Cautionary Tales

There's an article in the June 28 edition of TIME that has been the topic of much discussion between Slice and me, and other members of my family. (Published not long after I read this excellent blog post from an adoptive mother.) The terrible Russian orphan situation has impacted each of us; it is something we live with every single day.
Hint: it's not all the "sunshine and roses" that adoptive families hope for.

Foreign adoption seems to be garnering more media attention these days, thanks to Torry Hansen and the earthquake in Haiti, among other things. Fifteen years ago, most people had never even heard of Reactive Attachment Disorder. I'm hoping that's not the case anymore.

This article was timely for a number of reasons. The more time I spend with my darling Liam, the more it breaks my heart to think that my brothers did not have parents to care for them as babies. They didn't have mothers who rocked them to sleep, who watched and sang to and played with them. How many children spend the first years of their lives stuck in cribs, unable to bond with another human being? I can't even imagine.
I was too young when we got my brothers to understand what they were coming from. But they were old enough to be damaged by it.

The damage is not easily undone, we are continually learning. I have wondered whether families with mixed-race children due to adoption have an easier time coping than those with children who cannot form real relationships. (A moot point, I suppose; neither is "easy" by any stretch of the imagination!) The TIME article mentions that Russia is a major source of foreign adoption because the children are white - but if you can't adopt until the child is over a year old, the most crucial time is up. And you should probably think about future, possibly younger children, if you are thinking of adopting at all.
Choices choices.

Anyway, the whole thing has had me thinking about the story of Lehi and his family from the Book of Mormon. Lehi had two sons who were wicked no matter what they saw, who tried to help them, or how obvious things should have been. Laman and Lemuel would have killed Nephi eventually (and the rest of their family, I assume) had the Lord not warned him and told him to leave.

Nephi forgave his brothers over and over for the terrible things they did to him, but in the end he had to separate himself from them to preserve his own life and those of his family members. He could not make them choose right; they had their agency and it would not be taken from them. But the posterity of Laman and Lemuel were not held to the same accountability as the Nephites, because of the "wicked traditions of their fathers."

So it's possible that my brothers won't be as accountable as I will be. No one knows what they went through in 5+ years, or how it has affected them since. But I do think that, as this article points out, sometimes separation is necessary for the preservation of the whole. Of course different families have different ways of dealing with their issues ... and fortunately the options seem to be multiplying.

But good heavens, if prophets aren't spared the heartache of having wayward children ... maybe no one is.

Your thoughts?


Fig said...

I know someone (sort of, by extension) who adopted a little girl from an orphanage and has now written a book about RAD and her family's experience. She used to write a blog about it (I couldn't find the link, sorry) and I was amazed (not in a good way) by the stories of what she went through.

Also, a couple weeks ago I put Viv down for a nap and then went outside to do something, figuring she'd sleep her usual three hours. I came back in less than ten minutes later and she was SCREAMING. It was the first time in her life that she'd awakened, cried, and not been immediately picked up. She was alone in the dark and terrified. I picked her up and she clung to me and continued to sob for a long time.

The whole episode just totally shredded me - it was so heartbreaking. But at the same time, I thought, at least she is completely accustomed to being soothed and loved, so much so that the slightest deviation from the norm traumatized her.

And knowing that other babies don't have that sense of safety and comfort and belovedness ... man. Shreds me just as much.

Fig said...

Oh, also, the second thing. I do believe that the perfect balance of mercy and justice requires a perfect understanding of the how, when, where, and why behind our actions. A perfect Father knows all our experiences and our deepest, truest selves and will judge accordingly. I'm pretty sure abandoned, traumatized children get a few extra passes.

Good luck to you and your family ... can't be easy.