Friday, May 11, 2012

Time Limit?

Jemberu - moments after meeting us

When my dad was the age I am now, he was diagnosed with cancer.  It was found in his right leg and within days of his diagnosis, he underwent an above the knee amputation.  I was 12 and remember that time well.   I recall the first days after he was home, watching my mother as she changed the dressings on his stump.  I remember him being unsteady on his crutches, especially when using stairs.  He had a hard time with phantom pains, the leg that was no longer part of him would hurt or itch.  Our New England winters created real challenges as he learned to navigate the ice and snow without two steady feet beneath him.  I remember nights that I heard him out in our living room, softly crying, trying not to wake us.

It was a huge life change for my dad, but he handled it with a lot of grace.  Over time, he made adjustments and family life seemed to go back to normal.  It was something I didn't think too much about.  I am sure that is not true for my dad.  I bet he missed his leg everyday.

~

Recently a friend told me about a conversation that she was had with some other moms.  She didn't name names and didn't give me a word for word account but it went something like this.

Some kids who are 'rambunctious' were being discussed.  My sons were mentioned (I know, I couldn't believe it either).  A friend piped in that she thinks my kids are awesome, especially considering the fact that they spent their first years in Ethiopia.  Another mom wondered out loud, what the time limit was for getting over that.  'Yes, they had a tough start, but when is it time to move on?  What's the time limit, how many years?'

Maybe it would be helpful for the mom who said this to imagine a scenario where her own child was left an orphan.  Her own child left without her.  Her child unable to find a new home or family because of dire poverty.  Her child sometimes without a place to live, often without enough food to fill his or her belly.  Her child being placed in an orphanage.  Can she imagine how scary that would be for her child?  Can she imagine her own child being adopted by strangers from another race, another continent, from a culture so different that it may as well be another planet?  Can she imagine her child losing so much?  What would she set for the time limit for her child to get over that?  How many years?

Like my dad, the boy's losses affect them in ways that others can't see and can't feel.  My dad couldn't predict when phantom pain would occur.  We couldn't see that his missing leg was causing him pain.  The same is true for the boys. We don't know what might trigger sadness, fear or an ache they can't explain. Their effects of the events of their first years of life will always be with them.

Thinking that the boys can 'move on' from their start in life, is like asking an amputee to grow back a limb.  It just doesn't work that way.




14 comments:

  1. Well said, Alison. My heart aches for the losses your boys have suffered. True, they have a safe and comfortable life now, but how do you quantify the effects of their difficult beginnings?

    That said, I've never heard you or Kurt use their history as an excuse for misbehavior. Rather, they're kids who sometimes misbehave (wow- no big surprise-every kid does).

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    1. Thanks Michelle.

      You're right, we don't use the boy's histories as an excuse or explanation for their behavior. I suppose that is part of the reason why that comment was so hurtful.

      Alison

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  2. Julie in NashvilleMay 11, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    Dear Alison,
    This post really speaks to me. I was adopted as a baby into a very affluent family, no orphanage or lack of physical resources. At 46 I have not hit my time limit. Being adopted is hard, and I think now it is ok to acknowledge that. I looked like I had it all, and it was still so, so hard. And we adopted a little girl from China, I and cannot imagine all they she experienced and all that she did not get, the deprivation she experienced when all my other kids got to go through all their developmental milestones in completeness and were adored unconditionally from the moment they took a breath. She won't have a time limit either.

    But since you and I are both adopted, we will at least be able to see our kids' pain on some level, acknowledge it and love them all the while...I know without any doubt at all of this is God's plan for my life and hers.

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    1. Thanks so much for this comment, Julie. Being adopted brings certain challenges and pain, no matter how 'perfect' a situation you were adopted into.

      I also agree that being an adopted adoptive parent, helps our adopted kids know that while we can't feel their feelings, we have an understanding of what they go through.

      Alison

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  3. rambunctious - interesting word - applied numerous times to one of my kids as well. You can guess which one. He wasn't adopted but still hasn't outgrown the "stigma." I always tried to show him how that can work "for him" instead of "against him." I think it's a lifelong process.

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    1. Your 'rambunctious' kid has always been a favorite of mine. Your right about the stigma. I would love to hear more about that working 'for' rather than 'against' our rambunctious ones.

      Alison

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  4. Well, once again you brought tears to my eyes. I remember these days with your Dad all too well. I went to the hospital several times to visit him and keep him company. On one of my visits they had him sitting up for the first time. Something we never think of when there is a limb missing...how do we sit up?? As he sat up he immediately fell over to the other side. I realized for the first time what having both legs meant when it came to balance. I loved him, he was always there for me. He was a very special loving man. He would be so proud of You and Kurt for the love and good life you are giving your boys. The girls missed out on someone special, but they have his good heart.
    Love You

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    1. You've just made me tear up. Now were even.

      My dad was special. I love hearing your memories of him. He sure loved you, too.

      Love you too.

      Alison

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  5. wow, great analogy. thanks for posting.

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    1. Hi Rob,

      Thanks for reading and for commenting. It encourages me.

      Alison

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  6. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

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  7. So beautiful and so well said. My dad is an amputee too, and I am deeply moved by this analogy. So true about both kinds of unpredictable, very real 'phantom' pain. And I'm also so, so sick of people marveling that my son is not 'over it'.

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  8. So well said! It still amazes me what people say without thinking. I remember my mom saying...sometimes it is better to remain quiet and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. I am brought to tears in seconds when I think of how two of my children became my own. Recently I felled out a kindergarten packet that asked if the in-coming kindergarten had gone through any traumatic moments (divorce, move)....I replied..."Gosh! She has lost her first family, her language, her home, and her country...everything familiar. That being said, she is strong, beauitful, resiliant. She has experience more in 5 years than I hope she ever has to experience again in her life span." I wish I had read this before.

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