A year and 4 months. That’s how long we’ve been parents to a 6 year old boy who has been through so much in his short life. It’s been quite the adventure for us, our family, and most of all him.
It’s hard to write about what our new normal looks like. We have good days and bad days and sometimes some very bad days, but we’ve never doubted that God put this child in our family. That God has an amazing plan and purpose for this child’s life and He took us half way around the world to find him and bring him home.
One of the hardest things about adoption is the day to day minor challenges. Not often anything ground breaking, but the constant wearing on your mind, emotions, patience and energy. Some days it feels like there’s psychological warfare happening under our roof! When people look at our family and see Kanoa, they tell us what a great kid he is and what great parents we are. We smile wanly and say thank you, but in our hearts we know how we struggle DAILY to love this boy and feel like we fail in how to help him through all the baggage that he brought with him. Kanoa’s background, like most children growing up in orphanages or even in foster care, learn early on survival techniques that can often mystify those around them. Children that fail to attach to a parent (mostly a mother) before the age of three, often can be diagnosed with an attachment disorder. What does this mean? Bottom line, they seek out attention from anyone that will give it regardless of who it is, defiant behavior, wanting to have affection on their own terms, the need to control and have everything on their terms. I know some friends who would describe their own biological children as meeting some of the list above, but the huge difference is where is the behavior coming from. Traditional parenting techniques DO NOT work with these kids. Believe us, we’ve tried.
So what do you do? How do you help a child who manipulates and attempts to control everyone? (Yes, our 6 year old is a master manipulator and the worst part is, most people who meet him don’t even realize what he’s doing.) Love is not enough. You can’t love these children to a healthy, happy life.
Thankfully, a friend told us about Nancy Thomas and the work she has done with children like Kanoa. Talk about an amazing woman who has dedicated her life to helping parents and kids from all walks of life. We just got back from a family bonding camp in Decatur, IL that, for a week, walked us through everything from nutrition, sleep patterns, shifting their brain from the back portion where your flight/fight response is to the front of the brain where logic and reason reside, building trust, and how to react and deal with each behavior challenge. Real application on the specific situations we find ourselves in daily. And more than anything, we as parents were reassured that WE ARE NOT CRAZY. The things we were dealing with were not normal and, while there is still a long road ahead of us, THERE IS HOPE.
So when you see us and it looks like we’re “being hard” on our child by not letting him watch TV or we ask you not to hug him or he’s sitting off to the side looking sad, please just give US a hug, a word of encouragement, or say nothing. We’re helping a hurt child heal in a way that may not make sense to you, but if you really want to know more about it, you can check out some of the resources on www.attachment.org or feel free to ask us. Just not in front of our kids. What we do ask for is prayer- that more than anything is what we love. So many people continue to lift us up and we know that God is answering those prayers. He is FAITHFUL.