Something I have not talked a lot about is my children.  They have been through so much in their young lives, and it has definately taken a toll on them.  They were adopted from a 3rd world country, where they suffered malnutrition and neglect (not because the orphanage didn’t care, but simply didn’t have the resources to provide more than the very minimum to keep a child alive).  After being adopted, they were brought into a home, my home, where there was absolutely no stability.  We moved several times due to my ex-husband’s volatile job situation.  They were raised with a father who was abusive to both them, as well as me.  His temper and emotional and physical abuse has left scars on us all.  In addition, I was terrified and unable to stand up for them for several years.  After I finally took a stand – they went thru a couple of years of a really nasty divorce, and subsequent custody battle.  After all of that, they endured the suicide of my fiance, who had become a father figure to them.  All in all, they have had a very shitty life.

My daugther has struggled since she was first brought home from the orphanage at 18 months.  First, with physical delays.  Then, with emotional and behavoiral challenges.  She is now in 5th grade and has never been in a “mainstream” classroom.  She has bounced around from self-contained “behavoiral learning” classrooms inside a regular school, to day treatment programs.  Last year, she entered a residential facility where she lived for 5 months, along with a stint in the pyschiatric unit of the hospital.  She is diagnosed with PTSD, attachment disorder, depression, and generalized anxiety.  She has been extremely violent in both the home and the school environments, which has resulted in several adults (including myself) ending up at the hospital with broken bones, stitches, dislocated jaws, etc.   There have been several years where I could not even leave the house with her; the schools could not safely keep her in class.

Last July, she discharged from the residential facility.  She discharged 2 days after I was granted full legal custody, and the majority of physical custody.  Since then, her progress has continued to amaze me.  She is still at a day treatment program, but it has been several months since she has had any “unsafe” behavoirs at home.  I can take her on trips to the grocery store now, without fear of her trying to jump out of the moving car; or becoming violent at the store, or running away.  I can take her on vacations, and know that although she may have moments of grumpiness, she will be completely safe (as will everyone else).

She has not been able to be in any extracurricular activities in years; and each time she was involved in the past; she was removed due to behavoirs.  Tonight, she started a gymnastics class.  I decided that she had improved to the point where we could try this again.  I sat watching her in her hour long class, with tears glimmering in my eyes.  Out of pride.  Out of pure fascination and contentment.  Out of a love and joy that has weathered everything thrown at us.  She was focused.  She was on-task.  She listened to instructions and never once behaved in any way that was even slightly inappropriate.  She did fantastic and had an amazing time.  My God – how far we have come in such a short time!  This child who has experienced more trauma that most adults will EVER see; who has struggled and fought and climbed her way out of an abyss so great that some thought she would never emerge – can now GO TO GYMNASTICS.  Some may not be able to comprehend how great of an achievement this is.  They may take these things for granted.

But, tonight, I was reminded that no matter how hard life has been – there IS so much to be thankful for.  So many things have settled into normal, predictable, SAFE behavior and we ARE getting better, day by day.  No matter what, I have finally begun to provide a safe and nurturing environment for my kids, and for myself.  And, I am grateful for that.

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