Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Time Takes Time

I shared yesterday about a list we were given after we committed to Aaron.

A list that gave us a clue into what behaviors we might see from a child who had spent 6 years in an institution.

It kept us from being shocked/surprised/dismayed when Aaron exhibited some of the behaviors.

It reassured us that others had gone before us and we were not alone.

I want to give you that list.

I want to share it with you because I think it is profoundly important for families to understand that adoption is HARD.  Children who have been locked away behind walls and left in cribs unattended have been deeply bruised and broken. 

Aaron's babyhouse

We have tried over the last few years to share Aaron's story with as much candor as we could without invading his long-term privacy.

One day Aaron is going to read this blog.  I doubt he would appreciate having the world know every single detail of his private life. 

But at the same time it is important to not sugar-coat adoption.

It is hard.

People see the dimples on our son and not the sorrow.  He spent six years locked away. He spent six years learning how to survive on his own.  He spent six years profoundly alone.

Aaron in the background walking

 Two and a half years after bringing Aaron home he still grinds his teeth at night and rocks back and forth in his bed for comfort. I often lay in my bed and listen to him and grieve deep inside my heart.  All the love in the world cannot simply erase the trauma of his past life.  Time heals.  Yes.  But time takes time.

And that is the hardest part of all.

Love doesn't just wipe a slate clean.

In the same way that God's forgiveness does not keep us from falling back into sin again and again - carrying a child out of an orphanage does not keep that child from falling back into orphanage behavior again and again.

The behaviors in their past rear their ugly head for years to come.

It is naive for families to cross the ocean without a list in their back pocket.

A list that causes them to shudder and shake and pray and grieve and cry out to God in terror.

A list that keeps them grounded in reality and not fairy tale rescues.

A list that pushes them to understand that it takes time and even more time for healing to take place.

A list that reminds them that God and God alone redeems lives from the pit. 

I cannot erase six years of damage in my son's life.  God can. 

He can take lists and rearrange the words.

He can take lists and transform them.

It's His job.

He takes the parts of that list that belong to Aaron and he is transforming it. 

Little by little.

It takes time.

It takes patience and love.

It takes commitment and a willingness to give grace over and over and over again to a child who has experienced only neglect and trauma.

I have watched families cross the ocean believing that the hardest part of adoption is the paperwork and the cultural shock.  I have watched them meet their child and see the wild eyes and the terror and respond in dismay and distress because they left their list at home.

They left their list at home.

Before a family commits - they need to read this list.

Not to scare them off - but to understand that the child they are considering adopting is desperately needy.  Confining children to their cribs for years and years has consequences.  Those babes learn all kinds of behaviors in order to survive.  Those behaviors are not going to go away with a few kisses and a few hugs. 

My son is a master manipulator. 

He is an absolute professional at figuring out how to get what he wants from Rob and me.

He is unbelievably gifted in the fine art of sneakiness and lies.

He knows how to work the system.

Any system.

Every system.

He spent six years refining his skills.  Learning how to get the caretakers to give him what he wanted.  He didn't even need language to get his way.  He learned how to manipulate without opening his mouth. 

Aaron in babyhouse

All of Aaron's behaviors are on the list.

Thankfully not every behavior on the list are Aaron's!

And slowly but surely God is transforming that list for Aaron.  His weapons are losing their power.  He is slowly learning to let go.  Fear is being replaced by trust and love.  He has been given the gift of time.  Time and more time.  God's redeeming time in the life of one little boy.

In Part Three of this series, I'm going to post the list.

It is not the same list we were given.  While I was writing these blogposts I asked a group of moms who have adopted to help me with the list.  I am grateful for them.  Every single behavior on this list represents a precious treasure who has been hurt and neglected and abused.  Every single behavior has been experienced by the hundreds of Reece's Rainbow moms who have discovered that the easy part is crossing the ocean and the hard part but the BEST PART is taking that broken and hurting babe and breathing life and hope and wholeness deep into their souls.

Because even though there is a LIST... the reality is... they are children.  Desperately needy children who long for someone to see past the grit and the grime and the smell and the rot.... who long for someone to wait out their crazy fighting and manipulating and tantrums... who long for someone to love them enough to give them time.  And even more time.  And even more time after that. 

I do not post the list to discourage families from adoption. 

On the contrary.  I am posting the list in order to SCREAM OUT TO THE CHURCH that these children need OUT. They need families to sacrfice everything to get these babes out.



Families need to COUNT THE COSTS and choose to go based on truth and not fairy tales.  They need to understand that they are making a choice that is GOOD and RIGHT and GODLY.

I do not post a list to scare.  I post a list to advocate and yell and give voice to the lost ones so far away. be continued....



  1. Thank you so much. This needs desperately to be said and your spirit lead words are the best ones to be saying it.

  2. Julia, I LOVE THIS ENTRY! Thank you for speaking in truth that adoption is hard, love is NOT ALL YOU NEED, but that it is still possible. I do think some get caught up in the fairytale rescue scenarios and fail to understand that the work begins again once the child comes home!

  3. J- ugh, just lost my post...try again, I just shared this b/c we just mailed in our applications to start the process again. The comments and the looks we get are mind boggling. People truly do not understand this is not just an overseas trip, a bunch of paper work or another bed in the house. It is a very huge decision for us as a family, a couple and as individuals. And your post here helps shed some light on the fact adoption isn't just a whim...thanks!

  4. Thank you. This is what needs to be seen. Its not about the"move that bus" moment when you step off the plane. That is where the truly hard and lonely work begins. As we contemplate another adoption...maybe of an older child than before...I covet your list. But......God is the ultimate Redeemer. He can restore the years the locusts ate.!

  5. Yes! Thank you for posting about this issue! Though we've not completed our international adoption (yet!), we have dealt with the long haul of children whose issues didn't just disappear the moment we adopted them. I can't wait to glean from the wisdom you've compiled. Thank you.

  6. This is an awesome series, Julia. And it does stir the heart!!!! God bless your sacrifice it takes to communicate this so well. Kelly

  7. Adoption can be easy, too. Of my four, two are jewels, as easy to raise as my biological children, sweet, helpful, polite and loving. In fact, I can easily say that Sergei, adopted at ten, is a lot EASIER to raise than our biological son. He just has a compliant disposition and a happy personality. Our youngest son, who was raised in the orphanage from babyhood until we adopted him at 5, never had any of the typical "institutional" behaviors either - probably because of the way this particular institution was run - "family style". He is the most spiritual of any of my children.

    But two of my children clearly bear scars from the trauma they experienced with a dysfunctional mother.

    I am quite sure that if I'd read too much of the negatives of adoption (and hadn't had the great blessing of the hosting program where we met our first adopted son) we'd never have risked it. But, each of our kids (even the ones from "hard places") have been an enormous blessing. They have been "hard" as you say, but worthwhile things usually are.

  8. Julia,
    We have managed to stop our daughter's night rocking. She was 6. At first I just tried to touch her in time to the rocking. Then I massaged at a pace very similar to the rocking. I would do this every night for 20-45 or more minutes, until she fell asleep. I had her lie on her tummy for the massages after awhile; this broke the cycle of back sleeping so conducive to rocking. Then I would just give a few minute massage & hold her hand until she was nearly asleep. Now I just hold her hand a few minutes and she lets me go downstairs...she knows where I will be! She still rocks during the day, but we constantly ask her to stop & to do something else. I heard one therapy dog used to nose a child to stop rocking. We are something like that dog, always offering a different activity instead! So sad, she told us that at the orphanage it was "time out all day." She is 8 now and I am so happy to have that night rocking gone. It is worth all the hours! One down, 700 more orphanage behaviors to go. :)


Loving words from kind people make our hearts glad!