There is a pattern emerging. One that was either non-recognizable or perhaps non-existent a few months ago in our 14 year old son.
It goes something like this: gently testing the boundaries, obedience, sibling interaction, affection, vulnerability…and then the emotional overload and outpour, usually in the form of anger. There seems to be no provocation for the anger. A comment or teasing gesture that it expressed often, which under normal circumstances would be inconsequential, suddenly becomes the catapult for an uncontrollable outburst.
While this pattern may look different in each child, I think it is common among children adopted as teens. So many elements of their past have a profound impact on their psyche. Perhaps neglect and/or abuse in the formative years, poor nutrition, poor education and institutionalization all cause the brain to develop ‘differently’. What has taken years to develop cannot be changed overnight.
So, why the outburst in the form of anger? Especially when everything seems to be going so well. As crazy as it sounds, that’s his ‘safe place.’ Becoming angry and distancing himself from his family, allows our son to remain disconnected with his feelings. As he begins to transition into accepting his new life, he becomes overwhelmed by his feelings. Maybe because they are unfamiliar or maybe because it means letting go of all he has ever known. Even though our son’s past was less than ideal, it was his. It was him.
These angry outbursts include backtalk, shouting, throwing objects, exaggerating and doing the opposite of what he knows is acceptable. It’s as if he’s saying, “Do you love me when I do this? How about this? Or this? Do you really love me?” He’s never known a ‘happy ending.’
After such an outburst our son used to isolate himself for hours and would refuse to eat or speak. We realize there are few things he can control, but two of those are what goes into his mouth and what comes out! The pattern is changing though, ever so slowly. Now he will go to his quiet place, the porch swing, and come back to apologize in a short time. By God’s grace, we are able to move on!
We still have so much to learn. I understand that love is not a feeling, rather a choice. In our family it’s a choice we make daily, sometimes every hour. According to our human nature, typically when people treat us badly, we can choose not to be around them. Not so in teen adoption. We get to choose daily to be with our son, no matter what. And that is how God’s love is manifesting itself in us.
We realize that apart from Him, there is no good thing within us. We can’t fathom His love for us when we reject and grieve Him, yet He chooses to pursue us and love us, showering us with His grace and mercy, not so it can stop here, but so we can extend the same measure to others. As God is patient with us, we must also be patient with our son. Since my Father endured so much for me, surely I can muddle my way through this season of trials, in His strength. Lord, grant me the strength to daily choose to love, no matter what, and show me how I can be Jesus to my son today.