Growing pains

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I think one of the biggest revelations I have experienced over the last few years is that the adoption process has not been primarily about the growth of my sons but rather the growth that I stood in need of. God has used the rocky road of adoption to point out my own weaknesses and hold a mirror up so that I could  better see my own brokenness. Often people will say to me, “Look at all you guys have done to change those little boys’ lives” when in reality it is us who have been changed for the better.

David Platt put this reality in beautiful words when he said:

“It is important to realize that we adopt not because we are the rescuers. No. We adopt because we are the rescued.”

This journey has been a journey of growth for everyone. I have watched my older kids struggle through the growing pains of adoption. My children, who have been sheltered from some of the harsher realities of life, have had the realities of abuse and the effects of abuse, become part of their lives. We have all had our own gifts of patience and acceptance and unconditional love tested as we have faced behaviors unlike anything we have experienced before. There have been moments, especially when we first stepped onto the path of adoption with Tyler, that we questioned our mental health in choosing to open our lives to the hurt, the anger, and the chaos of adopting an older child. There have been days when I looked at our life and am in awe of what our family once was to what it is now…both good and bad.

We were comfortable. Life was easy. We had put in our time as parents and the rough part was over…everyone was potty trained, the defiance and disobedience was weeded out, time-outs were a thing of the past, and my children were pretty self-sufficient.  It was then that God called. He called us to stretch. He called us to take a leap of faith… to do something scary. He asked us to choose a path that was harder and less comfortable, and open a door to the unknown.

Our world was shook up. While preparing to adopt we attended all the classes offered, read all the books and came to expect possible behaviors that come with adopting a child that has been in the system… a child that has been abused. We expected the tantrums, the sleep issues, the food hoarding and the trust testing. With the adoption of these two little boys also came many unexpected surprises that they never warn you about in those classes. The biggest surprise for me has been that the changes that most needed to take place, the growth most necessary, the attitudes and behaviors that most need addressed were not theirs…they were mine.

I had become complacent. Often it takes a trial, an adventure, a leap of faith off a scary ledge to shake us up and wake us up. Through this journey I have learned truths about myself and have been made painfully aware of my own shortcomings and the sins that I struggle with. The Lord has held up a mirror of truth and in the midst of these trials I better see my weaknesses.

I often struggle with writing this blog and finding the balance between revealing too much and sharing too little. I worry about sounding like a whiner and seeming ungrateful for the many blessings I have been given, while at the same time I strive to be real about the struggles that come with walking this path. I choose to share the struggles in an effort to help others see God’s hand in the blessings that come from the struggles. I am always left second guessing my words for fear they will not read the way I intend. I want to encourage and uplift and share the blessings that come with adoption but I also know that the greatest growth and encouragement comes from the victory of the struggle.

It is because of this internal struggle that I have not shared all that we have been going through with Ozzie. This summer has been a challenge. We have experienced the full plethora of all the behaviors that we were warned about in pre-adoption training…plus some! 🙂 Hours of my days have been spent dealing with behaviors and attitudes and poor choices. And while Ozzie is the catalyst of those hours, his behaviors and attitudes and choices are not the only ones or the primary ones I am dealing with. The most growth happening this summer is with me. My Heavenly Father has been holding up a mirror and asking me to reflect on my own attitudes and words and reactions to each testing situation Ozzie puts me in…

Last Friday night we attended “Flick and Float” at our local pool. It was a special event being held in the evening after the pool closed to the general public.. Everyone was excited to attend. When we arrived the kids were thrilled to see the pool filled with floating toys. (They are normally not allowed at the pool)

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Before we hopped in to float and watch “Finding Nemo” on the big screen, we had a talk. Knowing the struggle that Ozzie has with sharing, I spoke to him about my expectations. I told him that we were going to share. We talked about what to do if someone wanted to try the float toy he was on. We talked about the consequences if he didn’t share. We then got in the pool. Everything started smoothly. The kids all found floaties and the fun began..

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Then Ozzie found a toy he loved above all others…a canoe. He said, “This is going to be my toy all night.” I reminded him of our talk and told him to enjoy it while he had it and then when someone else wants a turn he could try another fun toy.

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A little while later a boy, around 3 years old, floated up to Ozzie with a life vest on and asked to try the canoe. Ozzie quickly put him in his place with a stern “No” and an order to “Go find his own toy.” I overheard.  The little boy began to cry. I interceded. I told Ozzie to get out of the canoe and he began to protest, “But I had it first!” Rather than obeying, he fought, and earned himself five minutes on the side of the pool. Rather than take the consequence, admit his mistake, and apologize, he chose to tantrum. The scene became bigger and more embarrassing as Ozzie threw himself down on the ground, yelling, hitting, and banging his head on the fence while everyone looked on. The crowd, which had been facing the screen, turned to watch the much more interesting show playing out on our side of the pool.

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The tantrum, one of many this week, ended in Toby walking (pulling) him out to the car. He sat in the car and raged about the injustice of it all while the kids and I stayed in and watched the last twenty minutes of the movie. When we got outside we found Toby standing outside the car (He couldn’t take the noise) while Ozzie raged inside. As the kids climbed in the car Ozzie threw himself over the seat to wrap his hands around Tyler’s neck. Toby ended up having to ride in the back with Ozzie while I drove home.

That night as I tucked Ozzie into bed he still was angry about losing his toy and missing the conclusion of the movie. When I asked whose fault it was he answered, “It’s not my fault. I have anger issues.”

I think this is where I really struggle with Oz. The lack of accountability…the need to blame someone else (usually Tyler, but in this case the little 3-year-old boy)…and the same discussions over the same choices every single day are wearing on me.

The next morning he came running from his bedroom full of joy and happiness. When the remainder of the family didn’t respond to his enthusiastic “Good morning,” due to some residual resentment over the mean words and actions directed at them last night, he responded with…

“Why is everyone mad at me? I am happy now!”

*sigh*

It is in these moments that God has a tendency to very gently, very lovingly, hold up a mirror and I see myself.

I struggle with Ozzie waking up every day, telling me that he will make better choices, and then minutes later making the same poor decisions… and yet I do the same thing. Every morning I was up promising not to sin in that same way anymore and then make that poor choice once again.

I struggle with Ozzie’s need to blame everyone else for the choice he makes and yet  I do the same thing when I blame others or situations for my attitude and poor choices.

Like Ozzie, there are days that I leave a path of destruction in my wake with my words and actions, just because I am having a bad day and when I feel better I look around in puzzlement and ask,

“Why is everyone mad at me? I am happy now!”

There is an important lesson to be learned from how my Father in Heaven parents me. Rather than rolling his eyes when I say, “I promise I’ll never to that again.” he smiles, pulls me close and whispers, “I believe in you.”

Heavenly Father brought Ozzie into my life for many reasons. One of the biggest is because He sees flaws in me that need refined. Through the struggles and growing pains of one little boy I am seeing the growth that needs to happen within myself. I am learning to react and respond more like my Heavenly Father would and rather than push back in frustration during one of our daily visits to the fence post, I am learning to pull Ozzie closer…

One growing pain at a time.

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