Let me tell you a little something about our Tariku. He is smart, really smart. Top of his class, TAG, reading books past his age level-smart. He is sweet. Let me carry 40 bags so you don’t have to carry any, let me take my sister to the bathroom, let me make life easier for you-sweet. He is gorgeous. Did you see that kid in the catalog? Tariku is way cuter-gorgeous. He is a good friend, a great brother and a terrific son.
And he has the worst self esteem of anyone I have ever known. He has virtually no memories of Ethiopia anymore and yet, deep inside him the only thing that remains is the idea that he’s not loved. That he’s not lovable. That he. wasn’t. wanted.
That’s it. That’s the extent of what he brought with him for the most part.
This shows itself in a myriad of ways. Instead of telling us the truth about a situation he will opt instead for what he thinks we want to hear. When he gets praised he shifts his eyes and changes the subject or gets very anxious. Things like that.
Then there is, of course, the making decisions that don’t really make any sense. Zach and I both know at least part of the time he’s doing them (perhaps subconsciously) to prove that he’s unlovable and unworthy of our love. We know Tariku wants to test how real and true our love is, where our line is. No matter how many times we tell him there is literally nothing on Earth he could do to make us stop loving him or stop us from being his parents he can’t take that in. He can’t allow that to penetrate his heart’s center.
A week ago when we were trying to talk to Tariku about a decision he made at school he was shutting down. He does this virtually any time we try talking to him about reasons for his behavior (truthfully, it’s so rare that it doesn’t come up often). Zach, out of nowhere, asks him if he’d like to write down his feelings instead of talk to us about them.
And friends, the things that came pouring out of him made me weep. 3 pages of things. Things that were buried deep-4 years deep. Things like,
“When you get mad at me I feel like I’m not part of the family.”
“I don’t feel good.” (as in “I don’t feel like I’m a good person”)
Things like that. Things he’s never told us, never even hinted at.
Deep things, powerful things, touching things. Wise and old things. Hurt and trauma. Loss.
It was all there. Of course we knew it was there before but we had never heard him say it, we only saw how he was choosing to act it out.
Loss, hurt, trauma in a 7-year-old? That acting out can alienate you, it can hinder the relationship and can cause resentment and frustration and anger (from all sides), believe me, I know.
This last year, though, it’s been a huge year for us. These last weeks since he started writing in his journal? Life. changing.
He still gets in trouble from time to time. He still makes poor (7-year-old) decisions.
But we know now. We know he knows that we want to hear all of that. That maybe, in fact, we knew all of that before. And that we loved him anyway.
That we knew his worst and we loved him still, perhaps even more.
That’s what we all want, right? People to know our ugly, our worst, our shame and to love us anyway?
Our kids from broken places need that from us. And we will fall, we will fail. We will have days when we yell and when we wish this wasn’t our life right now. That will happen because we are human.
But every day is a new day. Every moment is a new moment. We get new chances constantly.
And even when it feels like they are winning, when they have frustrated us so much we don’t particularly like them in that moment we will still show up. Our love will show up. And it. will. win.
That’s what I learned these last few weeks. Shame and loss and all of that, it doesn’t hold any weight when compared to how much I love Tariku.
One day Tariku is going to see himself the way I see him, the way God sees him. That day is not today and it’s not tomorrow but we are getting there. And today? Today I’m just so thankful for that.