I was a model child, but sometimes bad kids influenced me toward sinfulness. I did my best to be a light in the world, but occassionally other people's darkness permeated my illumination, and they made me be bad.
When my sister Lindsay was six and I was nine, I manipulated her out of her piggy bank money so I could buy a stuffed animal I saw at the convenience store. Sidebar: I don't know how I walked a mile to the Quik Trip and spent my sister's money on crap without my mom's attention, but I assume it was a result of lax parenting in the early 80's when mothers let their fourth graders walk unattended to gas stations that still had cigarette vending machines (I remember these, um, because of the bad kids who bought their Capri cigs with their dads' change) and just hoped for the best.
Anyhow, when questioned, I told Mom I bought it with my own money, but since I spent cash within four seconds of obtaining it, thereby eliminating the need for the word "savings" permanently from my vocabulary, she smelled a rat and sniffed out the ruse. She made me write: "It is always best to tell the truth" 500 times in reference to my deception, which clearly would've never happened if I'd not been so poorly influenced by unsavory schoolmates.
You might think these sorts of shenanigans would've damaged any future relationship with my siblings, but you would be wrong. Me and my two sisters and brother are crazy close and are actually totally into each other. We crack one another up and badmouth each other's nasty bosses, exes, annoying neighbors, and enemies. We agree that we are really, really funny and we pity boring families. We ranch and travel and boat and grill out together. It is common knowledge that my sisters and I think our brother is nearly without fault and we regularly vie for his affection.
Sisters, Brothers, and Things
by Jen Hatmaker on July 24th, 2011
He's single, ladies. You may send inquiries with a bio and pic to me and my sisters.
I've read many, many adoption books leading up to this week, the Bringing A Child Home Week, and collected a wealth of information from the experiences of my adoption community. So although we are at the starting line with Remy, I have a decent idea of what to expect. I familiarized myself with the absolute worst case scenario in terms of attachment and transitioning, assumed that will be our lot, and if we end up a notch or two above Defcon 4, I'll consider it a bonus.
Parenting adopted children who've come from hard places is *quite* different than parenting our bio kids who were born into security and attachment and grew up in a healthy, safe family. Quite.
It's tricky, because often adopted kids look perfectly normal. They laugh and act cute as buttons. Their bodies and clothes and hair and faces and expressions and words look and sound just like all the other kids' their age. They may perform brilliantly in school and act like darlings to their teachers. You might be tempted to peek in on a twenty-minute segment of their lives and conclude, "Well, glory hallelujah! Now that they have permanent parents, they are right as rain! Close the books on this and let's all celebrate the happy ending."
You would be wrong.
The fear and insecurity and shame and abandonment these kids have endured is seeded deeply in their hearts, coloring the way they perceive everything: permanency, safety, parents, family, strangers, felt needs, security, trustworthiness, God.
Remy seems to be having a grand old time at our house for the most part, but her little mind has no concept yet of who we are to her and for how long. She's had transient caregivers her whole life, including her original family. Sure, she's getting lots of bananas and new clothes and attention, but she has no real security with us yet. She is simply charming us as often as possible in hopes that she can win us over and we might stick. (Next up: acting like a deranged, obstinate crazy child to test her theory that our presence in her life is indeed conditional and trying to just get on with the abandonment before she allows her heart to trust us. See Brandon's blog today for some of the woundedness we're encountering with Remy.)
Because of this deep insecurity, many adoption experts strongly counsel new parents to be THE ONLY NEED MEETERS in their new child's life for the first month or so. And I'm not even messing around. Like, no one else gets her a fork. No one else walks her across the street. No one else brushes her hair or wipes her face or gives her a bath or gets her juice or holds her hand.
We buy this, and because of it, we're drawing pretty tight boundaries around our family for these first few weeks. Not that the people in our world aren't fabulous, wonderful, incredible, precious; not that they haven't cried, prayed, cooked, encouraged, cheered, and loved us through this entire adoption; not that they don't adore our new kids with the fierce love God instills in his people for the broken members of our tribe. We know how special our people are.
But Remy only knows that people come and go despite affection, attention, and even biology. People cannot be counted on, and permanent parents certainly seem out of the question, so a steady stream of outsiders just reaffirms her lonely place in a big world with a lot of moving parts, all that seem mostly kind but none that she uniquely belongs to.
That's why we're holed up in our house like refugees for awhile. Katie, bar the door.
However, some experts recommend that within this attachment plan, only the Mommy and Daddy meet needs to the exclusion of the new siblings. The new sisters and brothers are certainly included in the permanent cast of characters, but they are bit players in terms of care-giving.
On our first night home with Remy, the initial house tour was exactly what you would expect: hilarious, manic, over-excited, thrilled...and that was our bio kids. They dragged her to every room, yammering in English she didn't understand, pointing out the corners and closets and shelves that hold our treasures and favorite memories. Happiness abounded, I tell you.
But just like an insecure kid who attends a sleepover and has a MARVELOUS time right up until bedtime when the tears erupt and the stand-in mom tries to soothe and comfort but eventually the mom is called to come pick up her bawling child at 10:45pm, we've learned that nighttime is when some of Remy's demons come out. Friends, I mean this in the most literal way. For the love of the land. Google search: exorcism.
That first night, when it became clear that sleep was imminent, the smile faded, the laughter ceased, and the tears started. No bed was right. No arrangement was satisfactory. No room was the winning destination. Fear jumped on her back like a monkey, and the meltdown began.
Brandon and I (tried to) snuggle with her in our bed, hoping for sleep to overcome this thrashing, petrified little girl who just traveled for 35 hours and landed in "America Texas" to an airport full of screaming people waving balloons and signs and yelling her name. Is that too much to ask??? She is so high-maintenance.
Anyhow, Caleb came into our room with tears flowing, as hearing her cries was just too much for him. (Despite evidence to the contrary, Caleb is actually our most tender-hearted kid, and his threshold for the suffering of others is nil. He has negative threshold.)
"Caleb, get on out, honey. Let us work this out with her."
"No, Mom. I'm going to sleep in here with her tonight."
"Sweetie, she's just scared and me and Dad need to be close to her."
"Move over, Mom."
Caleb crawled right into my bed with all his clothes on and sidled up right next to her. She calmed down and quit crying, dare I say it, immediately. He reached under the covers to hold her hand, and she was asleep four minutes later. He was asleep five minutes later.
So on our first night home in nine days after traveling halfway around the world carrying a dead-weight kindergartener, I slept on a sliver of my own bed that the brown and pink children weren't sprawled all over, and Brandon got the couch. The new daughter woke up happy as a clam ten hours later and promoted Caleb to the top of her Love List.
My brain knows the experts recommend parent-only caregiving, but my heart is telling me a different story. Here is what I know: Parents are not the only healing agent in a traumatized child's life...family is. Big brothers that adore and protect you, an older sister who would take a bullet for you; this has healing power, exactly how God planned families.
Through the love and affection of parents and siblings, Remy is going to learn: You belong with us. This family is tight, girl, and these siblings are a gift to you. Forever. You can count on Mommy and Daddy. You can count on Gavin and Sydney and Caleb, just like you already count on Ben. You just got grafted into a unit; we're like a gang, and you've been granted membership without even having to be jumped in. You're welcome.
So yes, I'm letting Sydney lotion her arms and Gavin push her on the scooter and Caleb feed her cheese broccoli with his fingers (OMG, we found another food she will eat), because these are her people forever and ever amen. They will weather high school together and visit each other at college one day. They'll argue and get into trouble and cover for each other. They'll screen boyfriends and girlfriends and run interference for each other, and God help the first fool who makes fun of Ben or Remy's skin color; Caleb and Gavin can both throw a punch, and you better believe we'll look the other way. They will stand up for one another in their weddings and hold each other's babies. They will vacation together and talk about me and Brandon behind our backs and grow old beside each other, knit together long after we are gone. Their friends and coworkers and neighbors will come and go, but these five kids are for life. They are The Hatmaker Kids. Selah.
That bond matters. And we are going to let it heal and transform Ben and Remy.
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