In Your Language

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tired of being on the receiving end...

I know a well meaning adoptive mother who is just having such a hard time with her high needs adopted child. As an adoptee, I have no doubt she loves him fiercely. Perhaps she loves him too much... perhaps she gives him too much.

This boy is a troubled child: he has substance abuse issues as a 15 yr old, truancy, emotional disabilities and is in trouble with the law. Being that he was adopted as a baby I wondered why he struggles so much at this age. I was adopted as a kindergarten age, and I'm surprised that my troubles were less than his.

The pattern of behavior is that people try to help him and he keeps failing and when he gets caught failing, he does things even worse. I know most people would be driven to say that he is just a "bad child", I see something different.

My guess is that he feels so guilty and unworthy of all that he's been given in love, chances, guidance and advocacy where he doesn't even feel worth it. I think he feels so astronomically indebted to all the people in his life and it is hard for him to deal with not feeling worth and at the same time knowing he will never be able to "pay them back."

Adoptees are acutely aware of their time, energy and financial "impact." Though there are exceptions, I am confident enough to say that they are so far off the grateful end that they don't cultivate the feeling of worth-it-ness. They tire of feeling like the charity case as it really takes away from dignity.

My suggestion to this mother was to find a position for him to be a light in someone else's life (A Big Brother, in a children's sports program). Ultimately, he wants to find a place to feel intrinsic value.  He needs to know  what it's like to give. People who have something worth giving are worth something.

I say, give the kids a chance to earn some of their stuff. Don't try to control their money, but teach them how to manage it. I remember, that as an adoptee, I felt tremendous pride for every penny I earned and I carefully spent and saved my money. The biggest insult I ever got was when my adoptive parents chided me for spending money (like $140) on a guitar and lesson book from my hard earned money. They acted like it was "their" money to decide what to do with it. And while I would have respectfully listened to their advice; they had none to give.

The only way a beggar knows that they are no longer is when they can give; the only way a blind person is no longer blind is when they can see; the large way an adopted child can control their own worth is by being able to earn money as well as esteem from the people around them.

Ultimately, God values us equally despite our bank accounts or social standing. But I also believe that he wants us to feel uniquely gifted as his beloved children. Help those orphans find their "gifts."

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