Wednesday as I picked Jaxon up from tutoring, I asked, as I usually do, “How was school today?” I always know the answer, but ask anyway so I can always say my son talked to me at least once that day. But yesterday, this is how our conversation went:
Me: So how was school today?
Jax: Why do you always ask me that question?
Me: it’s just a way to have a conversation; to talk to you. I’m interested in what your day is like.
Jax: It sucks. School always sucks.
Me: Oh. Well, if you keep working hard like you are, in two and a half years, you can be done, unless you want to go to college. Or you can just go to work; it will be your choice.
Jax: (after nodding) Working sucks too.
Me: So if school sucks…and work sucks….then what do you want to do?
Jax: I don’t know (with a bewildered laugh)
Me: (pursuing this a little) – if school and work suck, then what makes you happy?
Jax: I don’t know!
Me: Does playing video games make you happy?
Jax: No, not always. I play because I get bored.
Me: Ning, being happy is not about big things. It’s about all the little things that make you feel good. A beautiful day, your favorite food (for me it’s chocolate), relaxing on a Saturday afternoon, a cold drink on a hot day, things like that.
And that was where the conversation ended, he didn’t respond, and the iPod came out. But I’ve been thinking on that conversation ever since. I go back to last Thursday. We went to Taekwondo for class, only to find out they were having pictures taken; Jaxon refused. I told him I would love to have a nice picture of him in his uniform, but it didn’t matter (in this particular case, it didn’t help that Dad didn’t think pictures were a big deal either). But it illustrates the loss of caring my son and other children experience growing up as they did. With no one to teach them to be compassionate and consider others’ feelings, it is a sometimes unteachable concept at a later age. In short, Jaxon did not care about my feelings enough to do the pictures, he is unable to fathom putting someone else’s needs or desires over his own, the essential definition of love. Another example was just yesterday, I was in a small car accident. Fell asleep at the wheel; I was alone thank goodness. When I got home, all the other kids were happy to see me and concerned when I told them what had happened, asking me if I were ok. Ning never even looked up, never acknowledged me or acted like he cared whether I came home...or not. These kids are broken, broken from the very get-go. While some children are loved dearly from birth, showered with love and affection, taught how to care and empathize with people, how to interact with people…..in too many cases, our adopted children are not given this chance. To grow into a complete and whole person, a child needs that essential nurturing and love in their early years. Without it, parts go missing…important parts. I ache for the little boy my son once was, for the chance he had to be a whole, happy person, that got screwed up somewhere in his very early past. Perhaps his life from birth was not happy, maybe he lived in poverty, maybe he was beaten. Then he got sick. And then, somehow, he lost his birth parents. Maybe he just got lost in that bus station, maybe his mother said “now sit right here son and I’ll be right back”, but then never came back. I close my eyes and try to imagine the terror, the fear, the tears when he could not find his mama, why she was not there. What did his little mind think at that moment? Was it then he decided mothers couldn’t be trusted, that their love didn’t last, that it wasn’t “real”? Was it later after the police took him to the orphanage and he knew mama wasn’t coming back? Did he look out the window every day watching, wondering when she would return and why she didn’t, day after day? I wonder at what point he gave up, lost the trust, decided it was safer not to love, not to care, because it just hurt too much. How can he be blamed for wanting to protect his broken heart?
And thus he grew up, ok with his new life, resigned to it, but not “happy”. After all, if you look for reasons not to be happy, you will find them everywhere. It is much easier and safer to find the negative and dwell in it, than to look and dig for happiness. Happiness takes WORK. And so he is unable to be completely happy here as well, despite everything good in his life. He cannot see it, cannot embrace it, because it is not SAFE to be happy or feel love, because then it might disappear….again. Even the tremendous love we have for and show to him is not and has not been enough to heal the brokenness inside.
If a fairy godmother were to appear before me and grant me one wish, I would not wish for success, or money, or good health……………I would wish for my son to be healed in his heart, to be able to feel genuine love for another human being, to feel pure, unadulterated joy in something, to laugh with total abandon, to have the ability to see the future as something exciting, not something to be, at worst, feared, and at best, endured. In short, to put back the parts that went missing so long ago, to fill in all the cracks, so that the love he has now will stay inside and heal him, instead of just passing through.