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A calm sea; currents run deep

Posted by | September 23, 2010 | CONSPICUOUS | 22 Comments

Kyle is a sweet boy.  He is our poet, our author, our teller of stories.  Our boy of wondering what will happen, of “what if” and making sense of the big questions: God, inequality, the meaning of war, peace, Earthquakes, death and Jesus. Even in his quests, he is beyond solid. His physical presence is something felt. Moving him is like moving a mountain. There is balance and equanimity in his every emotional motion, every wonderment. His teachers call him the center of the class, and there is a reason why.

He is a calm sea. Gentle currents.

Sailors know to respect the ocean. That although beautiful, the ocean has an undeniable strength and power that is often overlooked and misunderstood. Mountain climbers know the tallest mountains have the greatest landslides. The most mud cascades down when disturbed at the core. And you can disturb the core with a single misstep.

During the boys’ rest hour today, I took Meera out for a quick errand, while Margie finished the day. I popped her in the car, and off we went. We stopped at the store on the way home – the whole trip was about 45 minutes total; maybe less.

Heather had class tonight, so I made dinner, let the threesome (illicitly) watch a little mid-week clifford-the-big-red-dog and curious-george and then we went up stairs, Meera and Kyle had a bath (Owen elected to fore-go the bath to play with the knights) and we played. Kyle was acting a little strange, but when I asked him, he told me he was excited about ice staking lessons on Friday. Then I narrated a bit from Treasure Island.  Both boys were enthralled. It was a nice night.

When Heather got home we were all thrilled to see her. It was just about time for bed, but Kyle jumped into her arms and broke down crying. A deep, deep, animal cry, penetrating and hard. A core cry – something below the surface moving and sliding the plates of the earth like so many puzzle pieces.

He was so angry that I had left him at home, not told him where I was going and had taken Meera. He was so deeply angry that he would not let me touch him, or come near him. His anger was so strong that when Owen came over to check on him, Kyle mistook him for me, lashed out with his arm and hit Owen in the mouth.  He was so hurt, he ran away from me over and over. After his guttural cries subsided a bit he was able to articulate:

“You left me here and didn’t tell me where you were going”

“Papi has never done that before”  “He always takes me”

“You love Meera more than me” “You meant to do that to me, you meant to hurt me”

“You left me on purpose.”

“You left me. You left me. You left me.”

He did settle down. He did recover. After he was able to deeply breathe and be ok, Heather held him, I held him. I whispered in his ear that he is my boy, that I will always love him, that I will always come back.  That I was so deeply sorry to have left him. That I would never do that again (and mean it). That it was ok for him to be mad, Papi can handle that. That he is a good boy, my boy, my special boy and I love him.

He is who his is because of where he comes from. He was adopted. He was in an orphanage as a baby. Those parts of him are real and always will be. Those experiences impact who he is and how he needs to be loved. And I, and we all, have to always be aware of that.

He’s asleep now. With his twin brother.

A calm sea; with currents below the surface always there.

All Kyle.


  • ellira says:

    Breathless. Ouch. Wow. Rendered inarticulate for now.

    Like father like son where poesy is concerned.

  • momof3 says:

    Our middle kiddo was just over one year old when we started fostering her and her 2 1/2 year old sister. There were many many issues of attachment: We had to do weekly visits for almost 3 years and every week, I had to peel her off of my leg when dropping her off at the visit location.

    When I would put her to bed and go downstairs, she would ask me why we left her alone. Keep in mind, she was just in her room and we were still in the house. For almost 2 years, she would break down and panic anytime I left her side.

    Now, at the age of 6, most of these issues have subsided. She can go to school and various activities and doesn’t panic if she isn’t the first one picked up. But, still on occasion, issues pop up. Sometimes, with very little or no warning.

    An ocean indeed!

  • Amanda says:

    Please do not beat yourself up too much. I think you may be reading too much into it.
    Yes, the boys spent a few months in an orphanage, but you know what? My kids have never spent one day in an orphanage and react the same exact way when we take one out and leave the others behind. It’s a fairly normal kid reaction. They get angry and feel the parents are favoring one kid over the other. They get mad when we leave and do not tell them where we are going. They get mad when they are left behind.
    Relax, It’s just normal kid stuff.

    • Braydon says:

      Hi Amanda – thanks for the comment and for the support.

      It could be just a kid thing, and I hope that it is. In this case, with this boy, my gut is pretty sure that there are deep tendrils of emotion tapped that are coming to the surface. Mainly I am just glad he could express it and I could comfort him.

  • Kathrin says:

    Beautiful, deep, painful and loving. Thank you for sharing.

  • kristine says:

    I imagine that is what God, the Father, Abba says to us [to me] when we [I] feel lost and afraid. “I will always love [you] him, that I will always come back. That I was so deeply sorry to have left [you]. That I would never do that again (and mean it). That it was ok for [you] to be mad, Papi can handle that…” Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your life, it was apart of my devotions this morning. I know I’ve said this before but you two are awesome parents. May God continue to bless your family.

  • Kat says:

    Shortly after my ex-husband moved out of the house, I will never ever forget the time my then 10-year old son looked at me and said “Mommy, now 3 of my four parents have left me, are you going to?” Even 27 years later I can remember exactly where we were when this happened. I physically shuddered when he asked me that and it made me realize just how strong that leaving of his birth parents had touched him. He was 6 days old when he became my oldest son, had been separated from his birthmother at a few hours old and put in a hospital nursery, and yet he was in such angst all we could do was cry together. I held him on my lap (he was 10 mind you), rocked him, and reassured him I would never ever do that. Even in death I would be a part of him. When the tears stopped for both of us, we sighed and got back on our feet but we were in a different and better place. Do not beat yourself up. If anything, you now have a stronger relationship with Kyle and neither of you will forget the event and ever more important, you will never forget what you both learned from this. Parenting adopted kids is not easy for all kinds of reasons but I can honestly say it is one if not the best enriching, growing, life affirming experiences of my life. And the love that comes from it, oh the love. Such joy and sweetness.


  • Lucie says:

    My boys had a few episodes like this. They are now teens and I always make them aware of where I am going, even if only to garden outside. It gives them a sense of security. One system I use is I leave a note at the same spot when I go out. Now that they are teens they leave me notes at the same spot to tell me where they are. Poor Kyle- I could imagine how hurt he felt. Maybe it would help to tell the twins that you will always tell them when you are going out. They can’t always come with you but won’t feel abandoned.

  • monek says:

    That was a painful and an important read for me and for the rest of us too. A big part of my reading here is to gain insight on children that have had similar situations so that I can be the best advocate I possibly can be. (I teach.) Thank you so much for being willing to share the good things and the not so good things. I can never take Heather’s grad classes, but I can learn from you guys just the same.

  • Tracy R says:

    It might just be normal kid stuff, but it doesn’t sound that way to me. I, too, have twins, adopted domestically when they were nine weeks old. They are now almost 8 and one (my philosopher/deep thinker) still must be kissed and held if I’m going anywhere and I must tell her where I’m going and that I’ll be back. I think you need to look at the whole child and their “normal” manipulations and how they normally express fear and disappointment and anger. My daughter gets angry when I refuse to fix her hair the way she likes when we’re late for school, and she’s afraid of the dark. But this “you left me” fear is all consuming like Kyle’s was. It’s a panic attack and anger rolled into one. She’s old enough (and wise enough, I think) to start articulating her fear of being left, abandoned, rejected and will often ask me why her birthmother “gave me away” or “didn’t want me” despite the fact that she knows her adoption story in great detail and those are not the words we use nor the facts as we tell them. I think she knows this in her head, but her heart just feels abandoned and she needs the reassurance that it’s not going to happen again.
    I think you handled Kyle brilliantly, reassuring him and nurturing his attachment to you. And don’t beat yourself up because until it happens you don’t know it’s going to happen. There are many issues relating to adoption and/or regular kid stuff that children will react to, and you can’t be proactive about all of them. It’s really how you respond to them that show your child where your heart is.

  • Rachel says:

    I think it’s easy to assume that anytime the boys get upset, it is a result of being in an orphanage. Embrace the normal! I think Kyle reacted like any scared and jealous little boy would. You did the right thing by comforting him and reassuring him that you are always there for him. Relax Daddy, you’re doing a great job!

    • Heather says:

      Actually, we rarely assume that the boys’ upsets are the results of being in an orphanage. Kids get upset all the time, multiple times a day for a whole range of “normal” things (skinned knee, sick of brother, jealous of sister, etc., etc., etc.). In our six years of parenting Kyle we have very rarely seen him the way we saw him last night (I could probably count on one hand the number of times we’ve seen him like that). We know our boy; it was not “normal kid stuff”; it was adoption trauma stuff. If we were to have brushed it off as “normal kid stuff” it would have been to entirely discount Kyle’s history, experience, and true emotional reality. The experience was awesome (in the true sense of the word) and intense and raw for all five of us to experience. It gave us a lot to think about. Mostly, as Braydon has already said, we are just so grateful that Kyle was able to unburden it on us. And we are honored to be able to go through it with him. Thanks for reading, ~Heather

  • Ani says:

    This post made me cry… its amazing how deeply and how fully children experience and process certain things. Just curious, did Owen have a similar reaction? It speaks volumes about your parenting that your children are able to voice their emotions, and work through these heart wrenching episodes with you.
    Have a wonderful (and quiet!) weekend :-)

    • Heather says:

      Hi Ani – thanks for the comment and your deep engagement in our experience.

      Owen actually reacted totally differently. He didn’t seem to much mind my going – but maybe more accurately, he knew his brother needed the space (a space that Kyle rarely demands) and he kept an eye on Meera the entire time we were with Kyle (which was only about 5 feet away, but you know what I mean). He was a trooper beyond words.

  • meg says:

    Love reading your blog by the way…you have a beautiful family and I love reading your blog.

    This story tugs at the heartstrings! I am glad he opened up to you both.

    By the way.. Clifford the Big Red Dog is a favorite in our house too :)

  • shannon says:

    Thank you for sharing how you speak to your children. I really mean that. You help in developing a ‘new voice’ inside my head to communicate with my son. Different than the one I was raised with..

    And Amanda… ‘normal kid stuff’ doesn’t fly. (If you are defining normal as every 6 year old ) It doesn’t fly- because kids from the hard stuff aren’t ‘normal’. They are children of trauma and you can not take the trauma away. It is always there. You can not compartmentalize it as ‘normal kid stuff’ or ‘adoption stuff’.

  • Anna says:

    My son was 3 1/2 yrs old when he came home, he was in the children’s home for about 6 months to a year. We’ve had a few episodes like that, one in particular was in pre-K when my husband was 5 minutes late picking him up and all the other kids had already been picked up.

    At age 5, he went into a grief period for his first mother. He had vivid memories of her, especially their trip to Addis Abeba to drop him off at the children’s home. He went through a 2 month grieving period where he would cry like Kyle, gut-wrenching desperate wailing from deep within. He would calm down lying on me and listening to my heartbeat.

    I think even if the kids were in an orphanage at as babies, there is a deep wound that will only scar over with time. I think the abandonment issues will lessen with time, I don’t know if they will ever go away.

  • Kate says:


    I read and re-read this post 3 times. It struck me so personally…let me just say I’ve been there. Braydon (and Heather) you’re approach to this situation with grace and thoughtful consideration is a testament to your remarkable parenting. Not only is this post illustrative of this, it re-affirms my admiration for my parent’s parenting of me and my brother – they hold the same core values and recognition of the underlying issues. I truly believe society can only develop positively if we consciously reflect on the individual circumstances and accept and acknowledge difference instead of feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by it.
    And you are right, it is a remarkable that your son is articulating his complex emotions. And although many readers are supportive and encouraging, remain firm in knowing you are you’re children’s parents, and you know them and things are not published here. Thank you also for defending your children’s right to privacy.

    Personally as an adoptee I struggle with being too open with my personal history and allowing questioners to probe for too much information. Countless times I have been advised in the terminology to use to claim my boundaries of what is public and private yet in situations it is challenging for me.

    Take care,

  • momof3 says:

    Heather, you hit the nail on the head.

    As adoptive parents, we must be aware of our children and what are “normal” reactions to things as opposed to possible attachment issues.

    I wrote earlier about our middle kiddo and her sensitivities. With our oldest, it is so different. She can go for months without having any issues or questions related to adoption and then something may happen or a conversation may be sparked and she will have a dozen questions or will start crying.

    So very different from the crying that happens with a boo boo or normal sibling arguments.

    • Braydon says:

      That resonates with me totally – each kid (and Owen reacted so differently) has their own experience of how things happen and what it means for them.


  • Kohana says:

    My husband just travelled to Holland for two weeks with my middle child and my oldest (adopted) and youngest were home with me. Let’s just say it was a challenging two weeks. My oldest son is five and while he didn’t have an episode like Kyle’s, it was obvious to me that he was stressed because of the separation.

    I think it is vitally important that we do just as you did here – accept the impact of “abandonment” (real or perceived) on our children’s very core. While all children go through struggles, the struggles our (adopted) children go through are unique. I think you handled this really well and hopefully set a precedent for helping Kyle navigate future scenarios where he might experience these emotions again.

  • Kristie says:

    It is heartwrenching to read and I don’t doubt all of what you wrote. I find it an amazing testament to Kyle’s knowing that you are always there for him in that he was able to voice his hurt. That’s hard for my kids still (home nearly 3 years but home at older ages).

    Love you all,

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