Dissolved: When Always Isn’t Forever. . . Part Four
“Even my closest friend whom I trusted, the one who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”
The end of the school year was quickly approaching. Little had changed in our daily life. We were more isolated than ever. I had very little support. I did have a couple of friends in particular who seemed to be listening and supportive. I monopolized most my conversations with them, attempting to explain the why’s of everything we were doing with the children. I did not want anyone to misinterpret or misrepresent our parenting choices again – I wanted people to understand. I also just needed to talk about it.
I spent a great deal of time with these two friends and their children. While on a playdate with them at a local fast food restaurant, one of these relationships was about to change (or be exposed for what it really was). As the moms and I sat at a small table chatting, the children were in the play area enjoying running around together. Playgrounds were always a dread for me because I knew it would be hours afterward before I would get the three adoptees to settle down. Or worse, they would hurt someone or something inside.
But I had been sternly criticized for not “treating them the same”, so I always felt I had no choice but to let them go like the others, and I would deal with the ramifications later. During this particular outing, one of my bio sons came to me several times to tell me that Michael was hitting all the children entering the play area, with his hat. My son asked him several times to stop, but he refused (as was his custom). Finally, my son came to me with this same complaint, stating other parents were starting to get annoyed. So I asked him to please bring Michael to me (we were sitting only about ten feet away from the play area door, though I could not see him from my seat).
As Michael approached, I realized there was no place at the four-seat table for him to sit. And since I could not let him sit alone at the large table we had reserved for the other children, and since we were only a few minutes away from leaving anyway, I told him to sit down beside me on the floor until we were ready to leave. By this time, one of my friend’s husbands had joined us (standing next to us). We chatted for another few minutes then we all got up and left.
Two weeks later, I receive a text from one of these friends. She said that she and her husband wanted to meet with us to discuss some “concerns”. This was all too familiar to me. Though wearied, I informed my husband and we agreed to meet with them.
Since these people were members of the church we belonged to, I asked them (as I had done with the others before), if this meeting was to discuss a sin issue. And if it was, could they please provide us with the book, chapter, and verse, in Scripture, they were considering. They said it absolutely was not, just friends wanting to talk with friends. We did not owe these people anything. We were under no obligation to accept this meeting. But we were again determined to have our voices heard.
We wanted people to know that everything we did was out of necessity. The same rules applied to all our children equally, but our adoptees were not willing nor able to comply, so they had to be given special boundaries to accommodate their limitations and behavior. We had spent much time with these particular people in the past and received a great deal of affirmation and support from them, so we weren’t overly concerned with what lay ahead.
When they arrived we all sat down, and the husband began to recount the incident at the fast-food restaurant a couple of weeks earlier. The husband told us they both had lost sleep over what they witnessed that day; that because I asked Michael to sit down beside me on the floor, and not at the table with us (never mind that there was NOWHERE for him to sit at this table), I (according to him), had stolen this child’s dignity (his words).
He continued, recalling every incident they believed was an affront to these poor children. Totally disregarding the hours we spent with them before, carefully explaining our every action to ensure we were, again, not misinterpreted or misrepresented. They also complained that we did not hug the children enough. That they thought they should be witnessing more hugs than they were (yes, that’s right). Allow me to educate you (as I carefully detailed for these people so very many times before this).
Children with attachment/trauma issues can be very challenging when it comes to affection. For instance, Jason rejected any and all types of affection. It was a threat to him. Anytime you would try to reach out for any type of loving touch (hug, hand holding, hand on the shoulder, snuggle on the sofa), he would stiffen every muscle in his body. This did not bring him comfort or security; it brought fear and flight mode.
With Michelle, she used affection as a tool. It did not bring her security either; it was her weapon of choice to gain control of others. And as for Michael, his affection was indiscriminate. He would show the same affection for us as he would a total stranger (as did Michelle, but for different reasons). He did not understand that certain affection was generally reserved for close family. He would just as soon lay his head across my lap as he would the lady sitting next to us in the doctor’s office.
This was a great inhibitor to our bonding with the children and they with us. We tried earnestly to navigate this, give them what they needed in the way they needed it, but few outside our home understood the great delicacy this required. So instead, they ridiculed and reprimanded us because we didn’t “love” the children as they thought we should. All the while, we struggled to connect with the children given these difficult perimeters, with no support.
And here we were again, people outside our home interjecting what they thought was the right thing to do in our situation. I had tried giving grace to most people because I knew they did not understand; but I was quickly losing my patience as I sat there being eviscerated by people, again, who had not one clue what we were truly dealing with, nor did they care. This was a perfect example of people judging others and their circumstances based on their own experiences or ideals, and not on the facts. It was also another friendship lost. Everything I had done and said went unheeded. I could no longer trust these people with my family. I was even more alone than before.
As a result of this meeting, I obviously had to pull back from this friendship. I was always cordial, but because they were not willing to listen, I had to protect my family from any further misunderstandings. Several weeks passed and the husband reached out to mine and asked if we could get together again. It seemed his wife believed our friendship was broken and she was supposedly seeking to repair it. I told my husband I was more than willing to give her the opportunity. I was hoping she would apologize for her false accusations and we could be restored. Even though they were awful to me, I missed her friendship.
A few days later, they asked if they could invite another person from our church to come. This person happened to be the husband of the couple I mentioned in Part Two. This was HIGHLY suspicious to me, but we agreed, as we had nothing to hide. This new person then sent a text stating that he wanted his wife to also attend this meeting. She had no business being there (neither did he, frankly), but if they were seeking to restore the relationship, I was for that. Part of me thought maybe they had spent time in prayer and research, and had come to understand what was actually happening to our family. Maybe they were seeking to apologize and restore our friendships…oh, how wrong I was.
Another person was added to this meeting as well, and it ran much like the others. There were accusations and criticisms and plain ol’ name calling. At one point, one of the men stood up and yelled at me, in my own home. And none of the others batted an eye, as if I deserved it. I was told how horrible I was for sending the adoptees to public school (among other things), how this clearly showed I cared nothing for them.
There was much discussed that none of them should have had the privilege of knowing, yet all boundaries were ignored. We were under a fierce attack. We were told we didn’t hug our children enough (still not sure what the hug quota is), that we treated them intentionally different from our biological kids. Same old diatribes, different day.
They all agreed that they were going to begin officially monitoring our parenting and we would all meet back to discuss our progress (or lack thereof), in six months. Stunned, I asked, “So let me get this straight, you all are going to be watching our every move, how many hugs I give, how many times I smile, am I treating each child the same and to their (these adults) satisfaction. And we are going to meet in six months and you are going to tell me if I’ve passed or failed your arbitrary standards. Is this correct?” One of the men answered, “Yes.”
I also stated that there was no way I could pass this test. There was no way I could live up to their standards (nor could I even know what these standards were), no way I could win here. I said, “You know that, right?!” To which he also responded, with a pointed, “ Yes.”
And there it was. At our own home, we had been beaten, wearied, and defeated. We tried so hard every day to do the right thing for every child, some days doing better than others, but we were losing. And now we were being told, by our church, that if we did not comply (once again) with their demands, there were going to be some unknown, unspoken consequences. Keep in mind that we are not talking about any sin issue, as I made sure that was clear each time, as you’ll recall. So the demands were a gross overreach by these individuals, and a devastating trauma inflicted upon me in the midst of my already traumatic circumstances.
Once this meeting concluded, we decided, for the protection of our family, we had to leave this church. It was no longer a safe or healthy environment for our family. We did not know who we could trust. This was a most agonizing decision. Our children had every friend they’d ever known in this church, and with everything they’d already been through, now we were having to take that away.
During all of this, we were still dealing with extreme behaviors. Jason began telling me regularly that he no longer wanted to live in our home, that he was sick of being in time-out and wanted to go live where he could do whatever he wanted, and not be corrected. While in time-out Jason would regularly eat the chair rail (molding), rip sheetrock from the walls, or urinate in the corner.
The twins continued as they had before; Michelle began ripping pages out of children’s books we kept in her room, leaving them in tiny pieces that she would hide under her bed. Michael seemed to be understanding less than before, so communicating anything to him was more challenging than ever.
With all of the strife, it was becoming increasingly evident that the children were never going to bond with us; they were never going to see us as their family. And the even harder truth, with all that had happened, is that we weren’t able to see them in the same way either. We cared for them, we loved them, but we had not been able to form an attachment to them. How grievous. How gut-wrenching. And especially with all the accusations of those close to us and strangers alike, we truly began to believe that this was somehow our fault. I can’t explain why, because I knew there was more. But I also knew that since everyone was saying that the issue was not the children but us (more specifically, me) then there had to be some truth to it. How utterly devastating this was to me.
We desperately wanted attachment. We would have given anything at this point. We tried formulating all kinds of plans. Calling every agency we could to try to get help. We had a meeting with a post-adoptive services caseworker. We explained to her our situation, and her response shocked me. She said that every family that reached out to her told the same story. Every. Family.
Other families were experiencing this too? Mind-blowing. But there was little she could do for us, except maybe offer respite care one weekend a month. This was a dead end because we were the ones responsible for finding a respite provider, and living in a rural area there were none available. Also, all the day programs the children qualified for were out of money. We considered a local group home, one that could offer them the therapies they needed in a much more controlled environment. We would still be their family, with visits, and therapy. But after an extensive interview, we were told that some of the children’s behaviors were more than their facility was willing to take on, and there was a waiting list to boot. Another dead end. With every option exhausted and no hope in sight, and adding the looming fear of what others may be plotting against us, through much prayer and discussion, we finally came to what we believed was our only choice – the adoption had to be dissolved.