Then we met him. And, were thrilled at the chance to adopt him and Antwan!
(This is the first picture that we were shown.)
Today, William is a happy, goofy, silly boy who drives me crazy on a daily basis. This, I've learned, is his job as my son. He puts on a good show and it is way too easy for me to forget his past. And the fact that it still affects him.
When you adopt a child, you want it to be easy. Of course you do and that's ok. Why wouldn't you? The trick is to be willing to do the work when you have to face that's it's not. We knew it wouldn't be easy, we did our research, we thought.
When we met William, we were amazed at how well-adjusted he was, despite what he had gone through. He seemed so happy and quick to bond. This was something that I said to my friends when telling them about him. These assessments of his personality really show how naive we were. We understood that kids in foster care would have issues. We had talked about it and researched it. But, we thought that somehow we had hit the jackpot and gotten the one kid who had seen it all, but really didn't care all that much, because now we had swooped in and saved him! Naive. But, we learned.
It's true that he was a generally happy kid, but some of the bouncy enthusiasm was due to undiagnosed ADHD which probably drove his apathetic foster parents crazy. He did bond with us, but he was in tears just a few days ago, because he still wonders if he'll have to one day leave us.
William doesn't like change. He never has. At the end of kindergarten and 1st grade, he wet his pants "accidently" (a defense mechanism that he utilized way too many times). After all, it was the one thing that he could control.
This year, he didn't seem to have any interest in following rules. He was breaking basic rules for no apparent reason. I felt like I was losing my mind. Finally, it dawned on Brian that it was the end of the year and this might be his new way of responding to it. It made me feel a little better to realize that, but not particularly less frustrated.
The next night, at bedtime, I said, in my full-on, weary, mom tone, "If you're freaking out about school ending, this is not the way to deal with it." He instantly broke down into tears. Having trouble switching gears (like I said, he was driving me crazy), I muttered something unhelpful and left the room. It took me just a couple of seconds to realize what I had just done and the damage that could cause. I broke down into tears, too, swallowed my pride and when in to talk to him.
And, we talked and talked. We started with talking about the fact that school was going to end, no matter what he did, and what he could control was his reaction to it and how breaking our rules, doesn't make things better. We moved onto how change scares him and his memories of his time in foster care. He told me that he went to a bunch of different foster homes to see if they could be his family. In reality, I think it was actually respite care (temporary care while regular foster parents go out of town, etc). But, really all that matters is that he thinks that he was rejected by several families. No wonder he didn't really believe us when we said that we wanted him to be our son forever. He admitted that he still worries that he'll have to leave. After all this time, he doesn't get that it's forever. That just broke my heart.
A couple weeks after we got the boys, we moved. When Brian told William that we were moving to another house, he said "But, I want to move with you." We emphaticlly explained that he was. That seemed so sad. Three years later, that seems somewhat minor or unsurprising, compared to the fact that he still has that fear.
I didn't know how to make him feel better. I said all kinds of reassuring things. I told him how much I loved him. And how I wish I had gotten him from the very beginning. I said all kinds of things and gave all kinds of kisses. But, is it enough? I don't know.
I compare William to a bucket with a hole, in the bottom. It doesn't seem to matter how much I put in there, it always leaks out. I can only hope that the hole gets smaller over time.
I do know a few things. I know that I love him. I know that I love him so much that my eyes are welling up as I type this. I know that he has added an unbelievable amount of joy to my life. I know that even if he always has emotional scars (and I'm guessing he will) that he is better off with us than in foster care. I know that he is where he belongs and that I was meant to be his mom, just like I was meant to be the mom of Antwan and Lizzie. I know that I don't regret a thing.
When explaining to him that it doesn't matter how mad I get at him or how mad he gets at me, we are a family forever; I said "I would rather fight with you every day, then not have you at all." (This was too complicated a statement and required a few minutes of clarification. But, hey, I was trying every different way that I could think of to drive the point home.) But, the point was, that I really would rather fight with him everyday than not have him at all. But, fingers crossed that I won't have to fight with him everyday, because my strong-willed, afraid of nothing, Lizzie is getting older and older and I'm gonna need some energy left for that. : )
It's easier for Antwan and Lizzie. And, it will always be easier raising them. But, it doesn't make it better. Just easier. Good thing I like a challenge! :)