Processing Dancing with a Porcupine Part 5
James 3:8 says, “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” This verse is powerful. In her book, Dancing with a Porcupine, Jennie Owens talks about what she now knows is PTSD, the power of words. Words hurt whether they are from an adult or a child. They both can hurt. Adoption PTSD is a real thing. The child has it, and if it is a problematic placement or the adoption trauma is too much, the parents will also have it. Welcome to Processing Dancing with a Porcupine Part 5.
“Why Do You Need Her to Like You So Much?”
The sentence I just wrote still permeates through my body like a lightning bolt. Adoption is such a beautiful thing. Honestly, adoption is Scriptural. Yet, it is so hard. In an adoptive mama’s heart, we just want to swoop in and love all the bad away. Shine light and the Light into a child’s heart. We want them to see that the Lord is good and life doesn’t have to be so hard.
On the other side of adoption is adoption trauma. The reality is that we are entering these kids’ lives with the full intent of goodness and healing. The true story is that we are walking into the darkest chapter of their lives with a penlight. There is no radiant glow of fluorescent lights and massive glory and thankfulness from this child or children. It is game on. Marco Polo type of stuff. “Why didn’t I realize they were experiencing extreme grief? Adoption was a huge loss for them, no matter how safer they were. Their birth mom wasn’t coming back for them.”
Jennie Owens answered that question of her therapist. She states, “I guess I’m afraid of what others may think. What kind of mother has a child who dislikes her so much?” The author says, “Brianna’s rejection mirrored some of my deepest insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. They brought to the surface things I already questioned. Was I a good mom? Am I doing a good job? Was I doing enough? Maybe I wasn’t a good mom; maybe I didn’t love my kids enough; maybe I wasn’t enough.”
Speaking from my Heart
I can tell you that she nailed 98% of all adoptive moms with her foster care adoption story. The above statement is what goes through my mind daily. What doesn’t help is when your child is older and starts the confabulation part of their story. Those people you think are your friends, well, they aren’t. They will judge you harshly by only knowing one side of the story, and they will try to slander and destroy you.
“It will NEVER be enough, no matter what you do. She explained that when a child has gone through severe neglect, abuse, or trauma their heart becomes like swiss cheese, a bucket with holes in it, or even a bucket with no bottom at all. You can endlessly give, but the child still feels they need more. It didn’t matter how much I gave or how hard I worked.”
We have not parented perfectly. Has anyone? There have been some epic mistakes. At one point, we tried to parent our children the same—a blanket of praise, discipline, corrections, advice, etc. Then, we were super strict on some kids and easier on others. Chore charts. If-Then charts, rewards charts, stickers, prizes earned at the end of the week, or extra chores if it had been a tough week.
What we learned is that all kids are different. They need to be parented differently yet the same. I know, an oxymoron. Yet, that is the truth. It is a fine line that you have to walk so delicately. Please take into account their physical age but also remember their emotional age. Those are two very significant differences.
That is the Sad Reality of Life
I wish I could say this wasn’t always true, and it may not be for you and your story, but it is for me. Here is what I have learned. Trust is earned, not freely given. Be wise in who you trust with your deepest struggles relating to your children or marriage. People will talk. They may have one side of the “story” and demand your side, but here is a secret that I will share.
You do not owe anyone anything at any time. Unless a person has walked a mile in your shoes, had their feet under your table for every meal, or you sleep with them, it is none of their business. Suppose they want to conjure up everything and spread lies and venom. That is on them. They will answer for that.
If you are a child of the King, you have Exodus 14:14 on your side. “The Lord will fight your battles. You need to be silent.” You have permission to turn the other cheek, ignore it, and not defend yourself. The truth always will come to light. Sin cannot be held in darkness.
“Their rejection forced me to reexamine this belief (that I am a bad mom) because when parenting wounded children, a child not liking you is not necessarily connected to your performance as a parent.”
Misguided Trust of Others
Due to misguided trust issues with people, we had to make some drastic decisions. Jennie Owens sums it up perfectly “I went from feeling like I was in the middle of a war zone to feel like I had been transported to the depths of hell. I felt more like a prison warden than a mom. Home used to mean a place of safety and refreshment to me, but it had become a battleground with the lives of three children in the balance.”
The moment you realize that not all people, even those who profess to love Christ, have the best in mind for you and your children is heart-wrenching. I have learned who I can talk to and who I can’t. I’ve taken my social media down a hundred times. Finally, I settled on setting my boundaries and deleting all pictures of my children and grandchildren.
“I struggled with feeling angry at those judging what they didn’t understand. People assumed I was a bad mom without knowing these kids had been in my home only a couple of weeks. I also hated feeling so embarrassed. I wished I could stop worrying about what others thought of me.”
I’m in therapy and still a work in progress on struggling with what people think of me or my parenting techniques. It’s super easy to throw those stones at people living in a glasshouse.
Going Crazy Related to Adoption Trauma
“Well, their unhealthy thinking may be affecting yours (referring to her mind, but it is not you, it’s the kids… Jennie, you keep trying to make sense of their behavior. There’s a reason they call it insanity. It doesn’t make sense. Maybe that’s why you feel like you’re going crazy. You keep trying to make sense of something completely illogical.” ~ Jennie Owens’ Therapist.
Profound. Yes, amen, and say it louder for those in the back.
Many days I have spoken with someone who has earned my trust, and I have earned their trust. My statement is maybe it isn’t this child(ren). Perhaps it is me. I’m the common thread. They are great, and I’m crazy.
Then reality hits. I let my guard down and let the child(ren) go somewhere without me, and all hell breaks loose. Naturally, I get a phone call to come and get that child. The person usually gives me an apology. Typically, this person, my child, was assumed the worst about my husband and me. Once alone with my child(ren), they realize it isn’t my husband who is crazy or me. Our children, sadly, need help because the adoption trauma and the adoption PTSD are so evident.
Entitlement from our Kids with Trauma
This statement seems like another oxymoron to me. In my eyes, kids from trauma would not have that element of entitlement. Hence the reason this book is so important. There are so many nuances that I did not know going into adopting our first set of kids. Understanding those nuances would not have changed our desire to expand our family via adoption. Honestly, it would have empowered and equipped us to raise them better.
My goal in processing this book is to help others gain the needed perspective. If you choose to adopt, I say GO FOR IT! You won’t regret it but understand there will be challenges along the way. If you decide to seek help from less meaningful humans, you can do more harm than good (again, lesson learned). If you choose to go in with eyes wide open to the trauma of these sweet babies, it will change how you view everything.
“Much of this behavior (entitlement) simply came back to their emotional age. It was challenging to remember that traumatized children frequently try to get legitimate needs met in inappropriate ways. The needs are normal, but the behaviors are sometimes obnoxious.” At some point, you have to learn to distinguish between legitimate needs and wants. That can be a hard thing to do.
Save Me I’m Drowning
Adoption trauma comes in so many different forms. Jennie Owens states, “with all three kids, I had to constantly remind myself that the message I received wasn’t always what they intended. What came out as ‘I hate you’ was their saying, ‘I’m feeling insecure about your love for me right now. I need to know you love me no matter what.’ Misbehavior was their way of saying, ‘my feelings are hurt’ or ‘I’m feeling scared.’ Many times they were asked, ‘do you love me? How about now? What about if I do this? Will this stop you from loving me?’
As Karyn Purvis states in The Connected Child, “It is not you against this child. It is you and this child against this child’s history. It’s not a personal attack on you.” Why can’t I remember this statement? It does feel like an attack on me. I think this way hurts my heart, but then I remember my child’s heartbreaking.
“It felt like my children were creating the waves of rejection, but they were being pulled under by those same waves. They weren’t against me. They were victims, drowning in old wounds.” There will be one more blog post on this book, and then I need to be done. There are other books I want to write about and tons more I need to process.