Thursday, February 20, 2014

Eight--the Elusive Milestone Achieved!

We adopted our twins when they were 4 years old.  We were the fourth caregivers they had had in their short lives.  They had been through abuse, neglect, abandonment, hunger, violence and fear that I can't even imagine...I don't even want to.  They were, understandably, a mess.  A HOT MESS.  Those who knew us best back then know that we rarely left the house for that first year.  We were in full on crisis mode all the time.

Every book we read, and every professional we talked to, told us that it would take at least 4 years until we could expect them to have the same issues that their peers have, age appropriate issues.  It would take them as many years as they lived away from us to learn to trust us and to feel secure.  Back then this news left us feeling so overwhelmed.  Another 4 years of THIS.  How in the world would we survive?  How would they survive?  I had a lot of conversations with God about how I think he had made a mistake.  I couldn't DO this.  It was TOO HARD!  There wasn't really a light at the end of the tunnel.

If you have parented a typical four year old, you may be thinking "What are you complaining about?  You don't even have to deal with the terrible twos, or the toddler years!".  Well, guess what?  Our children didn't have the opportunity to be mischievous toddlers.  At that age they were in survival mode.  They didn't have toys, or people to throw tantrums to.  They had no one.  So that meant that, even though they were 4 chronologically, they very distinctively went through the terrible twos/threes during the first 6 months of being with us.  Imagine your toddler, throwing fits, trying to be independent, but having NO WAY to communicate with them.  Yeah, that's where we were!

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad.  Despite the language barrier, we had dance parties, we played with each others hair, even Mike's, and we blew bubbles.  These things need no language.  They also picked up English at a warp speed.

But even an English speaking four year old doesn't have the words to express the anger, rage, sadness, grief and fear that these girls were experiencing.  This led to meltdowns that would last an hour sometimes.  Many times they would need to be restrained in order to keep them, and the rest of us, safe.  I never knew a preschooler could be so strong or so angry.  It was scary.

We decided to use this restraint time as an opportunity for bonding.  We were so physically close to them while we were holding them that we used this time to sing to them, express to them that everything was going to be ok, and to reassure them that NO MATTER WHAT they did, we were not going to get rid of them.  It's not that they thought we might give them away, they were certain of it, and they were determined that they were going to be the ones in charge of that.  They were going to be bad enough that we would quit on them.  They picked the wrong family.  We don't quit, we're too stubborn for that.

Another misconception is that if you adopt a four year old, or any older child, you get out of all of those sleepless nights.  WRONG!  Children from hard places tend to have serious issues with sleeping/dark.  One of our girls was terrified of the dark, while the other would have scary night terrors that would wake me from a dead sleep.

We were exhausted and the thought of keeping this up for the next FOUR YEARS was inconceivable!  Luckily for us, God threw us a bone and we were at a point of near normalcy about two and a half years in!  Near normalcy is all we are going to achieve as there are so many lasting effects of the crap they've been through, and well, our family is nowhere near what anyone would consider normal anyhow :)

So we made it, they are eight!  They are alive and we are alive!  Not only that but we were crazy brave enough to try this again.  God has used the last 4 years to draw both Mike and me so much closer to Him.  We saw how much we needed Him.  He revealed His plans for us so clearly that they could not be denied, and we learned to trust and follow Him.  It has been an amazingly wild ride and I can't wait to see where we are in another four years!


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