I read several different blogs that address adoption and attachment issues. And while I think it's important to point out that my adopted child is fully attached and did not come from a background of trauma -- it's evident he is always going to have "adoption issues".
By reading these blogs, it helps me stay aware of trigger issues. It can also help me understand "wonky" behavior.
For example, my middlest cherub had been acting wonky for awhile. Really wonky! He had been stealing things (toys from a friend, an autographed football of his dad's, his brother's iPod, etc.) in a bizarre sort of way. Every single time he got caught. In fact, it looked like he wanted to get caught. I knew there was more to this than met the eye.
I gave him lots of opportunities to talk about things. And, after a particularly difficult session, I thought we got to the root of the problem. Deep, deep, deep, deep down he was dealing with shame issues.
Many adopted kids feel extreme levels of shame. They internalize the abandonment feelings and then they twist things around. They begin to think that they are bad kids. This isn't a simple feeling. These children feel like they are BAD. (Not that they made a bad choice. Or a bad decision. But that they themselves are bad people.) This is especially true with children that have suffered serious trauma. And although my son was never abused or hurt in any way -- he joined our family at birth -- he will forever have to process the abandonment issue of being adopted. It will never go away.
Some children, as I've learned, manifest these feelings of shame by making poor choices. That way, they can "prove to the world" that indeed, they are bad. It's almost like they are saying, "Look what I did. I must be bad because I did these things."
Well, back to Cherub 2....
We processed. We cried. I reminded him yet again that he is not a bad kid. I gave him permission to talk about his first family any time he wants. I told him that even though he doesn't remember them...he can still miss them. I gave him permission to have these feelings. I told him that he doesn't have to worry about hurting my feelings if he wants to talk about his biological mom.
I thought we had made it through this hurdle. Things seemed to sail pretty good for a few weeks.
But things have gotten wonky again. This time he's lying. Strange lies. Big lies. Wonky lies. And when we confront him with the inaccuracies of his stories, we fesses us immediately. So again, it's like he wants to get caught.
I knew it was adoption issues. I just knew it. But I couldn't figure out the trigger that should have been smacking me in the face.
It's Mother's Day.
So, I just grabbed my little guy after school and took him in to our "big feeling room". (The guest room where we go to talk about the heavy stuff.) I told him that I had finally figured out why things had been so wonky lately. He looked up at me with hope in his eyes. He really wanted to know why too.
When I told him he seemed so relieved. It was like a huge weight had been lifted. He cried. We processed. I gave him permission again to talk about his first family any time he needs to. I told him it's OK to have feelings where he wishes he could have stayed with his first mom AND feelings of being happy that he's in our family. I reminded him that having both of these feelings all at the same time is really hard, but it's part of who he is. We can't go back and change the fact that he was adopted so these feelings will never go away. He's just going to have to learn the best ways to handle them. And, because of his age, we're simply in the stage of making him aware of his own triggers.
I'm sure it's been hard for him at school this past week. I can't believe I didn't make the connection earlier. I feel like such a doofus! He's been working on his Mother's Day present all week at school. So even though we haven't talked about it much at all at home, he was constantly being reminded of his unique situation every single day. (The poor kid!)
He already looks like a totally different kid. It's amazing how anxiety and stress can affect even the youngest of kids. He was so proud to give me his Mother's Day gift. I've now got an awesome pencil holder on my desk. And I'll wear the flower pin the very next time I'm in something other than a grubby t-shirt.
Happy Mother's Day to all you awesome moms out there!!