So, This is Love

I feel like crud, but I’m of a mind to post something because I had a Skype conversation with my youngest sis. As you may (or may not) know, she’s in Ethiopia. Today, she met the bio family of her two sons, and on Monday she and her husband will meet their new daughters. If you’re interested, you can find her here. She may not be able to post until she returns, but the story she has to tell is one of miracles both big and small, and I know you’ll be blessed by it.




Anyway, on to the Skype conversation. I was checking my email messages yesterday and got a video call from her. As soon as I answered, I knew something was wrong. She looked terrible (sorry, Sar). Her eyes were puffy and she was trying not to cry as she told me she was having a mini crisis. I thought for sure it was something to do with the adoption, but it wasn’t. My brother-in-law was MIA. He’d gone out to get something to eat because (poor) Sara was incredibly sick and could do nothing but sleep, and three hours later, he hadn’t returned. Sara woke at 11:30 at night and he wasn’t there, so she’d dragged her sick self out of bed and made her way down to the hotel’s lobby. Either she was too sick to make herself understood, or the people there just didn’t understand that her husband was MISSING.

So, there she was, on my computer screen, just eighteen inches in front of me, but an entire world away, and her husband was missing and she was sick and the phone in her hotel wasn’t working and she started to cry……

and I decided then and there that if her hubby didn’t show up soon, I was going to take my sick behind to the airport and find a way to Ethiopia.

It didn’t come down to that, of course. Her husband was alive and well, enjoying Ethiopian cuisine and culture, thinking Sara was sound asleep.

But that feeling I had, that feeling that I would do what it took to get to my sister and help her in any way I could reminded me of how deep my love is for her and for all my family. There is a bond with us that goes beyond biology and genetics. It harkens back to late night chats, laughter, tears, communal joy and sorrow. It’s built on shared experiences and cemented by mutual respect and deep affection.

I know I’ve talked about it too much of late, and maybe I’m getting boring, but love seems to be what I am coming back to again and again.

I was thinking of this verse from 1 John: This is love: Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Regardless of your personal beliefs, I think you’ll agree this is a compelling idea: that love would be given before love was ever received. That it could be poured on so decisively, so sacrificially before the person being loved was willing or able or even aware enough to return the affection and that it would continue to be poured out no matter how many times it was rejected.

Every time I read that verse I think of parents waiting for a child to be born or traveling to a far off country to meet a child or opening their home and their hearts to foster children. And I think: So, this is love. To give of the heart without any expectation of returns. To offer everything to someone who may not ever be able to return what is given.

This is love.

Not bonding or attachment or transitioning or getting to know, but simply offering acceptance, affection, a place to call home without demanding anything in return.

This is love, and it seems so easy, but it so very, very difficult, because we are not God. We are human, and we want desperately to have our feelings reciprocated, but they won’t always be.

It’s hard, but then I look at photos like this: .



and I wonder if it’s only hard because we’ve never had to live the pure and simple meaning of the word sacrifice. We’ve never had to give up everything to love someone. Maybe if we had, we wouldn’t think giving love and not having it returned was such a difficult thing. Maybe we’d just be happy to have our children in our homes, our hearts, our arms, and maybe more forever families really would last forever.

Maybe.

It’s something to think about, anyway.

The Stigma of Special Needs

Today’s post is written by a guest contributor, Holly, from Purpose Driven Family. Holly has three children, her youngest, Josiah, is from China. And they’re waiting for their newest addition, Elaina, to come home from China…

Like it or not there is often a stigma attached to the label “special needs”.

To the outside world it often means something is “wrong” with your child.

I hate it but I used to be in that world. I had no idea. I was ignorant. And I never thought about adopting before we were called to adopt.

Not once. I wish I had that story, but I don’t. When my husband and I both realized that God was calling us to adopt, we were pretty clueless.

We assumed that we would adopt a Caucasian child. We assumed that we would adopt an infant. We first looked to domestic adoption but it was clear to us that God had something else in mind for us…something that would take us farther outside our comfort zones than what we’d dreamed up ourselves.

Isn’t that just like God?!

We next pursued the idea of adopting from Russia. It made sense to us. If we were supposed to adopt internationally, then surely Russia was the place God would send us. Blonde hair, light skin… no one would ever know the child was adopted in our family!

But through a series of events, God closed that door to us as well.

He CLEARLY and separately gave both me and my husband a prompting to consider China. I was elated because I assumed that meant we would be getting another daughter and I’d always wanted a handful of girls! My husband held firm to the believe that God had spoken to Him that we would find a son.

In China? No way. Did I mention we were clueless? Yep. We were!

So we began slowly…and before we were very far into the process we were asked about what special needs we might consider.

What? Special needs? No thank you. Healthy please. As young as possible please. And beautiful to boot if you don’t mind.

I know. It sounds selfish, but it’s the truth.

But there was no peace in saying no. (Because God had already chosen our child…a child with special needs!) So we wrestled with that list. We prayed and we discussed and honestly, some of the conditions on that checklist were words I’d never even HEARD of before…
couldn’t begin to guess what they meant!

It was a daunting task that checklist. But slowly, we began to work through it checking things here and there, erasing, re-checking and all the while sort of hoping that somehow we could get away with finding a child that didn’t really have any of those conditions. In the end I wrote a note to our case manager telling her that we simply couldn’t know what God had in store for us so we checked off some of the boxes but really were open to whatever it was that God had for us.
And surely He knew that we couldn’t handle anything major, right?

And within weeks we received a referral for a 3 year old boy with a special need I still can’t remember how to pronounce. We never got the paperwork…. they tried and tried to email it but it just wouldn’t go through. So we spent the weekend praying and decided that God already knew so we could make the decision without the paperwork! God clearly told us both, again separately, to wait. This boy was not our son. He had a chromosome abnormality. It was confusing to us, but not to God.

I remember calling our agency on Monday morning to decline his referral in tears. I felt so GUILTY for saying no to a precious orphan. Though I had never seen his face, I knew he was precious. (I later saw his face and oh my word was he a doll baby!) I felt like I was abandoning him all over. It was the worst feeling.

I later found out that 15 minutes after I called to say that we were not going to adopt him, another family called to ask if the agency had a child with that specific medical condition that he had! They had another child with the same condition and felt prompted to call our agency on that day at that time to inquire. And he found his family! That really helped me to trust more in God’s leading. If we took a child out of guilt, we could be stealing someone else’s blessing!
The next week we received another referral call. Another little boy. 15 months old in a city in China even our coordinator couldn’t pronounce at the time! (Huhehot, also known as Hohhot, Inner Mongolia!) His special need – his right leg was bigger than his left leg. That’s it! Right leg was 2 cm longer than left leg. No word if it was also bigger in circumference, just length. Otherwise healthy. We couldn’t believe it! We poured over his medicals, talked to a doctor, prayed prayed and prayed some more. Within 2 days we both had our answer – he was the one – our son. His special need wasn’t even on the check list!

And upon our return from home we found that his leg length discrepancy didn’t slow him down at all. He compensated for it just fine. He saw specialists, had tests run and his official diagnosis? Ideopathic hemihypertrophy. Basically it means they have no idea what caused it but the lower half of his body is larger on one side than on the other.

We may have lifts put on his left shoes at some point. He may require surgery at some point. Our goal is to wait until he is finished growing and then evaluate to determine if it needs done and if so, do we lengthen the shorter leg or shorten the longer leg. We also have him screened for a condition called Wilm’s Tumor by having renal ultrasounds done every six months. Apparently there is some tie between the tumor and children with hemihypertrophy. We will continue to screen twice a year until he is six and then only yearly through childhood. He is a totally normal and healthy child. When someone approaches me and asks me what is wrong with him or how did we get a BOY from China… I struggle honestly with how to answer them. I usually tell them that there are so many precious boys in China waiting for families. Then they ask, “Well what’s WRONG with him?” They assume something is “wrong” because he is a boy… from China.

The wording stinks. Sometimes their hearts do not. I have to remind myself #1 I used to be ignorant too and #2 my son is listening to my response and my first priority is to consider his needs. People are nosy. But if we don’t TALK about special needs… the stigma survives!

What I’ve learned since our first adoption experience is that “special needs” kids are just like ANY OTHER kids! Really! I almost wish we could find a new label… but it would still be a label. Healthy. Special Needs. Both labels. Most parents want healthy children. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if more parents could recognize that children with special needs really are “normal” and wonderful and funny and BEAUTIFUL and they just might so happen to need a specialist once in awhile… or maybe often… or maybe only for a season.

After Josiah, God made us aware of the AIDS crisis in Africa and we realized how many children are orphaned because of AIDS. We realized how many children are infected with HIV because of lack of medications, lack of knowledge, lack of supplies, and we began to pursue the adoption of an HIV+ child. We made it through our homestudy approval and agency approval but God shut the door at the midnight hour and the child we were pursuing went to another family. They are a wonderful family and I am thrilled to have gotten to know them a little. She truly was meant to be theirs. We went from checking the boxes with trepidation to actively seeking a child with HIV. That’s a jump over the pond, don’t you think?

It isn’t because we became better people or more generous or kind-hearted or anything like that. It’s because we realized that love has no boundaries. A medical need or a label doesn’t define a person! And just like our biological children, we didn’t get to choose… they came out with their own distinct features and DNA.

There is a peace that comes with letting go and letting God show us our children.

The Lord has called us to a new “special need”- imperforate anus. What? You’ve never heard of it? Well join the club! We hadn’t either! We felt a tugging towards children with heart defects and God confirmed it to us in His unique way that yes, our next child would have a heart defect. But imperforate anus too?

And just like God, He has given us all the tools we’ve needed so far to learn about the conditions so we will be able to care for our daughter when the time comes.

We have chosen to let go of fear and embrace the blessings to come in the form of another CHILD. We will embrace HER. Her medical conditions are not HER. They are just a small part, and we are going to work through those together. As a family. After all, we have special needs too, but nobody bats an eye at our “handicaps” of corrected vision, herniated disc, endometriosis, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, etc!

I hope you are encouraged to consider a child who may be labeled special needs. I can assure you, the blessings will be all yours!

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Wherein She Confesses, And I Cryadoptive momma (China) Shirlee McCoy at And Then There Were Seven… a conversation with her daughter’s dance teacher leads to The Ugly Cry, in the best way possible

Black and White/ Memory Wednesday
adoptive momma (China) Sandra at The Daily Grind… remembering when she met her daughter, and how they learned of her special need

Next Stage for Lillyone of the many volunteers at An Orphan’s Wish… a photo of the brace used to treat club foot

it’s i.e.p. season againadoptive momma (China) mama d at the life that is waiting for us… on individualized education plans with school-aged children

Sunday Snapshot: Resourcefulnessadoptive momma (China) Annie at Cornbread & Chopsticks… on finding a solution to a toenail with amniotic banding syndrome

Being Her Voice
adoptive parents the Straights (China) at Straight Talk… on naming cleft-affected children

I Can’t Be Her Voice

As much as I’d like to put a protective cocoon around her and be her voice among other things, I can’t.

Let me preface this entry with two things: my heart is in my throat these days as we wait for our final piece of paperwork to travel to China for our sons, and our daughter, who is 4 1/2, has severe expressive speech delay. Though she can talk and does very much here at home and is even trying more and more out of our happy home, no one can understand her except for a handful of people.

That is so hard for me to accept right now. Sometimes it is easier; right now, it is really tearing my heart out. I watch her struggle and it tears me up inside.

Yesterday at the pool, she was so excited when some other little girls came. They are both about 6 months older than her, but they are really sweet little girls and played with her last summer. They know “she can’t talk like us” as they put it. They know she had something wrong in her mouth.

But yesterday, they sort of distanced themselves from her after awhile. And yet, she DID NOT GIVE UP. I wished so badly for her that she would just give up. But she kept trying to engage them with this toy or that toy she had brought, with doing this little jumping move or that. It was not enough this year. They are all getting older. I get that.

But my heart still aches for her. As she gets older, I know this is going to just be harder and harder. When you can’t communicate your wishes or answer little people’s questions, they assume you either can’t hear or you don’t want to talk to them. Oh bless her heart!

Yesterday I bit my tongue more than once as I wanted to scream, “She WANTS to play with you.”

“Yes, she likes the color pink!”

“Yes, she has a name, and she IS SAYING IT. You just can’t understand her.”

At one point, she came over and was looking rather sad. You see, she has been working SO HARD on pronouncing her name. And she is doing a marvelous job. It sounds so clear to me and to others in our family. Even her ST was impressed. But the little girls: they couldn’t understand her and told her as much. It hurt her feelings. They didn’t mean it that way; they were not being unkind. They really tried to and their moms did step in and remind them of her name.

But.
But.

I can’t be her voice for her for forever. She will be five years old in October. When I hear two-year-olds speak so clearly compared to her, it breaks my heart.

No one told me how hard the special need of not having a voice (or at least one that is understandable) would be. No one.

I do not wish to discourage anyone from considering adopting a child with a speech delay whether it be from cleft lip and palate or something else. I just want to prepare you and encourage you to prepare your heart for the hurt it will feel for your child as they struggle. But you see, it is her struggle to take on. She has to face this, and she is with more strength than I can even muster most days.

A year ago, the Prez and I swore we’d never take on the special need of cleft lip and palate again. Not because of the countless surgeries through adulthood. Not because of the way a child’s face looks. Not because of the rude stares and questions. No, not any of that. Only because we cannot imagine watching another of our children be cast aside because she refuses to speak knowing they won’t understand anyway or watching her fall apart in tears on the floor because WE can’t understand a string of sentences she has just said and she KNOWS what she was saying.

We can understand most of what she says, but she often uses three words or less because when she strings together several sentences, we get lost. And she gets mad. At us.

It is much harder than I imagined. But would we do it all over again?

Well, you know what they say. Never say never. I guess God had different plans, because we are doing it all over again.

Our younger son waiting in China was also born with heart disease and cleft lip and palate. As far as we know, his palate has not been repaired. He will be five years old next week. We know he’ll struggle and have to fight for every sound, every vowel, every consonant, every syllable, every word, every sentence. Most likely for years. And we’ll be there fighting alongside him. And no doubt so will his little sister.

*Edited to Add: After reading Debby’s comment below (THANK YOU Debby!), I need to clarify. I don’t always stand to the side and let her be her own voice with no help from me. I definitely find a balance. As her Momma, I can definitely tell when she needs and wants my help and when she doesn’t. My little girl is determined with a capital D! So anyway, I realized after Debby’s great comment with great points that I needed to clarify. It is definitely a balancing act. I in no way want to communicate with this post that we should never interfere, which could definitely be a detriment to their feelings of self-worth and self-confidence. But the truth is, our DD will probably always have a speech impediment and I need to help her learn how to overcome that and help build her confidence in her own abilities even if others tell her otherwise. I need to encourage her to talk and to keep on trying even when it would be much easier to just give up. Hope this clarifies my post and again, thank you Debby for your excellent follow-up comment.*

Life As A House

Anyone seen that movie? It was released in 2001 and the premise of the movie was about rebuilding.

Not just a house but about family, faith, relationships, etc.

I often reflect back on that movie.

Because our son Luke’s story is also a story of rebuilding.

But the rebuild was not all about him. Yes, he needed a rebuild. He needed a family, love, medical care, proper nutrition. All those things are a given.

However it was ME that got the biggest upgrade in the process.

Luke came home at the age of 19 months old. His listed special need was cleft lip and palate. We received updates from the orphanage during our wait which described a little boy who was mostly on target….one that was walking, riding a tricycle… doing all the things that a toddler should be doing.

We arrived in China in May 2007 to meet him and bring him home. And our spirits were crushed when we received him at the Civil Affairs office. This little boy was nothing like what we were told. In fact, he was the absolute opposite. He was a 19 month old who was the size and weight of an infant. He was a child who could not hold up his head, sit up, roll over or walk. He was clearly a child that had MANY MORE special needs then what was listed in his documentation. I mean MANY MANY MORE.

And I wanted to run.

I wanted to bolt out of there because I knew it would be difficult. But even though my HEAD wanted to run, my HEART and God’s leading gave me the courage to stay. But it wasn’t pretty for me. And I have been struggling with Luke’s reality ever since. In September 2009 he was diagnosed with an Intellectual Disability. My stomach turned over and over and I wanted to throw up.

Well… I DID throw up. But not in the office space.

That would have been disgusting.

Life with Luke…well… God is using Luke to be my teacher. My lessons are: realistic expectations, patience, faith, hope, understanding, perspective, diligence, etc.

In other words….for me it’s been a total rebuild.

Not that I didn’t have those things before. I did.

But it wasn’t at the level they needed to be.

It wasn’t at the level God wanted them to be.

So began a complete renovation. And folks, it hasn’t been gentle… at all. It’s been tough. Lots of tools and nails and lumber.

And in a way I guess I was scared with each adoption that I would be changed. I mean… I knew I would be changed in some ways but… it was the big ways I was scared of. I think no matter how much we prepare to adopt a special needs child- or ANY child for that matter- all adoptive parents are all scared of the changes we will experience: to our schedules, our home life, our relationships, our time and energy, our other kids.

But oh how I have come to learn to embrace how these children have changed me. Especially Luke. And I think that you will find it the same way if you commit to one of these beautiful children. Change is inevitable. How beautiful it is to have the change occur because you have loved and embraced a child with special needs.

-Nicole from bakerssweets.blogspot.com

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

HIV+ Adoption: Filling the Roomadoptive momma (Ethiopia) Lisa at the group adoption blog Grown In My Heart… a short question and answer session with Lisa, who is not only an adoptive mom, but also a care coordinator for From HIV to Home

Racist me, against my childadult adoptee (Korea) and adoptive momma (China) Raina at Faiths & Illusions… on decisions about school grade levels and older child adoption

Mirrors… adoptive momma (China) Jean at There’s No Place Like Home… a discovery about orphanage life after talking with her daughter, who was adopted at an older age

She got her Birthday Wish!!!adoptive momma (China) Karen at Always In My Heart… home from the hospital on her birthday

The Long and Winding Road, Day 12adoptive momma (China) Robin at Dreaming of Tea for Two… an update after their most recent visit to see the neurologist

is this permanent?adoptive momma (China) mama d at the life that is waiting… a trip to the dentist offers an important opportunity for a mom who adopted her son at an older age

Homemade Sensory Diet for Summeradoptive momma (foster care) Hartley at Hartley’s Life With Three Boys… inexpensive ideas for sensory activities during the summer

Deaf, Not Dumbadoptive momma (China) Cheri at Infinite Love… new Phonak hearing aids and thoughts about how others treat those who are deaf

Jacinda’s Appointments Todayadoptive momma (China) Sherry at Our Adoption Journey… a day at CHKD to see Jacinda’s craniofacial team of doctors

Special Needs Adoptionexecutive director Amy Eldridge at Love Without Boundaries… information about their first video about a specific special need (this one is about thalassemia; the next one will be about albinism)

The One Thing Rory Doesn’t Have That Her Siblings Do, Still.

Friends.

That’s not entirely accurate–Rory has friends at school, and she has plenty of kids her age who come over often and romp through our house for various family events and family playdates–but she has no friends of her very own, who would invite her and only her over for a playdate or…the ultimate…a birthday party.

Sam goes to birthday parties (he’s 8).

Lily goes to birthday parties (she’s 5).

Wyatt goes to birthday parties, and this is the unkindest cut of all. He is 4, and Rory is 4.

But the only birthday party she’s been to was one that Lily and Wyatt went to also. She has never been the one to come home with her bagful of candy and assorted themed toys and decide whether or not to share. She has never been the one dropped off with a big, glorious present, chosen by her, to a strange house filled with balloons and a pinata. And oh, she wants those things.

Barring that, she wants a playdate. Not a playdate at our house–no, she wants to be dropped off for a playdate all by herself. At Alex’s, or Miles’, or Ann’s or ANYWHERE. I would worry–have worried, in advance–that she would be afraid on some deep level that we wouldn’t come back but we’re almost at the year mark now, and apparently NOT. Last week she cried for 20 full minutes in the car because Lily had a playdate, and Wyatt had a birthday party and she had…nothing. (Not right then, or I would have taken her somewhere fun–these were distant plans that she just couldn’t compete with.)

And she is so sad. She gives us, instead, a regular litany of her friends in China–friends we don’t have, friends that are not ours, friends that would only invite us over if she asked them to: Bethany, Logan, Mitchell, ‘Cilla (Rory was raised at Hidden Treasures, an American-run foster home in Fuzhou, Fujian). But it doesn’t help, I know.

Part of me says, well, most 4-year-olds don’t get dropped off at friend’s houses. It only happens for Wyatt with one particular friend because he is only a week older than one of our neighbors and family friends’ son, and we do a lot of trading off of the boys–but adding Rory to that mix isn’t great, and wouldn’t count anyway. We don’t do the kind where Mom comes to hang out too unless all the kids are there. And we spend most of our time with families we’ve known since Sam was small–I’m not out there making new friends with the parents of kids in her class who don’t already belong to us in some other way. Those are all the normal reasons.

But I suspect there’s another reason, one that lies within her “other”-ness. I think people are hesitant–fearful that they might not understand her, or she might have issues, or a tantrum, or just be unpredictable in some way. And there are plenty of other little girls or boys to invite–”normal” ones, with no difficult speech or history. White ones, too, although I think that’s only a tiny part of the equation. I get that, I do. I think I might feel that way myself. Why not invite over an easier kid? Why not push your kid in a simpler direction–oh, yes, Rory would be nice, but what about so and so, or so and so? Rory’s family is weird, too–so many of them, and the mom works, and the older kid goes to that private school, and hey, why not cultivate a different relationship? Some family more like us.

Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but I don’t think so. I’ve avoided friendships myself on weaker grounds. They’re four–they’ll push us in the direction they really want to go in soon enough. Why not keep things under control as long as you can?

Yes, I could make some calls–approach another mother, explain. I could invite a different kid over and hope the parent would reciprocate for Rory, and not for the others. I could try to fix this, and maybe I could put a band-aid over it for the time being…and that would help for now. But really, things are still new. There’s lots more change ahead in her classroom. New kids will come, Lily will be in elementary school next year and Rory, still in the preschool classroom she’s been sharing with her sister, will be four months older and clearer and more ordinary in everyone’s eyes, and even one of “the big kids.” The other kids like her at school. She gets along well when there are kids here at home–better every day. There was a time when half an hour of different voices and chaos would overwhelm her, and that’s gone. She’s still changing; we’re still changing. I think I’ll let this grow away on its own. For now.

Cross-posted on RaisingDevils.com

Parenting Special Needs – Real Life

Recently our family had an experience that will forever be etched in our lives. It involves an adult with special needs…..and since we who parent children with special needs are raising children who will grow into adults with special needs, I feel strongly that this must be shared here. I don’t feel I can share it on my blog, but wish I could but there are too many people who know all the parties involved and the last thing I would want to do is hurt anyone. But I am sharing some very honest stuff about our lives here in hopes that it will encourage all of us who parent special needs kids. It is our story, so I am making myself and my family very vulnerable.

First a little background. My husband, Dw, and I have been married for almost 32 years. We are very, very, very {did I say “very”?} happily married. We have a blast together. We are soul mates. We have ten children. Three have grown and left the nest. Seven remain at home. The seven at home range in ages 3 to 16. We are abundantly blessed.

Dw was raised in Western New York, the youngest of four boys. My husband Dw is 55 years old. His oldest brother, Mark, is 70 years old and mentally handicapped. Let’s just say that from the time Dw and I were first married we planned that one day, Mark would come to live with us. It just seemed natural. We are family and we care for each other. Period.

We lived for the first 13 years in Western New York so we saw Mark regularly. If we went home to Dw’s parents we always invited Mark along to join us in whatever we did {things like go to the drive-in, get ice cream, etc.}. We would call and talk to him on the phone. We loved him greatly. We talked to Mark over the years….”when something happens to Mom and Dad you can come to live with us”. He was always eager at the thought.

Eventually we moved out of state and years passed. My in-laws got older and so when we were looking for a home we would always plan which room Mark would have one day. My father-in-love died 2 years ago at the age of 95, he was a very gentle, quiet man. This past January 2nd, on the anniversary of my father-in-love’s death, my mother-in-law had congestive heart failure and suddenly the reality of what we had been planning almost our entire last 32 years happened. We talked to Mark on the phone, yes, the time was right….he wanted to come live with us.

Dw flew to Western New York within days and before long he arrived home with our long-awaited Mark. Their flight arrived late at night and so I was the only one up waiting when they got home. When I heard them on the front porch I threw open the door and was squealing and jumping up and down, “You’re here, Mark – you’re finally here! Welcome home!” The kids were just as excited as we were. We have been preparing all of them that one day Mark would live with us.

Now the reality: Obviously we are a big family. Everyone has chores to do. Everyone has to pitch in whether you are three years old or sixteen – you pitch in. Even Elijah, at 3 years old, can get himself something for breakfast {as I keep an eye out for him}. He can fold clothes. He can put things away. He attempts to sweep. Chores the kids do: clean bathrooms, vacuum, sweep, do dishes {we don’t currently have a dishwasher}, put dishes away, etc. Everyone helps. Everyone. We make it fun when we work alongside each other and before long the house is pretty spiffy looking! It doesn’t last long – but those few moments of cleanliness are so appreciated by this mama! Our kids with special needs work right along with everyone else.

So the first morning after Mark arrived he came down and sat at the breakfast table and barked, “Get my breakfast!” I thought, “Uh-oh, this might not be the picnic I was envisioning.” Ugh We knew that my mil had given Mark everything he had ever wanted. She had waited on him hand and foot. If his bed wasn’t made by her in the morning he would refuse to go to bed at night. She was 93 years old and climbing the steep stairs in that old farmhouse to make Mark’s bed so he would happily go to bed at night. We had foolishly believed that when Mark came to live with us he would adjust and settle in. Not so. He began very quickly to make life very miserable. He had been waited on his entire life and he expected to be until he died.

I quickly realized what a monster had been created by my indulging mother-in-law. Surprisingly, she had not done this with her other three boys. She had actually largely ignored them. But Mark was the “special” one and I’m guessing she felt that since he was mentally handicapped life “owed” him an easy ride.

Mark soon wanted to go home. We explained that he would not be going “home” cause there is nothing to go home to, but that he would be going home to a group home or an institution. He wouldn’t believe us. {My mother-in-law is in a neighboring town about ½ hour away in a nursing home.} As the days passed, Mark would argue and complain {loudly} about anything that didn’t go his way. He would lie often. It was exhausting. I told Dw that at 51 and 55, “It would be easier to adopt quintuplets then to care for Mark!” {I wasn’t kidding.}

The whole point of this post is to challenge anyone with special needs kids not to allow them to believe that because they have special needs they are “owed” a life free from responsibilities or accountability. My intent is not to bash my mother-in-law for how she raised her son, but to be honest about the consequences of our parenting – they are lifelong!

We are convinced that had my mother-in-law held Mark accountable and required him to have chores {even chores he didn’t think were fun} she would have been better preparing him for life without her. If she had held him responsible for his lying she would have been making him a responsible adult. As it was Mark was allowed for 70 years to believe that he was at the center of the universe. What a shocking blow for him to find out otherwise and what a shock it will be when he goes to live in an institution or group home.

Mark eventually got aggressive and almost what would be considered violent toward our little ones – I was completely shocked!! A 70 year old man, mentally handicapped or not, knows all about hurting others and that he would purposely inflict pain on a little one – deplorable!

Dw came home from work and said, “That’s it. He’s gone.” I was thankful and relieved. It took awhile to get all the details worked out and over the ensuing weeks there were two times where I had to tell Mark that if he didn’t knock it off I was going to call the police. It has been a very difficult time, needless to say.

My husband, Dw, left for Africa in the wee hours of this past Wednesday morning. He took Emma {16} and Graham {15} with him. Mark was scheduled to leave on Friday. That left just all day Wednesday and all day Thursday with me alone with Mark and the little ones. It was two of the longest days of my life. He, again, got violent toward one of our little ones – because they sat on the end of “his” couch while he was watching TV. I had to keep them away from him – completely. He was belligerent.

Yesterday morning Mark left for good. Dw and I both have had to struggle with what all of this meant. We had dreamed of this for almost 30 years – but often dreams aren’t reality – in fact they can be nightmares!! We have had long talks. I had to realize just how frustrated I have been at my mother-in-law for her parenting choices. It has been a time of soul-searching and praying that I can be a parent who raises responsible adults that when presented with circumstances that don’t go their way, they respond with grace, integrity, humility and thankfulness. I pray that our painful experience will allow all who read this to look at their parenting choices as well.

Sincerely,
Linny @ A Place Called Simplicity

next shared list

A new shared listing is expected on May 19, 2010. Wonderful news for families waiting to be matched!

If you have been matched off the shared list recently, feel free to share in the comments and I’ll add a link to your blog… we’d all love to hear your news :)

Congratulations to the new families!
Amy at A Red Thread Connection

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Wish I Had More To Updateadoptive momma (China) Karen at Always In My Heart… an update on her daughter Cassandra, who continues to heal from an infection

So Blessed! adoptive momma (China) Kim at Our Journey to Addison Hope… about her biological son’s special need, which is osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease

Update
adoptive momma (China) Sarah Kate at The Shoe Princess… about her daughter’s recent IEP meeting

I Don’t WANNA Have Special Needs!
adoptive momma (China) Holly at A Purpose Driven Life!… about her son’s recent expressions of frustration about his limb difference

Devastatedsweet Nikki at Ladybug Makes Four… this family needs us to cover them in prayer, as they just discovered that the daughter they were waiting to adopt from Nanning passed away

Sensory Detectiveadoptive momma (through foster care) Hartley at Hartley’s Life With Three Boys… on life as a sensory detective, struggling to determine the difference between tantrums and meltdowns