It has been awhile since I posted. For five, long months I’ve been nothing but silent on my blog. Life has been busy. 2016 has been a year of change for our family. We brought our youngest daughter (number six for those keeping track) home from China in January, our oldest got married in May, celebrated my parent’s 50th anniversary (along with a two week east coast trip) in July, also moved into a new house in July, took daughter number two to Oregon for college in August, and finally returned home in September to see if we could find a way to inject some structure into the chaos that had spread throughout our lives. September also saw me teaching 3 classes for our homeschool group and a weekly ladies Bible study. Crazy just seems to come naturally to our family.
We had done all this with a little one who was not only new to traveling, spontaneity, English, and all things American, but the concept of family was foreign as well. So September found us starting school with a girl who was in serious need of a strict routine and very few outside people in her life. By mid-October, I expected to be settled in and have life back to normal, whatever that might look like.
About the time I was ready to start “typical” life again, Kylah seemed to have an awakening in her mind. It was as if she suddenly realized that she was stuck with our family forever and the grieving started in full force. She started asking about China, wanting to escape from everyone and everything, and she refused to be comforted. Rejection reared its ugly head. Old habits, like hurting herself and teeth grinding, started again in full force. School lessons, art, puzzles, games, and pretty much anything academic (fun or otherwise) reminded her of loss. Something as simple as holding a pencil could send her into a fit that lasted hours. She would rage and go into flight mode asking to get on an airplane, go to the store, visit Grandma, go to church, visit Torie at college…the place didn’t matter, she was looking for escape. Not too mention the actual running away, crouching, and trying to hide in a corner to comfort and distance herself from those in our home.
And, while this was really difficult for our family, it was a relief to see her feeling this intense about what she left behind. One of our biggest concerns while in China, was her lack of attachment and sentiment to anyone or anything that had been in her life. Five years of institutional living had taken such a toll on her and she was emotionally shut down. Traveling as a family and the consistency of us always being together seemed to be revealing cracks in a wall that for so long had kept every one out.
In the day to day, it is just tough to live like this. Exhaustion isn’t just physical. It is emotional, mental, spiritual. Every part of our family was stretched and pulled. I longed for bedtime and dreaded the little one’s morning wakeup time, not because I didn’t want to be with them but because the struggle would start all over again. We had fallen back into survival mode. Kylah’s responses were less predictable and her behavior more erratic. Going shopping with her was difficult, the park was a struggle. Too many times I have been the mom with a child clinging to a rail, screaming outside of a store all because she refused to walk back to the car. A simple misunderstanding caused meltdowns and loudly spoken words created terror that spewed out in multiple ugly ways. I won’t even go into the emotional heaps caused by sight and sound overstimulation.
All of this happened during the months I was hoping to instill normalcy, routine, and general peace and happiness into our home. I’ve discovered that very little in this life happens according to my desired timeline. Living with an emotionally unstable, attachment deprived child rips my plans to shreds almost every day.
It seemed pretty bleak. But, I knew all of this turmoil was a sign that something good was on the horizon. I couldn’t see it, I couldn’t feel it, but I knew it was coming. (At least most days, I believed it was coming.) Working through loss is important to every adopted child. The question isn’t if it will happen, but when. I have read books and blogs on this issue. I’ve talked to other parents. I’ve experienced it with Hanissa. It seems to be the nemesis of a happy home. The reality is the opposite. Without going through the emotional rot that comes from real loss, kids learn to hide deeper, to put on a good show, to be “surface” perfect.
It was tough and while I dreaded the day to day struggle, I was rejoicing to know she was finally breaking out a bit. We had been warned by the orphanage that she was emotionally unstable. They told us to just keep her happy. She was beyond helping, couldn’t learn, and we just needed to let her exist as she was. And while that philosophy might work well in an institutional environment, I knew it wasn’t a solution for life.
So while these past few months have been difficult, we are seeing a bit of sun breaking through those cracks. She is learning some appropriate coping strategies, her understanding of consequences is growing, she has begun to let us comfort her when she is distressed. We are growing as a family. Her great fear of everything has dropped to just most things. We’ve even been able to school with consecutive days filled with smiles rather than screams.
In the five months of silence, I’ve circled the wagons because protecting our family and helping our daughter succeed was priority. It is hard to put some of the inner struggles on paper for the world to see. But at the same time, I desire to help others who are walking a similar path and be as transparent as possible. Today, I finally feel ready to continue the journey with you.
Thank you for your patience and the many times our names were mentioned in prayers to our Father. You have no idea the impact and encouragement those had in our lives. I look forward to getting back on track and revitalizing this blog so that we can continue choosing joy together.