Back To Normal
Before our adoptions, part of our education process was learning about cocooning. Put yourself in the shoes of a child who, for 8 years, has only known the four walls that surround her. Being removed from that environment by strangers, put on a big airplane, flown across the world to a place where no one looks like her or speaks her language is a terrifying experience. The cocooning process encourages families to stay at home with their newly adopted children for a considerable length of time to allow the child time to connect with her new parents and to feel secure in her new home before venturing out into other unfamiliar settings with more unfamiliar people.
Cocooning is just one example of the many instructions newly adoptive parents are given to meet their child where she is, for as long as is needed, to help her feel safe and attached in her new normal.
I have always reflected on this idea of a new normal from my own perspective, but I know the same rings true for the kiddos. Even if it wasn’t the best of circumstances, it is natural to long for things to be back to the way they once were. One of the most difficult challenges I have had as an adoptive mom is adjusting to our new normal and accepting the fact that things will never, ever return to the way of life as we knew it before.
One of the biggest mistakes I made was assuming that after a brief period of time, our girls would fall into step and join in on our previously established lifestyle. That caused years of stress for everyone involved. I learned the very, very hard way that in order to move forward in a healthy manner, I was going to have to give up everything I had known and worked for up until that life-changing point of bringing our girls home and start to create a brand new life together.
The process of being adopted as a child is in itself a traumatic event, and on the flip side, it is a traumatic event for the parents as well. Secondary trauma is very real and powerful. As is often the case with a traumatic event, time tends to be measured by that event. In our house, we often reference time in 2 categories: Before the Girls and After Jian Came Home.
I also made the mistake early on of putting a timetable on our goals. After all, I had been trained to do this in my OT profession. With one of my first short term goals for Jian, I placed a 6 month time frame. In my mind, that was plenty of time to accomplish the task. Now here we are almost 7 years later, and the goal is still not completely met. Up until about 1 year ago, I would feel stress every single day and frustration because of it. Now I have learned that the timetable is not mine. My only job is to support her every day during the process, and when the time is right, it will work itself out. (It was at the point of this acceptance, by the way, that we started to see the quickest progress.) Yes, there is a lot to be said about being still and surrendering; removing my own agenda and allowing myself to be used and sculpted as a vessel toward a greater goal.
But now, Lord, you are our father. We are the clay, and you are our potter. All of us are the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8
So here we are in 2020 in the middle of a worldwide pandemic; a traumatic event that every one of us is experiencing simultaneously. I said early on that none of us will ever be the same after this. I think we will always measure our lives as: Before COVID 19 and After COVID 19. The nature of living through a traumatic event is that while the event is still occuring, we simply try to survive the best we can every day to get through it. For some, it is cleaning out every inch of our houses and creating strict daily schedules. For others, it is sleeping most of the day away. But it is not until after the event is over that we can really begin to process what just happened.
For those who have experienced past traumas, COVID 19 may be triggering some huge feelings of grief, anger and sadness. The injustice of it all: Lives senselessly ended, jobs lost, freedoms taken from us; all completely out of our control. We hear a lot about people being “ready for things to get back to normal.” I believe we will discover that things will never be the same, though. Having a child at high risk, our family will face some difficult decisions in the next months and years about whether to keep her in or allow her to try to live a somewhat “normal” life. We were already facing these fears every year during cold and flu season, but this adds a whole new level of gravity to the situation.
With all of this negativity and turbulence, the one lesson that none of us should miss is this: God is in control. When everything else is stripped away–our jobs, our entertainment, our 401k, our sports, our busyness, our appearances, our freedom and everything else that was competing for our time, energy and resources–what do we have left? If we have a relationship with the one true and living God, what else do we need? Once we have truly been converted, our lives will never, ever be the same.
And I don’t think that is a bad thing at all.
“…One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.” John 9:25