When my biological son was 4, his arm got caught in an elevator door. Adults nearby were able to pry his arm free. No permanent damage was done, but it shook and scared him.
Fast forward a few years, the same son and his older brother were in China, on an adoption trip with us. He and his older brother were playing on an elevator ride, going up almost 20 stories. While exiting the elevator, his older brother jokingly pushed him back into the elevator, the doors closed, and he, alone, took off with a group of strangers. Following moments of panic, and a rushed search by my husband, he was returned by a group of kind Chinese adults.
He was tearful, everyone was frazzled, but a huge sigh of relief came after everyone calmed down. These two incidents obviously caused him to fear elevators. When we enter an elevator, I feel him hesitate beside me. If I ask him about this hesitation, he sometimes forgets why he dislikes elevators, until I remind him of these stories and validate his feelings. The reason for his fear helps him to understand; even as a child, he sees the past influencing the present.
Sadly, this is not always an option for my daughters who joined our family thru adoption. They experience fears that I cannot explain and that they are unable to remember enough pieces of their life before us to provide context for many of their feelings.
When one asks why she is terrified of thunderstorms, I think of possible scenarios, things that might make sense. When another asks me why she doesn’t like loud noises, I wonder myself, and can only reassure.
I am learning them, and I know many of their stories, but I do not know all of the stories. I cannot imagine having years of my life simply missing, but that is their reality. Their early years were not like mine and continuity was not present for them. I understand that I will never have all the pieces of their puzzle, because this is a reality of international adoption.
This season, in particular, has begged for context for questions asked, and we do not have that context. I am learning that adoption brings with it a struggle for how to process the unknown and this struggle ebbs and flows throughout a lifetime. As I realize the questions will come throughout their lives, I want to give them answers.
Recently, I sat in my car after a particularly difficult parenting week with one of my daughters. She was struggling and she was asking the ‘why’ questions that I don’t know. I felt frustration that I could not help her with understanding, frustration for her especially. One fourth of her life was spent without us and I cannot answer many of her questions, or explain the missing seasons. I can’t always tell her whether struggles are a result of adoption, her genetics, or my own parenting.
However, in these moments, I am reminded that I believe God does know every piece of her and her sister’s brave and precious stories.
He is God that is ever-present in all my weakness.
He is God, who never wanted my daughters to suffer, but was there in their suffering and heard their cries.
His heart broke the moment they went from being part of a family to an orphan.
He was there in the moments of abandonment and the pain and loneliness that followed.
He was there in the multiple transitions from institution to institution.
And, He was there in the hard moments, when country and language were torn away for them to become my daughters.
He also knew they were being loved by nannies and they had friends in their orphanages.
He saw the good and the bad and God was there in all the moments that I missed.
He knows all of their fears and why those fears exist in a way that I never will.
I don’t know the answers, but He does, because he knows my daughters fully. He is a God that cares for them and understands the context of their life and the loneliness of the orphan and the process of adoption. This is my reminder in this season, that I cannot humanly answer all of my precious daughters’ fears and questions with clarity, but I can sit with them and look to the God who knows the answers to their questions.
He is a God who remembers all the ‘elevator’ moments of their early life, and He cares deeply for them. This does not simplify our journey, but it does give us hope in the moments where the past influences the present.
– guest post by Rachel