The other day, we had a marathon session at Shriner’s with our youngest. She
went through a pretty hellish surgery/recovery a little over a year ago, from which
she still suffers PTSD. (She gets freaked out thinking that the doctors had to cut
her to fix her hips.) Anyway, at one point during our session, she saw her x-rays
with a large screw in one hip. For some reason, that screw caused her to get really
quiet and sad. She was even brushing tears off her cheeks at one point. When I pulled
her close to me and asked what she was feeling, she said “mommy, I don’t remember
any China words.” From there, she went to several other statements about her life in
China...her “old” mom, dad, and brother, to…"I miss my China friends.”

You see, in the adoption community, and often from outside it, we hear or are told that
our kids are resilient. That they can bounce back from the trauma they’ve faced, and
that the lives they have now can somehow erase or make up for their traumatic
experiences. This rings false with me, based on my own experiences with my children
as well as from the research I’ve done on this topic.

I prefer to describe my children as malleable.

In my mind, I see a hammer bouncing off an object that is resilient. But  I see a hammer
leaving a mark on a malleable object.

Trauma leaves a mark on our kids. Sometimes lots of marks.

It’s our job as adoptive parents to love them between the trauma marks. To help them feel
safe between the trauma marks. To teach them skills to deal with and maybe even move
beyond the trauma marks. Even to use the trauma marks for good in their lives. To help
them be strong and independent between the trauma marks. To leave other marks on our
kids...of love, safety, peace, strength, independence...between the trauma marks.
Sometimes we are successful. Sometimes we are not.

Our kids are not resilient. They are malleable.

When we finally got home from Shriner’s that day, she ran in the house, found the nearest
notepad, and drew a “Chinese character.” She showed it to me with a big grin on her face;
a grin almost of relief. That she still knew a Chinese word. I have no idea if it really is a
Chinese character or not. But I sure celebrated it like it was.

Love marks between the trauma marks.



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