With that being said, I absolutely sympathize with the fact that three of my children have lost their home country and with the adoption into our family have indeed lost a huge part of their earthly identity. I grew up in Philadelphia and if as a preteen (an emotionally volatile time to begin with) someone would have moved me away not only from my family but also the cultural context I was familiar with, to...oh, I don't know...Montana or Texas, I would almost certainly be at a loss initially. And that is with having the ability to verbally communicate and being able to fit in physically. What if I had neither language or similar physical traits and knew there was no going back. "Assimilate or Bust" is what was painted on my and your children's airplane window on the flight home. Like I have said countless times, I ask God daily to help me feel what our children are feeling so that I can best love them and parent them. I ask for their raw emotions to be ingrained in me so that I cannot forget where they come from and what they have been through. So, most of the time when these phrases are thrown my way, I know they are not truly meant and rather that there are other underlying issues such as hurt feelings or a missed cue on my part that need to be addressed.
I imagine there are indeed times when our children (and perhaps yours) do really believe that they would like to go back to their birth country. However, God spoke to my heart even before our children arrived home reassured me that these phrases, even though they might sting, are not really true, at least not on the level we might think. I tend to view them as a homesickness of sorts, an empty feeling, a disorientation that needs to be dealt with. Only, we are not orienting ourselves back to their home country (at least not in our case...that I know of. God are you laughing?) and therefore we need to direct our attention and energies to creating more compassion and unity within our family so that we can grow forward, together. Unity is a phrase I use a lot around our home. When I sense someone is trying to be divisive (such as pulling one or more children or even a parent away from the core family values so to be not alone), I tend to jump all over it. Sometimes in more of Drill Sergeant manner than mother (I am working on that), but I refuse to risk the unity of our family for the sake of any one member's particular issue at the time. Our family = cohesive unit. We are all unique and stubborn and special in our own way, and we are not together 24/7, but together we are a unit and do not exist apart from all members. God brought us together as a family for his purpose and it is our job to realize that purpose, together. We all have something to learn and teach one another. That is how I believe I God desires it to be, in my opinion.
Back on point, a not so funny story. In fact, this is probably every adoptive parent's worst nightmare. I bet you could think of nothing worse. (Well, Bethany, maybe you could think of something. I am glad your story preceded ours, otherwise I would feel lonely.) It was the day of our twelve month post placement visit and the house had been straightened up, everyone fed, and we were waiting patiently for our social worker to arrive. Sporty asked me if he could go outside and play with his friend. (Hindsight, I should have let him!) Because Stacey, our social worker, was about to show up any minute, I told him he could not and he needed to wait. Because he has the coping skills of a five-year-old at times (I am not making this up, Dr. Karyn Purvis often speaks of the emotional age of adopted children being a lot younger than their birth age), he proceeded to have an all-out meltdown. He lost control and completely unraveled. He told me he hated it here and was going to tell Stacey that he wanted to go back to Ethiopia. I told him he is free to tell her whatever he'd like. When she arrived five minutes later, that is exactly what he did. To make matter worse, Larry (always dramatic and sprinkling fuel to any half-lit fire) rushed in the room and added, "And Sporty said he also wants to die!" (Now, Sporty absolutely did not say that...Larry was just looking for a reaction. If you know him, you'd understand.) Thank goodness our social worker has known us for many years and has seen our family together on countless happy occasions. She has watched us interact in and outside of our home. I gave her a brief rundown of what had happened prior to her arrival along with explaining how he deals with being told no and asked her to kindly show up unexpected one day during the following week. She did just that and all was well. Sporty apologized and told her that he really was happy here. He explained that he just gets upset sometimes and also that things are hard sometimes. (That, I believe, was the truth coming from his heart.)
My main point is that kids (people) say a lot of things, a lot which can be very hurtful to hear. However, just like any person who has not learned to bridle their tongue, it probably causes them more harm then good and they probably do not mean exactly what they say. Please do not think that I don't take my children's words seriously. I do, but believe the truth of the words is not the words themselves but what their hearts are crying out and saying. I take that very seriously. Like, devoting my life to it seriously. As Matthew 12:34 tells us, "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." Therefore, it is not necessarily the words themselves I need to check, but rather the condition of our children's hearts. In doing so, God also nudged me to get a better reign on my own tongue and examine the condition of my own heart. As I continue to follow his lead, I am amazed at the changes occurring in our home, my marriage, and with our children. Amazed. Simply amazed and humbled. (More to follow on this.)
Finally, I refuse to forget that adoption has never been about me or even really our children, as much as it is a reflection of my love for Jesus and my gratefulness for the eternal gift he has given me through my adoption into his kingdom. With my eyes on the Lord, it is quite easy to see how imperfect all else is in the world. Our job, I believe, is simply to love like he did and reach out and help in all ways possible. Sometimes (OK, always) loving with abandon involves the risk of getting hurt. So be it! "Bring it on," I say. I'm sure we have all hurt our parents unintentionally over the years, but they love us anyway. Our Heavenly Father loves us all unconditionally, even though I am certain we tell him many times, "But God, I want to go back....to wherever we happened to be when he redirected our paths." With that in mind, I hear the words coming out of their mouths but direct my energy to words of their hearts. I try to point their hearts toward Jesus and explain that the world is broken place. Every night, we pray together and I ask God to give our children wisdom beyond their years and his peace and reassurance that day by day, we are healing and growing together in accordance to his plan for our family. And do you know what? I am certain that every night God hears our prayers and answers. I have felt his presence more closely than ever and just because we go through trials, this does not mean we are walking alone or are off path.
Thinking back to where I was and to the person who I was before allowing God to transform me, I am amazed at all he has done through our family. Amazed. I don't even resemble the person I was five years ago, praise him! When we simply chose to let him in and direct our path, he took over. Sometimes it can be painful, but I trust Paul's words in Romans 8:28 that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. And if we love him, we are going to seek to be like him, even if it means we put ourselves out there for hurt children who will occasionally get off path and need to be redirected and reminded that there is no going back. Not for them. Not for us. Unity in Christ.
We love because he first loved us. -1 John 4:19
If you have a personal experience or advice you would like to share, please leave it in the comment section so that we can all learn from each other!