The following is a blog by Monica called Emerging Mom. This wife, mama, and pastor has a lot of real stuff to say on the topic of living in process, as she dispenses grace on those of us who emerge from years of loving on a child with a trauma history. Enjoy!
I thought this was worthy of sharing. Our homes must be SAFE homes or we fail at offering the healing our children desperately need. If not to offer safety for healing, why do we bring the trauma child into our homes?
On Wednesday, May 25, at the Library of Congress, thousands will give tribute to the life and triumphs of Harry Wu, a Chinese political prisoner turned human rights activist.
No one could have foreseen how Wu’s courageous trip back to China in 1991 with Ed Bradley (Sixty Minutes) would have resulted in Wu’s Laogai Research Foundation (Washington, D.C.), which continued to expose atrocities against the people of China by their own government.
As an adoptive mother of a Chinese child, Wu inspired me too. When I wrote a novel, The Blu Phenomenon, illustrating how Chinese children welcomed into US homes were a latent power for change in China, Wu agreed and wrote a book endorsement. Wu’s work will continue, though perhaps in new ways, by new hands, maybe even those China abandoned.
Facing Down Codependence After Years of Caretaking
The subject never came up. Not in therapy sessions. Not in any of my reading over the years as the adoptive mother of a Chinese son. Fast-forward 18 years and this same son is stepping away into a life of his own. Now I’m face to face with it: codependence.
First came the mood swings. Mine. Next, I noticed that these swings were in synch with my perceptions of how my son was faring. Was he happy? Was he struggling?
Something was amiss and my therapist friend gave it a name: codependency.
Yep. After the boxes were gone I discovered I had, for years, hyper-linked my inner life to that of a child who had a tough start. Really tough. And when he left he packed up my long-time vocation: caretaking. For too long I had been under the impression that my “job” was to bear his emotional load and lessen the pain of his consequences, which I threw myself over like a live bomb.
Just recently, I accepted a new job. It only asks that I surrender and, through radical acceptance, make peace with myself over all I hoped to control but could not. My next steps will be to continue to sweep out the corners of codependence, to regain my footing, and to journey on with a lightness that frees me to love with equal or greater intensity. Just without the pain of shrapnel.
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Years ago when I told my brother that my husband and I were planning to adopt a child, his response was something to the effect, “I get it. That’s creative.”
Creative was not a word I would have put on a process that involved nine months of paperwork. But, in the end, I believe he was correct in his succinct assessment of both the process and of me, as a “creative” kind of gal.
It’s my perspective that parenting, in general, is—or should be—a creative process. It’s something you pour yourself into—that’s the part where you play taxi driver and write checks for piano lessons. Then there’s what I call “putting your stamp” on it—that’s the part where you share parts of yourself that you hope will remain with them: a deep sense of belonging, a love for beauty, faith. The thing is, in parenting—particularly in adoptive parenting—one never really knows if the piano lessons will “take” or if the child-turned-adult will bear your stamp.
That’s where “radical acceptance” enters in. I wish my brother—or anyone—would have introduced me to that phrase before my son arrived from overseas. I poured every ounce of my creative energy into his personhood only to learn later that it was quite likely that I would see little or no part of me in the man he became.
It’s a funny thing about being a creative type: you do what you do because you have to. I had two children and my fondest memories with both are those in which I freely gave them something of myself—a part of the stamp—that they could keep or discard.
But I gave. And giving is radical. And letting go of the desire to live on somehow through our children is a matter of radical acceptance.
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