Trauma, Parenting and New Beginnings

A millstone from Capernaum in Israel.

A millstone from Capernaum in Israel.

But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. -Matthew 18:6 NLT

The house is quiet right now, save for the gentle hum of the ceiling fan and the whir of the dishwasher. Forty-five minutes ago, it was a cacophony of activity. There was laughing, screaming and crying in tandem. Just another night in our household.

Two days ago, we recieved our decree of adoption. After a long 16-months of foster care, we are now legally, officially the parents of two beauiful children who love the Lord and are settling in quite comfortably to a life miles from where they began, both literally and figuratively.

When my wife and I married 9 years ago this month, we saw the future clearly. A little house, a baby and a fairy-tale life cookie-cutter to the dream that newlyweds have. In my opinion, we have that fairy-tale life, just not in the way once imagined. No, this is far better. We’re on a journey that the Lord set our feet to.

Nearly half-a-decade ago, the Lord opened up the concept of fostering and adopting to us. In 2011, we started training and in the summer of 2012, we received our first placement — brothers, 11 months apart, who had been living out-of-state with a relative. It did not work out.

We knew there were issues as social services doesn’t remove happy well-adjusted children. It only took a few days to find that not only were they neglected and abused, they were traumatized. It would be months before the depth of trauma was revealed.

Trauma is a word I used to associate with hospitals, thanks to medical dramas like ER and Grey’s Anatomy. Perhaps even a solider in a far away war as we’ve seen with Iraq and Afghanistan. But, children. I had no concept of what that meant.

Here’s a compiled definition from various sources. Trauma is an event or experience that can compromise the physical or mental integrity of a person or loved one, which results in both physical and mental effects that require treatment.

A more illustrative way to look at it is a beautiful child inside and outside, who can at times seem happy, healthy, well-adjusted until a trigger, flashback, reminder of the experience(s) causes reactions.

There’s no easy cure. Parenting a trauma-afflicted child requires love… lots and lots of love. It requires grace. Oh, does it ever require grace. It also requires fortitude that you might stand firm on some behaviors so that the child does not grow up playing the victim-role or the survivor-role.

But mostly, it requires humility to accept that you have no idea how to parent this child. Day-by-day, hour-by-hour and at times, minute-by-minute. That’s how we do this. Progress is measured in centimeters, not leaps and bounds.

Oh great Light of the World

Illuminate Your will for me

Oh great Light of the World

Open my eyes that I may see

The steps You have planned so I may honor Thee.


About Andrew Sawyer

I'm a foster-adoptive dad that is raising two incredibly awesome boys with my super-talented wife and trusty beagle while trusting God to provide the strength and knowledge for each step of the way.
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