Nearly 8 months have passed since we became a family of seven, and how does one even begin to summarize such a life-changing experience?
Our two new little guys are night and day different. Looks, personality, temperament, strengths, weaknesses: everything. One of our boys has attached beautifully in a relatively seamless process. We've hit our rough spots with him-- he's gone through his grieving and testing rounds, his learning how he fits into our family and his acceptance of that. He was quite attached emotionally to a caregiver at the orphanage, and I think that allowed for an ease into attachment with me as his Manmi.
Our other little man--not so much. So much of everything has been a struggle for him. While quite jolly and charming to outsiders (and to us for a long while), as he grows more comfortable and familiar with his surroundings, the more we see the effects of trauma on his little soul.
This little guy stopped emotionally growing at 15 months of age, or about the time he was relinquished to the orphanage. Always a wallflower, he never found anyone to attach to emotionally. What we thought were oppositional or defiant behaviors never really were such; instead so much of what we were seeing was just a very hurt, lost little boy who was at 15 months old emotionally.
While learning that absolutely broke my heart for him, it also was a HUGE step forward for all of us. We then were so much better equipped to handle his difficult behaviors. We took all focus off of disciplining and consequences and put all focus on building attachment and emotional growth.
One area though where we find ourselves facing challenges involves sibling relationships.
Our attached little man fits in beautifully with his siblings. He absolutely adores Hatfield, looks up to Atticus and is kind to Paloma. At school he has friends and he seems to "get" social systems.
But for our other little man, we are struggling. The kids are struggling with him.
We work hard at keeping an open dialogue with Hatfield and Atticus about this brother. We explained about emotional growth, and told them that really, even though he is a BIG kid, he is just like a one and a half year old inside. We talked about friends of ours who have an adorable 1 1/2 year old, and what that child is like.
Yet what they might begin to grasp intellectually is very difficult to put into play practically. Right now, none of our kids really wants anything to do with him. And on a basic level, I truly can't blame them. This is a child who, when he gets angry at them (for reasons that no one can understand), he'll pee in their closets, or hide their clothing, or break their toys. They are tired of watching him treat others poorly, and they certainly don't trust him.
I asked the therapist if we should demand our other children to be nice to him no matter what. Or if we should allow them to show him their hurt, anger and frustration at being treated so poorly. She felt that as long as the other children weren't hurting him, it would be okay for him to know how the others felt, as they was a natural social consequence.
We are trying to teach this little guy how to treat others. In many ways, just like we did with our children when they were one and a half.
I see a lot of positive progress. Before, when he would become angry with the others, and act out towards them, he would just get angrier. The cycle would continue to spiral downwards, lasting for days and sucking the life and joy out of nearly everyone in our home.
Now, we are starting to see a conscientiousness build within him. Instead of staying angry, he'll feel sad that he hurt or upset the other child. He'll let me hold him and he'll cry on my shoulder while I rub his back. He is beginning to work at showing the others that he can be nice and is willing to try to make amends.
The challenge is to get the others to accept him for who he is and where he is. To develop a sense of compassion for how far behind he is and how far he has come in such a short amount of time. But for a child, it is hard to see a big, loud, active 5 year old boy on the outside, and remember how hurt and scared and little he is on the inside.
We still have our 'moments,' many moments actually, but a lot of peace has been restored to our home. I feel a lot of hope restored in regards to my own struggling son, and I feel so much more equipped to parent him in a healing way. We see our little guy growing and ever so slowly, healing. We are moving forward, and things are starting to develop into their own new 'normal.'
And I feel pretty good about that.