The story is all over the news...a few days ago, a single mom from Tennessee put her adopted son on a plane to Moscow. She sent him on his way with this letter:
Not surprisingly, this has caused an international incident that has put future adoptions from Russia (and also Kazakhstan) at risk. As an adoptive mom myself, I'm saddened and appalled on several levels. I'm also quite sure that this adoptive mom was overwhelmed to her breaking point...because like many other adoptive parents, I've stood at the edge of that abyss myself.
Most of you know we've had our ups and downs with our adopted kids, especially our 3 boys who all come a background of trauma and abuse. Out of respect for our kids' privacy, I haven't previously detailed all that has transpired in our home as they adjusted to their new life in America but it's a lot like what this mom experienced. We've been kicked, hit, spit on, sworn at, and threatened by each of our sons at one time or another but our greatest challenge has been our youngest boy. At our lowest point about a year ago, I seriously wondered if I would crack under the strain of parenting a child who was clearly unstable. I cried, couldn't sleep, lost weight, and felt like a failure as a mother. I taught my other kids to lock themselves in their room when his rages started because I feared for their safety...and yes, our boy's rages were often set off by something as simple as the refusal to allow him more video game time or a second helping of ice cream. I'm not proud to admit it, but there were even times I wished for our old life back...and I wanted to just make it all go away. We reached a crisis point and our son had to be hospitalized...and I have to admit that my sadness for him was mixed with relief for the rest of us who were desperately in need of respite.
I wish I could say that I never considered disruption or a long-term residential program for our child...but I did. I felt powerless to keep this child safe from himself and wasn't sure I could keep the rest of us safe from him. When the psychiatrists and case managers asked me what it would take for our boy to return to our home, I chanted my newly coined mantra...safety for all of us, impulse control, regulation of mood. I wondered if the mantra represented an impossible dream. Without a support system in place, I might have given up. Without the training and experience I'd had as an adoptive mom of older kids, I might have given up. Without the help of our therapist, our social worker, our case workers from Adoption Journeys (an awesome organization for adoptive families in crisis), and our network of friends and fellow adoptive parents, I hate to think what I might have done. When I was exhausted and overwhelmed, I drew from the strength of my husband and my kids; without them, I might have made desperate decisions instead of considered ones. I wish the mom in Tennessee had the support system we have here...it might have made all the difference.
For us, the story is still evolving but it has a more promising middle than its rocky beginning implied. Aniyar is home with us and much more stable. His history of abuse, trauma, and prenatal exposure to alcohol will impact him for the rest of his life. We still have our challenges but we're coping much better now. As parents, we're trying to balance his past with a present full of love, patience, and security...and therapy and medication have made it possible for our boy to be safe here at home. Aniyar drew me this picture the other day...I think it sums up just how far we've all come...and how grateful I am to have this special boy (and his incredible siblings!) in my life.