How Is He Adjusting?

I hear this question all. the. time.  Given that I’m an introverted hermit, this is saying something.  Of course, there is being an introverted hermit and then there is living the introverted hermit lifestyle.  I am the first, but not doing the second as much as I might like, especially right now.  Okay, in all honesty I’m introverted by nature but not a hermit by nature.  Living here makes me want to be a hermit.  See?  Still not over it.  But I digress . . .

. . . And speaking of digressing, I just have to share something totally unrelated to the rest of the post:

Tank Boy has a friend over for the day/night, and this friend?  His voice is changing!  How did my little Tank get so old that he has friends going through puberty????  I will never understand how these things happen.

Back to the reason I’m blogging today.

Before Spuds came home, McH and I discussed the whole “nobody in, nobody out for two weeks” idea.  I really would have liked to follow this practice for the first two weeks Spuds was with us, but it just wasn’t possible.  Between church obligations (McH is the president of the boys’ youth auxiliary, aka Young Men’s Program, and I am the president of the women’s auxiliary, aka Relief Society) (which is generally frowned upon in the church, actually, but it is what it is and we’re okay with it) . . . where was I?  Oh, yes.  Between church obligations, graduation hoopla, and the fact that we have six kids, five of whom have rather established lives here, we’ve been go, go, going quite a bit.  So people are always asking us, “How is he adjusting?”  I usually can barely murmur a non-committal response before the questioner then follows up with one of the following:

He’s getting right in there and playing with all of the other kids!
He’s so smiley and happy!
He seems to be doing just great!
It was so touching the way he was sitting on your lap and hugging you in church!
It’s obvious he just loves you guys!
He is so adorable!
You can just tell he’s happy being in a good family!

Well, first of all, he is adorable.  He really is.  The fact that he is the size of a six-year-old helps with that, but he doesn’t really appreciate it.  Second of all?  He wasn’t in a bad family before.  I mean, things didn’t work out the way we’d all have liked to see them work out, but they weren’t a bad family.  There were no swastikas tattooed on foreheads or used needles lying around the house.  They were and are, actually, very nice, very likable people.  I know that’s hard for some people to digest — how does one reconcile giving away one’s child with being good, or at least not bad, people?  All I can say is that we’ve met them, and they are.  They did their best.  That doesn’t mean I agree with everything they did, every choice they made, but I can still see the good in them.

Anyhoo . . .

I tell people that Spuds really is doing great so far, because he is for all intents and purposes.  Except?  Anyone who knows anything about adoption, and specifically older child adoption, knows that what is happening so far is likely meaningless.  Okay, meaningless is probably too strong of a word.  The fact that he hugs us and sits on our laps and plays with other kids and smiles and all that is . . . promising.  But?  It’s also, to one degree or another, an act.  He’s trying, right?  He’s trying to fit in, trying to adapt, trying to do what he thinks is expected of him, which is good to a point.  It means, in my mind anyway, that he’s not totally off the deep end of RAD (I won’t dwell on the diagnosis right now, but it’s there) and he knows what good behavior is and can behave.

So he’s trying, and trying is good, but I know that the chances of it lasting more than three or four months before the reality of his situation really sinks in and it all becomes just. too. much! for him are slim.  It happened with Tank Boy, and he was a baby when he came home.  It was almost three months to the day, and BAM!  All hell broke lose.  The biting, the screaming, the throwing of things — anything — the head butting . . . it was not pleasant.  At the time, I talked to an acquaintance who is a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with children, and she told me that the three to four month time frame before implosion was very, very normal.  I keep this in mind every day with Spuds.  I see him doing so well, and I praise him for behaving and cooperating and all that stuff, but in the back of my mind I remind myself not to grow to expect it to last.  I pray it will, but I don’t expect it to.

Shoot.  I just ended that sentence with a preposition.  Oh well.

But all the people who tell me how great he’s doing?  They look at me like the people around here always look at me — like I’m from some weird planet where people refuse to be happy and optimistic, like I am the queen of gloom and doom, like I, personally, am trying to administer the Dementors’ Kiss.  Or?  Maybe I’m overreacting and they just look at me like they are really confused when I tell them, “Yeah, he’s doing great now, but chances are good that he will totally fall apart sometime around the end of the summer.”

People around here don’t like to hear reality unless it involves sunshine and daisies with a splash of glitter and a free buffet, but I don’t know how to not tell them the reality of the situation.  He’s turning up at church and social functions and being all functional now, but his reality is too devoid of sunshine, daisies, and glitter to expect it to last (I do not tell them details about this).  I’ve felt compelled to explain the concept of indiscriminate affection to a woman who literally had tears in her eyes because she was so touched by the way Spuds was snuggling on my lap at church a week after he came home.  I have explained the concept of triangulation to people, I have given surface, mini-lessons on attachment problems and what that means in the context of hurt children who can charm the kiddies back from the Pied Piper. I keep telling people that, as much as we are enjoying the Spuds we are seeing right now, we are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

They keep looking at me like I need chocolate and a therapist.

I want to feel as hopeful and optimistic about it all as everyone else does, but I know, you know?   And in three or four months, if things do go crazy?  I don’t want people to be saying to each other, “He was such an awesome kid when they got him!  What on earth did she do to cause all of THIS???”  So now I’m just raining acid on the glitter parade, and in three or four months, if things do go crazy?  I’m sure everyone will be muttering things behind my back about self-fulfilling prophecies.

It almost makes me wish I had video of him helping McH pack his stuff up in our car just minutes after his last mother told him that he was going to live with us.  That was an experience I never expected to have.  I didn’t even want to go to their house to pick him up — I wanted them to bring him to our hotel so that they would be the ones walking away rather than us being the ones taking him away, but that’s not how it ultimately happened.  They didn’t tell him he was going until we were there.  I walked in knowing that’s what was going to happen, but I didn’t know what I could possibly do about it because, until he was ours?  He wasn’t.  I couldn’t call the shots and make those decisions.  But the point is, when they did tell him?  He was like, “Okay!  Let’s start packing!”  He gave those parents each a big hug, then ran out the door to load up and buckle up.  Maybe if people here could have seen that, they’d understand the reality I keep gently trying to explain without betraying Spuds by explaining too much.

So, yeah.  Attachment issues for sure.  On the up side (as if there really can be an up side in this ugly game of hot potato/child), he does ask about his previous family.  He asks when we can go to visit.  His eyes “itch.”  My heart breaks for him and all the change and loss he’s going through, but my heart sings and hopes for him because there was and is some attachment there, and some is far, far better than none.

How is he adjusting?  He is adjusting in his own way, at his own pace, and in his own time, and it will last for years.

Tewt the Newt thinks that is the best anyone can or should expect.

One thought on “How Is He Adjusting?

  1. You and Tewt the Newt are very wise. It’s hard for other people because they are trying to be nice and they think you are a Saint because you are doing something they could “never do” and so they need to put you in a different category of people who can do things they would never do. I understand this, because I do it too. (with other people, for other reasons). But for your mental health and your child’s, its good you keep a clear perspective, and I suppose the attempts at reality checks for friends/acquaintances is not a bad idea. (oh the years have made me so cynical! Also I’m rather tired of being treated like a saint by extended family members simply because we adopted. Is that a weird thing to complain about?) Anyway, I think it’s really good you aren’t telling yourself that all is dandy and you are giving your son “permission” to feel what he feels and bond in his way and on his own timetable.


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