There are earlier posts in this blog that deal with the early years of our adoption process. They were not always pretty or uplifting. I like to think that those posts were honest, but looking back, I now wonder if they were a little too honest.
Adopting an older child is...hard.
Anyone thinking of adopting should be told that. Now, after nearly five years of living with the girls, I can honestly say that what the therapists say is true:
"The first year is hard. The second year is harder. By the third year, there will be some major testing of your love and endurance. By year four, your family may start to function like an actual family."
I am finding this to be very true. That first year was so angry and emotional. Trust is a commodity that is rare and once abused, well, it's hard to rebuild. We didn't trust the girls when they moved in. I religiously monitored their online activities, school friends and searched their belongings. Exactly what I was looking for? I have no idea. Drugs? Maybe. Lies, probably. Sex, most assuredly.
It wasn't that I didn't have reason to watch for these things, but I feel like we were expecting too much. We were so focused on the "bad" that sometimes, we didn't see the good. There were good moments. Granted, they were few and far between, but they were there and I wish we had celebrated them a little bit more.
Instead, I lost my mind over some pretty trivial things. I became, and it pains me to admit it, a yeller. My anger and distrust led me to warn KK that if she ever entered my bedroom at night she better not get too close to the bed, because I would come up swinging. Can you imagine?
About a year after issuing this statement, KK had one of her many nightmares. This one was so disturbing that she actually came to my room for comfort, something she NEVER did. She stood at the door, opening and closing it (it's squeaky and we left it that way on purpose) and quietly calling my name. Finally, because I wasn't waking up, she came to the foot of the bed and said my name a little louder. I came up out of that bed, fist poised and ready to strike. She backed away saying, "It's me! I had a bad dream!"
I have no words to tell you how small I felt. My fear that she would attack me and harm me overruled my mother instinct. Had she been closer, I probably would have hit her. I'm so ashamed.
Now though, it's a funny story she laughs over. She finds it amusing that I thought would kill me in my sleep. KK honestly has no idea the fear she installed in my heart.
I wish I could say that we never doubted ourselves, but we did. Perhaps, we thought, we hadn't heard God incorrectly. Maybe we weren't meant to be the replacement parents for two very wounded girls. Surely there was a mother and father out there, who would not lose their beans every time a lippy teenager mouthed off, lied or ignored them. Where these super beings were, I didn't know, but I wondered if we were doing more harm than good.
Today, I know with certainly, that we are the parents they needed. Not perfect, but diligent. We made mountains of mistakes. Mountains. Yet, here we are, a family.
KK is nearly 18-years-old. She is anxious and funny and nervous and one hell of an athlete. She has a job, she's doing well in school, she hugs me freely and of her own accord. I love her smile, her crazy painting skills and the way she rolls her eyes...just like I do.
Thing Two is 13 and a handful. She is so pretty, that strangers compliment her. It's a battle to remind her that what's important is what's inside of that pretty head. She is girlie girl, hysterically funny and sarcastic...just like me.
I suppose that those bad years were an important part of our growing together. We really did have to learn to be a family, it didn't just happen. The girls had to see us make mistakes and apologize. They needed to know that we are not perfect, but that God is perfecting us. I hope they see that love is hard work - but worth the pain and the suffering.