Friday, July 24, 2009

Love is a Choice

If you look at most of my blog, you will see the sweet, funny, happy side of adoption. Today, I'm going to give you a glimpse of the other side. I have really wrestled with some of these issues over the past couple of weeks, and have resisted "putting them out there" for everyone to see, but I do not want to be guilty of giving a false impression of what it is like as we adjust to life as a family with a recently adopted child.

The last couple of weeks have been rough. Scratch that-the last couple of weeks have been almost unbearable. In the middle of life as Mom to the Many Mini Munchkins (ages 5,4 and 3), I have found myself in the midst of some of the most lonely, frustrating, heart-breaking circumstances of my life to date. I'll get to that in a minute.

But first, I should just get this said: I love my daughter. I do not for a minute regret the choice we made to bring her home or question whether or not this is God's plan for our life and for hers. Rosie is still unbearably cute, very funny and shows many positive signs of attaching and bonding well with all of the members of our family. She is very affectionate, and over the last 3 months we have made progress in lots of areas. Overall, she is happy and capable of bringing great joy to life.

But, there is also a difficult side to life right now. We are learning that Rosie has a will of STEEL. She is very often determined to have her way, and Gareth and I find ourselves turning to each other over the last two weeks and saying, "We're in for a challenging ride". Here's what we've been dealing with the last two weeks:

1. Lying-Rosie has learned how to lie. Last week she came to find me to show me a small scratch on her arm. When I asked her what happened, she told me the dog bit her. Absolutely impossible-the dog doesn't ever come in, and Rosie hadn't been out. When Daddy got home she showed it to Daddy. He asked her what happened, and she told him that Mommy did it as she mimed me grabbing her by the arm, pinching her skin and twisting it. (Boy, that one really got to me!) This week, Rosie is taking a new tact. She comes to find me and makes up lies about what the boys are doing or what they are saying. If she doesn't want to take a turn, she comes to complain to me about the boys' behavior and when I give instructions to go play nicely and take turns she returns to the boys and tells them that "Mommy said, Nathan be nice. Mommy said, Noah share".

2. Vomiting at will-Yep. Rosie has learned how to gag herself, and if she decides she doesn't want something, doesn't want to finish her meal, doesn't want to wait for the rest of the family to finish, wants something other than what she has at the minute, she gags herself and throws up all over the table.

3. Self-centered. Rosie can't stand to not be the center of attention. If someone else has it, she wants it and isn't prepared to wait for a turn. If I am giving one of the boys some attention, she will attempt to physically wedge herself between us or just interrupt me non-stop, even if I just finished giving her affection and attention. If I am serving a meal, she can't stand to not be served first and demands exactly what everyone else has, even if experience has shown that she doesn't like what they're having. If she is in a room and we have guests, she more often than not shows off, determined to be the center of attention. She refuses to share unless Mommy is directly supervising. If she doesn't get what she wants from her brothers, she whines and wails and pouts. If she doesn't get what she demands from me, she glares like I would have never thought possible from a child.

I have tried for 2 weeks to write lesson plans,and failed completely. I simply cannot with her in the house. Even if I have provided her with activities and put her close to me, she will not give me peace to pay attention to anything else. (To post on my blog these days, requires her to be asleep or in the potty!)

So, where does that leave us? On a purely practical level, it means making some changes to our schooling plans. Rosie will be attending pre-school 3 mornings a week this year to give Noah and I the undivided attention needed to work on 1st grade. Nathan will also be attending pre-school this year, as having a sister without full English language skills means that his excellent vocabulary and language skills have been exchanged for very limited, broken sentences like Rosie uses. And, the inability of Rosie to be still or to concentrate have rubbed off, so that he is no longer ready to take on Kindergarten. Thankfully, he wasn't actually old enough to have to start kindergarten, so we aren't actually going to be behind! It means lots of hard work-holding Rosie responsible to learn appropriate behaviors and attempting to model them consistently for her. It means taking the deliberate action to ensure that each of my children has my undivided attention for at least a small portion of time every day, to be assured of my love for them as unique individuals. It means reconciling myself to the fact that 3 weeks in we still haven't finished re-decorating our bedroom and the master suite hasn't been cleaned for over a week now!

On a personal level, it leaves me at the end of myself. On my knees. Learning to be more dependent on the God who has blessed me with this child, begging Him for the wisdom to deal appropriately with challenging behavior, asking Him for the energy to face another day and making the choice to trust that this period of time is for my good, Rosie's good and for His glory. It means making the choice to love Rosie, even when I don't like her behavior. It means recognizing that so much of this is hard because I am selfish. The phrase "My life is not my own" has become my motto. On the particularly difficult days, I have found myself returning over and over to this phrase, forcing myself to acknowledge that I am not here to please myself, but to serve the God who saved me and to share His love. Right now, specifically, to share that love with Rosie and the boys.

If you are reading this because you have adopted or are interested in adoption, then I hope I have helped you think realistically about the job you are taking on. We adopt children, not angels. Just because your child is adopted and given a new chance at life does not make them automatically grateful, obedient, well-behaved or kind. They can be just as naughty as the rest of your children, maybe more so depending on their temperament. If you add in to this the huge adjustments they have to make, the need to deal with past loss and hurt and the difficulties of language barriers, you have a perfect scenario for challenging times. But, the fact that adoption can sometimes be difficult does not mean that it is not the right thing to do. God rarely calls us to things that are easy or painless. But, He does promise strength for the journey and to hear our cry. He promises not to give us more than we can handle. God's command to care for the widow and the orphan doesn't come with an exemption clause because doing so means you might find yourself fighting hard battles at times. And, if you are adopting, I can assure you that there are lots of good times as well. (Just look back at the last 3 months of posts)

If you are someone who cares for a family that has chosen to adopt, can I encourage you to support them. You can pray for them, let them know you're praying for them, offer to babysit, bring them a meal, just be available to be a sounding board(and yes, I can assure you that they already know that their current difficulties are a result of their choice to adopt-I can also assure you that it is NOT helpful to insinuate that any difficulties their other children are having are the parents fault for paying so much attention to the newly adopted child), take an interest in their newly adopted child and love them as they are-imperfections and all, take an interest in their other children and help provide a break for them from the chaos,and finally, speak encouraging words that build up parents who may be struggling and questioning whether they are good parents or not.

Adoption is beautiful-imperfections and all. It reminds me of the love of my Heavenly Father who chooses to love me, despite my flaws and imperfections and selfishness. It gives me the opportunity to choose to love and in doing so to be stretched out of my comfort zone-growing me up and maturing me into the person God wants me to be.


  1. Oh Sarah, you have had a rough few weeks; I'm so sorry....I really do admire your attitude and fortitude through all of this. It's so easy for someone on the outside to give advice when they really have no clue what you are dealing with, and when they have not been in a similar situation. Hang in there; you know you can call anytime. I should have called you today, but I got wrapped up in working without the boys here this morning......if you need to call me, you can; I'll send you my cell over Facebook, more private.:) Love ya!

  2. Sarah - I just want you to know that you are not alone. Your post reminded me of so many thoughts I have posted in recent weeks in regards to our journey. Amen to love being a choice. There is no sugar coating that this is HARD. But His grace IS sufficient. How great our Father's love that He will go to such extreme's in our life to help us fully understand our need to die to self and depend on him. Email ANY time you need some encouragement. I may be short on wisdom, but I can certainly encourage! :) - Blessings, Sherry Semlow

  3. Hey Sarah
    I am sorry it has been rough. I have been praying but alas have not sent you an encouraging note or call. Sorry
    You are a great mommy! And I have learned so much from our short talks here and there. Keep up the hard but good work. I know you can do it.
    I have enjoyed talking to you via your blog and Facebook.
    Call or email me if you want to do coffee or lunch some time. I will email you soon and hope we can get out sometime. I need the break too.
    Faithfully praying for you
    love you sister

  4. Oh Sarah! What a sweet post that bears so much of your heart. Please be assured that you are a wonderful mom and someone that so many look up to. We all struggle. When we are weak, HE is strong. Let Him carry you in this time. I am sorry I have not been an encouragement to you the way that I should have also.