No doubt, adoption is full of so many unknowns. Our children from China come to us just as they are, many times confused, frightened, broken, without express, without emotion, like a puzzle missing many pieces.
Older children are no exception. Even though they may have memories of their past, they may be unwilling or unable to express what they’ve experienced or how they feel about it.
As I reflect on the five months since Kooper came home, I realize how difficult this transition has been for him. I don’t know what he was told to prepare for meeting his American parents. Based on his actions the first week in China, he was likely told to ‘behave.’ That became increasingly difficult for him, unnatural even. At the time we had no idea how hard he must have been trying to ‘behave,’ but with the passing of time we know his tendency is to look out for himself with no regard for others.
Communication was difficult for all of us, but Kooper didn’t even want to try. It was easier for him to involve himself in a computer game or movie than to attempt conversation with his new parents. It wasn’t until we returned home and began interacting as a family that we realized our son was emotionally six years old, even though he is chronologically 14.
The first few months were difficult but considered ‘normal’ in the transition. Eventually, at about the fourth month home, there were more ‘good’ than ‘bad’ days. He seemed to be getting slightly closer to his siblings, although he wasn’t interested in trying new things. And then we had this week!
Kooper started every day angry. In looking back, we can only note the things that are different about this week: he is on sinus medication; he is back to home schooling after spring break; and he has been to the doctor a few times.
As a mom to eight kids, my human response to his obstinate behavior would be, “Dude, I don’t have time for this; you can go to your room until you’re ready to cooperate.” But God has given me amazing people who have traveled this path and survived the rocky terrain!
We’ve begun to understand that our son is unintentionally seeking what is ‘normal’ to him. He is seeking opportunities to be alone, to be in his ‘safe place.’ See, his story has never had a ‘happy ending.’ He’s endured at least four abandonments. He doesn’t even know if he feels good or bad about those broken relationships; all he knows is that is ‘normal.’ He can’t comprehend a happy ending because he’s never experienced one!
Kooper has no concept of a forever family. He has called us Mama and Dad from the beginning, but those names do not carry any real meaning to him. Whether he’s frightened, sad or angry, he doesn’t know. He is doing what seems natural: “If I don’t trust you, don’t depend on you, then I won’t be hurt when you turn from me, I won’t have to perform for you, I don’t have to risk anything for fear of failing you…or knowing you are going to fail me.”
This knowledge has been huge for us! Even though we couldn’t tell him how much we love him any more than we already do, show him how much we love him, or demonstrate our love for his siblings any more than we do, he simply can’t make that connection. It has changed my response to his behavior.
God has granted me the grace (even in my frustration) to explain to Kooper that we are family from ‘beginning to end.’ I’ve explained to him that his ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behavior doesn’t change how much I care for him. He can make good choices or bad choices, and either way, we will not leave. I drew a picture of our family, and explained how his smaller siblings sometimes must go to the ‘naughty spot’ for making wrong choices. That is the consequence of their action, but it does not change how I love them. Of course, this is something that he doesn’t immediately understand, but with time and repetition it will begin to become truth to him.
Where do we go from here? With Kooper’s reluctance to learn, we have decided to seek the advice of professionals. He will take a non-verbal IQ test this week, just to help us understand where to begin. A month from now we will visit the International Adoption Clinic for evaluation of his needs , lab tests and practical advice on how to move forward. Kooper shows signs of various ‘syndromes’ and ‘disorders,’ but without confirmation, we are not trying to self-diagnose or play out the worst case scenario. After all, God moved mountains to bring our son home; He can move even more to make him whole again.