Friday, February 17, 2012

Standing in the Gap

The following post is very much focused on my faith and prayer life in regards to healing hurt kids.  If this is not your belief, I respect that.  I am simply dealing with some things as a real person who happens to be a Christian, working with and loving on other real people who happen to be Christians, too.  I promise I'll get back to writing about therapeutic parenting ideas soon.  This post contains the story of Youngest Son's turn around and how he's been doing better.  So, if you're interested in that, you may want to continue reading.  If not, that's okay.  See you tomorrow!
A friend asked me about a post I wrote the other day.  In it, I expressed my frustration with folks who do not parent traumatized kids telling me I should be praying for my children’s healing.  I said I wished people would understand that the traumatized brain is changed for life.  In another post, I explained the brain science behind this and the development of a child’s brain at birth, at age five, and at age 12+.  I explained a different kind of healing – one in which we, as parents, join in work God is ALREADY DOING in refining gold (I Peter 1:7).  I expressed my wish that people would not plead their own will, begging God for healing as they believe it should be, asking God to make their child typical (my new word for normal).

This friend (not an adoptive parent) asked what I would say to another adoptive parent that DID want everyone to just see their child as typical, not treating him or her any differently than another other kid, even as they do plead with God to heal their child into their own image.  He is working with a couple of kids who clearly need support that is different than support he gives to typical kids.  I replied that I would still stand with that parent in respect of their wishes -- that I would stand in the gap in prayer for them.  Their child is not my child.  Their calling is not my calling – even if we walk in similarly styled shoes.  I would not impose my beliefs upon them for their child, even as I would hope they would respect the work we are doing.  However, an adopted child IS different.  The child knows it even if the parents do not want to do anything differently to parent them, or to test them and get them additional support.  Ask any adult that was adopted.  They'll tell you they wished their parents had a better clue.  

I told my friend I would stand in prayer for these parents and for their child, asking God’s will for healing -- in the way He chose to bring healing into that family.  My friend asked if I thought that might upset some people that I wasn’t praying for healing with them?  I smiled and said, “Ah, but I am doing just that, my understanding just looks a little different. Besides, I wouldn't lord over them with prayer.  I'd pray in my private place.  If I had the opportunity to pray with them, I would verbally pray for God's edification and support.  I pray for people much more on my own, alone with God than I ever pray publicly with them.  It's just who I am.

I’ve simply learned God’s complete healing often looks different than I wish it would look sometimes.  When, I look back over the last 50+ years, I see God’s hand of healing happened in many ways that were different than I ever would have orchestrated myself.  So what if it didn’t look the way I wanted it to look sometimes, it all worked for the good to those who knew, and loved Him, and were called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).  If praying according to the Word upsets someone, or if praying along the lines I have seen in the bible that God teaches His people to pray upsets someone, then I would be sorry those parents are upset, but I will continue to pray to God on God’s terms.

He asked more questions and we got to a discussion of how my understanding of healing had changed last year, when I gave up my dreams for Youngest Son, and surrendered myself to whatever God’s dreams might be for him.  My friend  said I should tell that story, so here goes:

About a year or so ago, Youngest Son was stealing some pretty expensive electronics from classmates, youth group members, and his family.  He may have also taken things from other places.  We will likely never know the complete story.  What we do know, we’re pretty sure is 50% true and 50% lies.  I struggled with this boy since the day I picked him up at the orphanage in 2007.  He always challenged me.  He was always surly to me.  He always was sneaky and did whatever he wanted to behind my back, especially if I told him not to do it.  He was always “innocent.”  He always “didn’t know” what, why, how, or when something happened – or who did it.  We knew.  We’re not new.

He treated me like dirt.  He was always angry at me, no matter what I did or said.  We fought.  I didn’t always parent him the way I knew I had to.  He pushed my buttons and I yelled and said things I shouldn’t have.  He said lots more.  It hurt.  I wondered if I’d ever really love this kid.  I wondered if he would ever show ANY signs of attachment to us.  I wondered if he would end up in jail.  I told him I would report him to the police if I ever caught him stealing again and that I would press charges if he ever stole from us again.  I mean it.  I also told him I would NEVER bail him out of jail if he got arrested.  I mean that, too.

We talked.  We fought some more.  He fantasized about his life in Eastern Europe and how everything would have been just fine if he’d been left there.  He said he’d have a job, an apartment, a car, and a girlfriend by now.  He was delusional.  He couldn’t remember that at age 12, he’d had about the equivalent of a third grade education.  How he thought he’d be ready to be on his own at 16 is just plain – well, ‘don’t want to use that word. 

We had him tested with a battery of good neuropsychological and developmental/educational tests at a reputable mental health facility.  We increased meds and he went into a directive type of therapy called DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy).  It was a gamble.  It wasn’t really anything like BCLC (Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control) by Heather Forbes.  It was more than responsibility parenting by Dr. Michael Popkin.  It was much more task oriented cognitively and it FORCED him to think, to talk, to draw, to write, and to play games like Trouble and Sorry with therapeutic rules that made him talk and think even more.  The reason all this was a gamble is because everything we’d learned about dealing with hurt, older adopted kids from a post-institutionalized background told us this approach was a recipe for either total shut down or off-the-wall rage.  Surprisingly, and very happily, we got neither.

I remembered something another adoptive mom told me long before we brought The Princess and Youngest Son home.  She adopted three girls from foster care as older kids.  I had them in my AWANA group.  She said, “The biggest thing I want to teach my girls is to stop being the victim.  I want them to deal with the hurt and heal, but I don’t want them to use it as an excuse to stay messed up and perpetuate this victim crud into the next generation.” 

I don’t want my kids to be the victim either, but I had a hard time letting go of my pleas to God for healing of my son in my own image.  So, I continued to pray, and ask for prayer to this end.  I BEGGED.  I cried.  I moaned and groaned to trauma mamas I trust.  Most of them commiserated with me.  I’m glad for that.  I needed it so I didn’t feel so alone.  I still need it.  We trauma mamas need that from one another.  Sometimes, though, we need something else.  That’s what happened when one friend said to me, “Mama T, what if this is the child you have?  What if this IS Youngest Son?  What if he’s never going to be the dream you have?  What if God has a different dream for him?  A different kind of healing?”

I didn’t want to hear it.  I was hurting.  I wanted MY hurt acknowledged. 

She was spot on.

It took me a few weeks, but I realized my friend was correct, and God had used her to speak truth to me.  He placed these kids into our family for His reasons.  He was at work long before they ever got home.  I had to surrender my selfish dreams for healing for my kids in my own image to His much more effective plan for refined gold healing.  Youngest Son’s brain was not going to change.  Trauma creates a neuropsychological process in the brain that does not change.  It is a reflex like any other reflex.  His healing is coming by learning to process those reflexes.  For Youngest Son, it was in being VERY directive and giving CLEAR instructions, with only a couple of things to work on at a time, that started to make a difference as we prayed for support to THAT end.

Last summer, Youngest Son apologized to his brothers for the lying and stealing.  He worked to make restitution.  He worked to restore relationships.  He wanted an honest relationship with God – a real one, not a holier-than-thou showy one.  He told other people he was glad he’d been adopted into our family.  (We have yet to hear it – baby steps.)

Being very directive with Youngest Son has made him feel more in control, even though it would appear to most that his therapist and his parents are the ones in control.  Since he never got that kind of guidance as a young child, he never had the opportunity to learn to make good decisions.  Like a younger child, he needs to be told what to do and how to do it.  It is only then that he can begin to THINK about HOW the things he’s doing make a difference in how he feels and how he navigates the world.  He has goals in his treatment plan and his caseworker reminds him of those goals every two weeks.  He’s working.  He is very consciously working.  He gets very direct instruction on HOW to do that.  He feels successful because he’s doing well.  We still have work to do, and I’m still always waiting for a shoe to drop, but he’s making it.  He’s come such a long way.  I am so proud of him.  We are attaching.  He is MY boy!  He is healing because we gave up on asking for our vision of what his healing should look like, and gave into God refining gold.

I am confident The Princess will get back on track.  We just have to figure out a strategy that works for her.  Prayers are appreciated as we go through adjustments.  She’s changing meds and there is just so much going on with her.  I have figured out that part of the gold that’s being refined is my patience with her.  I hate that.  Frick (as Christine would say.)

1 comment:

Diana said...

Ah to refine. That's what I am for sure!!

I've heard of DBT, but it's one method I don't know a ton about. I will be doing some study for sure. I checked out your links real quick and it actually makes sense that it would work. From what I know about BPD (which really, what's the B all about anyway? Is it somehow supposed to make us feel better about dealing with it?) it's pretty much adult RAD. While I still think there's lots of value in play therapy, my kids need to move on to some more grown up versions of it. This is why we do a lot with sand tray. It's a tool commonly used with adults as well as kids. I also already do a lot of directive work with that, so I'm interested in how to do more of it. My kids definitely respond better to more directive than self motivated methods. This sounds like a method that will fit in those parameters! Thanks for sharing.

And mostly, I'm so glad to hear youngest son is doing so much better! Praying it continues!!!