Are We Interchangeable?

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I wrote an entire post, complete with the fun details of everything we packed into our visit with Dimples, but when I read it this morning, it just didn’t feel right. The truth is, the visit was fine, but in many ways it feels that not enough has changed, and we’re wondering if it ever will.

Dimples was glad to have family visit, but I’m not sure it mattered a whole lot that it was us. She tolerated sitting with us at the Christmas dinner and allowed us to take a few pictures. But all in all, it felt that our family was interchangeable. If some of our friends had shown up in our place, she likely would have been just as happy. That is the curse of attachment disorders.

It was a long day of togetherness for Dimples and a long day in general for the other three who traveled seven hours the day before. They were all fairly grumpy and/or sad by the end of the day. After so much time together in one day, we saw more of the typical (and challenging) behavior that has been problematic at home.  It was discouraging, but we have to recognize that it was an emotional visit packed with so many things – school activities, family time at the hotel, and a Christmas party.

Russ and I talked for hours as we drove home, worrying aloud about the future and what life will be like. We can’t go back to the way we lived before, we know that. In the end, this is not about our plans and ideas, it’s about following the path God sets before us. We belong to Jesus and we’ll do whatever He asks of us.

Thank you to each one of you who prays for Dimples and our family. For those of you who may be inclined to be critical of this post, please recognize that this is a process and I’m vulnerably walking it publicly with you.  We’ll see Dimples again in just a couple of weeks and maybe we’ll feel more hopeful.

Emmanuel, God with us – how we need Him.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

54 Comments

  1. Tara Bradford
    December 23, 2013

    Oh, Lisa, my heart and prayers go out to you. Thank you for being vulnerable so that others may see that this road is so heart-wrenching because we have so little control over it. You have held to God's path with unwavering resolve and I stand with your family and pray Proverbs 3:5-6 over you.
    Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Tara, you came to my mind several times during this visit as I visited with a sweet family from Bozeman. I'll see you at Refresh! Merry Christmas to you.

      Reply
  2. Heather Snyder
    December 23, 2013

    Praying for you and your family, Lisa. You are so honest and real.Your blog is an encouragement each and every time I read it. So far the path good had chosen for us and our fosters ( future forevers) is not this challenging. However, I still feel so overwhelmed. I know I can come to this spot and find compassion, understanding, and encouragement. THANK YOU!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Heather, thank you for taking time to comment. I think I have some of the best and wisest readers who offer such great support and advice.

      Reply
  3. Karen NumberTwo Hannaford
    December 23, 2013

    Critical of what? You are allowed to have feelings. They are what they are.
    I only started reading your blog just before Dimples left. So I didn't really know what was so difficult before, but you have posted a little bit about it a few times. It sounds to me like you were walking on eggshells never knowing what explosion was coming next. Maybe there are two outcomes needed here. One is for Dimples to get a handle on her own emotions and learn some self control. The other is to attach to you and the family. Maybe you'll only get one (or a big improvement in one) from this experience. But even that much could change your lives. I really hope so. If you can't have a loving affectionate Dimples, it would be great to at least have a kind, polite one.
    By the way, you might be interchangeable for Dimples, but not for God! He has placed you here because you are the very best He has for Dimples. Whether she sees it or not doesn't make it any less true!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Karen – so many good thoughts here. Thank you. I'm working on adjusting my expectations and hopes for the future with Dimples – that's probably a whole week worth of posts. I needed to read this truth today.

      Reply
  4. Laine
    December 23, 2013

    It is a hard road to walk. Praying for your family.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      It is hard, so true. Thank you for your prayers, Laine.

      Reply
  5. Bev
    December 23, 2013

    I am SO GLAD for your honesty and vulnerability and insight. What a painful post to write.

    You may be completely right. She may have even been happier with a visit from someone less invested in her than you are, if I may take it one step farther. She could remain an engaging stranger with no responsibility for further relationship, so have fun with no possible stress.

    The stress, of course, is not your fault. It is there but you aren't putting it there.

    I'm reminded of things that were written here a few days ago in response to your post about your learning curve. Mary responded with these words, "all I can do is be faithful to the best of my ability — to parent in the wisest way possible without getting hung up on whether it seems to be 'working'— but then leave the outcome to God. "

    The heaviness is in the future, isn't it? I've been there before. What happens when she can't stay at this placement any more? What if family is still too much for her? How are you faithful to her and to God and to the rest of our family then?

    I find myself praying for you this morning in such a deep way.

    May you experience Christmas this year as Mary did, holding your blessings with wonder while pondering all that is happening.

    May you be able to see each day tiny joyous ways to be faithful.

    May you feel in your depths God's faithfulness to you even as you deal with the emotional work that comes from the life God has led you into.

    I don't know the future for you. I do know that your humility and willingness to keep on letting go when you have to are the best possible things to do to enable Dimples to feel free to eventually choose in her own heart to be in relationship with you. But even with your doing everything so very well, she may not choose that. Even so. Faithfulness is enough. Bless you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Bev, I don't have words to thank you for this insightful, kind, and hopeful comment. Thank you for your prayers.

      Reply
    2. Kelly
      December 23, 2013

      Bev, thank you for this post. I know the words were not intended for me, but the grace and mercy extended inside these paragraphs are His hands and feet reaching out to me.
      The tears flow easy this morning, but seem to be cleansing as I see that there are others who "know".
      Merry Christmas, and thank you, for leading out with mercy.

      Reply
  6. Tracy
    December 23, 2013

    Lisa, Wow. I get this. I get YOU! after 6 months of intense therapy and residential treatment, therapy for me, and attachment therapy for US…we are also feeling "interchangeable" thank you for pinning a word on the feeling. Amen. I will pray for you and your lovely family.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      I'm sorry you have to walk this road, Tracy, but glad to know you understand. Thank you.

      Reply
      1. Amy Louise
        December 23, 2013

        I'm so sorry for anyone walking this road. Interchangable sounds like a hard place to be. I wanted to put a little bit of hope into this. She had a desire for people and relationship. She did not want to be alone or for you to go away. I think that is progress for a detached child. However, I know it's hard to wait and see if the progress will go the rest of the way. Thank you for your honesty. I think you are terrific parents. You have my prayers.

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          December 23, 2013

          Thanks for the hope, Amy Louise, sometimes we need others to infuse us with their hope when we're running low.

          Reply
  7. Abbey
    December 23, 2013

    Love you, Lisa! Thank you for being real and vulnerable with us. Hope you have a Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Always real with you, Abbey. Merry Christmas dear friend!

      Reply
  8. Andrea
    December 23, 2013

    Much love to you all!! Merry Christmas and many prayers. Thank you for always sharing your heart and your vulnerability!! I am always blessed!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Thank you, Andrea. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

      Reply
  9. Sarah
    December 23, 2013

    THANK YOU for being so honest and "vulnerable" as you put it! How else is the next generation of adoptive parents supposed to know what to expect? Praying every day, in my prayers three times a day…

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Thank you for your prayers, Sarah. At the holiday party, three of the Jewish students lit candles and prayed the Shabbat prayers (I'm not sure I'm using the right words). I thought of you and your prayers for Dimples.

      Reply
  10. Coffeemom
    December 23, 2013

    I understand this. I wish I could give you a big hug. That feeling of interchangeable is rough. And it might not resolve in the way we wish. I have several kids who flirt w this issue in their caoacity to love. And I have to remember and my husband has to remind me that we are called to support them and love them w "Caritas" — which is wanting their best good. Whether or not we or they feel it or love us back. It's not easy nor does it come easy. Only w Grace.
    I agree w what Bev said. The family relationship "job" isn't easy and doesn't often sit well. Even for neuro typical and healthy folks it can be very stressful. Check all those Christmas films! But it's still good for her that you went. It mattered. And will. No matter where this riad takes you. And you can walk it -in faith- bc you love the truest kind of love "caritas" better than most folks on the planet. Again. Wish it was different. But. Even this is good enough. Walking in grace always is. Wishing you a joyful Blessed Christmas.

    Reply
  11. Donna
    December 23, 2013

    I am sure it was not easy to write that Lisa, but thanks for sharing your heart. The word interchangeable is definately a difficult one, but true. I am so thankful to have friends far and near to share with, so though what we walk through is not typical, it is our normal with some of our kids. I am slowly learning that is OK. That our attachment is going to look different. I am slowly learning that is OK too. Thanks again for being a friend and sharing and encouraging.

    Merry Christmas!

    May the God of all grace surround you and your family this season!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Donna, I know you understand this – I'm glad you are walking the road with me. Merry Christmas to your family.

      Reply
  12. Angela
    December 23, 2013

    Thank you for your honesty. Do you have any idea how much longer she will be there? Actually, I'm not certain I know how long she's been gone. Just wondering where she is at in the process. My daughter has been gone for 7 months to 3 different local residential treatments along with many hospitalizations along the way. Unfortunately, she has yet to really do any treatment. I am hopeful her new placement will be the one she chooses to work out her pre-adoption trauma issues, but if I'm honest, I don't have much hope. That's one reason I appreciate your honest and vulnerable feelings, because then I know I'm not the only one with feelings that are uncertain and change often as we navigate through this difficult time.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Angela, it will be one year in January and we're looking at her coming home this spring or summer. The constant uncertainty is difficult, but we're finding our way. Blessings to your family.

      Reply
  13. Deborah
    December 23, 2013

    I feel the pain in your words – and I pray for serenity as you think through the implications of what your visit revealed to you. Thank you, as always, for your honesty. Parenting children from "hard places" is not for the faint of heart…… deciding when to let go and "give in" is even harder. Turning your child over to another and watching them find healing in another home/family/situation is bitter sweet – as they become with "them" who they could never be with you…. and you wonder why and feel like it must mean that YOU were inadequate. Shame on anyone who would condemn a parent who has to suffer through such pain……… God Bless you and your family Lisa

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Deborah, I appreciate your words that are filled with understanding. Blessings on your family this Christmas.

      Reply
  14. Luann Yarrow Doman
    December 23, 2013

    I admire the way you are handling this. I hope that if faced with a similar situation, I will respond with as much grace and wisdom as you have. Wishing you peace and joy this Christmas season. xo

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Oh Luann, I don't have as much grace or wisdom as it may seem! Poor Russ has to talk me down from the ledge, bring me back to reality, and remind me that I am serving Jesus, and not myself. But thank you – at least 24 hours later, I have some grace and maybe a little wisdom. Merry Christmas to you, too.

      Reply
  15. Katie Szotkiewicz Patel
    December 23, 2013

    Lisa I don't have any great words of wisdom, bit I just want you to know how much I admire you and the way you follow our Lord. I pray that you and your family enjoy a peaceful holiday and that 2014 brings hope and healing to all of you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Thank you, Katie, and thank you for being part of my community here at One Thankful Mom. I always appreciate hearing from you.

      Reply
  16. DFNY
    December 23, 2013

    Lisa, it's so hard to read of the difficulties you and the rest of the family are facing. My heart aches for you all. Know that I will be lighting a candle for you today so I can focus my prayers on all of you. God's blessings…

    Damaris

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Thank you, Damaris. My prayers are with you as well.

      Reply
  17. Coffeemom
    December 23, 2013

    I understand this. I wish I could give you a big hug. That feeling of interchangeable is rough. And it might not resolve in the way we wish. I have several kids who flirt w this issue in their caoacity to love. And I have to remember and my husband has to remind me that we are called to support them and love them w "Caritas" — which is wanting their best good. Whether or not we or they feel it or love us back. It's not easy nor does it come easy. Only w Grace.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      I needed to hear this today! Caritas – I need to spend some time on that.

      Reply
  18. Jenny Van-Strahlen
    December 23, 2013

    Thank you for sharing. I had these same thoughts as I was blogging last night about visiting our daughter in Prtf. Sometimes I feel wrong for being so honest about our journey, but it is real. Your journey is real too. I love your blog for being so true to. Praying for a Dimples and for your family as you face a holiday without her.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Jenny, thanks for commenting – we aren't alone, I know that, but sometimes it feels like it. Blessings to your family.

      Reply
  19. dly
    December 23, 2013

    I have frequently felt that way. Thank you for putting what many of us feel privately out there.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      You're welcome – thanks for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  20. Katy@PurposelyFrugal
    December 23, 2013

    Praise God, that He has people like you, loving hurt kids! Keep focusing on Him! Prayers!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Thank you, Katy – yes more of Jesus, more prayer, and less worry!

      Reply
  21. Elizabeth
    December 23, 2013

    Thank you for your honesty, it is so much more helpful for my heart than you trying to fix things up to be what you think they should be. The interchangablness is something that has I have realized and has hurt me in the past with my younger siblings. At times it made me frustrated and even downright angry at them. Other times my heart is settled enough to realize that it is just sad. It is sad for everyone, but for these children it is downright tragic. I feel I belong in my family, they really don't. I hate it, I wish and hope it will change. For two of them I am also really unsure of the future. Since they aren't hurting the family in the way of your Dimples they will remain with us, but in the end they are still somewhat drifting thru the motions of family.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Your thoughts as a sibling are very interesting to me. I would love to hear more. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth
        December 24, 2013

        I just recently started following your blog and it am so encouraged by your honesty and thoughts from the heart. I am now 22, my 3 younger Liberian-born siblings joined my family when I was 14. It was and is a dream come true. It has realities that I obviously did not anticipate. I understand so much more now, and really appreciate my personal learning curve as I see God leading me down the road of working more with children from "hard places." In my own family I still see so much that I (and my parents) have learned fly out the window in the moment. It is frustrating, but not very surprising. It is hard to keep perspective when it is in your own family.

        Reply
  22. Tricia
    December 23, 2013

    I am just sad and sorry for you right now. To feel interchangeable as a mom is heart breaking. Hugs and may God be with you in each and every raw and real feeling you have.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Thank you, Tricia. Blessings to your family this Christmas.

      Reply
  23. erika
    December 23, 2013

    God bless you, praying for you all and thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      Thank you, Erika.

      Reply
  24. Lisa
    December 23, 2013

    That word "interchangeable" really resonates with me as well. Our daughter is almost 17 and we have fallen into a rhythm that is fairly comfortable after a lot of years of struggle. Our daughter is just sort of status quo in our family. Not a lot of negativity, but not a lot of growth either. We still pray for more, but have accepted that we may never have the loving depth in a relationship with her that we have enjoyed with our other children.

    Trust that God will walk with you every step of the journey. Merry Christmas to your family! I look forward to seeing you at Refresh again this year…..that's where I heard you and was introduced to your blog for the first time. I so appreciate that you allow yourself to be "real" with all of us!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      December 23, 2013

      I'm learning to accept that the relationships I have with my children will not all be the same, and that is okay. It's enough – just as God is enough. We need to have peace in the process. I look forward to seeing you at Refresh too!

      Reply
  25. Charity Betts
    December 25, 2013

    I do carry a prayer in my heart for you and your journey…I just had one thought to add…I think often we tell our children we expect them to do their best…and especially with homeschoolers, if a child is doing their best, I give them a top grade for effort and participation, it is an adjustment when those children go to high school and receive "lower" marks for less than perfection…once someone suggested that we be gentler on ourselves as parents…remembering that most of us as adults do not live A+ lives, most of us have areas that must yield to more important efforts, areas where we simply do not have the time to give something our best effort…most of us are more likely average, or C parents…and that is fine…during different life seasons, we can't be "on" 100%…we simply must give our best effort…and know that god grades like a homeschooling parent! That is enough for Him. Merry Christmas~

    Reply
  26. lisaharding
    December 25, 2013

    not a critical thought in my mind or heart for you, dear one. You are being wise and brave in the middle of something very, very hard. Praying that God gives you joy today as you continue to process the visit with Dimples.

    Reply
  27. Sarah
    January 3, 2014

    Praying for you Lisa and for all of your family. I hope 2014 brings comfort, peace and healing.

    Reply

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