Monday, September 12, 2011

Acknowledging the Wounds

They say that hindsight is 20/20. *They* are sooo right. I have now parented two daughters into adulthood & when looking back, I lament that I cannot have a do over with regard to the way I handled some things. It's the old, "I wish I knew then what I know now".

When Kaelee & Kearsten were very little, their first father left the picture. Shortly after Joe & I got married, Joe adopted the girls. Less than a week later, their first father was killed in a plane crash. It was a devastating time, but the girls were so little & it didn't seem to phase them much because they didn't really remember much of him. Over time, we just didn't talk about it & I dealt with my grief. In my young, inexperienced phase of motherhood, I figured why bring it up & cause unnecessary pain for them. That's the thing about wounds. Some of them are visible; some are not. But just because you can't "see" them doesn't mean they aren't there.

Over these last several years, Joe & I have become quite versed in the effects of trauma on children. For Joe in his professional life, this has become a passion as he travels the country speaking to & training educators about working with wounded children based on his years of experience in education working with struggling kiddos. For us in our personal life, it has become a reality.

We've had a big dose of reality in these past couple of weeks. What should have been an exciting, happy time went south...way south.

Let me backtrack for a minute. If you've been around my blog for awhile, you know that Kaya came to us at 2 days old through foster care. After a looong 2+ YEARS, we were thankful to have the opportunity to adopt her. I have never shared much about those 2+ years because I want to be careful to not make my family feel like I'm hanging our undies out for the world to see. However, I also know that for me, one of the reasons I read blogs is to learn, grow, & feel encouraged that life is not perfect for everybody else & that other people understand that life is hard sometimes for all of us.

Life was VERY hard during those couple of years. I think some people have the misconception that since Kaya has been with us since near birth, that she has had it easy. Honestly, when I think back, it overwhelms me. For those 2 years, we had a case plan that dictated what had to be done, & it took a toll on every person involved. Twice a week she had supervised visitation that rarely ended well. At first, I would go to the courtyard to read a book or go to a nearby store to pass the time (visits were in a town an hour away, so going home was not an option), but after several episodes that resulted in a social worker trying to find me to console Kaya, I quit leaving. I planted myself in the waiting room so that they could find me. Again, this is hard to share because there's a lot more to it. At first some people thought it was typical separation anxiety because she had become attached to me. Over time, it became apparent that it was fear. Anyone that thinks that an infant, toddler, or young child does not have a sense of discernment should rethink that stance.

Fast forward to these past couple of weeks. Kaya got a brand new backpack & was all excited about starting preschool with the same teachers K'Tyo had last year. They are wonderful, & I was so excited for her & this new adventure. The teachers visited us at home, we went to open house, & then the first day. We had been through this routine countless times with K'Tyo, but when it came time for Kaya to be dropped off (a teacher comes to the car), Kaya unfastened her buckle, jumped out of her carseat, & began freaking out. She was clutching at my neck, kicking, screaming...holy smokes. Somehow, the teacher managed to get her out, & by the time I picked her up, she was fine & the teachers reported that she did well. However, we saw red flags everywhere. She began waking up crying in the night & ended up in our bed, she began acting out (naughty beyond the "normal naughty"), scared of everything, & the first words out of her mouth in the mornings were, "I'm scared...I don't want to go to preschool" as she became an appendage to me as I was trying to have the normal before school routine with the other kids.

Years ago, I would have drawn on the old "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" mode of operation & figured she would get over it. But knowing what we know now, Joe & I both knew we needed to trust our gut, and our guts were saying that she's not ready. While she can't verbalize where her feelings are coming from or what is triggering her fear, it is very real. I think there are definitely times in life when we do need to pull ourselves up, but I've also learned that life deals us things that are downright ugly. And some of those things show themselves in ways down the road that we need to recognize for what they are...past trauma & hurt that may need some extra TLC & flexibility in the way we do business.

I won't lie. I look forward to the kids going to school. To me, it's an exciting time & I love hearing about their daily adventures. I have never envisioned myself as a homeschooling mom (I totally admire the ones that are). But here I am with a little one that needs to be home, where she feels safe. For how long? I don't know. I do know that finally, over these past few days, she is returning to being herself. I know that we have done the right thing. I know that I will do whatever needs to be done as I take my cues from her & hope that I get it right more than I don't. And I will pray that God heals the places that hurt so that she may find a sense of confidence & security.

I am also thankful that even though I am an imperfect parent with much to learn, Kaelee & Kearsten have turned out to be beautiful young women that are using their gifts to teach children. And while I wish I had helped them to better deal with their losses early on, I am thankful that God works for good in all things, & you can see that He has used their past to influence their present to impact the future.


Sharon said...

Hugs to you and especially your sweet Kaya.

Karen said...

How true...3 of our boys came to us as infants...and yes, there are wounds....

one + one said...

Love your big, beautiful, sensitive mama heart. No doubt you are doing the right thing for that gorgeous baby girl of yours.

Meredith said...

Hugs and prayers to you and Kaya... and the rest of the family (cause we all know it affects the whole family).

And I'm glad you don't doubt your mama heart or your mama gut - you're teaching me!

NANCY said...

Very touching story and you and yor family will remain in our prayers.

I learned many years ago to always trust that "mother's instinct". You are such a wonderful mother!

Becky D. said...

I totally understand. Our little girl now almost 5 came to us at 19 months after some severe abuse. Visits were twice weekly too for 9 months. She would shut down during visits. She was this chatty friendly energetic gal for us and at visits would sit silent in the corner for 2 hours. She also had a hard time at preschool last year. We had some new foster children at that time too and it was too much for her. The other foster children have been gone for over 6 months now and she's just settling down with sleep and behavior. We're not fostering anymore she just needs stability too much. We're not doing outside preschool this year but doing a lot of activites at the Y/library/church etc where one of us can be close by.

Kimmie said...

So glad you and Joe are both on the same page and able to walk in love and discernment for Kaya.

Our God is a healing God and I pray that he leads you to ways to bring it into Kaya's hurting broken spots. He will, because He is faithful.

bless you as you press in.

mama to 8
one homemade and 7 adopted

Sophie said...

What a sweet girl she is. I think you did the right thing by keeping her home.

Joy Lenz said...

Just keep trusting your sweet Kaya. When you get to the point that you think she needs help, get it for her. All those scars from the past CAN be healed.
--NHBO Mama

the johnson crew said...

I could not agree more. We adopted our oldest 5 kids through foster care. We went through years of visits and being controlled by the caseplan. Our oldest 4 kids were separated from us for 11 months and given back to us. Our oldest three are still not able to make it through a day at school with out shutting down, or melting down. Homeschool is something I thought I could never do, but we are doing it and actually loving it. The kids are doing so well, and we are savoring our time together that was so painfully interrupted in their early childhoods. So thankful God led us to keep our oldest 3 home (and our 5 yr old goes out for K5).