Greetings from the 20stuffers!
It's been just about seven months since our former daughter, "Joy", left for her new family. I know that a few of our readers follow the blog of her new family, so you know how well she is doing, but I thought for the rest of anyone who reads our blog that it would be appropriate to offer an update.
First, a bit of background for anyone coming across this blog for the first time. In August of 2011 we heard about a teen girl about to age out of orphan care in China, and we were told that she had cardiac disease, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, and one other health situation. We were not interested in adopting a teen but couldn't bear the thought of this girl living on the streets. We also barely had $100 in the bank but were told we'd need $12,000 to add her to our dossier (we were already in the process of adopting an eight-year-old girl, our Sunshine). I asked the agency for three days to pray about it, and within three days, God provided $15,000 -- enough for the dossier AND for her airfare and hotel expenses. Overwhelmed, we were certain He intended for us to adopt her (and still are certain).
Six weeks later Joy was in our home, and she was anything but joy-filled. Already angry about her unexpected adoption, she misinterpreted a number of events that happened early on and dug in with a fierce determination to have as little to do with us as possible. In our ignorance we pretty much paved the way for her to fulfill that goal. However, I was certain that she was "a star waiting to shine" and that she simply needed a second chance, a fresh opportunity to be a beloved daughter. Through an amazing series of events that I have to believe God orchestrated once it was obvious Joy was not going to attach to us, a new family came forward, and Joy was in their home within one month.
In the blogpost in which I announced that Joy was with her new family, I predicted she would go through a rejection time with the new family, but "secretly" I had very high hopes that she wouldn't, and I am thrilled to tell you that has been the case! By God's great and marvelous mercy, this lovely girl began blending in with her new family almost immediately and has never gone through that rejection stage. The family dynamics are such a better match for her in her new family. She is no longer the oldest child but one of the youngest. The family has no preschoolers in diapers, racing about the house and stomping little feet on wooden floors. :-) The family has other, older adoptees from China who had made at least some peace with their adoption by the time Joy arrived. Her mama has exactly the kind of personality I had prayed for, the kind that I had noticed from Joy's first weeks with us was the kind that Joy responds to best, AND the mama is a pediatric nurse! How good is our God! The family also has several pets, something Joy had longed for at our house -- the only Americans she knew in her former country had a dog in their apartment, and Joy loved the dog.
This family could not have adopted her at the time she was aging out in China, but we could. We could not keep her in our family, but this other family could.
When she lived with us, Joy used to walk ten feet behind us when we took her anywhere (which was not often because of her behavior when we were out and about). She would sit at a different table than we did if we went to a restaurant. She would refuse to acknowledge me if I asked her what she wanted to eat. Except for one spontaneous occasion, she never thanked us for anything we did for her, no matter how big or small, even when Chinese friends asked her to (or maybe *because* they asked her to!). When we attended Chinese church, she made as much effort as possible to distance herself from us. She cried in complete devastation when our whole family accompanied her to her school Christmas concert (just two months into her stay with us). She responded to even the mildest correction with dramatic "fight, flight, or freeze" reactions that took over our household. She made no effort to help with family "chores", no effort to interact with our other three children unless it was, in effect, to "yell" at them, no effort to communicate with anyone but me, and then only if she needed something. We had visits from the police department when she would run away, and
visits from the fire department across the street when she would have a meltdown. Mr.20 and I struggled with two different, almost opposing views on how to parent her, which put a serious strain on our marriage. Our children were frightened or at least significantly intimidated by her and were aware that the need to calm her trumped their need to have us present for their events. Her continual anger and defensiveness forced us to plan even the smallest family events around keeping her calm. In essence, she had "hijacked" our family, whether or not that was ever her intent, because everything about our lives came down to keeping her calm.
I don't tell you these so-called "problem" behaviors in anger or judgement against her -- she was a broken, frightened child in an underdog situation, and we did not understand her needs or how to reach her, which left her further helpless and hopeless -- rather, I want to show you how dramatic the difference is now that she is in her second family.
Joy holds her mother's hand when they walk in a crowd and likes to sit on the arm of her mother's chair when her mom is working on a project, and recently after returning from a youth group trip, Joy told her new mom she missed her! Joy takes her turn washing dishes in the evenings and does so without complaint. She jokes with her new brothers and gets along well with her sisters and knows that her father is on her side, even if she still shows post-institutional hesitation around him. She counsels by phone other struggling adoptees and tells them what they're doing wrong (oh, the fun irony!). She is looking forward to the upcoming arrival of another adopted sibling. She participates in church and even read from Chinese scriptures in an international program on her second or third Sunday. There are no visits from the fire department or police department, and apparently no messages from school talking about disrespectful behavior. She is a different girl! Or rather, she is her real self, the girl I hoped her to be deep down, the one hiding under all the anger and powerlessness of suddenly being adopted away from her orphanage, country, culture, language, and friends.
Last night I read a support group post in which another adoptive mom claimed there are basically two groups of older international orphans. Group 1 includes older children who are basically content in their circumstances. They do not have a clear picture of the hopeless life that awaits them after they leave the orphanage if they are not adopted, and they do not feel any particular need for a family. These children often do not do well in adoption. Group 2, the group that orphan summits and conferences and sermons focus on, are the children who have spent every day of their lives dreaming of having a loving family. They have watched their friends leave for America (or other countries around the world) with adoring families, and they dream of and pray for the day this will happen to them, too. These children often thrive in their adoptive families.
I realized as I read that post that essentially we had adopted two older children who were not interested in being adopted! Joy was thrilled when she first learned that she would be adopted, but the closer she drew to the reality of what adoption meant, the more unhappy she grew, to the point that she decided very early in the adoption that it was "impossible," as she told translators who tried to work with her in our home.
Our little Sunshine, precious, precious child, still struggles with her adoption. I believe that she is attaching to us, that she loves us and knows that we love her, but I also believe strongly that she did not understand when she came to us that adoption is permanent. I believe she thought it was some kind of adventure in which she was supposed to call the nice people Mommy and Daddy (which she has done with great enthusiasm from the first moment), but that she would return home eventually to the foster family she loves and who loves her deeply. She often asks questions about adoption, the permanency of it, and why she had to come to America. Often when I am on Facebook, pictures of friends' adopted children come up, and Sunshine asks me why they had to come to America. Just a few days ago I explained of one child, "Because he had no mommy and daddy," and Sunshine's little forehead wrinkled as she immediately and rightly protested, "But I had a mommy and daddy!"
It breaks my heart. For her, for us, it breaks my heart.
I am comforted by the fact that she has better opportunities here in the States than she would ever have had in her birth country, better education that focuses on her special needs, better health care by far than what she was receiving there, better chances at finding love and respect and dignified employment, better opportunity to learn that God loves her deeply and cares about what happens to her.
But I grieve her losses.
And I wonder, at times, if Joy has the better chance (as compared to Sunshine) at doing well with adoption because she has had this second chance, this opportunity to step back and re-evaluate what has happened to her. In this second go-around, she has had a far more informed opportunity to make choices about how she will respond, and she has chosen well, and she is doing well.
May God bless us with wisdom and insight for raising these precious children, whom He loves even more than we do.