Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I am choosing to label him "loved"

This is a great time of change for my little family. I can sense changes happening in my Big Five Year Old. He is looking older. He is calming down and having great behavior days in school. He is talking football, really talking football, with his dad. He is beginning to understand his little brother's challenges and starting to show compassion towards him. He handled the death of his first guinea pig with appropriate amounts of sadness and understanding, and he stood in our living room this morning and explained what it meant that he "rescued" his new guinea pig- he was proud to have taken in this little creature that, in his words, no one else wanted. Oh. My. Change is afoot. He will be six years old in three weeks. Halfway through kindergarten, attending church youth group activities weekly, showing an aptitude for math and engineering. Sometimes these growth spurts are harder to see, and you wake up one day and notice your kid is suddenly heavier when you pick them up, or using words you didn't know he knew. This is not one of those times, no. This time I can clearly see the changes in my oldest son, and it makes me proud. He is maturing yet still oddly weird. He still marches to his own drummer, as they say.

My Big Five Year Old has never really asked about his adoption. He knows his story, and he has heard the words. Birth Mom. Adoption Plan. Orphanage. But he has never really expressed an interest in the finer details of how he found his way to our family. In treating him like the growing boy he is I have begun to explain to him how his little brother came to be born with the challenges he now faces. And in doing so, those words that are sometimes hard for me to say have been coming out of my mouth left and right. Oh yes, change is afoot.

We have come as close to a diagnoses as we will be able to get to with the Tiny Toddler. And now we have "labels", which I don't like but which I know are needed. We have an IEP. We have goals and targets and a plan. We have hope. And we have all of that because we have those dreaded labels. Now I know what research to do. I know how to arm myself with information. I knew before, but I was all over the place. Maybe it's Reactive Attachment Disorder. Maybe it's Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Maybe it's Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Maybe it's ADHD. Maybe it is all of the above. But now we have our best educated guess and we are moving on to the living of our lives. Not to the fixing. To the management, and the living. To the fun, and the family vacations, and the celebration of successes and to all those teaching moments that lay ahead. Because we can't fix. And I am so relieved.

Now we accept. I have a beautiful, healthy, smart, fun little boy. He has trauma, yes. He may always have challenges stemming from poor decisions made by his birth mother. He may never connect all the dots the way I wish he would. We may forever walk through this life armed with techniques and flash cards, and behavior modification charts. But it is a life I am thrilled to be walking through with my amazing son. What he has overcome I cannot imagine. I complain if it is too cold or if we run out of diet root beer. His challenges? They must have seemed insurmountable to him. These new challenges? This time he won't have to do it alone. Again, I have to say how relieved I feel. I have taken my fears for his future, my fears for my family's future, and my fear of the unknown and I have turned it into acceptance and fight. I am ready to step into this new role, as a mother of a "labeled" child. But watch out, because I am the only one who can label my son with any moniker that really matters. And I am choosing to label him "loved".

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