Monday, January 30, 2012

It Is SO Worth It

I’ve written a lot about The Princess’ struggles of late.  Until recently, I considered her the “easier” of my two youngest children.  The truth is, both The Princess and Youngest Son have good times, as well as not-so-good times.  Sometimes, one of them is struggling with a particular trauma trigger.  Most of the time, issues can be dealt with immediately, using therapeutic parenting techniques.  The trigger is calmed.  The child becomes regulated again, and we move on.  Sometimes, the struggles last a while.  That’s what’s going on with The Princess right now.  However, Youngest Son is doing very well – the best he’s ever done since coming home 4.5 years ago.

This time last year, we were dealing with a ton of “stuff.”  Youngest Son destroyed property at church, and at home.  He stole expensive electronics.  He lied constantly.  He sneaked around behind our backs, and he thought it a grand challenge to defy us at every turn.  He was very hurtful to me, as well as to his sister, and he was in constant, CRAZY competition with the men in our home.  We received increased mental health services, and he had changes in meds.  There were many tearful times of frustration for me, as I wondered if this boy would ever “get it” – get it that he was loved, cared for, and worthy.  We plodded along, doing the things we know to do with kids who are terrified – and that’s just what he was – so very afraid and unable to trust.  He was afraid we could not take care of him.  He didn’t like the limits on his world, because he did not understand how those limits are the care he needed.  He thought he needed to do, and to get for himself, just as he had as a young child.  He didn’t trust us.  He didn’t know how.  And yes, he wanted to test us to see if we, and our love, were real.

It was very hard.  In our lowest moments of our own fear, we wondered if we’d made a mistake bringing him home.  We stuck with what we knew we were supposed to do – what we knew was our only real chance for change.  With struggle, we passed that test.  Our son learned there were natural consequences to behavior and that he was old enough to have to deal with those consequences.  We would stand behind him, but we would not stand in front of him and shield him from those consequences.  He learned we still loved him, even if he lied and stole property.  He learned that in our family, we make things right when we’ve hurt someone else (whether or not we meant to do so).  He learned relationships matter, because we required that he make things right with those he’d harmed.  Then, last summer at youth camp, he stood to give his testimony at a campfire.  He told everyone he was glad he’d been adopted and that he’d gotten a second chance in life.  He apologized to his brothers and his sister, who were also there. 

This year, he’s going back to camp as a volunteer junior counselor and will be working with junior high kids.  He’s come a long way.

I am not going to say Youngest Son is completely healed.  He still has trust issues.  He still has to take meds and may need to do so all his life.  In therapy, he’s still working out what’s real versus what are fantasies about his past.  He still has nightmares.  He is still learning the things we are trying so very hard to teach him:  to be responsible, respectful, appropriately resourceful, and reciprocal in relationships.  He has become a young man who cares about other people, but not just for what he himself can get out of the relationship.  In fact, he has become very interested in “being there” for other former orphans.  He cares deeply for the families we know in the process of adopting children, and he wants to be a good role model for their kids when they come home.  He is still a teenager.  He still has snarky moments.  So do I. 

High school is also good for Youngest Son.  His grades are good.  He’s engaged.  He’s a good example.  He does his work, even when he doesn’t like it.  His teachers like him.  And, he WANTS to please them (this is HUGE!).  I’ll admit, however, I feared his going to high school very, very much.  He’s surprised me. 

Youngest Son is learning to trust, because we are parenting him in the way he needs to be parented (for the most part – no one is perfect).  We still keep his world relatively small.  There is a routine to his life, so he knows what to expect, and what is expected of him.  He has shown responsibility in the care of his possessions, and the respect for other people’s possessions.  He does his chores (often without being asked).  He even has real conversations with me.  He jokes around with me.  I have much more hope for this boy, today than I did one year ago, when I did not know for sure if anything we were doing was ever going to make a difference – if we were ever going to break through and start to see some healing.  Yet, he is gaining knowledge, skill, self-control, and good judgment.

Youngest Son is growing up.  Yes, his traumatic past will always be a variable for his life, but I really do think he’s going to make his (very good) way in this world.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

It's so good to hear encouragement for those following behind! I so often wonder, too, if mine will ever be able to handle life "normally" and make it on their own. Thankfully we still have a long time until they are on their own, so we just keep plugging along and praying. :)