There almost always seems to be a trigger when my wife and I see bad behavior in our adopted children. When two of them get milk, they turn disobedient obstinate argumentative feral. Feral \fe-rəl\: Something that is typically domesticated that has become wild. Yes… that’s the right word; the only right word.
For my life I couldn’t figure it out. I asked if they had milk at the orphanage. “Sometimes.” I questioned if others fought over it. “No.” I asked what was so unusual about milk in their former lives. They didn’t know. I queried time and again why they acted the way they do around milk. “Act like what?”
Our children came to our home with other unusual behaviors; I mean, unusual in traditional family building. Some were overly concerned about being alone. Others never worried about how far away we were, or even if we ever came back. There were night terrors on the extreme side and less concerning unruly behavior that happens when children are raised in institutions rather than their own families. Those were all things that came as no surprise. Even feral behavior, by itself, was not unexpected.
Milk, as a trigger, is what made no sense to me. Milk: a symbol of life from our earliest moments. Maybe that should have been my first clue to one of the triggers that seemed to bring out bad behavior in the adopted children in our home.
We thought if we ignored the milk-induced bad behavior in our adopted children, it would go away.
One of my daughters had a habit of sticking her nose in the glass while taking deep breaths of her milk before even taking a swallow. Then she would sip it while looking like a heroin addict with the first chill of a fix entering her vein. She would continue to gulp, sip, smell, and swallow until it was gone, always asking for more until we said “no,” regardless of how many times we had said yes.
The worst part is not the unchecked rapturous ecstasy with which my daughter consumes milk; it’s how she acts after. Feral. That’s the only way to describe what continues to happen for a considerable time after her consumption. As we focused on correct parenting principles, we thought if we ignored the milk-induced bad behavior in our adopted children, it would leave our home. Well, it’s been nine years and there is no sign of an end in our family.
One of my daughters with “milk trauma” is twenty-three. She lives in a group home, now, though she is still very involved in our family. Recently she started a blog on my web site that has provided a wealth of information that I had never gotten before. That is just one of the benefits of adopting an older child.
Recently, when Emily asked me for some ideas for blog subjects, I told her that I thought her readers would like to hear about when she was a little girl and worked on the community farm (commune?) with her first father, in her first family. She had finally gathered the courage to talk a little bit about how much she loved her first father and what a good guy he was. When neither my wife nor I objected to positive feelings about other parents in her history, Emily opened up more and more. I did think that a blog about her childhood and learning about farming from one of her fathers would be of interest to her readers. Still, I also hoped it would be therapeutic for Emily. And in our family, “therapeutic” always seems to reduce bad behavior in our adopted children and bring more peace to our home.
The article my daughter sent surprised me. While parts about feeding pigs and learning to milk cows (Milk Cows) didn’t catch me off guard, her tale of meat feasts did. Emily talked about how much meat they ate in Russia, but when she entered the orphanage, along with four siblings, they were all but starved to death. When I questioned her about the content, she told me that they almost never had food and always begged scraps of bread from neighbors. But once in a while, when a pig had been raised to the point where it was worth slaughtering, they had a grand feast with several neighbor families, eating pork until they could eat no more. Well, that explained my daughters’ affinity for binge eating, and the lack of control that went with it. But it also got my parenting nose sniffing down the trail of milk.
I wondered how much the farm and milk played in what we were seeing in relation to bad behavior in our adopted children.
My older daughters were removed from their home and placed in orphanages before my youngest two daughters were born. They even lived in different villages. Really, they had been two different families. Even so, their lifestyles had been identical. Emily’s younger sisters were not old enough to go to the farm with their father before they were removed from the home, but I wondered how much the farm and milk played in what we were seeing in our home and family with relation to bad behavior in our adopted children.
I asked one of my younger daughters if her father had ever brought home pigs from the farm for barbecues. She grew excited. She said that they almost never had food, but that once in a while they had huge barbecues with a pig and that she always got as much to eat as she wanted. My daughter almost couldn’t contain herself with the excitement she used to describe those binges in between starvation. Not wanting to tip my hand, (my obsession with wanting to know the milk mystery is almost as bad as my daughters’ obsession with drinking it,) I asked my daughter if her father ever brought other things from the farm. Chickens? “No.” Honey? “No.” Milk?
Ecstasy filled my daughters face as she shouted. “Yes! Sometimes he brought milk! When I was so hungry I thought I would die, sometimes he brought home milk. I LOVE MILK!”
So that’s the end to the mystery of at least one of the triggers that unleashes bad behavior in our adopted children. I guess now I can start obsessing about something else. What are the triggers with your adopted children? Do you know why?
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