Has it really been two months since I posted anything? Geez, there is no excuse for that. Although I doubt that all twenty-two of my readers are biting their nails in anticipation, I guess two months is a long pause in the middle of all this excitement. And a long pause is really what it has felt like for us too- we at the Line house have just been in a "holding pattern," because right after my last post, there was an appeal. We expected it, we were told to prepare for it, but it was discouraging nonetheless. So we waited thirty long days to hear that the appeal had been denied. Sweet relief! Six days later, we got another call - there was a second appeal by another party. I won't go into boring details, because I myself (a family law nerd) got really burned out around November. There was paperwork slowly moving around in different offices and courtrooms, there was this achingly, tormentingly grinding slow desperately obnoxious clock ticking in my mind - tick - tick -tick - tick. It's even worse than that BIOLOGICAL clock that all women have but some deny it. I was still hoping and praying that this adoption would happen before the end of 2012. In my mind, adopting C, C and E would be the PERFECT Christmas present. My mom described it this way in an email: "I feel like we've all been holding our breath for the past six weeks." So when the call came announcing the second appeal, I cried. I cried hot, angry tears and told our caseworker, "Well, I'm just pissed." She tried to comfort me, and tried to help me see that this was just another bump in the road. In fact, she used the term "bump in the road." I was not excited about her metaphor. I was ready for an adoption hearing in superior court, not another bump in the road to permanency.
Around this time, Big C started seeing a new therapist. I don't blog daily for a reason, and this child is the reason. I've been a short-term or long-term mother to twenty nine kids and this one is the toughest. He wears me down. He exhausts me. Oh, he has many, many wonderful qualities - but he also has some personality "quirks" that are other-worldly. In fact, if Scully or Mulder was to ring my doorbell one morning to announce that this child is from another universe, I would not be shocked. And although this child has zero problems at school and on the basketball court, he is hard to treat in therapy. Or so it seems. Anyhow, we had to transition to a new therapist and I was pretty excited - hopeful that the new one would be our magic answer! She would be the key to unlocking that tied-up heart and resolving these lingering issues with authority, respect, honesty, and love! I know (now) how silly that sounds, but I have made great strides myself with good counselors, so I always have a lot of hope when working with a new provider for one of my children. The first appointment came and I picked up the little stinker from school where he greeted me in the front office with a glare and said "Mommy! I thought you said you would pick me up BEFORE P.E! YOU LIED!" Lovely to see you too, son, I thought as I ushered him out of the office while explaining that I had miscalculated the time it would take to get to the appointment. We drove to Cleveland and found the office with no trouble, signed in and looked through some Bible story books while waiting to see our new hero. When it was time for his appointment, the therapist led us back to a small cozy office with a two love seats, a small desk and a shelf full of toys. Big C picked up a small ball and began throwing it at my head. I quickly told him that he was not to throw the ball at people, and the therapist offered a few rules about her play area. "You may roll the ball," she told him, "But you cannot throw it." It should come as no surprise that the ball was soon confiscated and Big C sat in the floor surrounded by trucks and dinosaurs, pouting about the injustice of losing that Spongebob ball. She explained that each week she would spend a few minutes catching up with me about his progress, and would then spend the rest of the hour talking with him and building trust. I knew she would also ask me what I hoped we would accomplish through therapy - my goals for treatment. I knew it wouldn't sound good to say "I hope you can make him a little nicer, a little more normal," So I listed some of the main issues we have been dealing with at home. "It's odd . . ." I told her, "He seems like he likes me, seems to be trusting me, but then he does something so rude, or cruel, or so mean. I gave her this scenario to better explain what I was trying to say: At bedtime, I try to spend about 20 minutes with the little ones in their bedroom. We sing about five songs in the rocker, we talk and laugh, and then I put them in their beds and sing "Jesus loves me," before leaving the room. Then I go across the hall to Big C's room. We read two stories, laugh and snuggle, tell jokes, etc. and then he always asks me to scratch his back. I scratch his back and sing one little silly song that he loves. We always laugh. And sometimes, that's it, I tell him good night and that I love him, and I walk out the door. But most of the time, it doesn't end that peacefully. I finish scratching his back and he asks for a longer back scratch. I scratch his back a little longer, then I persist that I must leave -it's bedtime! I turn to leave and then comes to mysterious part. Under his breath, he mutters "butt head," or "Stupid" or worse . . . as I am walking away. A couple of times, he has not only muttered an ugly name, but he has thrown an object at me, or just as I am closing the door he screams "Mommy! I hate you!" This is hard for me. It makes me feel like the entire 20-30 minutes we just spent together was a waste. One night, I taught him about Wet Willy's, putting my spit-covered finger in his ear and we laughed and laughed. I let him give me a wet willy, pretending I didn't know what was coming when he whispered "I'm gonna tell you a secret!" And we laughed so loud, John came to see what was happening. And after he was under the covers, back had been scratched, song had been sung, and little brunette head had been patted, I turned to walk out the door and heard him mutter "Shit head." Why would a child do this? As I was describing this scenario to the new therapist, in just as much detail as I've given you, I knew it probably sounded trite. I am a thirty-five year old, married, professional woman who volunteers in her community and has fostered dozens of children! Why would this bother me so much? And yet it does, I admitted. It bothers me because I don't understand it. Why is he pushing me away?
The therapist nodded at all the appropriate times, and we talked quietly since big C was just a few feet away cramming dollhouse figures into the trunk of a toy car and pounding them with his fist. "It sounds like attachment issues," she offered. I nodded, pretending to agree. Attachment? We talked more and she offered this synopsis: "He loves to feel close to you, but he's still holding you at arm's length." She then asked me how I was feeling about the progress of the adoption timeline. For a few minutes I pretended to be the hopeful, upbeat, always-positive-foster-adoptive mom that I pretend to be ninety per cent of the time. It turns out I couldn't lie to her so well. I dropped the act, and shook my head in realization. "I think I've been keeping the kids at arm's length too," I confided. And I told her about Peniel and Jeremiah, and all the other kids I have loved and lost. I told her about the babies I had lost in early pregnancy, and the baby we were planning to adopt at birth. "Honestly," I told her, "And I didn't realize it until now, but I think I've been withholding my love because I'm afraid of losing them. Every time something happens to postpone the final adoption, I worry. I fear that something crazy will happen and all this love I spent on them will be lost." And there was so much more I didn't say that afternoon. It wasn't my session, but maybe I should have stuck around for one that was focused on me. All this time I've been trying to figure out why Big C is afraid to let go and love me, and yet I've been afraid to let go and love him. To love him completely means to accept him, in spite of his imperfections. To love him means to let go of my own ideas and notions of what makes a perfect family, a perfect mom, and perfect child. It turns out that no matter how great he feels when I love on him and show him attention at bedtime, and no matter how much fun we have and how close he feels to his new "mommy," when I turn to walk out the door, he throws up a defensive arm to protect himself. He's only trying to keep himself safe. He's only trying to spare himself from future pain. Oh, my poor little one. I understand that now. I see it exactly as it is, because I've been doing the same thing too.
Like many children I have parented, the words "I love you" don't drip naturally off Big C's lips. In fact, he hasn't said it, yet. But two weeks ago during church, when the children were coming into the sanctuary after their classes, he slipped behind me in the pew and handed me a small 3X5 index card with the letters ILYU in his childish scrawl. "What is this?" I asked, ready for any answer. He pointed to the letters as he spoke, "It says I LOVE YOU," he announced, and bounded off down the aisle to tackle John.
It turns out we needed these bumps in the road. Had it been a smooth ride we wouldn't have realized how much we needed each other, and how God is working it all out, step by step, day by day.