Just because she smiles...

Its been a year since I last posted. I've thought about posting many times but one thing I've learned from being on the inside of the adoption community is that people on the outside only want to read about the romantic "success" stories of adoption. They aren't as drawn to the raw, real, life in the quicksand type of adoption stories. Well I don't have a romantic story to tell you. Our daughter is still the emotionally detached robot she was when we met her 3 years ago only now she is taller and smiles sometimes. The changes may be few but we cling to each and every one of them. If you are looking for a feel good story, mine isn't it. If you are willing to sit and read through a story of day in and day out struggle and about a family desperate to connect with their daughter then feel free to read on...

Halloween is tomorrow. Most of you have kids who have picked out what they want to dress up as. They have probably changed their minds a million times in the past few days causing a lot of frustration for you. You have probably already begun the candy battles and discussions about what they can and can't eat unless they want to get cavities. We have a couple of kids like that too. We also have Jaydn. Jaydn has no connection to whats going on around her and only lives to survive the moment. Therefore she doesn't make choices ahead of time. She doesn't make choices much at all. She waits for someone to tell her what to wear, do, eat, say. She would not even notice, let alone care, if I walked her around in jeans and a t-shirt tomorrow b/c she is not attached to anything or anyone- including her own life.

If I were her teacher, this wouldn't be such a source of heartache for us. Apparently Jaydn is a completely different child in a classroom. According to the parent/teacher conference we recently had, she interacts with other kids, speaks in complete sentences and takes on leadership roles nicely. Needless to say I broke down in tears during our conference b/c I really questioned whether she was talking about MY Jaydn. Then it hit me. It probably is her. At school she isn't expected to connect to anyone relationally, she just has to perform a task and she is rewarded with positive attention for it. At home, we expect more than that. We don't know how to parent a robot child. Our dream is for her to feel like a daughter- be part of a family...our family.

Being part of a family is different. I never realized it was so different until Jaydn came home. Its more than just people you share a house with, its people you share your heart with. Sharing your heart comes with a lot of emotional moments too. Families touch/hug/hold hands with each other, not only for physical reasons but b/c they have emotional needs met by touch too. Its a reassurance that this person you are touching will be there for you, its comforting, its security felt. For Jaydn touch is all physical. Its very awkward, stiff and not at all about connecting emotionally. Its just for show. Another example is that families also fight. We fight because we care. This is a struggle b/c Jaydn thinks fighting or being corrected is disapproval (her worst fear). She doesn't understand that we are disagreeing with her or telling her "no" b/c we care, not because we don't. There is a difference. But in all honesty it isn't our care she seeks after, its our approval. And in her mind approval only comes in the form of "yes" and 24/7 focused attention and she won't "tap in" for anything else.

For those of you who believe its just a matter of time until she "gets it" I have to ask that you not put that kind of pressure on her or us. This is her reality and we are trying to learn how to live with it amongst an entirely different reality with other children in the same home. Its constant whiplash for Nathan and I. We have a style of parenting with one child that may seem to others as cold, formal and always black & white but its the only way she can function. She can't handle anything more than that. We have another style of parenting that comes more naturally to us, that is warm, intimate, and full of grey areas that works best with our other 3 kids. But its hard and we get frustrated often. While it feels like anger, its really concern that this is all she will ever know. Despite our efforts, she may never know what it feels like to be a part of a family.

From the outside it may appear more natural than what you are reading but below the surface it is all very different and unfamiliar to us. She does the "right" things but not for the assumed "right" reasons. For example: you will hear her call me mommy not b/c its a relationship we share but to her that is my name. You will see her holding my hand as we walk through the hallways and that isn't because she feels secure with me but b/c she has learned it isn't appropriate to hold hands with, let alone walk off with, complete strangers so Im better than nothing. And just because she smiles it doesn't mean she is happy, she has simply learned that is what people like to see and it awards her positive attention. Her "why" for doing things doesn't come from her heart but from her head. Her goal is simply this: survive your current environment. Do what you have to do to keep the authority in the room happy and just make it through to the end. She will never cause a ruckus and she will never go above and beyond, she will just exist. That's enough for her.

We understand that all of this is a result of her past. We used to have sympathy towards her about it but soon learned that we were the only ones hurting. We weren't helping her deal with anything we were just confusing her even more. The future doesn't have the impact on her that the past did but even while we watch her survive each day our never ending ache is to see her thrive one day.

I also know that just because our adoption story isn't romantic it doesn't make it any less redemptive. God has still done something amazing by grafting us with Jaydn. There are spiritual applications to this path that I never would have gotten a glimpse of if we had not been called to adopt. Sometimes it feels like I am living the story of Hagar, loving a child that will never love me back. Then I realize I am Hagar and God is loving me despite myself. So romantic or not, God's purpose to redeem not just Jaydn's story but my own is in full effect.

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. - Philippians 1:6


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. God has blessed us with growth similarly.

Cheryl Lemine said...


Would you be willing for me to post this on my blog? Please take a look and tell me what you think....

I'm Karen Head's older sister. I know Nathan knows who I am and you and I met once or twice but I don't expect you to remember me.