It seems so long ago, so many struggles ago, when Tyler came into our lives. We were attempting to adopt twin girls, but much to our dismay, the caseworker had decided that the girls were too physically impaired to be adopted. The worker called to tell us the bad news and then suggested we think about a 7 year-old boy who was disrupting from his second adoptive home. We were told that he was Filipino, arrived in the United States at age 4, and likely had an Attachment Disorder. Back in the "olden" days, AD was a new diagnosis, one that I just shrugged off. (Today, I wouldn't, but that's another story.)
Two weeks later, the disrupting family made arrangements to meet us at a park on Sunday noon to hand Tyler over. They chose the park theme, as they wanted this to be a happy occasion for their other three children.Gasp, choke, cough.Although all of this seemed incredulous and a cruel twist of fate for Tyler, we did chat for a couple of hours while the old family gleefully snapped photos.
As we transferred his belongings to our van, I could hear him mumbling "they'll be back" over and over again. My heart ached for Tyler. They followed us out of the park and Tyler's little face was pressed against the back window and he just kept repeating "they'll be back for me." I chose not to interrupt him, nor contradict what he was thinking or feeling. Talk about feeling useless, talk about guilt. I was party to breaking a child's heart, not exactly the ideal way to make a child feel welcome or loved in your home.
It's pathetic how some so easily disregard the feelings of a child. He came with nothing that he could wear or hold on to. However, he came with untreated bronchitis and ear infections. During the visit the very next day with our pediatrician, it was discovered that Tyler was nearly deaf. Within a couple of weeks, we further discovered that Tyler was ADHD and learning disabled. I was so angry, not at Tyler's diagnoses, but at the complete lack of concern for a child's life. He had come to the US by himself, entrusted to Moms and Dads, traveled from one home to another, disrupting due to his behaviors and inability to settle in. He was attempting to assimilate to a new homeland and learn a new language with a severe hearing loss. Where was the justice for this little boy? Fortunately, being a Mom of many children has taught me a great deal about children and their cues. He wasn't so hard to read, although, we both kept our distance.
He latched on to our teenaged son, which was a very healthy sign. He pretty much stayed close to the house those first few weeks, still muttering that they would come back, but in small ways showing signs of liking it at our house. About two weeks after his arrival, we were going to take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese. I told him to get ready to go and he flew into a tailspin. He refused to budge, he stated that I could hit him, kill him, anything, but he wasn't leaving this house. I sat down on the floor next to him, I looked him square in the eye and said, "Please give me a chance. I promise you that you will have fun tonight. If you don't, once we get there, I'll bring you right back home." He looked at me with his big brown eyes and hesitantly nodded. That evening, he had a ball, but he would check back in with me every ten minutes or so. He'd give me a hug and say, "I like it here, Mom. It's ok, I can stay."
Tyler started kindergarten with new hearing aids and medication for the ADHD. I cannot say it was easy, but it was manageable. Tyler changed schools and classrooms often, as it was difficult finding a fit for him in the education department. By his junior high days, Tyler was becoming very moody and impressionable. He had to be moved from one school where he was showing interest in classmates who were involved in gang activities. The optional classroom was not as highly structured as the school we moved him from, but I felt pulling him closer to home would be far more beneficial than giving him the opportunity to join a gang. School was always a huge struggle.
Junior high turned to high school; Tyler threw away his hearing aids, replaced them with earrings and went around mumbling all the time that we were yelling at him. "No, Dear, I speak loud so you can HEAR me!" He continued to struggle throughout his high school days, but with his winning smile and willingness to try when he wasn't in a mood, he made it. He also had a special ed. teacher who joined the family cheerleading squad. We all stuck together and cheered Tyler on... never forgetting the day I asked him to give me a chance and the look in his eyes.
This Mom received an incredible reward on the day of Tyler's High School graduation three years ago. As the graduating procession left the auditorium, I was waiting to congratulate my son. I hesitantly put my arms out to hug him, as I didn't want to embarrass him in front of his friends. Much to my utter shock, my son rushed into my arms and cried. I held him for a very long time, as he cried and said, "Mom, I made it." That moment is engraved in my heart and soul for a lifetime.
And as the story goes, remember those twin girls... well, they too came home to stay forever more, too.