For those of us on Facebook, the Facebook Memories pop-up might just be one of the favorite parts of having an account. It’s fun to see what happened on “this day, X number of years ago.” Sometimes the memories make me giggle, like the picture of my third child sitting in the dishwasher. Sometimes that make me sigh as I realize how quickly time is passing.
Some memories, like the posts as of late, make me a little more introspective than I normally am. The pictures, the posts, the words attempting to communicate the emotion of the day we met our daughter in far-away China amaze me. What also amazes me is how she knows when the anniversary our meeting is approaching. I don’t know how these precious children know, but they know. I’ve talked to many a mama who has expressed the same shock at the knowledge our kids have hidden deep inside them. They know when their worlds were turned upside down. They know when they left all they knew for something completely different.
This knowing can, and often does, express itself in a variety of ways depending on the child. Last year, as we approached the first anniversary of our “gotcha” day, I mentioned to a friend that I believed we were suffering from the “anniversary blues”. Yeah, we celebrate this day when our family grew by one, and we rejoice all over again at having reached this point, but the memory of the hardship and pain involved in adoption also lingers, and our children often feel it more than we realize.
It may be simple melancholy, though I would point out that nothing is “simple” when walking through this heartache with our sons and daughters. It may result in the outbreak of attention seeking behavior. Perhaps the child who was the best eater becomes the pickiest eater. Perhaps the child who was sleeping through the night suddenly cannot sleep without mama or daddy right next to them. Our children might experience regression of some sort, and the cause can be a bit of a head-scratcher unless we remember that there is a big anniversary around the corner. Teachers may come to us in confusion wondering why our previously well-behaved child is suddenly exhibiting a spate of negative behavior. Our children, who may have grown comfortable being left in places they know are safe may abruptly start crying and clinging to our legs again – a reminder of a time when they weren’t sure that mama would come back for them.
Ohhh, and it’s hard! This roller-coaster of emotions that our children are on, we are on it, too! Yes, they have experienced a world-turned-upside-down, but we have, too. Yes, they have struggled and battled, and fought to have the attention and affection they’ve always had to fight for, and we have been in the trenches with them.
These anniversary blues? They are exhausting. They drain us of everything we have some days, and attempt to throw more bricks up onto the walls our children have been slowly allowing us to tear down. We cry, we stare wide-eyed at behaviors we haven’t seen in months. We wonder when the day will arrive when the shrapnel from past wounds, hurts, neglect, abuse, abandonment, loss stops rising to the surface. We may find our frustration levels are quicker to rise during these weeks – frustration with the behaviors we thought were long behind us, but also with ourselves and the reactions we may have to those behaviors.
So, yes. It’s hard. But we knew it would be. Though we may not have completely understood the potential of the “anniversary blues” to shake us up a bit, we did know when we said “yes” to our child, that it would be one of the most difficult “yeses” of our lives. We knew we were walking into something greater than we were, a holy joining of family to child. We knew there would be ups and downs, but as time passes, and the hills on our roller-coaster grow less dramatic in their intensity, it becomes easier to forget the history our children carry with them.
Personally, I find that in those perfectly beautiful moments when I’ve forgotten that my daughter’s past doesn’t look like a typical child’s past, that is when the anniversary blues seem to play the loudest in my heart. When I’m living a life that speaks of hearts knit together in a holy sort of way, that is when the memory of her losses washes the strongest over me.
And so, we walk the fine line. We hold them closer, we speak softly. We maintain boundaries they try to step over in an effort to see if we will still love just as much as before. We communicate to those around them who also need to understand, but we do it in a way that honors a history that brought them to this place. We recognize regression for what it is… grieving, and we find a gift of grace filling us and spilling over as we comfort them.
Our daughter is constantly asking us to tell her the story of the day we first saw her face-to-face. She watches the video of the first time we met over and over, marveling at the changes she sees in herself. Every year around the time we traveled to claim her as ours and bring her home, I find my heart saying, “yes”. Yes to the hard parts, yes to the fun parts. Yes to the tears, the battles, the frustrations. Yes to the sleepless nights, the tantrums, the sibling rivalries, the uprooting of everything I used to call “normal”.
Yes, even, to the anniversary blues.
Our children have been through so much, and even though these major anniversaries may be a challenging time in the lives of some of us, it can still bring us great joy to be the one who says “yes” all over again. They are worth it. Every single bit. And somehow grieving with them brings peace. Crying out with them to the Father in the middle of the memories brings peace. Holding on all the more tightly to each other when our instinct may be to just ride out the anniversary and hope for the best brings peace.
There is peace to be found. He is working all things for our good – even the anniversary blues.