We have built our family through adoption. It’s definitely been an interesting process… We went from zero to three children in just under a year.
The charming, quirky, full of energy, little comedian that we are so lucky to call our son.
From the time that we submitted our first batch of paperwork applying to adopt, it was just under a year before our son moved into our home and we became an “overnight” family. He had just celebrated his fourth birthday with his foster family when we met him for the first time. I remember thinking what a beautiful little boy he was and when he came up to me, proudly riding his bike, he paused for a moment, looked me over and exclaimed “That’s my Mommy!” and rode off with his foster brothers. It’s my very first memory with my son and I treasure it. Now, he’s going to be turning seven years old soon and he’s still a beautiful little boy and he will still stop, look me over and exclaim “That’s my Mom.”. It sounds different now, but it’s filled with the familiarity that comes with living in the same house, fighting the same fights over and over again, saying “I’m sorry”, the bedtime hugs and kisses, the goofy things that happen each day, our hands that clasp together when we are facing a new situation and the knowledge that no matter how crazy things may be during the day, when we wake up the next morning we are still a family full of love and laughter. We are a forever family.
We had heard many things about our son, all gathered through the social services team, before we met him. We heard about some of his successes and some of his challenges, but there was nothing that could have prepared us for bringing him into our home and getting to know and love him. He had (and still has) some significant behavioural challenges. We worked hard on attachment for a long time and it is still an ongoing process, though I think that he is fairly secure in his place in our hearts and family. He struggles with dealing with his anger still, but I remember the time that he was first able to describe how he was feeling “all squeezy” on the inside. We were so excited that he was able to identify how he was feeling. He has come a long way since then, but it hasn’t been without it’s battles. For a long time, everything was engaging in battle with this tiny little person, or preparing for battle.
He worked hard to control the environment around him and that included us. His “forever” parents. It happened through conversations through the day, where he would ask the same question hundreds of time just to engage you, unpredictable tantrums and screaming, bolting through the neighbourhood so that you had to give chase, flinging food around the house that he had begged to eat, physical aggression, unbuckling his car seat and grabbing my hair while driving, hitting the dogs, throwing objects at preschool or attacking other children, using the bathtub as a toilet, smearing feces and/or blood, but it also occasionally took a different path. He would cuddle up to me to block my face from anyone I may have been interacting with, he would act like a baby – especially when we were around other people, clinging to me and needing to be carried. He would wait outside the bathroom door if I was inside and would reach under the door, screaming until I came out. Even understanding that his behaviours were coming from a place of fear, and a degree of an attachment disorder, most days felt like a battleground and it was hard to figure out how I was ever going to feel attached to this child.
Bed time would trigger another battle every day, where he would scream, spit and bite any person he could find (though apparently I tasted best). We walked around with bite marks on our arms and legs while saliva dripped from our faces and walls. Even looking back now, I’m impressed with his spitting accuracy… He would throw his toys, blankets, books and even try to throw his bed out the room or windows. He would dart out of his room to try and push me down the stairs. Bed times were terrible. Eventually, bed times became Daddy’s domain. By the end of the day, I had little to no composure left and things seemed to calm down significantly once Daddy took over.
We quickly became very structured in our days and focused on natural and logical consequences. We worked hard allow him the control that he fought so hard for, within parameters that were safe for everybody. We created his own “boss” corner, where he made all the decisions. We found an ANGRY bird/pillow/stuffie that he could “fight” with so that his angry didn’t get him into trouble. We had secret signs that he could show us when he was feeling “squeezy” so that we could give him a bear hug, because the deep pressure and deep breathing helped him regulate. We had to become very creative, fast.
We still use a lot of the same strategies today. We can often see the meltdowns coming now, and we can talk with him about it. We are more aware of his triggers, like the month of November and cement sound barrier walls along the roads. Even though we don’t always understand his reactions to things or the depth of his anger, we walk with him through it. I’m not sure that we will ever understand, but we will always love him.
Looking back, that first year was really hard. Now we see his quirky little personality grow each day, and his sense of humor evolve as he takes great pride in calling his Dad an old man and asks why Dad’s hair is shrinking. He hides shoes from people when they come to visit, or his sister’s plates of dinner if they dare leave the table during meal times. When helping with the dishes, he asks his sister if she can “feel the burn”… He does it all with this impish little grin and a twinkle in his eye. He holds my hand to walk through a parking lot, and builds puzzles with such precision. He starts snowball fights that he knows he won’t win and tells me “That’s okay, Mom. It’s still fun.” He will take his little sister’s hand and show her how to go down a toboggan hill as fast as he can just to fall out of the sled at the bottom. He carries his big sister’s books home from school so that they aren’t too heavy for her. That’s my beautiful son. My son who was recovering from one of his huge meltdowns and asked “Why did I have to be such a fast baby, Mom?” We are so proud of the little man that he is becoming. We are so lucky to call him our son.
Posted by: Cara