Tag Archives: adoption

Playground Stress

During the seemingly unending period of waiting for a referral during our adoption, one of the things I dreamed of doing was spending time on the playground in the South Florida sun with our munchkin.  Four plus years into parenting, however, I almost always find playground outings to be stressful.  I tend to avoid them altogether unless Jackson absolutely presses me for a visit.  Such was the case with a recent school holiday.  Jackson had a lot of energy to burn and really wanted to go to a nearby playground with “the dark slide.”  He really did need to get out beyond the confines of our backyard, so I acquiesced.

As soon as we arrived at the playground, Jackson made a beeline to “the dark slide.”  He’s unable to climb the ladder himself and requires my assistance in placing his feet on each rung while I tell him where to place his hands.  This also requires me to physically support his bottom.  As is usually the case, and was on this day too, the other children literally climb over Jackson, pushing both of us aside.   Jackson never, ever says a word.  Upon reaching the top Jackson had no intention of going down the slide.  He was content with the view and told me the slide was spooky, which didn’t surprise me in the least.  He would enter the opening of the slide and then come back out when a child wanted to come down.  At one point a little girl ascended the ladder to the platform.  She was slightly younger then Jackson and rather intrigued by him.  He crossed his arms and loudly instructed her to leave him alone and told her emphatically he didn’t want to be her friend, something he had been doing continually to children during our playground visit.  This little girl, however, didn’t move on as the other children had done.  She reacted by roaring at Jackson—loudly.  Very loudly.  It was sensory overload.  He jabbed his fingers behind his ears, his typical coping mechanism, and became completely paralyzed.  He began to scream shrilly and shout, “Stop roaring!”   Of course the more he did this the more the little girl roared.  Her mother, who spoke very limited English, couldn’t stop chuckling over her little girl as she caused Jackson to scream and shout.  Try as I might I couldn’t get him to descend the ladder or go down the slide.  After what seemed like an eternity (but in realty was only a few minutes) I finally coaxed him down the slide.  Blessedly he was ready to go home.

Jackson was no worse for the wear.  In fact, he never made mention of the incident again.  I’m the one with the lasting emotional scars.  I’m the one who bears the heartbreak of the day—of seeing the little boy who’s afraid of slides, who doesn’t want to play with other children, who spends an inordinate amount of time with his little fingers pressed behind his ears and is pushed aside like he’s insignificant. They say ignorance is bliss, and for all intents and purposes, Jackson is blissfully unaware—for now. I don’t know if that makes me happy or sad.   What I do know is that I simply want Jackson to have a great childhood—the childhood I dreamed of giving him during those years of waiting.

Breaking My Heart

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” ~ Woody Allen

Our son, Jackson, is adopted.  Early in the adoption process you are asked to state your criteria for a child.  Our request was pretty straightforward.  Male. Healthy. Birth to 12 months of age.  Now, we know you can’t mail order a child.  And of course there are no guarantees whatsoever in adoption.  But the agency asks and that’s what we told them.

When we finally received our referral it appeared all criteria were met.  Our son was seven weeks old and healthy.  Three months later we traveled to Ethiopia to bring Jackson home.  He was everything we dreamed he would be and a whole lot more.  However, shortly after our return home I recognized that caring for Jackson was far different than caring for my daughter had been when she was the same age.  I attributed it to the trauma Jackson had been through in his five short months of life on earth.  (Adoption is a blessing for both the parents and child, but it is without exception borne of great tragedy.)  Additionally, I thought we were most likely experiencing attachment-related issues, as we were Jackson’s fifth “home” in four months.  I desperately tried to love away his issues.  I utilized every bonding technique and suggestion known to man.  I followed every book, blog, article, report and mother’s instinct that came to light, but there was little change.

Jackson was restless.  He cried (loudly) if he wasn’t moving—constantly moving.  He didn’t sleep.  He wouldn’t smile.  He wouldn’t reach for me or touch me.  He wouldn’t look at me.  He didn’t coo.  He didn’t giggle.  No. Matter. How. Hard. I. Tried.  It was heart rendering.  It was obvious he was content to be cared for, but could not have given a hoot as to who changed his diaper or fed him a bottle.  My gut told me it was autism.  Turned out this mama’s instinct was correct.

I wrestled with the “why” question for quite awhile.  Our travel to Ethiopia was life changing.  There is so much need there.  Need for schools.  Need for clean water.  HIV-related need.  And the orphans.  There are so many orphans and orphanages in this world.  And I wanted to fix it all.  But God had a different plan for me and for our family.  I wrestled spiritually with God.  I never doubted His love for me.  What I struggled with was why I was wandering in the desert.  All I wanted to do was to be the change I want to see in the world, but my life was at a complete and total standstill.  Caring for Jackson required every ounce of strength and energy I had.

And then God spoke to me.  Not in so many words, of course, but the revelation was crystal clear.  Jackson is my mission and my mission.  He is my mission field, and he is my life’s mission.  That was why God brought him into our family.  HE knew exactly what HE was doing.  Bringing Jackson to Jupiter, Florida, to be our son was HIS plan all along.  I never lose sight of that, not for one minute.

A byproduct, so to speak, of God’s plan for me to be Jackson’s mom is how HE has opened my eyes and heart to children with developmental challenges.  I am so acutely aware of my surroundings, no matter where I am.  When I see a child whose behavior is outside the norm, my heart overflows with compassion for the child’s parent/family.  I go out of my way to share a smile, a kind word, a helping hand, a look of acceptance.  These small gestures are borne of an awareness God has gifted me with.  It’s an awareness I wouldn’t otherwise have, if it weren’t for Jackson.  He is my mission and my mission.  Autism awareness is part and parcel of that mission—one I take seriously.

Thank you, God, for breaking my heart for what breaks yours.  And by the way are you still laughing, God?  It’s okay if you are, because it’s all good, God.  It’s all good.