While my son's special needs come largely from his past, I am determined to see beyond them -- to accept my beautiful son as he is.
Guest blogger Maggie Vink: The plain cardboard box sitting on my porch looked so unassuming. Still, I wondered if the deliveryman had had some idea how important it was when he set it on my porch. I wondered if, somehow, he knew that the box contained the key to my future as a mom: It contained the detailed information of my son's past. My son -- a 10-year-old boy who at the time lived almost 2,000 miles away. A boy I hadn't even spoken to -- yet who, in a few short months, would be in my life forever.
I opened up the box to find an expandable file folder straining to hold the four inches of paperwork inside of it. I started flipping through and found some wonderful surprises, including my son's baby footprints from the hospital -- a rare and wonderful gift for those of us who adopt older children. I also read through police reports detailing the abuse my future son had endured, doctor's reports covering his multiple emotional disorders and school records detailing the behavioral problems he had previously exhibited. Hours later, I sat on my couch shaken, saddened and downright terrified.
Then my son arrived, and he and I never really had the honeymoon period some families experience. He walked into our house and quickly decided to push every rule and question every bit of my authority. He had to practically break down the walls to see where the boundaries were. Still, it all seemed reasonable to me. He was just a great kid who had gone through an enormous change. In time, however, his more challenging special needs became evident.
My son has a bevy of anxieties, anger issues and cognitive delays. He's made enormous progress during the years that we've been a family, but his array of special needs shapes our days. I keep our schedule structured and without surprises in order to keep his moods even. I have been extremely consistent with consequences so he knows where the boundaries are. And there are times that I am guilty of something I don't care to admit: Sometimes, because I have to work so hard to help him with his special needs, I see the special needs more than I see my son.
The truth of the matter is, my son is not the sum of his issues. He is so much more than that. Yes, he would not have been exposed to drugs and alcohol if he had been born to me. Nor would he have experienced abuse and neglect. But if my son had been with me from birth, he would not be the amazing boy who fills my life with energy and spirit.
I was a shy child and still battle that as an adult, but my brave son greets everyone he meets with an open and caring heart. When I was little, I was content reading a book alone in my room. My son, on the other hand, is a child of the sunshine. If there is a ray of sun to be had, he's out in it running, jumping and playing with friends. He loves to make people laugh and isn't afraid of looking silly in order to do so. While he needs structure to maintain his behavior, his mind is an unstructured, freethinking playground of uninhibited thought. He's athletic, gregarious and outgoing. No matter how rough things get, my son always shakes off the bad times and never holds a grudge. All of these amazing traits didn't come from me. I honestly don't know if they ever could have.
It's true that my son's special needs are a result of his early years. But so is his strength, his resiliency, his character and his sweet heart that so badly wants to love and be loved. Even though my son experienced things no child should ever experience, I'm grateful for his past. It made him who he is ... and he is beautiful.