I trudged to the front of the group, my palms clammy and heart racing. The gym was overcrowded with sweaty kids, a typical 90’s summer day club. The promise of good times and trying new activities had become disillusioned for me quite early on. My quiet, slightly pudgy 7-year-old self had won the attention of the camp director. And since attention was neither appreciated nor desired, dread—not laughter—filled my summer days.
I wasn’t surprised I had been called to the front. Several weeks had conditioned me for what was going to happen as I approached the grown up holding the microphone.
“Boys and girls, you remember Naomi, don’t you? Isn’t she pretty?”
I didn’t want to hear what was coming. I didn’t want to be there. I just wanted to go home.
“Pretty UGLY!”, the camp director yelled as the gym went into an uproar of laughter.
I looked at the grey rubber gym floor on the way back to my spot, intently aware that every eye was on me as the laughing continued. Plopping down, I willed myself to disappear in to the crowd. Only 5 hours before I could go home. My safe place, where my mom and dad would have been outraged if I’d had the courage to tell them what was happening every single day. The joke was only a small portion of the repetitive, daily humiliation at the hands of the person in charge of protecting all of the children in the camp—my quiet, slightly pudgy 7-year-old self included.
“I am failing. What kind of mom is so terrible that her kid HATES her??!” Tears ran down my cheeks as my husband looked at me, stunned.
“What are you talking about?” He asked quietly. “Why do you think he hates you?”
“You aren’t here all day! You don’t know! He yells and rages and throws things. He won’t speak to me, or even ask me for anything. He hates me.”
I didn’t know what we were experiencing was just the beginning of an attachment struggle for our son. What I did know was that the familiar sting of rejection had me retreating, and fast. My heart was torn to pieces by the daily break downs, and obvious preference our son had for my husband.
Rejection and Adoption
We had done extensive training before beginning the adoption process. I had read numerous books, blogs, and studies. I understood the consequences of trauma and separation for young children. I knew some of the techniques used to encourage bonding between child and parents. What I didn’t know was that trauma triggers trauma and unresolved issues in the heart of an adoptive parent can negatively impact attachment.
Adoptive parents who are doing their homework know that rejection is a major area of concern for our kiddos. But did you know that rejection of adoptive parents is also common? When children are finding their way through a new family, routine, and home it is normal for them to test boundaries and push people away. It’s the time directly following the honey-moon period (if you even get one of those), when your child doesn’t view you as the safe, loving, protective parent you are striving so hard to be. Instead, they view you as the enemy who has changed the world they know and everything in it.
When we take the time to look at adoption from a child’s perspective, it makes perfect sense. When you can be objective about the continuous testing and rejection, you can see it for what it is: a hurting child seeking to hurt the person closest to them. A child testing the strength of your will and resilience of your love. And when we are able to perceive these things, we can remain committed to hearing our child’s heart through their actions.
But for many—maybe even most—adoptive parents, this type of daily rejection is exhausting. I, personally, went through stages of emotions towards being rejected by my child. First, I was confused, I didn’t understand why my child was rejecting me. Next, I was sad. My heart ached to know my child wasn’t feeling any affection towards me whatsoever. Frustration came next—wondering what else I could possibly do to help our son. Finally, the overwhelm of exhaustion left me feeling defeated.
A life-long struggle with feeling rejected, unworthy, and like a failure had been blown up by the daily rejection I was experiencing at the hand of my child. Instead of remaining objective, I began to shut down emotionally in an attempt to protect myself from pain.
I am honored to have my post featured over on Michelle Madrid-Branch's site today! Michelle is an international adoptee and adoptive mom who advocates for all three parts of the adoption triad (adoptees, biological families, and adoptive families). To continue reading about the importance of processing pain, resisting rejection, and giving grace, head over to Michelle's site!
Here you will find the musings of a homeschooling, work from home, adoptive Momma of 6! Adventures in faith, family, adoption, and training up a tribe of little people to follow hard after Jesus are spilled into these posts --- most often written with a cup of coffee in hand. I hope you'll stick around a while and find something - more likely SOMEONE! - that brings you hope!
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