The longer this child lives with me in our current state, the more likely she is to leave. It’s a defeating reality. Prior to moving to Wolfe Island, two years ago, I stopped fostering. With four children adopted from the … Continue reading
He hands me the piece of cookie he’s broken off. Branch heard my mom say she didn’t bring me one. Just enough for the four children who can eat chocolate chip cookies. Moved by compassion, he shares with me.
It’s a moment that passes in the sea of commotion that is dinner.
When he came to me at 2 1/2, nothing predicted or even hinted at this outcome.
Branch was deeply insecure, especially regarding food. The first time I pushed for him to share was at Boston Pizza 18mths ago. The 3yr old let out a blood curdling scream and threw the small plate he’d been given on the floor. It shattered. That pushed Branch into absolute hysteria. I paid the bill and struggled to get him back into the stroller. We still needed to gather our clothing from the laundry mat around the corner. He continued to cry, scream, and kick.
At home, he recounted the story of breaking a plate and not being able to eat his chicken. It was the first time Branch was able to articulate past events. His sisters were astonished by the fact a plate broke. I was wowed by his ability to explain what happened. That event revealed to Branch the power of language and the impact of his own actions. It was a turning point.
Days haven’t been continually blissful since then. Branch remains incredibly strong willed. Often emotions overwhelm him. Sometimes it’s really loud and messy.
Then there are these moments when he reaches across the table and hands me a piece of cookie. It assures me, his heart has expanded enough that there’s room to share. No longer is he controlled by perceived scarcity. He has enough to give. He wants to give. He finds joy in that connection.
It’s something we were all created to experience – the ability to give and receive.
I watch my 9mth old do it so effortlessly. She smiles at fellow passengers on the ferry. She offers them her joy. They return a smile and slew of kind words. They share this moment of giving and receiving.
When Athena arrived at 20mths, she couldn’t participate in those moments. The attempts strangers made to reach out, sent her into a panic. She’d scream, “No! No! No!” to the elderly women in the grocery store. She had no joy to give. She was afraid to receive what was offered. Eventually, that shifted but she remained incredibly shy and withdrawn. I figured it was who she was.
Then it wasn’t. When we moved to Wolfe Island, the then 7yr old Athena blossomed into a very outgoing child who loves to laugh. Last December she came home so excited after the school Christmas lunch. Athena sat at the table with all the school bus drivers. She was the only child and perhaps not supposed to be there. But she had a fabulous time. Her boldness surprised me – this girl who used to shy away from all adults, even those she knew well.
Who I thought she was, isn’t who she is now.
So often the layers of trauma, negative experiences and emotions bury who we really are – who we were created to be.
There are times when those layers begin to fall away and the truth is revealed. The truth of who we were created to be.
Today, Branch is 4 years old. The call saying he’d arrived in the world came while I was shopping for books with my friend who would be his foster mother. We’d been expecting him. There was so much certainty surrounding … Continue reading
Today Athena turned 9.
Every birthday reminds me of the first one I spent with her. Three months after she came to me, Athena turned 2. She was tiny and timid. All the balloons and streamers at that first celebration made her smile and laugh.
I had no idea I’d be with her in years to come. At that point, each day contained a measure of uncertainty. Neither of us knew what the future held. I did all I could to make that one day memorable.
Since then, birthdays have become more subdued. Now that I know she’s here forever, there isn’t the same urgency.
This year, away from the bakeries and friends we relied on for spectacular cakes, I did my best to deliver. Thankfully, Athena was sufficiently impressed.
While being 8, Athena has blossomed in confidence. She loves writing stories about the animals encountered on the island. She loves to dance and do flips on the monkey bars. She loves to help out around the house – making school lunches with me each night.
She’s kind and considerate. Athena loves to make us laugh. She’s intelligent and creative. She’s absolutely amazing.
In every way, Athena continues to grow in grace and stature. So excited to see what’s in store for my girl this year!
Two years ago the call came. “I don’t know why I was hesitant,” the social worker said. “Once I met you, it was clear you’re the right family.”
My son, Adley, had languished in foster care for more than half a year once he was eligible for adoption. His social worker, who had been on the case since he entered the system at birth, was devoted to him. She wanted what was best and didn’t see how that could be me. Due to his special needs resulting from a micro deletion and micro addition genetically, her wish for him was a two parent home without any other children where he could be the primary focus. A single mother with two adopted children was not ideal.
She waited. She searched. She tried to find what she thought was best. I appreciate her concern and dedication. Having been told I was not a possibility, I’d attempted to convince Raine and Athena that he was not going to be their brother after all. They would not believe me. I’d made them no promises. I’d not even introduced the idea to them. It was something the girls determined on their own. As they visited with Adley at my friend’s house where he was being fostered, they decided he would be their brother despite being told all along it was impossible. To begin with, adoption was not looking likely in his case. Then, when at last it was, our family wasn’t a consideration.
Without any other options, the adoption department pushed the social work to at least meet me. Reluctantly, she agreed. Then we waited for her decision. Raine and Athena’s faith was unwavering. I knew the system well enough to know nothing was predictable. The meeting seemed to go exceptionally well but that was no guarantee.
“Yes,” a stranger at McDonald’s playland recently said, “This is the right family for him.” The woman, a recently retired special needs EA, had watched my crew intently after I shared how we came together through adoption.
“He has one older sister who really challenges him,” she said of Raine who was climbing in the structure calling to Adley to come up with her. “Another who is a little mother, encouraging him along,” she said of Athena who often came beside to gently lead him out of hesitation. “And a younger brother to run with,” she said of Branch. The two boys had taken off together in a rush when I announced they could leave the table and go play, that’s what had initially caught the woman’s attention.
“This is the best thing for him,” she said with certainty, as I sat back drinking coffee.
There are times I’ve wondered. Adley’s progress has been astounding since he came to me. He’d doing things previously thought impossible – eating on his own. There was a time he was choking so often a feeding tube was being considered. He’s speaking, sometimes in complete sentences. It was thought unlikely he’d ever communicate with words. His comprehension is often surprising. “Unless you have his full attention and speak directly to him in very simple words he won’t understand, “ his therapy team had told me in August before we moved here. We continued to do that. Yet often when I’m not speaking to him at all, Adley understands what’s going on.
When I told Raine and Athena that he wouldn’t be going to school last Monday because he had a dentist appointment, Adley jumped into the conversation, “Tooth. Pull. Out. Gone. No doctor,” he said. The week before, he’d fallen at school and cracked his front tooth. An emergency trip to the dentist had resulted in the tooth being pulled. We were returning to check on how he was doing. Adley understood the word dentist though when speaking directly to him I’d always used doctor. He remembered what had happened and could explain it. And he didn’t see any reason to go back since his tooth was already gone. The many facets of that interjection were considered to be absolutely impossible when he first came to us. The team of therapists who had worked with him since birth didn’t anticipate him to ever reach that level of comprehension and communication. It was a hope, but not something they were expecting.
This morning while waiting for the bus, he was jumping in puddles with his sisters like any other 4yr old would. Both feet left the ground as he tried to make splashes as big as theirs. When he came, there was still the real possibility that he could be wheelchair bound. That’s not even a consideration now.
I worried about making a move that would result in Adley being in a regular school instead of one specifically for special needs children which is where he would have gone had we stayed where we were. It was a risk I took with the encouragement of the team of therapists who had worked with him most of his life.
The school here on Wolfe Island has been outstanding. Being the only child with extensive special needs, Adley is able to access the full amount of funding designated for this area of education. He gets the same equipment he would have gotten at the special needs school. He has a one on one EA. He has friends who encourage and challenge him. At the little island school, he’s known and loved by all. Children fight over who gets to sit with him on the bus. From JK to Grade 8, the children are cheering him on as he makes exceptional gains.
When God brought us together, He knew where our path would lead. Though at the time I had no idea we’d find ourselves on this island, God knew. It’s been such a special place for Adley. Not only is he accepted despite his special needs, he’s celebrated in ways I never imagined.
Looking back on the boy who joined our family two years ago, I can hardly believe it’s the same child I watched splashing in puddles this morning.
When I said yes to Adley it was with the knowledge that those simple milestones might never come. I said yes to loving him in the limitations of his condition. In love, he’s been able to grow and exceed many of the expectations. Today, I’m celebrating the son God saw fit to give me. He knew we were the right family for Adley. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to love him.