I started with Birth Order and the affects of adopting a child that instantly became the oldest of our seven children. Truthfully, this aspect of the adoption was more difficult for our biological children than it was for Johanna. She seems to enjoy being the oldest most of the time. (occasionally she is very sad that she wasn't a baby when she was adopted)
Today, I'm going to talk about the "negative" (in quotes on purpose, because clearly these behaviors were unavoidable in the beginning) BEHAVIOR issues we've faced so far.
Johanna spent 14 years in a public institution. She was fed and kept warm and clean, but she was not nurtured, loved, or disciplined. Our children's moral compass is set in motion by the parents and without that ruling sense of right and wrong, it becomes all about survival. The behaviors I'm about to describe are a direct result of years of neglect, abuse, and self-preservation.
This is the Johanna at the beginning of our journey. Many of these behaviors have been overcome by lots of love, hard work, and perseverance; some of them still remain, but we're working on them. :) I'm going to list the behaviors, then highlight and explain some of them.
Lack of eye contact with adults
Inappropiate contact with men (this only happened a few times, hugging men at church, etc)
Running around wildly
"Spacey" look in her eyes
Overstimulated easily in public places, ie Wal-mart or church, amusement parks, large groups of people
Inability to play with other children, especially with regards to role-playing or group games
Lack of appropiate "stranger" boundaries/bonding outside the family
Sensory processing difficulties
Inability to "read" her body's signals and needs (ie hungry, thirsty, tired, overstimulated, need to use the bathroom, etc)
Self-soothing behaviors like rocking, nail biting, fingers in her mouth, head banging, scratching (until she would bleed!)
Difficulty "calming down" once stimulated; bedtime was a great challenge for many months
Coordination challenges, such as jumping
Struggled to tie her shoes
Hoarding of her things (EVERYTHING she owned was kept on her bed for about 6 months and NOBODY was allowed to touch it)
Cheating with schoolwork
Anger when told "no"
Inability to control her temper
Uncontrollable crying, screaming, or raging, depending on the situation
Toddler-like emotions: giddy when excited, throwing herself on the floor when disappointed
Only coping mechanism for stress: RUNNING AWAY FROM IT---literally running and hiding
Habitual (daily) lying
No empathy for others
Quite the list, isn't it? The thing is, Johanna is not just a list of behaviors. She's the product of her upbringing. We can't erase those years but we can help her begin to heal. And we are SO PROUD of how far she has come in just a little over one year. :)
I will be honest and say that if someone had showed me this list of behaviors before I traveled for Johanna, I would have been very overwhelmed. I'm so thankful now that we stepped out by faith and trusted the Lord's leading and not "man's" intuition. :)
I expected many of these behaviors, but a few really pulled the rug out from under me. We've been through some dark days but the "SON" is still shining in our hearts.
In the next few posts, I will try to "highlight" the most challenging moments of the past year, in the hopes that our story can educate, equip, and encourage other families to not only consider one of these precious older children, but also to persevere when the "going gets tough". :)
Next posts will cover "Teaching Through the Communication Barrier", "Defiance and Discline", "The Reality of Raging and Grief" and more. Please feel free to comment publicly or email me privately if you have a question you'd like to see addressed in this series.