I have found that one of most amazing blessings of adopting older children is their ability to communicate past experiences…that is, once we find the correct key that unlocks their trust door.
Finding that key can be a bit tricky, but I have found success by simply making myself available…physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally…to my children. This doesn’t have to consume twenty-four hours a day (sometimes a mere fifteen minutes of dedicated energy does the trick) but rather just needs to present itself in an authentic way to the child. My children need to know I am for real. That my love and role of mother is for real. I need to assure and reassure them that I will be a rock in their lives, regardless of circumstances. That even though I am far from perfect and filled with parental flaws, they can count of me to be there for them…to have their back…and to always advocate for their best interests. Once they start to feel secure, the trust door begins to open and the things revealed are both horrific and healing.
Sporty and Big Sister have been given such a special gift. Both children are able to communicate not only the circumstances surrounding their past, but also paint a vivid picture of their emotions connected to those experiences. Both children are incredibly empathetic and able to tune into the emotions of those around them, including me, their mom. Sometimes, the conditions of our home and everyone’s temperament at a given much are just so, and my children let their guards down and want to discuss anything and everything. Last night was one of those special occasions with Big Sister.
In my grief post, I talked about one of the various faces grief can wear. There are more layers to grief than layers in an onion, but digging in and reaching back to pivotal crisis moments have helped open up discussion in our home. Big Sister has told me a number of times that sometimes when she goes to sleep at night, a “big, bad, scary man appears in her doorway”. She mimes a bear-like figure with a scary face to show me what he looks like. I knew that sleeping in a new and quiet bedroom would initially be scary, as she was accustomed to many other people sleeping in close vicinity, so we talked about ways to deal with the “scary man” image and I reassured her that he was not real. We talked about the power of prayer, the evil one, and the fact that she is always able to come down the hall and into my bedroom, should she ever be scared.
Last night, she added a few key details to her story and now, praise God, I have a more complete picture of the scary man. This image represented a very real person to her and as such shows up only when she was feeling sad, insecure, and alone. He represented a person who had done a lot of damage, a lot of tearing down, who wrecked her trust, and who proved to be a person capable of harm. Big Sister went on to tell me some incredibly sad stories and even let me know what the scary man was telling her to do when he appeared. She trusted me enough to tell me what was going on…even if just in her imagination. Though she risked humiliation or worse…as her past experiences have taught her. She trusted me! And I hope I responded in a way that moves us forward. Toward healing built upon trust. When I speak about how adoption is all about God, this was one of those moments so much bigger than myself. So much bigger than psychology or counseling, not that professional help isn’t a valuable tool, it certainly is. God is just so much bigger and I promise you, shows up in ways you could never plan. Anyway, I told Big Sister that the scary man is not welcome in this house and should he appear, she is allowed to scream, “Get out of here!!!” at the top of her lungs for all I care. Heck, I will scream it with her if that seems to be of any help. We can even shoot him with our homemade marshmallow guns if that lightens the mood. We talked about the things scary man was telling her. I was able to reassure he that this is a house where although not perfect, no one will ever physically harm another. Harm, whether physical or emotional, is not part of God’s desire or plan for any relationship.
We grieve forward.
What was truly amazing to me was learning about the special people God put in her path during her time at the orphanage. That, I learned, is where she learned how to pray. Where a very special woman took the time to teach her the power of prayer and the good desires God has for his children. Big Sister told me that whenever she prays, the scary man goes away. As she said those words, I was reminded of the words my own my mother said to me when I used to get scared. Almost identical teaching moments. I was able to pass along some of my mother’s wisdom for praying away these sorts of situations and both Big Sister and I seemed to be at peace. And, as our Living God may have it, it was a very special women…at an orphanage…who taught my mom how to pray. While I would never believe that God wants any harm to fall on any of his children, I was reminded once again of Romans 8:28 that says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
As I am continually reminded, there are many voices speaking to our children. (There are many voices speaking to all of us, to be sure!) Voices from the past, voices from the present, voices from heaven, and voices from the evil one. Good voices, bad voices, voices that build up, and voices that tear down. Big Sister has even beautifully articulated what this sounds like to her, and I am so thankful for this gift. She told me last night that when she is happy, when she allows herself to be vulnerable and trust, a voice in her head says, “No. Be sad. Be sad. Be sad. Don’t be happy.” Another voice, possibly mimicking the fight or flight response her body is producing with all of this newness tells her repeatedly, “E-tee-opia, go! E-tee-opia, go! Must go…E-tee-opia.” And yet, the still voice of God presents itself in the smile that is starting to come easy. The voice that allows her to let her guards down at all. The voice that tells her to trust me, her mother. It presents itself in those moments, when although I can’t put my finger on exactly what is different, I know things are, in fact, different.
We are grieving forward, rising from the ashes.