Not a Great Visit

Russ is my hero. He drove to Montana alone, arriving at 1:30 in the morning, and was at a parent meeting by 8:00. He spent the entire day in training sessions about how to prepare for your child to come home, when we are nowhere near that point, but at least he got to meet some other parents and hear their stories.

It was a regular school day for Dimples (on site), so they had lunch together and then after school we had a family therapy session. I skyped in to join them. Dimples had no intention of doing therapy. She was unhappy that Russ was not going to take her off campus to eat or to buy her things. We explained that we have no plans to take her off campus for awhile. I also said that when we go off campus for the first time, it will be to go for a hike, or do something else that will not involve restaurants or stores. Those places were nightmares for us in the past, and we won’t be starting with that. She was not happy.

The therapy session was pretty much a loss.  When Dimples refused to engage, her therapist – who is great – tried to make it playful so Russ and I followed her lead. That didn’t seem to work. We tried switching gears, and when the therapist got firmer, Dimples settled down a little, but she wasn’t willing to join in the session, so after an hour, we wrapped it up.

Today is her end of the school year celebration. As I sit in quiet, typing away, Russ is already back at Dimples’ school ready to offer encouragement and support. I know he is tired and that it is so hard to make this sacrifice when Dimples doesn’t seem ready to make some effort toward healing.

Russ is such a good dad, one who has given so much for our children. I’m thankful that he was willing to go, even when he knew it might be hard.

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.

47 Comments

  1. Dawn Flatness Wright
    June 21, 2013

    Definitely praying!! So hard to watch your child not want to interact…..on any level. 🙁 TRUE LOVE of her daddy…….

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 21, 2013

      So hard, especially when you've driven 370 miles the night before! Thankfully today was better. Thanks for your prayers, Dawn.

      Reply
  2. Karen NumberTwo Hannaford
    June 21, 2013

    I married a great Dad too. Sometimes I wonder if guys understand just how much we appreciate them being great Dads. It makes SO much difference. I've heard you say that Russ is your rock and I know just what you mean. I don't really lean on Bill that often, but when I need to, I know he's there. This is really tough for you (and for Dimples too), but it's not forever. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 21, 2013

      Thanks for your sweet words of encouragement, Karen. I probably lean too hard on Russ sometimes, but thankfully her truly is a rock for me.

      Reply
  3. Paula Miles Spears
    June 21, 2013

    I have some thoughts on international adoption stewing around in my brain that I haven't put down in words yet… and maybe I won't… but with that, in mind, I also want to comment about the first comment and your response (which was excellent): adoption is much too complex to box each individual situation up with a neat little bow in which we can put our motives, the kids' reasons for being adopted, and all of the other variables and then say these are the good and these are the bad. For example, my kids were all separated from living birth parents, but I am firmly convinced that their family situation is better now. Children in the US get separated from their families too, usually for sad but valid reasons, and no one questions that… it is only in the case of international adoption that people assume that a living birth parent equals an inappropriate adoption. I'm not saying that YOU think this, because you are very educated on the subject. Just throwing it out there for clarification to readers. 🙂

    Sorry things wen't poorly with Dimples. We have had sessions with our kids where they refused to engage, and besides being a disappointment, it is INCREDIBLY frustrating. Hugs to you and Russ; keep on fighting the good fight.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 22, 2013

      "… it is only in the case of international adoption that people assume that a living birth parent equals an inappropriate adoption." That is a such a good point, Paula. Thank you for making it.

      Reply
  4. Andrea Gaines
    June 21, 2013

    Praying with you friend!

    Reply
  5. Cindy Thomas McMurry
    June 21, 2013

    Lisa… I’m so sorry. I know how difficult this can be. Praying my friend.

    Reply
  6. Shawn Cernik
    June 21, 2013

    Thanks for sharing. Praying for progress and safe travels for Russ.

    Reply
  7. Carly
    June 21, 2013

    We love your family!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 21, 2013

      Thanks Carly, we love yours too.

      Reply
  8. elfseven
    June 21, 2013

    May I humbly suggest a book for you? I’m sure you don’t have a lot of time, but I think it might be worth rethinking some of the rhetoric surrounding international adoption and the realities that creates in sending countries. I can’t help but read Dimples’ story and think of this book: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13587133-the-c

    It seems to me (a long time reader, if not a commenter) that you and Russ consistently want Dimples to demonstrate attachment through gratitude. Forgive me, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why, exactly, should she be grateful? She’s endured more disruptions to her life than any child should, and you inflicted another with the move to Montana.

    Joyce’s book is provocative, I know, but it is well-researched (I followed up on some of the citations myself) and I think it does its best to be fair, while keeping the focus where it should be (on the adoptee).

    Lisa, I think you’re great. But I think that it would be worth checking on whether or not your current approach to Dimples’ care isn’t just about exhaustion and family stress but also something of a failed savior complex. I’m not saying that that is what’s happening, but Joyce’s book made me think very carefully about my own desires as I considered adoption, and I think that whether one is a believer or no, such self-reflection is healthy and warranted. Even if you don’t think it applies to you personally, I would love to hear what you think of the book.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 21, 2013

      (The book eflseven is referring to is: The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption.) http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1586489429/ref=a

      I wish we could sit down and have a conversation about the ethical mess of international adoption. I read the NY Times article about The Child Catchers with great interest and agreement about much of what was said. If you knew me, you would know that as a birthmother, I am very concerned with the rights of first parents and their children. I personally experienced lies and coercion when I had my son and many horrible, unethical things happened. He and I have discussed this at length over the many years that we’ve been reunited.

      I have close friends who experienced horrific things at the hands of adoption officials in Ethiopia and they, they’re children, and the birthfamilies are still suffering from the deceit. We unintentionally used a horrible agency for two of our adoptions, and we were thankful when they were shut down. My heart is all for family preservation when possible – unfortunately in Dimples’ case, that was not an option as she had no family to care for her.

      We don’t expect our children to be grateful for being adopted by us – we did not rescue them. We also were not part of the tragedies that brought them to their orphanages. Not one of my children was taken from a living parent. We traveled extensively in rural Ethiopia, seeking out living relatives, hearing our children’s stories, giving them our contact information, and assuring them that they are welcome to be part of their/our children’s lives. If you’ve ever traveled in the developing world, you know that this was no easy task.

      We did locate the one living parent who exists and we have open communication with her. She has told us our child’s entire story and why she left this child at the orphanage. We are heartbroken over the conditions that allowed this to take place, and we do our best to be loving and caring toward her when we can.

      Back to the question of gratitude – we don’t expect our children to thank us for adopting them. They’ve suffered unspeakable losses (their families, their homes, their language and culture, etc.), neglect, abuse, and tragedy upon tragedy. We adopted them because we believed we had something to give them that an orphanage could never provide – a loving family. Our motives were good (probably not perfect) – and our hearts were in a good place. What we could not anticipate was the reality of raising children with Complex Developmental Trauma, PTSD, RAD and a long list of other acronyms. We thought we were equipped, and if Dimples was our youngest child and we didn’t have little ones to protect, we would have been able to endure more. But we are adults, and our children are not – it is our responsibility to make our home a safe place for everyone.

      Rather than having a failed savior complex, I think what I’m processing is that my family is likely never going to look the way I hoped and imagined. I have to be flexible and broaden my view of what it means to be a mother to children who have been so wounded. I can’t deny that there are times I feel like I’ve failed as a mother and wish I could do this all differently, but I’ve never believed I am my children’s savior. They already have one and he is far better than any human one can ever be. I am limited and flawed, but Jesus is not.

      I could go on and on, and if we were doing this over coffee, we would likely have a long, interesting, and really wonderful discussion. Thanks for recommending the book – I do want to read it and you may have just pushed me to click that Amazon button.

      Let me end this long reply by saying that it’s so important not to paint all Christian adoptive parents with the same brush. We do not all adopt for the same reasons. We are a diverse bunch of flawed people who are doing our best to love God, love people, and live out the lives we’ve been given with grace – and we all make plenty of mistakes along the way.

      Reply
      1. Melissa
        June 21, 2013

        "Let me end this long reply by saying that it's so important not to paint all Christian adoptive parents with the same brush. We do not all adopt for the same reasons. We are a diverse bunch of flawed people who are doing our best to love God, love people, and live out the lives we've been given with grace – and we all make plenty of mistakes along the way."

        Yes! Well-said. Thank you again for the ministry of this blog.

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          June 21, 2013

          I appreciate your encouraging words, Melissa.

          Reply
      2. Sara
        June 21, 2013

        " I think what I'm processing is that my family is likely never going to look the way I hoped and imagined."

        Yes! I think, in a smaller way, this is what I am doing right now, too. You do such a good job of expressing complex matters simply. Thank you for sharing your heart and journey with us!

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          June 22, 2013

          Thank you, Sara. I keep holding on to the Lord making beauty from ashes, and that His way are higher than mine. I need to hold it all very loosely in my hands.

          Reply
          1. Darlonna
            June 24, 2013

            Lisa – Thank you for providing a graceful, loving, honesty reply. Your heart is amazing and your openness on this blog is helping many adoptive families including my own. I appreciate how you have partnered with God to fight for your family in the best ways possible. You are a blessing!

          2. Lisa Qualls
            June 25, 2013

            Thank you, Darlonna. I honestly could not do this without God – I'm pretty sure I couldn't make it through a single day without him.

      3. Mary (Owlhaven)
        June 24, 2013

        I love this last bit of what you wrote too, Lisa. Though I didn't exactly think of adoption as 'saving' kids, I did hope to offer something that they were missing as orphans– a place to thrive and grow and feel treasured. I did NOT expect that the barriers in some of their hearts– barriers formed from pain felt before we ever came together — would be so tall. I did not expect their trauma to so deeply impact the fabric of our family life. Realizing my kids sometimes don't see my love as something good or even desired has been painful. In the face of all the rejection, I've had to remind myself that (by God's grace) I still am a good mom, and a loving one. As are you. Our hope is in the Lord. I hold onto that hope for all of us struggling momma-warriors, battling for our children's hearts– that God who began a work in us all will carry it on to completion in His great wisdom.
        Your friend,
        Mary, momma to 10, including 2 from Korea and 4 from Ethiopia

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          June 25, 2013

          Mary, your words made me cry the first time I read them and now, reading them again, they still mean so much to me. You are a good mom – we need to take courage and press on. Blessings, friend.

          Reply
  9. Carly Debevec
    June 21, 2013

    Praying!

    Reply
  10. Carrie Moore Young
    June 21, 2013

    Praying today is better.

    Reply
  11. Jennifer Tidwell McConnell
    June 21, 2013

    Praying for you guys! I am so sorry!

    Reply
  12. Debbie Pursell
    June 21, 2013

    Praying for a better visit today.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 21, 2013

      Thanks, Debbie. Russ sent me a text of a picture of Dimples singing with her class and it made me feel hopeful for a good day.

      Reply
  13. Joelle
    June 21, 2013

    Hang in there. You guys are such great parents. Praying for you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 21, 2013

      Thanks, Joelle, we are always thankful for your prayers.

      Reply
  14. Elaine
    June 21, 2013

    That was love; don't forget it. So hard! –Elaine

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 21, 2013

      Thanks Elaine, I'm praying for a better day – a sweet day for Russ and Dimples.

      Reply
  15. Lisa Qualls
    June 21, 2013

    Good to know we're not alone, Laurel. Prayers for your family too.

    Reply
  16. Shonni
    June 21, 2013

    I am praying for your family!!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 21, 2013

      Thanks Shonni. I need to catch up on yours!

      Reply
  17. Bev
    June 21, 2013

    Thanks for posting this, Lisa. All though all of my children are adults now, I remember the days that we had that are similar to what you and Russ experienced. Our adopted children came to us through through the foster care system with a lot of hurt and rage.

    I may have started with a bit of a savior mentality. I know that no matter how much we try to have pure motives, we are human. We are fallen. I have learned along the way both from great teachers and from very hard mistakes.

    We agonized about how to keep offering honest relationship to children who seemed not to want it or seemed afraid of it…children who had so much rage. We still struggle with that. Our children also had to live away from home for parts of their adolescence because of safety. Now there are frequently still questions about whether the relationship is 'real' or only a rescue relationship…for money or food when they need it but not for enjoyment of each other as people. It is at different levels with each child.

    The thing is, your daughter isn't old enough to be on her own, so you continue to offer relationship and support without a request for gratitude. You offer because you love her. You offer because she is beloved by God. You offer in hope that someday she will see herself as worth that kind of an offer.

    In your writing I believe that I am seeing the offer of a safe relationship, with the hope that if she chooses that relationship, she will also choose to find ways to make it safe as well. It isn't gratitude you are looking for. It is a safe place for everyone involved. And you are continuing to offer again and again and again, as we are.

    My prayers are with you. This journey is a life long one. We also continue to offer relationship, sometimes with a good response, and sometimes with rejection. But we still want them to know they are worthy of love.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 21, 2013

      Bev, oh my goodness, thank you so much for writing and putting so many of my swirling thoughts into words that make sense. It's amazing to hear from somebody so much further down the road who has adult children. You're right that we continue to offer relationship not because we want to save Dimples, but because we know without a doubt that she is a precious child of God – a God who loved her so much to save her life and bring her to our family. We are so imperfect, but we are doing our best for her, and that is all that God asks of us.

      Reply
  18. Sarah D
    June 21, 2013

    I was referred to your blog by a friends and I have been quietly reading your posts knowing what was coming. Today we took our son to an RTC 3 hours away. I appreciate knowing someone is in my boat and that it wont always be pretty.

    One thing I am particularly sad about–they will not do Skype for the family therapy session. Something about Skype not being private enough for them to be in compliance. So sad.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 21, 2013

      Sarah, I'm so sorry – I know how hard those early weeks were and the mixed emotions of relief, fear, and sadness. I hope your son does well and your family heals. We've done three or four Skype sessions and it's been great, especially because we are so far away and can only visit once a month at the most. Will you do phone calls? We have a phone call every Monday and a Skype therapy session every other week. Thanks for reading and I hope I can be of some help to you.

      Reply
  19. SleepyKnitter
    June 21, 2013

    continuing in prayer for your family, Lisa!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 21, 2013

      Thank you so much.

      Reply
  20. Lori
    June 23, 2013

    New reader here…so am missing parts of the story. I am an adoptive parent. Lisa my heart goes out as it sounds like it has been a difficult time. Can I ask how long Dimples was home before she went to the RTC?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 23, 2013

      Welcome, Lori! Dimples was home a little over 5 1/2 years before RTC. Looking back, we should have done it sooner, but we were holding on, trying lots of things (many very good), hoping we wouldn't need RTC. She has been at her program since January. Thanks for asking.

      Reply
  21. Lori
    June 23, 2013

    Hi, Lisa: Parenting is so full of challenges, and the hard thing is you never really know for certain you are doing the right thing for them. I am glad she was able to be in your home for 5 years. I adopted a 6 year old boy and things were very rough for the first four years. Yet, ultimately, we all survived intact and became a happy family. Looking back on it….I wonder now if he suffered from from PTSD than attachment related. At 23 he's doing pretty well, though I think he would have a better life if he pursued some more counseling and therapy. I have to admit though, I can be fairly judgmental when it comes to people who have disrupted when their children have been home for such short periods of time. It can take years for a child to adjust. It's not going to happen in one year and it may take several. I think we (I know I did) vastly underestimate the trauma these kids go through, first in whatever circumstances that led to them losing their birth family, to being yanked out of the only place they know orphanage and country to come a completely new family and new culture. One thing that happened in our family, at a time when I wasn't sure we were going to make it…I had an epiphany. And that was…..the problem wasn't my son….it was me. It was my expectations that were ruining us. It's hard for me to explain…but after I let go…….we gradually and slowly became Mother and Son forever. I know that times are hard for your family, Lisa. They are hard for Dimples too. May you all find your way back together soon.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 25, 2013

      Thank you, Lori. I pray we will all be together again one day as well – I also hold this all loosely as we watch and wait to see what God is going to do in our family. We trust him, regardless of the circumstances, and we are still a family even when we aren't all living under the same roof.

      Reply
  22. Emily Barr
    June 25, 2013

    Hang in there. Your heart is exactly where it needs to be.

    Reply
  23. JeffCindy Blair
    June 25, 2013

    wow! looked up the book on Amazon……sounds very politically motivated! Christians are being moved to respond to the Heart of God, adoption is His Heart. You can find faults in anything if you try hard enough to look for them. I would look for the good in those and help make adoption better, by encouraging those who choose to do so. This book is nothing short of shutting down Christians who want to adopt by using guilt and half truths to stop them!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      June 25, 2013

      I agree that we need to work to make adoption better. I'm interested in reading the book to hear the author's argument.

      Reply
  24. kathy
    June 27, 2013

    Lisa ,Peace be with you sister. I am just so sorry for the deep sorrow that accompanies having to temporarily release a child you love for their ultimate good.. REDEMPTION. I grieve with you. The tears that so often overcome me are spent on behalf of families and children that.are suffering similarly.

    Reply

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