Every morning, both kids and I walk our youngest child to school, and then our oldest starts on her school work back at home (online school at home where I can provide extra help and supervision). One morning we stopped and admired a particularly beautiful leaf, and I took a quick photo to capture the fall colors.
Autumn is amazing in our little neighborhood. We have maple-tree-lined streets, and a row of maple trees down the center of the road too. Sometimes the maple leaves are knee deep! (Thank goodness for the condo association’s landscapers–I sure wouldn’t want to be trying to keep up with those leaves!)
Despite the beauty, Autumn is especially difficult in our house. Both of our kids are adopted from tough backgrounds, and they have what we in the adoption community refer to as “anniversary grief.” It’s pretty much hell on wheels here from mid September until early February as both kids work through a series of tough historical memories that are triggered by the changing seasons, holidays, etc. It breaks our hearts over and over and over, and we’re powerless to do anything but support them through it. Sometimes, it is very, very hard to do that, when they project the grief onto us.
It’s no secret that raising kids from tough places is sometimes really, really hard. The last few months with our oldest have been very tough. She’s 14 years old, and 14 is just tough. Really–none of us would go back in time to our early teens, would we? It doesn’t help that she came to us with a lot of baggage to work out.
We’ve been butting heads a lot in the past few weeks. Working on character, honesty, integrity, and academics, and there have been times when I was pretty sure she’d checked out of the “participating in this family” process, and it was breaking my heart. The battles, tantrums, and drama are wearing me out. I miss the sweet little girl I remember, when she first joined our family at age seven.
I’ve been trying to be intentional about having more positive interactions–they reinforce that we love her in the family, and provide some security, but sometimes, it’s so hard to find a positive Yesterday, she’d worked all day very diligently at her schoolwork. She slaved away over a writing assignment. Typically, she’d return writing projects to the workbox and pretend it was never assigned–resulting in a Saturday homework fight/meltdown. I mentioned her hard work, and took her for a break for a Starbucks peppermint mocha–a very first for her, and she excitedly told dad and sister about it that evening.
This morning I woke up to a really terrifying dream–I dreamed that my daughter had broken yet another series of rules, and had learned nothing from our previous few weeks of frustration. I told her about it this morning as I poured coffee. “I’m sorry if I’m tense, I’m really wound up, I had a dream that you’d broken these rules again, and even though I know that you didn’t, and it was only my dream, I was still very upset. I want you to know that these things make me upset not only when you break rules, but sometimes later too.”
She replied “that’s ok mom, I totally understand how dreams go like that. I have something for you.” She came back with her dictionary. (?)
In the dictionary, she had that leaf I’d admired a few weeks ago–she had gone back–gone through the leaves on the sidewalk and found the EXACT SAME LEAF, and pressed it for me.
The gesture brought me to tears–first because there’s been so very much friction in recent weeks, and she’s been very, very focused on herself. Second, because she struggles with very, very serious ADHD and sensory issues that I know made it very difficult to plan finding a the leaf, to remember important details, to press it, and then, to remember to find it again at an appropriate time. For someone who often cannot remember to put on both socks, or comb the back of her hair (she only noticed the front in the mirror), I understand what a fantastic effort it must have been.
It’s such a simple symbol, but it”s going on my pin-board with my “hope signs.” There’s hope. The precious girl I love so much is still hanging out in there, waiting for grief and hormones to pass by. She’s still listening. Still hearing. And even though she can’t say it, she’s still loving.