Dancing with a Porcupine
Dancing with a Porcupine by Jennie Owens. “Parenting is hard. So what do you do when you’re parenting a child who has experienced trauma or has extra challenges? You often feel alone and inadequate. You want to help your child but are at the end of your rope. You feel guilty that sometimes you want to quit. What can you do — how can you make it through the day — how can you help your child while also taking care of yourself?”
Maybe someone you love is parenting a traumatized child. Or perhaps you are a social worker, counselor, or professional who sees families like these every day. You want to know how to help them better.
In Dancing with a Porcupine, Jennie Owens shares with humor and raw honesty the compelling story of her struggle to save her own life while caring for three children she and her husband adopted from foster care. How could she stay loving, giving, and forgiving amid a daily battle with children acting out the rage, resentment, and pain of their traumatic pasts?
When faith, endurance, and creativity are not enough, what’s next?”
This Book, as a Whole
I cried when I read this. Then, I had to reread it to absorb more truths. The system is so flawed. Maybe it is better now, but 16 years ago, it sucked. Once a child is adopted, there isn’t anything or anyone to help. If you don’t have a great support system and people who “get it,” then you will drown.
I found myself drowning. I didn’t have a great support system in the beginning. My husband was not even in my circle of help. He did what he could, but he checked out. He can admit that, and he struggles with his decisions. I can’t speak for him, and I won’t speak for him. It was just hard.
Loss of Myself
I lost my hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, yet my weight piled on substantially. Recently, I have been breaking out in hives. These are giant body-consuming hives. It’s fun. My support system is better, but I pick and choose who I talk with regarding my situation. I realized that those “friends” I thought I could trust were wolves in sheep’s clothing pretending to be Christians.
At my lowest, I had a dear friend take one of my children for a month or so. I could trust her because she is currently living a life with her children. She gets it and then some. I will forever be indebted to her and her husband for stepping in the gap and saving my life.
Is it Me?
When I read this through, there was a statement about her (the mom) being crazy and making everything up. Then, the dad stepped in and took some time with the kids, and he realized what she was going through. Therapists, family, and people started seeing things. Do you know how comforting it is to read another person’s story and see that it is your story? I’m not crazy.
I wish, beyond wishing, that there was an available, AFFORDABLE trauma therapist for these kids (and the parents and other siblings). We sought therapist after therapist. None of the therapists understood the magnitude of the darkness. These kids lived in such darkness, and the things they dealt with were horrible.
Their answer, most of the time, is to medicate. Well, news flash, you can’t medicate trauma. If my kids had had the therapist, if social workers were more involved AFTER adoption, if there were support groups where you could just be heard and cry, things may have been different. Sadly, that is rarely the case.
They are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed. It is as simple as that. Social Workers have restraints on them just like foster/adoptive parents do. Don’t get me wrong, there are some AMAZING workers, and then there are suckfest workers who don’t give a shit. Luckily, we only met 2 of the latter.
I have many regrets, as does Jennie Owens (the book’s author), but overall, I did the best I could with the tools I had. My love for my kids will never waiver. I wish things were different and we could have just “loved” them out of the darkness. Let me reiterate for those in the back because I feel like a HUGE misconception about adopting.
When you adopt a child (from the hospital, foster care, infant, toddler, older, international, intrafamily, guardianship, whatever the case may be), you are eager to get that placement or referral. You want to grow your family, which is where the Lord has called you.
Good for you. Congratulations.
In your eagerness to grow your family, you are quite literally waiting for another mom and dad to fail, die, or something else to cause them to go into care. Your GREATEST JOY comes from the GREATEST SORROW of this child’s life. You think they will be “unscathed” because they were an infant adoption or young toddler, and they won’t remember.
They remember. Have you ever heard of the Amygdala? Primitive brain. That baby knows its biological mother’s voice, emotions, sounds, food preferences, heartbeat, and smell. They will grieve. Respect that. Allow that. It has nothing to do with you. However, it does have to do with the tremendous loss they have experienced, and you can’t love them out of that grief.
You can allow, encourage, write, let them write, and talk about their bio families. Tell them that their bio parents made the choice they did so they could give their child a life they couldn’t for one reason or another. Don’t take their grief personally. I did that for years, then I embraced it and laid the roadwork for them to have a relationship with their safe bio family when they were ready to contact them (usually after 18).
Also, I told them their complete birth story at around the age of 12, before puberty. I told my kids the good, bad, and ugly. Your children need to hear that truth before hormones get involved.
Foster parents are needed.
Adoptive parents are needed.
All children deserve a family.
Take the classes.
Get your OWN support group going.
Use your voice.
Don’t be afraid of those “wolves.”
Respect the darkness and trauma.
Read. Learn. Educate yourself and others.
These kids are worth it.
You ARE NOT crazy.
Trauma is a bitch.