Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It's hard growing up when you're a Samren.

I have been so distant with my blogging lately and I think I finally figured out it is because I wasn't able to put the "big elephant" in my life into words. All I had was a problem that I couldn't quite wrap my brain around, and a very angry little boy. Tonight we had a bit of a breakthrough so now I feel like sharing. =-)

I GREATLY underestimated the effect that our adoption of Bright would have on Samren. Samren is our easy-going kid. Samren is our super-attached kid. Samren is our kid that begged us for a brother for months before we even identified Bright. Samren was the kid that prayed nightly for Bright's safety and homecoming. But Samren is not okay with Bright in our family (yet).

Samren's very first (ever) response to Bright in person was to begin crying because he said he was scared (of Bright's dark-skinned appearance). The next few days we saw things that I totally expected--typical "She's MY mommy!" stuff (between both boys). The only problem is that this issue has escelated. It's getting much worse instead of better.

I've read the books. I knew how to support Samren through this. Or I thought I did. One on one time....reassurances that his place is safe in our family...playing up the "you're a big brother" thing...and even probably giving him more attention than the other children in an effort to prove that he hadn't "lost" anything.

But things kept getting worse. Just as an example--Samren started crying during Taevy's b-day party because we put Bright behind him for a group photo (couldn't stand the thought of Bright being that close to him). Also, yesterday Samren was eating out of a big bag of chips. He started screaming because Bright wanted one. I told Samren that was okay and just to hand Bright a chip to eat. Rather than going through the easy thing of handing Bright a chip, Samren decided he would rather stop eating the snack altogether.

Two days ago Samren brought me a picture he had drawn on the magnadoodle. He said it was he and his brother. I was so excited! Samren is getting it! I said, "So this is you, and this is Bright!" He started crying softly and said, "No mommy. The big one is my brother in Vietnam and the little one is me." I complimented him on the picture and asked if he wanted to make one of him and his other brother, Bright. "No."

Samren hadn't expressed his thoughts about his older brother in Vietnam until a few months ago when we were talking about it to him and asked him if he would have wanted to be with his brother if he could have. [We were trying to measure at the time how it might affect Bright not to have a relationship with his 3 older brothers.] At that time Samren opened up a bit and shared some strong emotions that he was carrying about his "Vietnam brother." Since then "Vietnam Brother" has been mentioned at least weekly in our home--either in passing or as a topic of conversation.

Stay with me...sorry this is so long. This is what you get when you ignore an elephant for too long--lots of crap to wade through before you get to the bottom of things!

So the last week or so I have really become concerned for my sweet Samren. His usual joy has been replaced by anger (which I recognize as sadness). His anger was taking over in other areas besides Bright. He was getting angry at other seemingly small things. Giving me dirty looks. Just NOT SAMREN kinds of things.

What is at the root of this? What am I doing wrong? Or is it just going to take time? How can I reach him? Should we get counceling for him? I don't want to lose my son to internal rage!

This morning I put together a theory (with my mom) that this might all have a lot more to do with "Vietnam brother" than we realized. Maybe Samren's anger stems from his disappointment that we brought this baby from Africa home instead of the brother that he already has in Vietnam--the brother he so wants to have in his life. Maybe he refuses to attach to Bright because to him, Bright is a constant reminder that the brother he most wants here can't be here. Maybe Samren simply has not accepted that Bright isn't going anywhere and that he IS his brother. [Samren won't even refer to Bright as his brother at this point.]

Tonight when I was tucking Samren in the Lord orchestrated a moment--I don't even remember what it was--that Samren's little heart just burst open. The floodgate of emotion that I have never seen out of my seemingly happ-go-lucky 5 year old burst forth full force. Huge sobs. Desperate sobs. And progress was made.

Several things at the bottom of Samren's pain.

1st: He is sure that Bright takes my love away from him. I've told him a million times that it cannot, because I have a place in my heart that was created ONLY for Samren. But he's still not convinced.

2nd: He's not the baby anymore. Seriously folks--we've talked about all of this with him a million times and he seemed to understand. But understanding something and taking it to heart are different things. Oh the sobs that came forth as he said, "but I'm not your baby ever again!" I reassured him that he would always be my baby, but that he is now also my oldest son--and that is a special thing!

3rd--Vietnam brother. I said, "Do you think you might be angry with Bright because you feel like he took away Vietnam brother?" Huge sobs--the biggest sobs. Biggest root. Bright took the spot that he was saving (but didn't consciously know he was saving) for his bio big brother. Now that spot is gone and there's no hope for him to ever have the bio big brother he fantasizes about. Out of loyalty to his Vietnam brother he refuses to accept Bright as his brother. For some reason right now, those are mutually exclusive things to Samren.

I don't think Samren's issues have been solved tonight. But I feel like we have something concrete to focus on rather than the behavior. After all, the behavior is just a symptom of a negative emotion. My goal for Samren right now is to make an effort to ACT more brotherly (even if he doesn't really feel it yet) towards Bright. Today Samren took Bright out of his high chair after a meal and that was HUGE (Samren doing anything for Bright is huge). And tonight the boys were play-boxing for a few minutes. I have to hold on to these tiny moments of progress and hope for a successful future brotherly bond.

We parents focus on how we will attach to a newly adopted child, and how the newly adopted child will attach to us, but I have NEVER given any thought until the last few days about how my children will attach to EACH OTHER. Someone needs to write a book!

Just to make an already too long post a little longer...I have to share a bit of cute Sammy with you. Two days ago he lost his first tooth. He was so proud!
Today he lost his second tooth! Wahoozee!
We didn't know any teeth were loose until 2 days before he lost the first one. And today I noticed his top tooth is getting loose too. The kid is going to be RICH from the tooth fairy!



ManyBlessings 6:33 AM  

Wow Anita,
He's got a lot on his heart, but it's a good sign he finally was able to share it with you. That had to feel good for him to be able to trust you with such big thoughts. And I wonder if now the healing can begin. It almost seems similar to a child who comes from an abusive home and still wants to protect and honor their bparents. Please keep letting us know what you are doing and how it is going.

Thinking about you guys and especially your sweet Samren.


thecurryseven 9:23 AM  

Don't you just wish you could look right into kids' heads and hearts and actually see what was going on? Ugh, it can be so hard. With regard to the 'enough love' thing, have you tried the visual explanation with the candle yet? (You know, where you light a candle and explain this is your love for X, then light another candle and explain this is you love for Y, but show that the flame never gets any less.) Sometimes a visual reminder can help. Good luck as you wade through all this....I hope you're on the upswing now.

Life in Fitzville 5:18 AM  

What a great post. I was amazed by the different ways my 6 accepted their new brother, and the different ways he accepted his new siblings. One of his younger brothers... well we are still working on that relationship, but most days are good now.

Do you ever talk to Samren about how Bright "lost" brothers as well? Maybe it would help him to know he is not alone, and he and his new brother share some grief. I know Bright isn't old enough to talk about it yet, but maybe just knowing would help Sam.