How can she be so angry every day? Why is there so much screaming? How can I help her if I don't even know what's wrong?
Those first two years of an older child adoption are intense, especially the first time around. There are no words to adequately describe the emotions you'll go through, the regret you'll feel and the overwhelming desire you'll have to go drop her off somewhere. Anywhere.
I promise those days end. They really do. It just takes time.
Want to help the process along? There is a way. It's not going to be fun. You may shed some tears, but it will give you a glimpse into who she is and how she feels.
Give her a pencil.
Tell her to write. If she doesn't know where to start, ask her some questions.
"What do you like about living here?"
"What's the best part of your day?"
If you could plan the perfect day, what would it look like?"
Want to really know what she thinks? Ask these...
"List ten thing you wish were different."
"If you could change one thing about me, what would it be?"
"Is there anything you'd like to tell me, but think saying it out loud is too hard?"
These last three might require some thick skin. She may say some pretty harsh things. She may reveal some blindspots you aren't aware of.
Hannah handed me a list her first year titled, "Ten Things I Hate About You." I've had two more such lists since then. Don't let it make you mad. Let it make you better.
Better at helping her heal.
Better at pinpointing what's wrong.
Better at loving this hard-to-love kid.
Read her responses with an open mind. Don't take anything she says personally. Remember, she's the kid who wants you to let her lie and steal and eat nothing but candy. There are some things she'll mention that just can't go her way, but what if in the middle of all of that you find a gem?
I did, just tonight.
Last week she took a few steps back in the kindness department. I couldn't pinpoint exactly what happened, so today I gave her some questions. I find that she'll easily answer on paper things that she would never say out loud. Things I need to know.
"I expect you to leave me mean and selfish because everybody else did."
That brought tears to my eyes.
Does she really want me to let her stay that way? No. But this little sentence tonight was tucked between laments of folding laundry and learning her multiplication tables.
If I wasn't paying attention I might have missed it.
What does that sentence really say to me?
It says, "Make me worth it, because no one else did."
Amy needs to know I'm not going to drop the ball. She needs to know I'm in this for the long haul.
And not because I have to, but because she's worth it.
She wants to see my love fleshed out in front of her, making her mind and holding her accountable.
She expects me to look like every other person in her past, the ones who let her down.
But she's met her match. Because 27 mules have nothing on my stubborn streak.
Tonight I talked to Amy about that little sentence. We talked about families that never give up. We talked about kindness and consideration and blessing others.
But mostly we talked about what a valuable gift she is to me.
Because she is.
Give that little one a pencil and let her write. Let it all come out in a big, beautiful mess. Learn from her words. Especially the ones that are hard to read and bring tears to your eyes.
You'll be glad you did.
And so will she.