Today my son turned 1o years old. You know what birthdays do, they send you on those journeys of reflection. I don’t think I’ve ever made it through a birthday for one of my children without glancing back at the baby pictures.
For a long time I didn’t want to talk much about the way we adopted our youngest four children. I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or hurt anyone’s feelings. I especially never wanted to acknowledge the fact that they are all considered “special needs” kids.
Maybe I was a little worried about a stigma that would come with that. I also know that there are so many parents out there dealing with much more challenging mental and physical developmental delays. There are hearts that don’t beat when they’re supposed to and legs that don’t hold children up and brains that can’t make conversations happen and moms and dads who go to bed each night praying over these difficult situations, so what right do I have to complain? None! I have absolutely no right to complain. And yet, like every other mother on this planet, there have been moments where I have done just that!
My children have behavioral issues. Sometimes they are so difficult that they make me feel like a failure. I read an article the other day about parenting children with ODD and it said pretty clearly that the biggest challenge I would face is feeling that I’m to blame, or dealing with extended family members who wonder if I’m to blame, and I thought “Well NO DUH!” I don’t know how many times I’ve asked myself: “Am I to blame? Is their birth-mother to blame? Is the system to blame? Would this get any easier if I knew who’s fault to say this is?”
Probably not, so why dwell on it? Instead I’m constantly looking for solutions. We play sports to help build teamwork skills. I seek out structured activities. I devour every idea I can find on the internet. Sometimes I spend so much time trying to fix things that I can’t see the progress we’ve made.
That’s why days like this make me feel so grateful. Yes, this house is still a zoo. Yes, my kids are still climbing the curtains like a cage full of orangutans. Yes, I was still in my tank top covered in frosting when the guests started to arrive, but today we pulled off a birthday party complete with EVERY grandparent, several aunts and uncles, a whole lot of kids, and one army-man camouflaged cake. After the sugar-high wore off and everyone was gone, my son crawled up next to me and gave me the biggest hug and kiss and thanked me for his birthday party. For a second, I thought about the first time he really snuggled up to me. It was over a year after he first came to live with me.
It was after months of holding therapy and behavior modification and angry stares from across the room. I haven’t even seen that stare in ages. His sister and brothers were quick to bond to me, but he held out hope, thinking perhaps this wasn’t going to be permanent. He was determined to never let me in. And then one day we had that big climactic moment where everything came crashing down and piece by piece we started mending his little heart. And then he finally hugged me. It seems like just yesterday and a thousand years ago all at the same time but today, he is just my sweet-natured son. The one who lays next to me and rubs my arm when he’s craving affection. The one who says “thank you Mama for my birthday cake.” The one who likes to catch dryer lint on fire when I’m not looking…
Happy birthday son, I’m so blessed by your hugs!