Friday, January 22, 2010

Putting Him Back Together: Lessons from the Toy Box

Okay. I know there are some of you out there who have also adopted older children and you are reading my blah, blah, blah about how wonderful things are with Daniel. You are either thinking:

1) Liar, liar, pants on fire.

2) Hee, hee. She's going through their "honeymoon" period and in a few months the real challenges will begin.

3) Not fair. We are doing hard time with our adopted child and they are already out on good behavior.

Well, first, I'm not lying. Things are going well. But . . . that doesn't mean that every moment has been easy. I had many times in Guatemala and have had some episodes here that have made me wonder if I was adequately trained for this job.

I've talked about our "newborn" days with Daniel and some days I reflect back on my newborn days with my others. I remember when we had our first child. We were just overjoyed with Olivia--our miracle baby after years of prayer. But although she was greatly wanted and loved, those first weeks were SO much harder than I had ever imagined.

I had expected sweet moments holding my cooing daughter and had a little calendar to record every precious minute of her first year. So I was not prepared to spend this blissful time with an icepack on my postpartum nether regions. I didn't know my daughter would break her collar bone during delivery and would scream non-stop the first 6 weeks of her life. And no one mentioned that there was an infection called mastitis that would make me want to amputate certain body parts. (If you are a female reader who has breastfed, you know what I'm talking about. If you are a male reader, don't Google mastitis.)

I was prepared with feeding and sleep schedules, armed with books from Dr. Denmark to Dr. Spock, but these things don't matter when you are in survival mode. I would do anything to get her to sleep, anything to keep her from crying, anything to have 5 minutes that resembled my old life of being a person who was able shower on a regular basis. Those first weeks I did not write anything on that cute little calendar because it would have been too depressing: "Screamed like she was starving. Fed her and she spit it all up. I smell like poop and baby wipes. Brad will be home from work in five hours, 37 minutes, and 12 seconds. I hope to brush my teeth."

I began to think, why didn't anyone tell me how hard this is? Then I began to wonder if perhaps it wasn't this hard for everyone else. Perhaps I'm the only mom who wants to run away from home. Perhaps I'm the only mom who feels like a failure. Later it was a relief when friends shared how hard those newborn days were for them, too. But why were we too ashamed to admit it then? (Hmmm. We were probably just too tired.)

That is why it's good to share our struggles--from toddler tantrums to teen years. And with our adopted children it's just as important to talk about everything from attachment issues to healing from trauma. I want to be transparent on my blog because I so greatly appreciate it when others do. Yet, I also want to respect the privacy of Daniel and the rest of my family who so graciously allow me to post stories and pics from our lives. I'll share when I don't think it breaches that parent/child confidentiality agreement and also share wise thoughts from others on this journey (and will actually pass along some fabulous adoption insight tomorrow).

Our first week home after Christmas, Daniel came to me with thousands of little Lego pieces wanting my help putting his Star Wars set together. This was my first adventure with small Legos. My girls were never interested in them and Brady had always been within choking hazard age. But Daniel really wanted this Jedi fort thingy for Christmas. (Sorry, I can't remember the name. I blacked out at Toys R Us when I saw how expensive a box of plastic can be.)

Anyway, Legos are great because they package them in little bags marked A, B, C, with instruction booklets marked A, B, C. Our problem was that Daniel in his excitement opened all the bags and dumped the pieces together. Then he promptly lost the instructions. Ugh! All we had was the box with the picture--inspiring us . . . taunting us.

He came to me with those big eyes and a baggie full of little parts and said, "Can you please help me put this together?" Well, after two and a half years of adoption, six weeks of Brad and I switching off living in Guatemala, one week of Christmas followed by a week at Disney World, I had so much to catch up on that I did not have time build a headquarters for Darth Vader. Yet, I also knew that I didn't have time NOT to. After a lifetime without a mom, he needed to see that I would stop everything when he needed my help.

We cleared the breakfast dishes and organized the plastic treasure on the table according to color. And we worked on it all day. We found some of the instructions in the trash and made the rest up as we went along. The whole thing reminded me of Daniel.

He is an amazing child and I can already see glimpses of the finished product that God has planned for his life. But right now he is broken in pieces. No one gave me the instructions. I'm guessing there are some parts missing. Sometimes I don't feel I have the time or energy needed to put him together. Every day I know that I must do all I can to try.

There will be times that I will need others help and advice. And there will be times that I need to realize that there is only one set like my Daniel. Other people's instructions may not work with him because he is put together differently. And, thus, my advice or instruction may not help another parent putting their child together because their son or daughter is also a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Still, we can offer one another help and support and cheer each other on as we see great progress in putting these precious children back together. And this pic taken at the end of the day shows a face that is one step closer to being whole.

Last summer I had a dear friend ask for advice as she was expecting her first child. Part of me thought I should warn her how hard it might be in those first weeks, but honestly all I could remember was the wonderful stuff. Like holding Olivia in my arms for the first time and bringing her home from the hospital. The sweet baby smell, those sweet little sighs, those smiles and giggles in her sleep where I figured she was remembering what it was like in heaven.

And as I sit down to write about our time with Daniel, sometimes I wonder if I should share about the hard stuff. (I may not have an icepack on my groin but I sometimes have a heating pad on my head.) But truly all I remember from the day was his laughter with his siblings, his bear hug at bedtime, and "I love you, Mama" whispered in my ear. And that's worth more than all the Legos in the world!

Missing a Few Pieces,


Adventure Mom Janna said...

This reminds me of something the Lord just taught me and that I just posted on.

Most of the time the "most important things" never get written down on our to do list but they are more important than anything else.

Legos was not on your to do list but that time with Daniel was so precious to him and to you.

It's neat how God uses things like Legos and little boys to teach us soooo much!

Mamita J said...

You are SO right, Kathie. It's hard work putting the pieces back together, but the blessings are indescribable.


PS. I think you can get instructions online, if you know the set number (I can see from your box, it is ??14.) :-) It'll be easier with instructions.

Anonymous said...

There is no life without the hard blog on it. You have no idea just how many people are going through the hard stuff and need to know there is hope.

I write, and there would be no story without the conflict. No one would want to pick up a book without the protagonist. Life is about the tree of good and evil. We are to choose the good and forsake the evil. Daniel will learn this through you. He will need to be taught that evil will always rear its ugly head, but Good always overcomes evil!

By the way, my son's name is Ryan Daniel. When he entered the army and went overseas, I asked the LORD how to pray for him, and the LORD told me to pray for him to "BE" a Daniel! :)

Jodi said...

I stumbled on your blog & enjoy reading it. I appreciate you faith, strength and pearls of wisdom & truth you share.

I feel impressed to share the title of one of my favorite books with you. "Feelings Buried Alive Never Die" by Karol Truman. In it she starts with our birth stories and how they shape us. She gives tools, a script to speak to yours or your child's spirit to heal the emotional hurts of life. It has been an asset in my home. Good luck on your journey! Thank you for seeing and sharing the Goodness & Mercy :)