But praiseworthy behavior and growth seem to be something I should be sharing. It's important to me that other parents of children with severe behaviors get to witness that these issues can often be healed, even when it seems next to impossible at the outset.
Nastia has home schooled for three years. She left school after 2 years of tremendous struggle and anxiety. She wasn't learning - there was far too much trauma for any true learning to go on. For those who doubt that - think of the most stressful, traumatic situation you have ever endured. In that mindset, would you be able to study? To read or write? To truly take anything else in but the moment at hand? Doubtful.
And so, I withdrew her from school, and we spent three years doing intensive bonding, attachment practices, therapy, and learning how to breathe, relax and be present. We took trips, we went camping, we walked beaches, we watched inspiring movies, we learned coping skills, we braved new experiences slowly and deliberately. In short, I gave my daughter time to heal. My intuition told me that she would know when she was ready to go back, if ever. In June of this year, after three intensive years of self-focused healing and learning to feel safe, she announced she wanted to go back to school. Her therapist and I agreed she was ready. And so, a few weeks ago Nastia started high school for the first time. We decided to put her in 9th grade, and though she hated the idea at first (she was afraid of being ridiculed for her age) she finally settled in. Biologically, she is 18, after all, but as any of you parents of older adopted children know, those years in the orphanage wreak havoc on our children's development - emotionally, socially, behaviorally and even physically. They are years and years behind their peers. So why do so many parents force them to try and fit in with their actual age group? I have no idea.
I went into the school IEP meeting with my defenses up. I was ready to fight for what she needed, but I didn't have to. The new head of the Special Ed Dept truly listened to everything I and her therapist had to say, and implemented it immediately into her schedule. He respected me as a parent in a way I rarely see with teachers and school staff. I was impressed. Nastia came in for the 2nd meeting and she too, felt very supported and well-treated very quickly. She is thriving in school! She gets up at 6am with no complaint (what??), she gets ready without help or coaxing (is this MY daughter??) she WALKS to school (umm, are you SURE this isn't a figment of my imagination??) and she does her homework willingly and with great gusto. I have to tell you, I am floored. I did not expect this.
This is the girl that used to throw chairs at her teacher. This is the girl who ran away from school so many times that they stopped calling the police and just called me instead, because I'd know where to find her. This is the girl who fought me so hard on school mornings that I would sit in my car and cry for an hour after I dropped her off each day. Yes, this girl.
And so I'm sharing this because it's important to share with others who are on the same path as we are, but not as far along the road. Have patience. Trust. Listen and really hear what your child is saying and what they are truly asking for, and offer it. I had every single person in my life dumping on me because I took her out of school. But I finally listened to myself and my daughter and did it, and it has rewarded me a million-fold. I fell to pressure when she first came home and enrolled her in school and it was pretty much a disaster from day one. I so wanted others to respect me as a parent, that I let their ideals and beliefs about what was 'right' come before my own. Bad idea.
And so now, when the time is finally right, my daughter is embracing school with her whole being. And I see how hard it is for her, yet she still perseveres, because she is ready now. Fear and Terror no longer block the way to learning. She walks with confidence. She even brought a new friend home the other day after school. Amazing.
Nastia, you are STILL my hero. You never cease to amaze me, and delight me. You teach me every day that the impossible is possible. I want to be like you - braver than brave and always looking the world straight in the eye. I love you, my sweet girl!