Details: My husband and I married when I was 25. After after a slew of obstetrical tests, drugs and surgery, we finally had our first child when I was 31. My obstetrician told me that I had a chance for one more baby if I had one right away, but after that I’d need another surgery to have more children. So, we had a second child eighteen months later and (surprise) God threw in a third one eighteen months after that. Despite being up to my neck in babies, we really thought about more kids but by this time I was 35 and we knew our chances of having a special needs child were increasing with each year. We weren’t crazy about the idea of raising a special needs child. So, we quit trying.
If anything good came from all those years of waiting, it was our realization that, as hard as it was as an adult to face each day with empty arms, it would be a hundred times harder as a CHILD to face each day alone, without a parent to greet me in the morning or tuck me into bed each night, knowing that there is not one person in all the world who truly loved me. So, five months after our third child was born, we started paperwork on our first adoption. Before the homestudy, we had to work through a list of about 75 different disabilities and check the ones we were willing to handle. We told the adoption agency we would take anything except children who were mentally challenged or emotionally disturbed. We thought, with three babies in the house, that we just couldn’t handle those limitations. Two adoptions later, with five children (four still at home) those were still our criteria. That’s why it’s so very ironic that we ended up with Will, who is mentally challenged and Ruslan, who is emotionally disturbed.
I’ve already hinted at the extent to which Ruslan is driving us all ….away. I’ll get around to writing it all out one of these days. I suppose I keep putting it off because it’s so much easier to write about issues that are behind us; i.e. “We had this problem but it’s solved now! See?” But, to write about a problem that is ongoing is just much more emotionally taxing.
Therefore, we’ll ignore Ruslan for now and focus on Will because Will, as it turns out, is just really nice to have around. Bill and I are constantly surprised by how charming Will can be and commenting at what morons we were to think that we wouldn’t enjoy raising a mentally challenged child. Will is adorable. He is the child that you IMAGINE would come out of extreme poverty. He is happy, he is grateful for everything that is put before him and he is loving.
Will comes downstairs every morning with a smile on his face and he smiles all day long. Even experiences that would normally be bad for most kids are wonderful for Will. He’s been asking me lately, “Mom, can we go to the hospital? Can I have surgery?” A few days before school started, we took the kids to an open house so they could meet their teachers. Most of my children were wallowing in sorrow but not Will. Just as we were walking in the front door of the school Will started talking. It took a minute for us to figure out that he was saying, “I’m …so …happy!,” a sentence he kept repeating all evening until we left. His summer school teacher told me that she noticed he was standing really still one day during free time. She walked over to ask him if he was OK and he said, “Shhhh. Music.” He was standing next to her CD player, listening.
Will has the habit of answering, “yes” to every question that we ask him. You know how two year-olds go through the, “no” phase? Well, Will is stuck in the, “yes” phase. If I ask him in the morning if he would like to wear his red shirt he’ll say, “yes” and very carefully nod, “yes.” If, just out of curiosity, I then ask if he would like to wear his blue shirt, he’ll answer, “yes” again and nod with equal joy and conviction. You might think this makes it hard to narrow down what to wear, but the truth is that he will be genuinely happy with either shirt. The only time he will answer, “no” is if I hold up a shirt that he knows Ruslan would like to wear. Then he’ll say, “no, that for Ruslan.” How cute is that?
He reminds me of the queen in Perelandra (http://www.amazon.com/Perelandra-Space-Trilogy-Book-2/dp/074323491X/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_9) . Since she lives in a sort of Eden, the earthling trying to teach her about evil has no reference point. The best he can do is to say something like, “Well, suppose you want a banana, but you walk into the forest and all you can find is pears?“ The queen is shocked by the question and essentially answers, “why would I be dissatisfied with a delicious pear?” That is Will. He is happy with everything.
Will is the last child left who will scream, “DADDY’S HOME!” and run to the door when he hears Bill in the driveway (the older kids are too cool). The other night we went on a date and Will sat by the window and watched us drive away. He was asleep when we came back so the next morning when I came downstairs, two kids were in the living room reading, and Will was back at the window seat, waiting for us to come up the driveway.
We have a bunch of photos of Will with our friend Gabriel. Will loves to look at pictures of them together. The other morning he came up to me and said, “Mom, can you show me the pictures of Gabe holding me? Can Gabe come to visit? Because I miss him. Because he is nice. Because I love him.”
So, now that he’s not starving, half blind, bewildered, lost in a sea of English and is wearing proper braces, most of the problems we had with him in the beginning are over. He’s able to sit quietly and play and concentrate. He gives us eye contact. He loves kisses and hugs and stories. He can share nicely. He eats all his meals without complaining. He’s potty trained and he gets along great with our other kids. He’s really become quite popular. Reilly and her girl friends ask him for hugs so frequently that he’s finally started to rebel (second instance of the word, “no”) and say, “NO HUGGIN!”
There are problems. He still has the water obsession. He still eats like a starving child, shoveling food into his mouth like he’ll never get enough and making a huge mess at most meals. He gets frustrated easily, which makes him cry. Also, since he’s so goofy looking, I have realized that the people giving me that slightly condemning, knowing, look are probably familiar with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and have connected all the dots at their disposal. It’s not always easy to absorb. Nor is the realization that there are serious limits to his grey matter. He had learned enough letters to qualify as “age appropriate” when he started summer school in July, but he made no progress. Now, he is in special classes with Ruslan. …Sadly, it’s just not there.
And so, I worry about his future. What sort of jobs are available for charming, handsome kids with the IQ of a tulip? I know, we thought about Hollywood, but I’m just not comfortable with the work load. Therefore, we’re still encouraging him to say, “hello and welcome to Wal-mart,” as much as possible. It’s the best training I can think of to ensure that he has the necessary job skills for his adult life.