Shari’s Story: Adoption, Trauma, and Parenting

“When we first adopted the girls I naively thought change would happen soooo much faster!” laughs Shari, rolling her eyes and thinking back three years to when she and her husband Matt (and five children) adopted Isa (6) and Mari (4). “I mean when we adopted the girls, their dad was in jail for armed robbery and the mom . . . the mom, addicted to dangerous drugs, showed up to court 45 minutes late looking high as a kite, wearing fuzzy house slippers, and powdering her nose as she waited. The judge entered and denied her rights, and I just walked over to her as we exited, and was like, oh honey, do you have a Bible? You need a Bible. And I gave her a hug and she just stone-stared at the ground, and I was like, oh, honey, and just hugged her.”

 I can just imagine my friend Shari hugging that mama tight, wanting to adopt her too.

 “And I didn’t realize, didn’t know all the residual affects our girls had and I’ve learned we all need a Parent—otherwise you are fending for yourself and you can’t, you just can’t, and Matt and I, we are supposed to fill those girls up with the love from our Heavenly Father, cause when you know you’re adopted, you just roll so much differently through life.”

She stops to breathe and laugh, her dark eyes wide, “But my Italian, fiery, impatient, I-just-can’t-deal-with-you self just gets so drained, and I just think, I don’t wanna, I just can’t do this.

 “I remember once when I made Isa a sandwich she asked for, that she wanted, and I handed it to her and she took it and threw it in my face, and I mean, once, that I can handle, but these meltdowns over and over and over again, day after day? And Mari, whenever they play, she has to be the princess every time, and if she isn’t the princess, it’s wild temper and crying and she just can’t stop. It’s like, . . . like, do you remember the story of the prisoner of war lost at sea on a raft, and how the Japs were shooting at him and the raft was filling holes and he was frantically trying to patch it, to keep the air in and the water out? It’s like that!”

I nod, remembering the book—Unbroken—the one we read together all those years ago as nursing mamas.

“It’s like Mari is in this raft that’s keeping her up, but it’s so filled with holes, with trauma and hurt, and she’s learned to cope by patching it all the wrong ways and the water just keeps coming and drowning her, drowning me, and sometimes I just don’t know what to do, and then guess who’s raft starts losing air?”

I smile, knowing my heart-honest friend, “Yours?”

“Mine!!” and she laughs her belly laugh and throws her hands in the air and I just can’t help laughing too.

“And you know what I’m learning to do when all my air is coming out and I don’t know which hole to start with—hers or mine or both—I do what Jesus did, I start praying, ‘Lord, your kingdom come, your will be done—help me accept this moment!’

“And I read a verse the other day, Colossians 3:12-14, the Phillips version, and it says, . . . she reaches to grab her journal on the kitchen counter, it says, ‘Therefore,  . . . accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with one another, always ready to forgive . . . as freely as the Lord has forgiven you.’

She leans across the counter and looks me in the eye, fierce,

“I want this—Your will be done

She pauses, looking up toward heaven,

“You are the Father and I am the child, and God, you’ve called me to be the parent of this moment when my child’s raft is going down.

 “Matt reminded me the other day that I’m 46 and God’s been patching the holes in my raft for a looonnnggg time, so I can just say ‘Your will be done!’ and hug my girls and patch those holes and be silly even when the raft is going down because I know Jesus created this moment for his glory and our good and it makes me calm.”

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