‘If, Then’

You know how our brains work.  One little dendrite developed by some circumstance in our individual lives reaches out to connect with another in our unique lives.  The connection I made the other day is going to seem odd but it comes out of the neuronal activity developed through my life circumstances in my particular brain.  I was reading the April 2018 copy of The Atlantic.  I too was surprised how dated it was but it was hardcopy from the library if that is an explanation.  The article is titled “The Last Temptation” and is by a thorough going Evangelical, Michael Gerson.  He was raised evangelical and seems to be a spokesperson of respect.   In this article he is trying to explain why evangelicals have supported the American president (in case there is someone out there who is uncertain), DJ Trump, suggesting that in doing so they have lost their way.  On page 48,he argues that evangelicals “lack an organizing theory of social action….”  In comparison, Catholics, whether they always follow through or not, have a needed theory.  This theory “…acts as an ‘if, then’ requirement….” He then goes on to explain.  If Catholics say they are “pro-life on abortion, then [they] have to oppose the dehumanization of migrants [as well].”  If their theory of social action is to be pro-life, it must be pro-life across the board.  

And what has this to do with parenting an adoptee, you ask?

Remember how individual neuronal development is.  My neurons are a rather thick mass when it comes to things having to do with my son.  One of the struggles I have had with how things are going with Yasik has to do with how we handled his rebellion.  Were we too soft? Were we wishy washy? Were we too harsh? Were we inflexible?  The phrase ‘if, then’ resonated with me.  If we have had an operating principle with Yasik since our relationship with him went sideways, it was that we would support what we believed to be healthy life choices.  We would not support the unhealthy.  That meant that if he chose to go to soccer on a school night, then we would drive him.  If he chose to go out on a school night to hang out with people who were doing drugs, then he would have to find his own way home.   If you agree or do this, then we will follow through and do what we felt (rightly or wrongly).

Of course a moment later all the other arguments swimming around in my brain shake off sleepiness and begin to hawk their wares.  What about the danger of leaving an immature teen out on his own at night in a sketchy situation? What does the refusal to help say to someone who started life with at best a shaky sense of attachment?

Yes there are complexities and the strident questions they shout back at my attempt to reconcile the choices we made refuse to be ignored but there is also some rightness as well to the simple little truism,’ Follow through’.  In a moment of uncertainty that demands an immediate response, this one is easy enough to be at the ready. 











“Adoption flags surface”

One day just as we were nearing the parking lot where Yasik’s team was set to play soccer, he blurts out that he doesn’t want to play. I don’t ask why.  Appearing responsible is my default mode, so my blunt response was:  “You have to.”  Yasik came back with, “I don’t have to listen to you.  You are not my mother.” Likely my eyes bulged a bit, but on the surface of things, I acknowledged his point, coolly countering that legally and in terms of his care, yes I was.  We went to the game. Years later he told me he would never make his kids go to soccer.  What was I not understanding? Was there a problem with soccer that I was missing? Or was this the first display of those ‘adoption issues’ adopters hear about? He was ten then.  Nothing else surfaced for several years, at least that we were aware of.  Then along comes a cold, wet night in March of 2007. Yasik was 14. Was this the night those deep seated issues of attachment determined to surface again, this time strong enough not to back down? Or was it just blinding, untested but quite normal teenage testosterone obliterating reason?

 As a student with learning challenges struggling against parents who believed nothing, and I mean nothing, was more important than a solid education, fighting about doing homework was a nightly ritual by now.   Yasik probably had more homework than most students, certainly more than he ever wanted.  That made this night no different than usual; it started out as just another night with a flare up over getting homework done.  Of course there is always more than just the tired, after work, homework conflict at stake.   We were in the midst of another threat of flooding. TV weather reports had us uptight about the North Allouette pouring down the road instead of flowing sensibly under the too narrow bridge at 224 St. and 232nd Ave.  If Yasik was angry, we were tense too; none of our tempers would have been at Calm on the emotional dial.

My journal entry of the night does not detail the fight we engaged in but does note that Yasik is arguing to go paintballing or skiing and we are countering with a negotiation of homework first.  The fight escalates. Yasik, who deeply though sometimes selectively believed (you might read ‘stubbornly’ here) in justice, isn’t giving in.  He leaves the house.  Does he grab a coat? Does he slam the cheaply made front door? The journal doesn’t say, but it is likely on that cold, wet night threatening a flood, he is jacketless.

 The first time your kid does that, you stop a moment.  And I guess going outside into a night that does not warmly embrace his anger gives him a slow down as well because apparently he goes only as far as the front patio.  A probation officer once noted that most runaways opt for warm summer nights.

Dave clicks in first, pulling a jacket on and going out after him, thinking Yasik is running off somewhere more in line with a great teen drama of fiction than merely hiding out under the eaves.  I guess when it is your first move into rebellion you don’t always work out a detailed plan.  Yasik lets his dad go off on a goose chase, slipping back in the house while Dave is out blindly checking up and down a rainy street boasting one lone streetlight on the corner. 

Those of you who have a Bible-infused background may remember the verse in the gospel of Luke (my version) that goes, “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” referring to the unusual activities of her firstborn, Jesus. This was the piece of the evening I continued to ponder in my heart for a long time after: when Yasik comes back into the house it is not with more fighting or cold slamming of doors. Instead Yasik comes into our bedroom; I reach out to him and hold him.  While we stand there mute, me crying and shaken, Yasik says, “I always wanted to do that.”