**This post was originally written in September, 2011 & has been one of the most read posts I have written.
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.
Update: Kaya attended preschool this past year & absolutely loved it. Her confidence level has just blossomed & she is so looking forward to starting kindergarten soon. I am so, so thankful that we were sensitive to Kaya's needs & to the Lord's nudging because it has proven to be very beneficial to her feelings of security.