Sunday, March 25, 2012

Softly Whispered

It is after midnight, and though my head gently rested against my pillow at 10:30 tonight, there was much unexpected work to be done.  It is Campout night in Mom and Dad's bedroom, and we were surrounded by not so little bodies tucked into sleeping bags, Sunny not wanting to be left out and joining us as well.  Before "lights out", the subject of Trayvon Martin came up, and I explained to the kids what had happened to this African American young man.  They saw photos of several folks in hoodies in solidarity with Trayvon's family, including a picture of the Miami Heat basketball team.  They were appalled at the facts they heard of the case, and we decided tomorrow we would quietly honor Trayvon by wearing hoodies to church ourselves.  I love that the kids were motivated to want to act in some way, with Angela even suggesting we do as some folks in some cities are doing and stage a public show of support for justice for Trayvon somewhere in our own town.

The conversation wound down...or so I thought...good nights were said, lights turned off, and as so often happens, that was when the real conversation began.  There in that small bedroom, with children, parents and a dog packed in like sardines, the darkness and physical closeness encouraged an openness that comes only rarely in many families.  Matthew quickly fell solidly asleep along with Dominick, but four others were not quite ready for their brains to turn off, and clearly the discussion of Trayvon triggered something for each of them.

Big Questions were thrown out...why is there so much hatred in our world,  why are some people valued more than others, why do good people often ignore bad things.  Bigger Questions started coming...does God cry over situations like Trayvon's, from our newest family members who are just beginning to understand the story of Jesus...where is Jesus buried, and do the people of Jerusalem consider their ground sacred.

Somehow, I am not sure really how, the Biggest Questions started coming...from Kenny "Is love a decision?  Is hate a decision?".  That was at least ten minutes worth of conversation.  That drifted to Joshua "Was it a hard decision to love me when I acted like I hated you?", and we begin to see he is processing what effect his Reactive Attachment Disorder had on those around him.  Angela asked "Do you think adoptive parents get jealous or upset if their children want to find their biological parents?" and we talked honestly about the emotions surrounding birth parent searches on all sides of the adoption triangle, and she even corrects me when I use politically incorrect language in saying "real parents", telling me "No Mom, remember, they are biological parents.  The people who love you, and raise you and stick with you are the real parents."  I am seeing more clearly that there is a sense of security now, and we can begin to at least think about biological mom without immediately pushing those thoughts aside.

Then, from right beside me, for the first time Olesya speaks up about her family, having never really done so on her own before.  I hear a very quiet "I don't remember anything, what do you know, Mommy?"  I slowly start to share the facts as I know them, and the stories I was told.  I share what I know, and admit that with international adoption much of what we think to be true may not actually be all there is to the story.  We talk about alcoholism, about good and evil and whether to apply those terms to an alcoholic or mentally ill person.  I am asked if I think they could ever possibly find their parents one day, and I respond that I am not sure how easy it would be, but that it is possible.  Olesya remains quiet, then says softly "Maybe she really did love us, but just couldn't get better...she could have had an abortion...and she did come back to try and get us once.  Maybe she isn't all bad."  And I know this is the first time she has considered this.

From below the foot of the bed Angela shares "When she came to the orphanage after getting out of jail, I told them I wouldn't see her, and that I never wanted to see her again."  I ask "Do you feel badly now that you did that, or are you OK with that?" There is a moment or two of silence, then she said "Sometimes I just don't know what to feel."  then "What would you have done, Mom?"

Talk about a hard conversation to have.

I carefully say "You know Angela, I think you did the right thing to protect yourself and your sister.  I think you showed a lot of wisdom at that moment.  Your Mom had already shown herself to be a very violent person, and you were finally in a safe place."  Then Olesya asked "But what if she had stopped drinking, should we have gone with her then?  Doesn't Jesus teach us to forgive people, and that people aren't perfect?"  Angela sits up, and I know my answer to this is very, very important, and that doubts are rising to the surface that have long been tamped down.  Dominick is snoring softly beside me as Joshua asks "And should I forgive my mom when what she did was really, really wrong?"

The weight of expectancy fills the shadowy room, lit only by the closet light behind the closed door.  Man, they sure don't cover this in those parenting manuals.

"You know, there is a difference between being an adult when we make decisions, and being a child.", I begin, "And Angela, you girls were children when all of this happened, you still are.  You can not control your future yourself, you need adults to take care of you until you are grown up, and you need to have those adults be people you trust 100%.  Jesus does teach us to forgive people, but Jesus doesn't ever want us in danger. You can forgive someone, Olesya, and still recognize the fact that they are not safe.  If Angela had said it was OK to go with your Mom, and they had come to get you, then you two would have been powerless if she started drinking again.  You may have been in a lot of danger.  It's not about your Mom being perfect or not, and its not about whether you girls forgive her or not.  It's about looking at a situation and making the best decision you can with the information you have to keep yourself safe, and that is what Angela did."

I then went on, "You girls may or may not have forgiven your mom.  But you knew A) She was an alcoholic, B) She was a very violent alcoholic, and C) In the orphanage you were finally safe.  Knowing all of that, even if you forgave her, those facts did not change, and I do think Angela made the right decision."

So typical of Olesya, she said "I know it sounds stupid, but I sometimes wonder if it hurt her feelings a lot."  I replied "You know, that is one thing I love so much about you, Olesya, your tender heart about others.  I am sure it DID hurt your Mom's feelings!  But you know what?  It is always OK to hurt someone else's feelings if it keeps you safe.  You can NOT let someone else's hurt feelings draw you into something that is not good for you.  It is OK to care that you hurt someone, but not if it keeps you from making the right decision to keep yourself safe."

Angela is still sitting up, hanging on to every word.  I then add "And Joshie, yes, it is OK to forgive your Mom even if what she did was really, really wrong.  We have no idea why she made the decision she made to leave you the way she did, and we will likely never know.  But would you want me to forgive you if you made a really, really big mistake?"  Quickly he said "Yea, I would, and you have said you'd love us even if we were in jail!" I add "But forgiving is not the same thing as forgetting.  Forgiving is letting go of anger, it is recognizing that every human is capable of doing really bad things...even us. When we forgive, it helps us heal and let go of the power that person who hurt us has over us."  He said "Sometimes, Mommy, I think I have forgiven her, and sometimes not.  Sometimes I get mad because I can feel I put a wall up around myself, and I think that is her fault."  Another first, an explanation of what he feels like at moments living as an outwardly healed child of RAD.

Angela has finally laid back down.  Kenny pipes up with "Wow, Mom, you have made me think about deciding to love and deciding to hate in a lot of different ways.  Our birth moms maybe made decisions not to love, maybe they didn't hate us, but they decided not to love us anymore.  Then you and Daddy come and decide to love.  But then WE have to decide whether to love you or not, and then we have to decide whether to love or hate our first moms and dads.  This stuff is really, really hard."

You can say that again, Kenny.

Then Angela speaks, "You know what I like most about you, Mom? I can talk to you about anything in the whole world, even sex stuff, and I know some moms would be uncomfortable, or maybe get jealous about us talking about our biological families.  You always make us feel OK to talk about things.  But what I like best is you help us to see both sides of everything. Remember on that TV show where the adopted girl wanted to find her biological parents and her adopted parents got all mad and hurt? Then she had no one to talk to, and she got all messed up.  I don't think you or Dad would ever be that way, I think we could talk about it with you and you'd help us understand everything and not get jealous or mad at us."  Then, said vehemently "And you guys are our real mom and dad, even if we have only lived with you for two years.  No one has ever loved us like you guys do.  You show us all the time, and you give up so much for our family.  Before I came home, I didn't really understand what parents were supposed to do or be like.  Now I have seen a lot of families, and I know ours is very, very special."

Then, perhaps most importantly she added, "I am glad you think I made the right decision.  I sometimes felt bad too about it, because I didn't even let her see me even once.  But I was scared, and I was afraid if I saw her I would feel sorry for her, or she would talk me into going and getting Olesya and going home with her, like I wouldn't be strong enough.  Then she might still be drinking and we would be stuck.  Maybe even she could kill us.  I always wondered if I was wrong to say no and not see her.  I think tonight I feel it was OK."

Olesya then interjected "Remember, Angela, Mom said that its OK to keep yourself safe! Don't feel bad, I am glad you told her no."

The conversation began to finally come to a lull, as one by one my precious children drifted off to sleep. I tossed and turned, unable to shut my mind off.  The softly whispered doubts and fears of children far too young to have to deal with things like worrying about life altering decisions, holding on to legitimate anger, and struggling with the teachings of Jesus as played out in their own lives.  Yet it is these exact struggles that have created the deep souls Dominick and I have been blessed to live with.  Would I change things if I had that sort of power?  I don't know, I really don't, for all five are so extraordinary in our eyes, that the decision to go back and rewrite their personal histories would most certainly result in very different children walking through life beside us.

I wonder, after conversations such as these, if my answers are adequate, if they are able to help heal and restore, or if I am unwittingly causing more harm.  I'll probably never really know.  I'll continue to softly whisper words of forgiveness, of encouragement, of assurance.  Maybe, one day, those words will be believed.


Kim said...

I think it is pretty clear that your answers are MORE than adequate and are helping them heal. Sitting here, hundreds of miles away from your family, I can feel the love in a very tangible way through your words. You have an amazing family!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Kim. You always have the perfect words for your little ones and if I didn't know better, I would think you have a PhD in family therapy, child psychology and LOVE!! You are so terrific with your kids and I love how deep-thinking they are, as well. So awe-inspiring to read posts like this one! Your words to your kids when they express fear, regret, sadness are like a soothing balm to them, I think. Way to go, Cindy! You are awesome!!! Love,
Lindsey in Atlanta

Kristy said...

thank you as always for sharing so many details of conversation you have with the kids. It helps me to tuck away the ideas for the future with our little ones.

Cindy LaJoy said...

Thank you all for your comments. I am always left second guessing myself...there is no road map or instruction manual for what we find ourselves facing. So often it feels like I am just muddling my way through, hoping against hope that I am not screwing up too badly.

Kristy, I really appreciate your comment about tucking away ideas for future conversations with your own kids someday. I have learned so much from other parents by reading blogs and forum posts! Sometimes, in fact, I have actually learned what NOT to do! Weigh everything you ever read anywhere carefully...wisdom for one person might indeed be folly for another :-)

Lori said...

Bless their hearts. So many heavy and heady things weighing on such fragile hearts. Obvious that your gentle guidance is helping lift that weight little by little.

Trisha said...

Such beautiful souls.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Just wow! Cindy, you're such a great mother.

Anonymous said...

My own response echoes all those already written, Cindy! What a blessing you are to those children! You say you second-guess yourself, but it is so clear to me that each of those children was able to let go a little more and relax a little more regarding her or his past. Thank you for your wisdom, your gentleness, your love shown in such tangible ways, Cindy! Thank you for sharing with, and thereby teaching, me .... I suspect not only me, but all of us.
Peace and blessings!