Where Do I Come From?

The question is sticky for any parent, but for an adoptive parent there are about twelve extra steps to the answer. And when you’re dealing with a history that’s painful and traumatic, it can be particularly worrisome ground on which to tread.

I had no idea how hard it would be to break down complicated concepts in developmentally appropriate ways. And I’m not just talking about baby-making kind of questions. The other day T asked me with the “X” on the church was. Whoa. How do you even begin? Not to mention the “how do airplanes work” kind of questions, which would be easier to explain if I knew the answer in the first place.

In terms of the adoption-related subjects, I don’t have a master plan. I just feel it out as we go and try to stay a step ahead of the questions. So far, T knows that he was adopted from Africa, but he doesn’t quite understand that he grew in someone else’s belly. He recently kind of got that babies grow in bellies (and enjoys going up to all big ladies at the park and asking if there’s a “baby in there”), so I think it’s time to talk about it.

This is particularly delicate because of the challenges I’ve faced with T in the past year and the fact that I feel like he and I have recently turned a corner. I don’t know why the change happened, but he’s rejecting me much less than he was. He still prefers Daddy, but at least he’s not punching me in the face every time we get close and snuggly. In fact, we’re really connecting. You can’t imagine the relief, the joy.

And now I get to re-introduce the source of the trauma by expanding on T’s narrative with him. So I’m worried about regression and about losing the progress we’ve made. But Scott and I have spent some time talking about it with our trusted “board of directors” (ie our closest adoptive parent buddies) and have decided that as soon as the traveling of this month is over, we’re going to start reading T’s lifebook with him and showing him the video we have of him from the care center in Ethiopia.

As both an adoptee and an adoptive mom, I have many feelings that come up around this stuff. I feel honored to be entrusted with his story. I feel a tremendous responsibility to share it with him in a way that’s both deeply honest and developmentally appropriate. And I feel the tentacles of my own trauma history try to wrap themselves around this process and shut me down emotionally. But I’m fighting to be present and to look at it all for what it truly is- both T’s grief and mine, both his loss and mine. And to be grateful for the amazing opportunity to be here for the healing. For all of us.

Beyond Consequences


Last weekend Scott and I attended the Beyond Consequences seminar, with Heather Forbes. Before we went, we bought her book, Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control: A Love Based Approach to Helping Children with Severe Behaviors. The book and the seminar undoubtedly contain the most impactful information I’ve yet encountered about parenting children who have suffered trauma.

I’ve shared some about what we’ve ben going through with T, but honestly I haven’t even scratched the surface. Believe me when I tell you that Scott and I have never in our lives despaired quite like this. Parenting trauma is confusing and isolating and sometimes all the amazing blogs in the world aren’t enough to make me feel validated. In this respect, the seminar was incredibly helpful.

I’d like to share probably the most illuminating shift in perspective that the seminar offered. I keep coming back to it.

The basic idea is to change the question from:

How do I get my child to change his behavior?


1. What is driving my child’s behavior


2. What can I do at this moment to improve my relationship with my child?

If you are parenting a child with severe behaviors, particularly one who has experienced some kind of trauma, I urge you to check out Heather Forbes.