Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What the Adoption Books Don't Tell You...

We had adoption training and I read almost every book I could get my hands on, but it's not enough.
Our daughters will be home five years this June 11 and almost every day I go to bed shaking my head and wondering, praying. "Lord, there has to be a way to help these girls!"

This year, we have reached the pinnacle of frustration! What can we be so frustrated about? By all accounts, if you see us out and about, our three youngest look like they are pretty well adjusted. They seem bright enough. They're obedient. They look happy. I want to say that they put on a good front, but that's not it. They are all those things.

The adoption books all talk about loss, and anger, and acting out. We have dealt with very little of that. At least in the physical raging, desperately upset child, sort of way. They outgrew that in their first year of being home. Holidays are not a big trigger point for them. Eg. this Mother's Day, they didn't even talk about their bio mom.  They very rarely do. They would rather talk about life in the orphanage, but even that doesn't happen often.

Not to say that they aren't suffering from a huge loss. They are! It manifests itself in a completely different way than the adoption books and adoption training ever told us about. (Maybe someday I will have to write a book, but these days, I am barely keeping my head above water.) These three little girls have yet to develop thinking skills. Everything is done by rote or imitation. They rarely think for themselves. For example, if our schedule changes because we are running late and I tell them to dress before breakfast, well the next day they will dress before breakfast again. If one decides that it's warm enough to wear shorts in March, the other two will promptly put on shorts too. They leave no room for individuality. Oh, and before you think that one of them actually thought about the fact that it might actually be warm enough in March to put on shorts, yes there is occasionally a glimmer of thinking, but the odds are higher that an older sister put on shorts that day for a reason that could be completely unrelated to the temperature.

They were in school for four years. Although the school did their best to help them out, we could see that they weren't advancing very well. We didn't pull them because I thought I could do a better job, but rather so that I could tailor their education to better suit them. In the meantime, we had Bright Eyes tested. Yes, she has some learning difficulties, but to this day, I still feel that she is stubborn! All three of them have a poor work ethic. They try to find the simplest and quickest way to get things done often choosing to completely ignore any instructions given. Again, they don't want to have to think. If everything could be memorized, they would be fine, but we all know that most things in life require one to think. Read, think, discern, and you can do almost anything. Don't do any one of these and you will not get very far in life.

In September, I began homeschooling them similar to how I had schooled their older siblings. It was a nightmare! I could not leave the room at all. They could not be trusted, and someone was always finishing something that needed to be looked over before they could move on to the next thing. Eventually, Murray found an online program. It works better for them and me, but they have learned ways around it to "cheat" too. Their writing is still not improving despite the comprehensive grammar and writing this program provides and again, I find myself at my wits end! I have actually gone out to the garage and screamed in frustration.

I ask myself questions. I wonder if it's because they are biologically three sisters? Is there chemical damage to their brains? Is it their genetics? Am I that lousy of a mother? Is it all the fault of adoption trauma? How are we supposed to raise them into decently functioning adults?

To put into perspective how behind they are, I will share their age and where they are at grade wise according to their age and where they should actually be if they weren't adopted and had grown up from day one in a normal functioning home and family.

Bella is twelve (She is a December baby, so that does make her a young twelve.) She is currently working at a grade three level. Realistically, she should be in grade seven, a year behind Squirt (who is in grade eight and is also a December baby). If she was still in school, she would be in grade six. However, even socially, she is not close to the behavior of a grade seven girl. She and Squirt rarely play together because Bella is so juvenile yet in so many ways.

Bright Eyes is eleven and is sort of doing grade two. She hasn't mastered writing at all. There is no subject-verb agreement. Punctuation is unheard of and often, even the sentences are not coherent. If her life had been normal from birth, she would be in grade five -- grade four if she was still in school. Again maturity-wise, she is not even close to the level of her would be peers.

Peanut is starting grade two work. Her writing is awful, but likely the closest to her grade level of the three girls. She too is very immature for her biological age. She would be in grade three if she had had the opportunity to have a normal life from the beginning and grade two if she was still in school. She is definitely the most feisty and vocal of her sisters. She needs a constant eye on her and a firm hand guiding her, which despite driving me crazy some days, I find encouraging. I feel the most hopeful for her.

Not only are they behind their would-be peers academically, but even in their slightly corrected grades at school, they are all socially behind their peers. It doesn't seem to have an effect in the younger grades, but we did start noticing with Bella last year that she was being left out of many of the happenings of her classmates. She is generally a happy and sociable girl, so she either didn't notice, or it didn't bother her as she still had a friend or two to spend time with.

Having the three home together worries us because who do they have, but each other. No one is more mature than the other, and because they seem to feed off each other, they don't gain any social skills by being at home all the time.

Add to all this frustration, are three older sisters who lead normal busy teenage lives and who still need their mom and dad very much too, and perhaps you can understand why we are at a complete loss.

I've prayed, I've ranted, I've cried, sometimes in turn, sometimes all at the same time, but we have yet to figure out and understand what will help our girls grow into healthy functioning young ladies.

There must be more adoptive families out there who are facing these very similar struggles, but we have yet to find them, let alone find answers on how to help our daughters.


  1. Oh Deborah, my heart hurts for you all! I wish I had a wonderful idea, the perfect therapy, a "silver bullet"... no such luck. But I'm praying for you. Hang in there.

  2. Sending many prayers across the wide Atlantic, Db. Mostly for you, to be honest. These girls will find their place and their time. Look after you x I was thinking about the future of our children earlier. It's exam time here and Mattman should be revising independently and taking charge of his own learning. But we're still guiding, far too much I know. And it struck me then that if I believe in my God, I must believe in His plan for all our lives, regardless of what I think of how on-track or indeed behind my boys may be.

  3. http://lajoyfamily.blogspot.co.uk/

    This blog may help x

  4. Deborah, my mom's heart hears your mom's heart. I have no adopted children, but I did homeschool our five kids through grade 12. It's hard. It's frustrating. And they all learned at different speeds and levels in the various subjects and in their maturity. I am reading the quote on your blog sidebar: Each child is a miracle and perfectly created by a perfect Creator! If we believe that, then we must believe that we cannot measure children by other children.

    I once read an author who said that we should think of children as flowers. Some will bloom early while there is still snow on the ground in early spring. Some will bloom in spring, others in mid summer and others not until fall. Others might take two years before they bloom. Not all blooms are the same size either. These things helped me when I thought about the very different children that God gave me/us. I agree with Mags -- be sure to take care of you too! ((Hugs))

  5. We have the same struggles and no one understands and we too are beyond ourselves with frustration. She's finishing her second year of K and yet not ready for grade 1. We're moving her from the Christian school to a new town with a good public school to see if that can offer us some help. Each time I am frustrated I will pray for you Deborah.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I love to hear from my readers!

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