Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

Raine age 3

Raine age 3

This month marks 4 years since Raine came into my care. It’s something she’s been looking forward to for a very long time. The child, with a depth forced upon her by tragic circumstances, found significance in being with me longer than her birth mother.

But as the specific date draws near, emotions have derailed any positive feelings Raine might have expected. This past Saturday, I witnessed the life we used to live. When Raine’s eyes opened, she started screaming at everyone and about everything imaginable. This went on for nearly an hour in the morning then started again in the afternoon. Come evening she decided her room was unsuitable for sleeping in and that she would “absolutely never be sleeping anywhere near anyone named Athena ever again.”

I wanted to be calm. I wanted to be something other than what I was inside which was just plain fed up. It’s been a long time since life looked like this. How did I make it through that year and a half? “It nearly broke you,” a friend recently informed me. “I don’t think you have any idea how stressed you were.” In truth, I did. But I didn’t realize how evident it was to everyone else. I scraped by – pushing myself to love and embrace my daughter even when I didn’t want to. Occasionally, I shouted back in response to her irrational ranting. Later saying, “I wasn’t shouting just speaking really loud so you could hear me over all the noise you were making.” Raising my voice is something I was incapable of until I became Raine’s mother.

In the midst of the turmoil following the adoption, there was nothing I could do but ride out the storm – keeping my eye on who Raine really was. Under all the anger she heaped on me was a little girl who’d just lost her family forever. It didn’t matter to her that she now had a new one.

Since her room was unsuitable, I somewhat calmly told Raine to get her pillow and blanket. When she did, I marched her down to the basement. With visiting foster children, there were no other rooms available. Despite her pleas for help because “the basement is really creepy” don’t feel the need to pity her. We live in a newer home. The space is mostly finished and nicely put together. Raine was settled on a lovely futon in the warmest area of our home. She was hardly being mistreated, though an hour of screaming would give you an all together different impression.

My latest goal is to stop rewarding bad behaviour with increased attention. But after I got the other kids to bed, I did go down to see her because the screaming was getting on my last nerve.

“I wish someone else had adopted me,” Raine said when she’d calmed down a bit. This was something new. Nearly always in these moments of rage, she wishes to be back with her birth mother. I can understand that. It makes sense and I can stand being compared to an actual person. However, an imaginary perfect family that is happy to hang out with Raine while she screams at them and barks demands is someone I will loose to every time.

A lengthy discussion ensued. Early on, Raine admitted, “Whenever I act like this it’s because I’m thinking about my birth mom.” I acknowledged the pain and fear she’s carrying then assured her there is a way to be free. It will take time. But time alone won’t heal her heart. We’ve walked together for four years. Raine is not the brazen, defiant 3yr old who walked into my house. Most of the time, she’s quick to obey. She’s learned to love and think of others. She’s learned to share – even the tastiest of treats. When she first arrived, if anyone came near her while she was eating Raine would snap. Driven by the memory of lack, she was like a dog with a bone. My friend and I rejoiced the first time the little girl walked home from Tim Horton’s with her timbits. Normally, she’d devour them before they were even paid for. It’s been a gradual transformation caused by Raine’s choice to trust, a great deal of prayer, and my flawed determination. Time alone hasn’t brought her to this point. Time alone will not move Raine to complete healing.

In our conversation, Raine began describing her apprehension. This was the first time she’d ever spoken of it. Never sharing the details I knew, I assumed Raine had forgotten or blocked the memory. Dr. Phil’s warning not to ask children to deal with adult situations ran through my mind as Raine asked me to fill in the details of the vague framework she described. I suppose it’s too late. When apprehended just before age 3, Raine had already experienced more than most adults. She’s overheard social workers discussing details of her life that have left her confused and angry.

WP_000156For instance, she heard her birth family was living somewhere in a hotel. The terms around that word told me it wasn’t a good situation but all Raine heard was hotel. For quite some time she was furious to be stuck with my rules and limitations while she imagined her her family enjoying a Jacuzzi tub, swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, and all you can eat breakfast. She’s been to hotels in Niagara Falls. My friend and I regularly go with all our kids. It’s fun and the rules are lax. Raine really resented being in our dull home while her birth family was living it up in a hotel. Finally I had to paint a clearer picture of where they were.

Saturday evening, I answered the questions and painted some more pictures all the while wondering if it’s right. Honesty feels right. But Raine is 7. I tried, as always, to give her the truth while honouring the parents who brought her into the world. “Your birth mother’s heart is hurt. That stopped her from taking care of you.”

“Why doesn’t she just go to church?” Raine wanted to know. “Does she even know about Jesus? He can help her.”

“She knows about Him. And He’s trying really hard to help her,” I answered. “People have to choose to work with Jesus to heal their hearts. You’re choosing to work with Him. That’s why your heart is so much better than it used to be.”


Perfect Love

Raine is absolutely in love with horses. Before ever having ridden one, she’d already planned her life around having one. Everywhere we go, despite my discouragement, she asks people how much they get paid for the work they do. She’s gathering information to select a career that will give her enough money to own a horse (and buy me an electric car – but that’s another story).

When a friend told me she was putting her 3 foster children in horseback riding daycamp, I decided to send Raine as well. I was sure she’d have the time of her life.

heading to camp Monday morning

heading to camp Monday morning

Monday went ok. But Tuesday was a disaster. She refused to listen to the teachers – repeatedly running away from her group into a small cluster of trees. My friends girls went after her. That didn’t help. When my friend’s husband arrived to pick the kids up, Raine was completely out of sorts – telling people to leave her alone and shut up. There’s a lot of power in her verbal punches.

At home, I sat Raine down to talk to her. She dished out more of the same attitude telling me it was none of my business what she did at camp.

Instead of being happy about camp,  Raine took it as an act of rejection on my part. She thought I was pushing her away when in reality I was giving her an amazing opportunity.

The more I talked the more hostile Raine became.

“If you keep acting this way at camp, you won’t be able to go back,” I said.

Apparently, the camp instructor had been completely overwhelmed by Raine. I know how forceful she can be. I thought her love of horses would prevent any major upsets. Clearly, I was wrong.

Raine’s attitude stopped when I told her she wasn’t going the next day. Suddenly she relaxed. Then we could talk about the real problem.

“It’s too long to be away from you,” she explained.

“She needs to get used to it,” I’ve been told before by friends and social workers.

It’s true. At 6 1/2yrs this type of separation anxiety isn’t natural nor is it healthy. Before the adoption, when Raine was my foster child, she did really well at daycare two days a week. There were never any issues. But something happened with the adoption. It introduced a deep rooted fear in Raine. Likely because she was completely cut off from her first mother she worries about loosing me. She knows it’s possible. At the age of 4 1/2 Raine found out parents can change. You can be disconnected from one family and attached to another. Staying with me soothes some of the fears.

So she stayed home on Wednesday. Maybe I should have pushed her. I don’t know. Were she plagued with a physical illness, no one would think anything of me deciding camp turned out to be too much for her. Wounds of the heart are not so easily forgiven.

Our time of being together on Wednesday wasn’t pretty. Raine unloaded all of her anger. She was down right furious that I’d sent her to camp for two days. I wasn’t much help, feeling like a failure. After all this time together, my daughter should be doing better. At least I think she should. I want her to because I can see how the fear cripples her. I know my God is capable of instant miracles. That’s what I want for Raine – a miraculous healing of her heart.

After a few hours of lamenting the state we were in, I realized in many ways we’re ahead instead of behind. Attaching to adoptive parents can be difficult for children – especially in the case of older child adoption. The fact that Raine values our connection so much she’s afraid to loose it is a good thing. Fear isn’t helpful, but the valuing is incredibly significant. She really loves me and wants to be with me. As we move through our day, Raine intentionally imitates me. So much of her pursuits mirror my own interests – gardening, cooking, sewing, and so on. She wants to be like me and wants to be with me. Those are healthy signs of attachment. Maybe we’re not doing as poorly as I thought.

Yes, Raine’s behaviour is completely unacceptable. I’m not excusing the outbursts at camp. In speaking to her about it, Raine reminded me, “I live in fear.” We prayed together. I prayed breaking off fear of rejection.

Thursday Raine was ready to go back to camp. She managed without incident.

Friday, we got to watch her and the other children perform their new found skills.

I wish, for Raine’s sake, the week had gone better. I hate that fear holds her back.

“How do I get it out of me?” she asked.

“The Bible says: perfect love pushes fear out,” I answered. “You need more love.”

“From Jesus.”


love fear








My Act of Worship

Life with four children under the age of 6 is challenging. (For more info on how that happened see From 2 to 4.) Adding to my own obligations, I’m using cloth diapers and continually baking since Sloane* can’t have wheat. Store bought items are pricey and often unimpressive. I’ve also decided to take up sewing again. The foster children’s clothing allowance is meager. I like all the kids in my care to look their best. At a clothing exchange in August I picked up ample girl’s clothing without any idea I’d soon have boys. Recently more girls’ clothing came my way from lady at church. It seems a little girl is in the future. But for now I’m making cute plaid jumpers in blue and green. I’m exhausted.

A few days into this adventure, baby Tyson* stopped sleeping through the night. His cry – resembling a furious roar – began just as I climbed into bed. Fearing he’d wake his brother, Deshawn* (the two share a room), I hurried to get him. 4hrs later we were still up. Tyson would slip into sleep while I held him. Whenever I tried lowering him into the crib, he’d start and let out an ear piercing howl. Back we’d go to my room and try it all again. Finally I got him to settle in the crib. There are two things I need to function – three to do well. 1. A good night’s sleep. 2. A shower first thing in the morning. 3. A creative outlet. Tyson robbed me of all three. After a fitful night, he’d be up for good by 5am. And there was no convincing him to keep quiet while I showered. Exhausted all day he’d want to be held continually. Completely depleted myself, I wasn’t doing anything beyond the bare minimal to keep us going – which included 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, at least 2 loads of laundry a day (one of diapers, the other clothing because it’s a given that at least one child will soil themselves any given day), dishes, sweeping/moping the floor, coaxing children to tidy up, getting 2 kids to school 5 days a week, getting the foster children ready for visits 2 days a week, buying groceries, and trying to stretch my clothing allowance to get everything the boys need.

In the midst of my exhaustion, I’ve been dealing with increasing hostility between the three older children – one 5yr old and two 4yr olds. Deshawn is quick to tell my girls, “I’m telling my mom on you,” when they do anything at all he dislikes. For instance if they won’t give him something they’re using. While using their toys, he says, “I’m taking this home with me when I go.” This results in an explosion from Sloane* and Elise*. “You can’t do that! It’s not yours!” There are limits to their generosity especially since they’re both battling their own sense of loss. Being adopted does that to kids. Being a foster kid is hard. I feel for Deshawn. There’s so much turmoil and confusion for him. While struggling to complete necessary daily tasks, I’ve been dealing with continual arguments.

A dear friend – and former foster parent – stopped by the other night with her husband and their son. During our brief visit, I lamented Tyson not sleeping. While leaving, she put her hands on his head. The prayer was simple, “Peace. We pray peace for you.” Since then there’s not been a sleepless night!

Yesterday I was with another friend and mentioned the conflict with the three kids. She prayed peace into my home. When my herd assembled after school, there was no hostility. We made it through the evening with very few incidents. All three were much more subdued. At dinner Deshawn said, “This is a good house!” (Instead of using the word family I tend to say things like, “At this house we…..”) And this morning he commented, “Your girls are really beautiful.” These compliments weren’t rolling off his tongue previously.

Prayer. It really does change things. I’m ashamed to admit it isn’t always my first response. Before I started fostering I’d spend hours in prayer – often for the children the Lord would one day bless me with. Now that I have them, everyday care seems to overshadow that communion. I used to despair at my lack of prayer. Then the Lord assured me, He understands. I’m a single mom. I don’t have hours to spend in worship or prayer. For now taking care of these children is my act of worship. The Lord faithfully causes others to pray for me. In addition to the two friends already mentioned, often someone from the church – a friend or acquaintance – will say, “You and your kids have really been on my heart this week. I’ve been praying for you.” At times the Lord has woken people in the night to intercede for my kids. I’ve not always been able to track the results of those prayers, like I can with the two recent declarations of peace, but there’s so much more than what I can see. To everyone one of you who pray when the Lord prompts – thank you. Your prayers make my worship possible.

*name changed

from a fellow single adoptive/foster mom (check out her blog: www.seeingjoy.com

from a fellow single adoptive/foster mom. Check out her blog: www.seeingjoy.com

My Baby is 4!

Today Elise* turns 4. She arrived three months before turning 2, so this is the 3rd time we’ve celebrated her birthday together. I had about 1wk to prepare for her arrival, which is unusual in fostering. I carefully decorated the nursery in birds, praying Psalm 124:7-8.

We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Her older sister, Sloane*, had been with me three months when the social worker decided to move Elise to my home – against doctor and supervisor’s recommendations. I do believe everyone has been pleasantly surprised by the success of that decision – me most of all. I’ve seen my little one transform from frightened and fragile (for more info see Only Prayer) into a confident ray of sunshine.

I must admit she still sleeps in a crib – by her own choice. Up until a few months ago she still needed a bottle to fall asleep. Going without she struggles to lull herself to sleep. And she still needs a diaper for bed. Those are the biggest challenges. The fact that she continually wants to be picked up and carried is something I’m willing to indulge. As I put her to bed on the eve of her birthday, despite being nearly 4 and attending school, Elise still insisted I call her a baby. “I’ll always be a baby!” she’s decided. Not so. But I’m happy to pretend – holding her close and kissing her a million times.

As a single mom, I’ve told my girls Jesus is their dad. He’s the one who birthed them in my heart long ago. He also moved heaven and earth so I could keep them (see Adoption). He’s the one who provides for us in so many unexpected ways. When Sloane started wondering about a dad (she remembers her birth father), I casually informed her she had Jesus. It wasn’t something I went out of my way to tell Elise because she didn’t ask. But she’s got it. Recently when Sloane commented, “I don’t have a dad.” Elise piped up in sincere conviction, “Yes! We have Jesus!!!” Praying she always knows His love and protection as she grows.

*name changed

Elise at 2

Elise at 2

Elise at 3

Elise at 3

Elise at 4

Elise at 4