Wednesday, November 19, 2008


My mother's heart is hurting tonight. My sweet Ethan is still really having a hard time adjusting to his new school. Yesterday he was on a continuous downward spiral at school. On his behavior chart he moved from green, to "bad green" to first yellow and eventually held his own on "bad yellow" before sliding into red, which I believe actually leads to administrative involvement. As it was, he lost like 10 minutes of a recess which is high cost to him. Honestly I can't even recall what the offenses were, I know a lot of busyness and not staying in his seat, he does this new nervous smirky thing that was offending his teacher too. Needless to say it was a really bad day.

What broke my heart though was the conversation we had at home afterwards. He's been getting in more trouble lately, a lot at school, some at church, even at home. I don't know what to make of his acting up. Yesterday we sat and talked about the importance of making good choices, he kept asking me, "am I on thin ice?" I asked him what he meant and he wanted to know was he close to being in a lot of trouble. Truthfully, I felt like since he had paid a price at school for not sitting in his seat and such that I didn't need to re-punish him at home. I tried to explain to him that his bad choices were giving people a bad impression of who he is. I tried to explain that at this school he's new, so all they see is what he shows them, they don't have a history to know that maybe he's just going through a bad time.

He just looked so dejected. Last year he was doing great in his academics, this year he is struggling a lot. Math, which he was an ace at in 1st grade, is really hard. And I am saying I think it's really hard. Something is awry if a 38 year old woman cannot figure out 2nd grade math. But that aside, I look at my son and I know he's hurting, so I asked him if there was more going on.

He absolutely erupted into tears. He was so hysterical I couldn't understand him for several minutes. My heart just broke for him. I held him, hugged him, and waited for him to calm. I asked him finally to try to explain to me what it was. He told me there is something that "spooks" him at his new school that wasn't there at the old one. I think what he's trying to express is the sense of intimidation. I just think those were the best words a 7-year-old could come up with to express that sentiment, because I don't think he could be referring to anything actually spooky. Spiritually, I believe his new school is a good place, a godly place, maybe even more so than the old school, at least at the highest levels (his teachers were pretty special.) He feels so disheartened. He told me he only has one friend and that no one else likes him. I think the "friend" he's talking about is another little girl in his class who is struggling, and that he reached out to her because he sees it.

It's hard, he is the new kid, and all the other kids have been together since kindergarten. The cliques are set, and no one is looking for new members. I sense the same thing even among the parents. There have been a couple moms who I would call welcoming, but literally, I can think of maybe three, and the rest are not welcoming. Even his teacher, there is this sense of rejection there.

Today it was my turn to cry. This morning we talked all the way to school about choices and attitudes and how to be a good friend. I told him, "you are not a rude boy, so don't act rudely; you are not mean, don't act meanly." We talked about sitting still and not making those smirky smiles if he did get into trouble. We laid out a plan, prayed over it, hoped for a good day.

Pick up time has become a time of absolute dread for me. I hate it. I worry about what I will hear when I pick him up. I was so relieved when I asked him how the day was and where he ended up on the behavior chart when he told me "happy blue." (It's the only step "up" you can make in the day. I was so happy. It was ice cream day so I gave the kids each their dollar and waited chatting with one of the few friendly moms, when his teacher came over. "Happy Blue!" I said, "I'm so excited." To which she replied, "Yeah, he started out that way, but I forgot to move him."

Apparently he tormented a little girl to tears (daughter of the woman I was talking with, and teacher shared the story with us both) because he was pointing out the problems she got wrong in math. The mom was very gracious and kind of stepped away as Ethan's teacher and I continued to talk, and she shared more about the day. She told me how he apologized and seemed sincere, but also how they had this talk about Ethan thinking he wasn't a nice person. She actually used the word "jerk." I can't even remember all the details of the conversation because I was dumbstruck that it didn't seem like she had really tried to counter that point. I don't know, I've shared before that I think she actually has issues with Ethan. And I wonder if I see it, does he? It's not like I can ask him if he thinks his teacher likes him, because then I just plant the bad seed in his mind if he isn't thinking it already.

There is a sense of rejection in my son's heart. Where he went to school there was a sense of family and belonging, of acceptance, and Ethan has not found that here. I look at him and wonder where it comes from. I know I hold rejection in my heart. Even in my own church where I have "belonged" for nearly 20 years, I have people I feel rejected by. You know, you share yet another prayer request, and in a curt response you feel like they think you have no faith, or your spiritually immature. (And maybe I am, I wonder.) But there are histories there, roots of rejection. I do not believe Ethan feels rejected in our family. If anything, we have made it clear that his "adopted" status makes his security stronger, not weaker. With adoption certain guarantees are made. The other day the kids were driving me nuts and I was yelling (as I do) and my girlfriend was visiting her mom across the street and she was harassing me a little about it (as she has done before.) I asked her if she "wanted one," as in one of my kids. She wasn't interested, and when we got in the car Victoria pointed out that I could not give Ethan away. Little do they know, that he is also the only one I must guarantee an inheritance to. Those are cool parallels to being adopted into the "family of God."

I don't know if the same "security" he has in his adopted status with his dad and I has a dark side of question or doubt about the mother who gave him up. She came up recently. We were at the grocery store and Ethan told me, "You're the best mom in the world." To which Victoria replied that I was his "only mom." And he said that no, he had TWO moms. I told him that wasn't true, that he had two mothers, but only one mom. And then I told him I wanted him, and that his birth mother wanted him to have things she couldn't give him, because I did not want to imply that she didn't want him. I believe giving a child up for adoption is the most loving thing any woman can do, but I do not know if it somehow creates a hole in his soul. I know other adopted kids, both maladjusted and well adjusted, I do not know why some carry it more heavily than others. I do not know yet, which way it will be for Ethan, and have no clue if any of this is at all related to what we are facing now. All I do know is my little boy is hurting, and I cannot fix it for him. (In case you are wondering how the conversation ended, I asked Ethan if he had any questions or anything about his adoption or his birth mother, to which he replied that he did not, and then I reminded him, yet again, that if he ever does, he can ask me anytime.)

Honestly of all my three children, Ethan is the one I feel like I can best relate to. He is the most like me. He is not touchy feely, he's very black and white, has a strong desire to see justice, and to see it swiftly and clearly. He can be legalistic, he can be forceful, he can be a lot like me. And I know I have a bit of melancholy that I carry with me and deep inside always some sense or fear of rejection. I do not know if I carried it when I was seven. I know how to deal with those feelings as an adult, well, I suppose I do and I don't, because I do still struggle, but I also press through (or emotionally eat through when that doesn't work.)

Perhaps it comes from the deepest knowledge that we aren't home, we don't really belong here at all. Maybe both Ethan and I need to find the way to crawl up into the lap of the father and find our belonging there, me first, and then perhaps I can lift my son there beside me.

Please read my addendum to this post.


carolyn said...

I meant to mention this to you last night but missed the opportunity but maybe it will encourage you both today. There was a little boy that was really acting up in RR last night (come to find out he just was kicked out of his school that day) and I was so impressed with how caring and compassionate Ethan was to the little boy. He was really trying to take care of him. And I was proud of him.

nikki said...

You know that i love your kids to death and i love Ethan to pieces!!! I'm sorry to hear that he's having a hard time at school but from what it seems like his good intentions seem to turn bad because he pushes it and possibly his teacher is lacking in the patience department.

Hang in there!!

I heard on the FISH the other day that God is like a light and when things are cheary and bright you can't see him standing there next to you but when things get dark he illuminates your life and space and possibly allows others to see him shining as he stands with you.