This weekend we had a breakthrough. Don't get too excited, it's been one of many. You see, there is no magic day, no magic number that brings you to a time that you can say "yup, they are totally adjusted."
It's a constant work. That sometimes we get tired of. Just as the kids get tired of working at it. And they slack. And they revert back to survival living. Which is not fun. We get frustrated addressing it over and over.
I touched on empathy once before, our kids LACK empathy. They have HUGE compassion for others. Huge. They are the first to see a commercial saying just 50 cents a day will feed a child and they want to know how to send their own money to help that child. They HATE the thought of a child going hungry because they have known true stomach-aching-hunger.
But put a child in their world, one they have to compete with? Empathy is GONE. Bye, bye. Outta here. Not possible, you see.
Why? Well it goes back to orphanage care, having to survive. You can't feel sorry for someone who is getting more food than you and you have to swipe it from them because you justify needing that food- to survive. See what I mean? You lose empathy, because you have to. You have to be strong. Empathy is seen as weakness. Not good when you are fighting many kids to survive in your environment.
So as we bring these treasures home, many of these behaviors come marching right along. Because for years, our children have used these ways to make it. And we thank God they have made it.
Then we sit in wonder of their lack of empathy. How to reteach it. It's not simple. It's deep. It's so hard to have them live with siblings, even BIO siblings they will throw under the bus without a back wards glance to get what they think they NEED.
We have the burden to prove to these children that we will provide for them- ALL OF THEM, that we do NOT play favorites. That we do not look to make things unfair to them. That we do not adopt them to do anything but love them and make them our children.
Granted, we had a leg up, if you will, with trusting us from the boys, we went back for them. But that only lasted so long. Then the deep seated fears, the doubts, the lack of trust in us had to be addressed, for them to move forward.
It all came to a head again, yesterday. Both boys refused to listen to me, to even respond to me. Their lack of respect has been tough, not gonna lie. Dad told them to "knock it off" and they refused to respond to HIM. So after they sat for a while to "cool off"
And I told them the truth. That there were 2 roads here. One road is accepting us as their parents. Making it as our children. Trusting us, letting us teach them how things work in this culture, correcting them when they are wrong, caring about them. Getting an education, having us at their backs.
And I asked Chloe, "Did she feel she was a true part of this family? Did she feel we are fair with her? Does she feel we love her? Does she love us? Does she trust us?" And she said "Yes." Then I added "Did you feel this way right away or did it take time and work to get here?" And she said it took time.
So I pointed out to the boys, it's gonna be 2 years soon. It's decision time. The decision is this-- make it or not.
And I made it clear what NOT making it means. It does NOT mean leaving us. It means staying in survival mode and hanging out here, just living, using us to get their needs met till they are old enough to be on their own. A sad way to live, but one that Chase has chosen so far. And he's struggled to be happy, they all know that, they have seen it.
The other road is accepting we are their parents. Doing all they can to be a part of this family. Accepting they must respect us, both of us. That it's not acceptable to disrespect me and my rules even when they don't agree with them. It's clearly possible because Chloe has done it, we are trustworthy.
I made sure to tell them, we are committed to them. That God gave us them. That we promised from our hearts to God that we would be their parents and all that means. We would provide for them, we would treat them as ours. That we would give them everything we give the others. AND we have done it.
Not always been HAPPY doing it when they act like they do, but we aren't going to always like their behaviors any more than they are always going to like all of our rules. That we are human, just like them, we bleed red.
But that doesn't change our commitment to them. That we will live with them either road they chose. That we would be deeply hurt and sad if they choose to just hang out here using us, but we would not "garbage them" as Chase says. We do not do that with children God gives us. It would not honor our promise to God and to them. (Chase has finally gotten it that we can't/ won't send him back so he has changed it to "garbage" him)
But if they want to choose the road of accepting us as their parents, that it takes WORK. Chloe worked hard to get there, to overcome behaviors that they used in the orphanage that she had to learn did not work here, within a family.
And we would continue to work with them but they had to understand other people in this family have feelings too, other people are being hurt by the behaviors they have had here. And they are teaching the littles behaviors that are not acceptable.
I also told them, we really wanted the best for them, that we had thought about if another family would be best for them, we cared enough to want them happy. But that we didn't see how that would help them, their behaviors were not going to work in ANY family setting. It wasn't our family, it was them, and they HAVE to take responsibility for these behaviors and commit to working on them. Just like we committed to them to be their parents.
*Note here* We have never mentioned another family situation to them before, we do not think it's WISE to let any older child think there is another family as an option at ALL. We have fostered teens who would go from home to home on purpose to use people, it's just sad. We have told our children they are STUCK with US.
But for things to work here they must learn to have empathy for this family, the people in this home. We can survive without it, but it's not going to be the BEST life they can have, the life we WANT for them. Empathy is not looking to see if Kat is getting more noodles than them. Keeping count on EVERY decision we make in regards to the children and deciding we are wrong then not having respect for us. As the parents we ARE.
So they responded. They cried. They apologized. To me, then to dad. They promised they want to work on their issues and will respect us, even ME, the one they try to blame:(
Then they went into family mode. I don't know what else to call it. Chloe asked to make noodles for all of them. And they worked together. I have never seen them so committed and kind with each other. EVER. They boiled a bunch of eggs and offered them to all. I found the eggs in the fridge this morning like this---
I thought it might be a dream but it continued into this morning when I heard Chase and Chance talking, laughing together. When they helped Camden wipe the dogs paws when he let them out this morning.
Now lest you all think I have totally lost my mind, I have no doubt this will NOT be the norm of our life. I have not one doubt I will have to sit these children down again and have a talk with them again someday. Might even be next week.
BUT I also have no doubt that at some point we will know, just as I knew with Chloe, that if we ask them, "Do you feel a part of this family, do you know you are loved, do you love us?" That their answer will be " YES". And they will mean it.
Just as God never gives up on us, we will not give up on these treasures. They really are Teen Treasures. Worthy, Willful. Work, Wonderful. Worth it.
Totally worth it. And today, just like yesterday and tomorrow, we love them.