I feel this desperate need to explain my child to new people.
New friends, new teachers, new church nursery volunteers all give me slight anxiety since I have yet to inform them about my kid. Okay, okay. Let me be completely transparent: it gives me major anxiety!
I fear that five minutes in my little one will throw a tantrum or hit or ignore authority and will be immediately labelled “the bad kid.”
You see, they may realize that she was adopted, but they do not know her story. They do not know her past which directly correlates to her present and her behavior.
Her past is not an excuse for her behavior. We do not let her get away with all the things and do not expect others to just give her a free pass. However, knowing about her past does help bring understanding and empower those in her life to better care for her and even avoid some of her behavior triggers.
So here is my struggle: how much do I share?
Do I reveal all the details of her personal and painful story? Do I give them a dissertation on the long term effects of trauma? Do I explain the ins and outs of attachment disorder? Or do I stay silent and let them go in blind? Even more disconcerting, will they believe me if I do share and will they take the information to heart?
I do not know the right answer. I am just here to say that my toddler hits sometimes. She also can throw a huge fit, usually in a public place which leaves all eyes on me. She often withdraws from social interactions which appears like a disregard for authority. All these behaviors are connected to her past and the trauma she endured. Unfortunately, I do not have 10 minutes to explain this to every watching eye as I walk through Target dodging her swing hands aiming for my face. But, oh how I want to. I often long for people to understand instead of judge.
This is uncharted territory for me. I am smack dab in the center of these unknown waters with no perfect answer in sight. What I do see, however, is other people out here treading water right along with me. I did not see them before. I confess I was blind to them before I joined them. I feel like this struggle has given me a peek behind the curtain, a small glimpse at what many moms and dads experience daily. Parents with children who have special needs or serve disorders or emotional delays or physical disabilities who are always on guard for their babes. The desire to advocate and educate is strong but collides with the longing for our babes to be free from any and all labels. You can’t seem to have one without the other though.
My daughter has a strong need to control all situations because she spent her first two years of life feeling unsafe. I want people to know that she is not fighting for control out of manipulation or pure defiance but because she feels unsafe and does not know how to trust people. I want them to understand her attachment disorder is a real condition and not just label her a sad little orphan or a difficult child. A child who comes from trauma may not appear physically to be affected by their past and that leaves a huge gap for behavior to be misunderstood and inappropriately handled.
What is a mom to do? Do I run down the halls of her preschool waving a huge flag that reads “Attachment Disorder” or do I sit back and hope that the principal doesn’t call me into the office and explain that we need to find a new school for our three year old?
I am sure the answer is somewhere in the middle, but I am caught in this tension and I have a feeling I will be here for a while.
Here is my plan for now: I will advocate for my daughter when it is needed and extend grace to those who care for her. And I will leave room for this to ebb and flow as needed. And most of all I will pray for wisdom. Man, could I use all the wisdom when it comes to parenting.
What I do know is that I am not alone in these thoughts and feelings. There are many parents out there yearning for people to understand their kids and not just judge them or slap a label on them. We love our kids and we desire that the world would see them as we do.
To all you moms and dads our there advocating for your kids, please know I see you. You are doing a good job and loving your babes the best way you know how. I know your kid is awesome. Keep graciously telling those teachers and childcare workers how awesome they are and what works best for them so they can continue to be awesome.
How much do you advocate for your children? When do you decide to share information and when do you hold back? I would love to hear from you. We are in this together.
Speaking of being in this together, I am excited to share with you some more posts from the writing challenge I am hosting. This is our second week of writing together and I am so proud of all these ladies for stepping out and sharing their words with the world. Click on their names to read their work. Be sure to comment on their posts to spur them on!