Monday, February 3, 2014

Six Months In

"I made my oldest son smile today. A few times, actually. It's kind of a big deal."

In November I attempted to write a blog post. The line above is as far as I got. It's been like that.

Now it's February, six months since we adopted Michael and Joseph and made them Chapmans. I thought for sure I would have done lots of blogging between now and then, fun little updates about our life together, the struggles and the victories…not so much.

It's not that there haven't been victories. It's just that the struggles have been so deep, so painful, so overwhelming, that writing about them would have been too much, and writing just about the victories would have seemed dishonest. 

"Once the adoption is final everything will get better." This is what they told us. The boys would feel secure, they would know we're not going anywhere, and their behavior and our relationships would just get better and better. 

For our younger son this was absolutely true. This is the kid who had so much anger in his little heart that multiple people, including the school principal, predicted that he might take someone's life someday. That's right, a four year old, almost kicked out of Pre-K shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting because Mr. Principal thought he needed to protect the other students from people who might turn out like that. Yep. Uh-huh. That's enough about that.

My hitting, kicking, spitting, laughing, wild, angry, almost-never-following-directions little darling, who didn't like the idea of adoption at first, who I held and rocked as he sobbed over his mother who left him, when we claimed this child as our son and promised to be his parents and love him forever he believed it. 

This year, at our first parent-teacher conference at the new school, about a month in, Michael's teacher told us his behavior was typical, that there were "lots of other boys" just like him, and he was "improving"! You can imagine our shock and joy! Not only that, but academically, he was ahead! He now gets a "color change" about once a week for talking. I'll take it. 

This child has gone from angry and awful to sweet and wonderful. He has developed empathy. He loves. He cares. It's truly amazing. I'm telling you, this kid is going places and prison is not one of them! 

If this was our only child we would be the poster family for why you should adopt children out of foster care. I have to admit, that is who I wanted to be. Not that I thought it was going to be a walk in the park, not that I didn't know it was going to be super hard and painful, but then it was going to be oh-so-wonderful! I mean look at this picture, there's so much potential! 

Perhaps we still have a chance at that, but I really don't know. 

Our older son still won't call us Mom and Dad. This was the kid who was sweet as pie when he came to us, who wanted so desperately to be adopted, who hated his mother because of what she did to him. But since the day we adopted him his behavior has spiraled. He's put up walls and pushed us away, lying, stealing, running away, throwing daggers of disrespect and disobedience at home and lavishing his sweetness on strangers and acquaintances because he still needs love and nurture and acceptance, he just won't let us be the ones to give it to him. 

He's made himself so hard to love. 

I know it's because he's been so deeply wounded. I know he's got a lot of healing left to do before he will be able to love and be loved. I know what he needs is for us to just keep loving him anyway, unconditionally, to keep nurturing and working and caring and trying and loving and loving and loving until we melt those icy walls around his heart. 

But hugging this kid is like hugging a porcupine. And most of the time it seems like what he really needs is a swift kick in the pants, and I'm being kind. 

But we're not giving up. (Cue Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up"…I've been listening to it all morning.)

I say this as my husband sends me an email saying he's found a juvenile boot camp in Denton. I'm so not kidding! I don't think it will come to that…it's just comforting to know there are options. 

This is what we live in right now, the constant tension of truly hoping things are getting/will continue getting better, and somewhat jokingly (but a little bit seriously) looking up juvenile boot camps. 

When people say to me that all these kids (meaning troubled kids, kids in the system, kids like mine) need is love and a family I want to laugh and cry and smack them at the same time, but instead I just agree. It's kind of true. They do need love and a family…and meds, and therapy, and consequences, and tons of grace, and lots and lots of time.

This morning I let this dear child of mine go outside to start the car to warm it up. He grabbed his backpack and opened the door and then looked back and said, "it's like I'm headed off to college! Bye!" 

It made me smile. He has no idea how desperately we dream this dream for him or how much it will take, on his part as well as ours, to make it a reality. But we'll all keep dreaming, and maybe that day will come. 

Today is better than yesterday. Last week was better than the one before it. 

And the green grass grows. 


  1. Jen, I saw your post linked on Joel T's FB page, and here I see our mutual friend Marty in your pictures. We too are an adoptive family and I am a pastor (and a teacher at an international school in Korea). We are about to do The Deed again this spring with love-needers in Colombia. We should be friends! (Not that either of us have time or emotional space to do that). Anyway, I'm mostly writing to offer the Peace of Christ to you and to cheer for you in your agonizing moments and celebrate every victory (that may look to most like, well, not a victory). May the Lord grant you wisdom and grace, moment by moment. PEACE! Lori

  2. Hey Guys, I think about you and your family all the time. I know that what you guys are going through isn't easy, but I hope you are reassured by our prayers. You guys are awesome and you are teaching me about the way that the Lord loves.