Consider stepping "outside the box" and adopt a child...it will not only change that child's life, but yours as well.
Two China Dolls and a Prince!
This blog chronicles the story of 2 of our adoptions, both older children when they came home. It begins in 2008 and will continue in the hopes we can be of encouragement and information to anyone thinking of older child adoption.
As is usual, all good things usually have an end, and so did Ning's "turnaround". The last two weeks have not been a good time, but we are definitely getting used to the peaks and valleys. Why? Without going into too much detail, after a recent visit away from home, Ning has decided rules at home do not apply to him, especially one particular rule. It is not a harsh rule, or unreasonable, or even a big one, yet the absence of this rule greatly affects his ability to interact with life in general. He simply doesn't think he should have to follow it because he doesn't WANT to, period. Never mind that the other children all have the same rules and are expected to behave which they all find relatively easy to do, EVEN (gasp) older brother. While we know that he had no family rules and no "normal" parental governance of his life for basically 8 years and this is a learning process, it is also a CHOICE. It is a CHOICE of his to refuse to say good morning, goodnight, please or thank you, or even Hello to us; while in public, he does all this just fine. He told his tutor he has no desire to say these things to us or talk to us at any length. Why? We have quit asking that because there are really no answers. And honestly, HOW many teens these days are WONDEFUL kids in public, but go home and treat their families like crap? His teachers like him and expound on how social he is...and talks to them, is polite, respectful of the rules, etc. This is great, because it means he will be able to function in society just fine as a grown-up. BUT, will he be able to form a close, meaningful, emotional attachment to any one single person in his life? Maybe or maybe not. He is a perfect example of what happens to a child that is taken care of physically, but not nurtured, shaped, led, loved, mentored....you wind up with emotional bankruptcy. Would attachment therapy help? Probably....but one can't force a 15-year old into a car to see a "head" doctor if they don't want the help.
For myself, I have stopped asking why in general. Having deep discussions don't work, since he himself doesn't even understand why he acts the way he does. So we are giving him space, lots of space. Saturday we did lots of activities to which he wasn't taken along because we wanted to enjoy ourselves freely without a sour face. Sunday we had church and time at grandparents to which he was expected to come. At church, he fell asleep quite obviously, so when we were done, we left our seats and conversed with friends (close by) until he finally came awake and realized he was the only one still sitting...and sleeping.
Because of the way he treats us, it has caused us to question our very family unit, our values, the way we do things, the rules we have, and you know what? We came to the conclusion that we are nowhere near perfect, but we are a GOOD family. We have LOTS of love, LOTS of fun, and we LOVE God and what He's done with our lives (ok, a little more money would be nice, but can't have it all, I guess!). God put Ning into our lives for a purpose. Perhaps we were only meant to be a safe haven from which he can go on and make a better life. And we are certain and satisfied with ONE thing overall. Even if he returns to China at 18 and we never see him again, for at LEAST 4 years of his life, he WILL have known love, even if he doesn't understand it or want it.
What a ride it has been! The last 14 months have been probably the most challenging of our lives. In the last 3 months alone, our emotions have run the gamut from frustration to despair to hope to sheer joy and back through it all again. It reminds me of a country dance, the 2-step. In tandem with your partner, you take two steps forward, one step back, two forward, one back, but always moving in a forward direction.
Watching Ning emerge little by little from his self-imposed cocoon is a tremendous thing to watch. This boy who had been essentially ignored by the adults around him in China is finally realizing that, for the first time in his life, there are people who genuinely CARE about him and who he becomes. And not just us, his family. Our friends the Sanders and Verhulsts, his friends at school, his teachers, his tutors....a whole wealth of people invested in his future where before there were none. There have been times when we wondered if we did the right thing bringing him home (even if it was his choice) because of his slow, sometimes difficult adjustment. But lately, we have seen more and more signs of the sweet, funny boy Ning really is.........just in the last few weeks, we have seen more smiles and heard more laughs than in the entire first year. He seems to have turned a corner in his own mind and perhaps is finally beginning to believe us when we say he is loved and here to stay for as long as he needs and wants.
Now for just a few updates on our summer events...........August 8 was our one-year with Ning. Even then, let's just say it was NOT the joyous occasion it was with our girls, simply because the celebrant still wasn't sure he was happy about his decision to come here. We kept it very low-key; went to Chinese, and I wrote him a letter about the miracle of how he happened to be in our family and close to his friends. Then just the other day, Ning and I had the occasion to have a long conversation about many things. He admitted having a good relationship with his foster parents, but mainly because by his own admission, they never bothered him about school, and imposed no rules or expectations on him. They provided a place to sleep and food to eat and that was pretty much it. He said the hardest thing for him besides learning English was getting used to the way we Americans "teach" our children by assigning consequences to actions. This was a totally foreign concept for Ning, but once I explained WHY we are involved in school (because we care about his future) and WHY we discipline (because we care about WHO he becomes), he just seemed "lighter" somehow.
Then on August 18th, we hit another milestone........we sent our oldest, Jessica, off to college. We all went to move her in to her dorm room, and we couldn't believe our first baby was all grown up. Ning seemed particularly interested in the goings on, and Jazmin said she couldn't wait to go to college! Thankfully, as I'd hoped, Jessica has settled in well, made many friends, is doing fine with her grades, and overall enjoying her freedom.
School has started for the rest of the kiddos (I will post school pics soon); James is a junior (gasp), Ning is an official high-schooler, Jaz is in 5th grade, and Judi's a big 3rd-grader. All the kids are doing well, though James is chomping at the bit to get to graduation already. How do you tell your kids to slow down, to not want to grow up so fast? Ning continues in his ESL program, and we have him in extra tutoring 4 additional hours a week. Some of it is through our college's Speech clinic and he is making amazing progress. He has even, finally, begun to use English in sentences and spontaneously answer questions; you can tell it makes a huge difference in his attitude to be able to communicate even that little amount. He has gone from just learning phonics during the summer to 2nd grade level stories and books already! And the most amazing thing is that he has begun working extra hard on his English at HOME; that has made so much difference in his progress and his ability to interact with us.
Other news is that we got a "real" piano just this last weekend! Ning didn't like our 20-year old keyboard for some reason, and I have to admit I love having a piano......I have always wanted one, a childhood dream of mine. And the bonus is......Ning has practiced every day without me saying a word; yahoo!
Between piano, dance, and basketball, the kids keep us running. James will start varsity basketball in early November and then things will really get interesting! And I'm already looking forward to Spring baseball and both my boys playing; that will be fun to watch them both play on the same team.