is that I write about it here, and many of you might wisely keep it confidential.

The real journey doesn't even begin until the plane lands, and it takes years and years of hard work, of commitment, of learning and growing for both parent and child to help that healing take place.  I have read many blogs over the years as families prepared to travel, and shared their day to day adventures while overseas.  I was desperate to learn more after they arrived home...how did language acquisition go?  What was the hardest part about their child's transition?  How long did it take for hoarding of food to diminish?  What developmental challenges did they face? 

What were the precious post-adoption moments?

We have been at this 11 years now, beginning with Matthew's arrival and five children later, here we are.  I won't leave you in the dark, and someday...maybe 8 or 10 more years from now, you will all look back (if you bother reading that long) and say "Wow!  Did they ever make some whopper mistakes!  Kenny never learned to read, Joshua is in therapy for a lifetime, the girls are on a path to self-destruction and Matthew is resentful of everything!".  Or maybe you will say "Hey, somehow, they pulled it out...they did it.  It took a lot of growth on everyone's part, but none of the kids are in jail, they are all still speaking with one another at family gatherings, and they are all gainfully employed." .  Or, if we really and truly are blessed the next few years you just might say "Man, those LaJoy's rock...they love each other with deep and abiding love, they have restored souls to wholeness, they are giving back to others in extraordinary ways, and they have an emotional strength and compassion that is rare to find these days."  Notice I don't say anything on that last one about anyone becoming rocket scientists or winning the Nobel prize.  Some might say those dreams are too big.  Honestly, I think the dreams that are about love, compassion and wholeness are the bigger dreams. 

Thank you for sharing this journey with us, thanks for sticking around past the excitement of travel.  Your prayers, suggestions and virtual hugs have helped in ways you will never understand.  To know that anyone at all has received a little something back from this odd, virtual relationship means a lot to me.


Dee said...

Thank you for expressing so clearly why you blog and why it's important. It IS important. It helps people. This is your ministry, Cindy, this blog. It's an amazing tool.

You can deny it all you want but you ARE an amazing mom. I don't know if I could've kept my cool with Angela the way you did. I probably would've just dissolved in a teary-eyed mess. I remember so clearly seeing Angela in the orphanage when I went to adopt Michael and the look in her eyes was just a cry that pierced my heart, just her eyes alone said "I NEED a mother!" and I prayed fervently that somehow God would send a miracle and she would get a family. I didn't even know she had a sister. God bless you for persevering with her.

Anonymous said...

Yes, some of us will be reading this 8-10 years from now. We are jaded with contrived "reality" shows that demean the people participating, that perpetuate stereotypes, that sensationalize. We read your blog because it is real, because it is spiritual, because it is about love and caring and trying. It is about succeeding--not always with what we set out to achieve but often with something much deeper--something with compassion, caring, love, and God at the center. God willing, I'll be a reader 10 years from now watching this amazing family grow, face new challenges, conquer old, and work around some.


4texans said...

So real Cindy, you write this post wonderfully. Thank you for being real and so honest. I can say you have helped me through difficult and heartbreaking times with our son. Thank you, thank you for continuing to write about your family and sharing your ups and downs.

Anonymous said...

I read yours and other adoption blogs for a number of reasons. I read them to be encouraged in our own journey, to get fresh ideas on how to approach some shared issues, to be reminded that there are other "real" people who do understand this journey of adopting older children, to fill my heart with the knowing that more children now live in loving families.

We've been on the adotion journey since 1990, when our fourth daughter came to us in that miraculous way, as a newborn. Our last adoption was in 2007. And we are still on the journey with everyone in between, doing our best to raise each one to their full potential.

I love reading of your childrens' successes, as I know how hard-earned these things sometimes are amidst the challenges of becoming a family.

Nancy in the cold/cold Midwest

Anonymous said...

Cindy -

You forgot one other category - prospective adoptive parents. As a couple that has debated the idea of adopting older children from this area of the world, reading your honest and down-to-earth accounts of your challenges and rewards is extremely meaningful to us.

I do have to say that he has said more than once in the last couple of days, "Stop being Olesya!" You, I am sure can guess the context.

You give us all something so valuable and so meaningful through your blog. I am glad you realize that what you write makes a difference.

Kelly in Vegas

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,

I do agree with all you say except one detail.
This pain belongs to your daughter and it is really not yours to share. It really didn't feel right.
It is fine if you want to keep the blog public, but you should keep posts such as this one in the draft, for her to read one day, but not share this in all this detail with us.
You could tell us a resumed version for us to understand all that comes with adopting older children and explain she crying for 3 hours,etc, but the details are private. They belong to Angela.
Just my 2pc.
Either than that I have been reading your blog for years and love it.
Hope you have a lovely week,

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for keeping your blog public. I think you have gotten this from others, but I will say it as well... I enjoy reading your blog and thinking I am not alone. It is good to know how things change and how things normalize as adopted children grow and learn more about family.

Additionally you are the 3rd source this week that mentioned there are no perfect parents. I needed to hear that. It was a rough week. But with each regression there is learning and strengthening. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"Those LaJoy's Rock!!!"

You're a strong, admirable family unit. That's what I feel when I read your posts.

Nancy from NH