Yosef and Mihret have been home with our family for 7 months now! It's funny how sloooowwwwlllyyy time crept by during out 18 months of waiting for them and how quickly time is passing now that our heart's desire has been granted. During our awful wait for them to come home, my heart was more broken than anything I'd ever experienced. But even in the midst of it, I knew that I would look back with thankfulness for the things God was showing me. Sure enough. While it was not something that I ever want to go through again, I am thankful that God allowed it. Like all things in life, that time shaped me tremendously. It shaped our entire family tremendously, including Yosef and Mihret. But, thank God it's over!!!
So, how are things really going 7 months after?????? Really really good! As I indicated in my 5 month post, things were going well considering how much transition we were in. But they were difficult. Now, I can honestly say that things are going so incredibly well. So many families told us that it would take 5-6 months for the dust to really truly settle so that we could feel like a normal family. That was right on target for us as well. Right around 5 months, things took a turn for the better, especially with Yosef.
Yosef was the most difficult of the four to help adjust. When school started, it really seemed to interrupt the bonding that had begun to take place, particularly between him and me. I was starting my job as a teacher, so I had to go to work for two weeks before he started school, while I left the four kids with a babysitter. During that time, he became sooooo moody and would get angry with me for days on end with absolutely no catalyst that I could see. His mood would just suddenly shift for no apparent reason. He would ignore me for days and refuse to look at me or touch me or talk to me. I kept telling myself to just be patient, that this was normal, that it would get better, that it was my responsibility to love him and care for him unconditionally even if things didn't get better.
Right after I wrote my 5 month post, things took a turn for the worst! He started getting really really angry with me and would refuse to talk to me. It was seriously as though I didn't exist unless he needed food or clothing. Even then he would barely acknowledge me. It wasn't as though I had punished him or asked him to do something he didn't like. It seriously happened for absolutely no tangible reason. It was evident that he had either consciously or subconsciously made the decision that while he liked me, he absolutely would not bond with me or accept me as his mother. It was evident to Avery and me and also to those who are close to us and saw our family interacting. What made it worse is that he could be in the worst mood you've ever seen just because I was present in the same room with him. But the moment somebody he liked came along, he was all smiles as though it was the best day of his entire life. As soon as that person left, the thundercloud returned. The moodiness was very much targeted directly at me and very much not at other people. I couldn't help but to start feeling a little bit hurt by all of this since I was so much on the receiving end. The only time that anybody other than me received this from him would be when Avery put his foot down and made him stop talking so ugly to Mom. Then he would be mad at Avery too. Which really was just about being mad at Mom!
So, we began to pray for direction from God. As I prayed, I realized that there was an issue of misplaced boundaries in my relationship with him. Every healthy relationship needs to be part give and part take. Even parent/child relationships. However, in my relationship with Yosef, I was the one doing all of the giving and he was doing all of the taking. I took care of his every need because I am his mother and I love him. I made sure he was cared for and comfortable in every aspect. My hope was that he would feel loved and safe and that my mothering of him would let him know that he could love me back as his mother. But it just wasn't happening. Instead, he was reaping all of the benefits of having a mother, even unconditional love. But he was accepting zero responsibility to be an active participant in that relationship. The more I showed him love, the more he was pulling away in increasing measures.
So, the problem that God helped me to see was that Yosef was the person in our relationship who was refusing to participate, but I was the one reaping all of the consequences from that decision while he continued to reap all of the benefits of having a mother. It became very clear to me that we needed to find a means so that he would be the one to experience the consequences from not participating in this relationship. And honestly, it was an issue of not participating in our family as well because wherever I was involved, he was not. So, if we were doing a family thing, he was present, but with a thundercloud hovering over his head. I knew that the boundaries needed to be shifted so that the consequences that I had to deal with would be transferred to him since he was the one making a decision that I had no control over. So, we prayed some more.
This is what we came up with. It seems horrible to some. But it was what we really felt God telling us to do. And our social worker thought it was a great idea too. She said that when she used to work in a group home for troubled kids, it's exactly what they used to do with them. We decided that the area where Yosef would feel the biggest consequence would be in his TV and computer time. So, the consequence for not being nice to Mom was that he could not use the TV or computer. The reward for being nice to Mom is that he could use those things. The TV and computer now operated on a point system. He had to have 15 points to use the TV or computer for 30 minutes. Or, if the family was watching a movie, 15 points would buy him an entire movie. Each time he was actively nice to Mom by his own initiative, he earned 1 point. Each time he responded nicely to Mom's initiative, he earned 1 point.
So, we wrote out 6 ways that he could be nice to Mom in order to earn a point. Also, we explained that when Mom hugged him and he hugged back, he could earn a point. When Mom talked to him and he responded nicely, he could earn a point. etc. At first, he was so mad about this system that he wouldn't even read the paper. Then, he was missing his TV and computer, so he read it, but he refused to participate. For a couple of days, he just chose to go outside while the other kids watched TV. On a Saturday, we announced that we were going to have a family movie night that evening, which all of the kids love. But Yosef could only watch if he had 15 points. It was 5:00 that evening and he still didn't have a single point. I had even tried to orchestrate times in which he could be nice, but he would not. The other kids were telling him nice things he could do, but he would not. We were at a mini-golf range and he had an incredibly large thundercloud following him around because he knew that the movie was going to start when we got home and he still didn't have a single point. All of a sudden, when he thought nobody was looking, he picked up my golf ball and moved it closer to the hole where I would have a straight shot. The cute little guy was showing me love by cheating for me at mini golf! Forget the ethics of not cheating. He got a point! (And we told him he couldn't cheat anymore!)
He wanted to watch the movie badly enough that he earned all 15 points by the time we got home. He was completely insincere in his displays of love toward me. But I really believed that if he would just open himself up to the possibility of truly attaching to me that things would change. Even if his "love" was insincere at first and motivated purely by TV and computer. Things continued on like this for a couple of weeks with Yosef constantly keeping track of his points and doing things for me purely for the purpose of earning a point. Conversations went like this:
Yosef: "I love you Mom."
Me: "I love you too Yosef."
Yosef: "I have another point!"
We really questioned whether this was a good system or not! It didn't really seem to be working. There was no true attachment going on. The "love" was completely motivated by a desire for TV and computer. But we felt like this was the strategy God had given us, so we continued.
After about 3 weeks, Yosef started to do nice things without thinking about it and he would forget to keep track of his points. I did not forget though. I always pointed out when he earned another point because I wanted him to see when he had done something good and also to get the reward. A couple more weeks went by and a real emotional bond was beginning to form. The point system had become more of a game. And the affection was real. He was no longer ignoring me as though I was invisible. He was starting to really bond with me. Right now, I can honestly say that he is well into attaching to me. It has created so much more peace and normality in our entire family.
Attachment really does happen on a continuum. It happens that way with all people, not just adopted children. The longer we walk in relationship with somebody, the more attached we become. Yosef really lights up my heart now. I was helping him with homework last week and he just stood there resting his hand on my leg with his arm around me the entire time, so naturally and so relaxed. Just two months ago, his whole little self would go completely rigid at even the suggestion of having to touch me! We talk now. As in, he talks too. In real conversations. Not just Yosef responding with a yes or no to my talking. And he's nice to me. He doesn't get into these moods that last for days at a time where he won't even look at me.
There is still work to be done. But it doesn't feel like fighting an uphill battle now. We're working on attachment with a willing participant now. This is just one more time when God has been so incredibly faithful to our family.
Mihret continues to do quite well with relatively few problems. She's been attached to us from the beginning and continues to progress on that continuum I wrote about. Kaitlyn and Lucas also continue to do well with a new brother and sister. All four of them are begging us to adopt again, which I think is a good sign!
Lucas still continues to heal from his burn. The scar on his right arm is continuing to form and he is losing some mobility in his shoulder. However, we continue to do the massage therapy where we have to apply pressure to the scar and rub it with lotion three times each day. The hope is that doing this will break down the fibers in the scar as it forms so that it will not be a highly knotty scar that burn victims so often have, which is the cause of his lost mobility. So far, the therapy is not working. But we continue to do it. Please pray for Lucas, as this is quite painful for him. But it has to be done. The doctor has ordered him a special shirt that he will wear everyday. It will squeeze his burn very tightly, putting constant pressure on those fibers as the scar forms. Also, he will be wearing a sheet of medical grade silicone underneath that shirt. There is no medical explanation, but many patients see significant reduction in scar tissue when silicone treatment is used. Most of the burn on his back continues to regenerate actual skin. It still doesn't exactly look like skin. But it takes up to a year for a burn patient to grow new skin. The outside edges of the skin on his back truly look like skin again. God's healing is so evident in this little guy.
Emotionally, Lucas has really handled his burn so well. The burn on his arm and shoulder sometimes shows when he wears his school uniform. But I discovered this week that Lucas isn't bothered when the kids in his class ask about why his skin looks like that. He told them that it is a monster alien that lives on his shoulder to survive and in turn, gives him super powers. He thinks he's hysterical. Sometimes, he pulls his sleeve up just a little bit so that he can scare one of the boys in his class with his monster alien. He did tell me last night when I was rubbing it that he hopes God will heal it and make it all gone though. We continue to pray for him with the faith of our 5-year-old as an example of what real faith looks like.
Yosef, Lucas, and Mihret are all on a YMCA soccer team and are all real stars on their team. Yosef has really caught the attention of so many people. This kid is seriously really good. We've had two challenge team coaches talk to us to recruit him. Now is definitely not the time, as he still is struggling so much in school. But, the kid really does show real promise in soccer.
Well, this post must end, as it is nearly 8:00AM and I hear four little people out of their beds....possibly destroying the upstairs of our house from the sounds of things!