As Seen on Adoption.net
“Get him a stress ball!” they said. “It will help him!” they said. My son, Denney was ten when he finally mustered the courage to ask us how his first parents had died. My future son was only a year-and-a-half old when I met him in a Russian orphanage. He was sick. He was so tiny. At that time I was naïve enough that I wouldn’t have thought he could be depressed. He was.
Denney has three older brothers who are my biological sons. He has another older brother who was adopted as an infant in the United States. He also has four sisters from Russia who are biological siblings to each other, but not to him. Everyone else in our family knew their history. The oldest could not have had better beginnings. The first to be adopted had Down syndrome, a heart defect, and was born to a mother who was barely fourteen when she had him. There isn’t much wonder why that brave mother chose an adoption path for her son. Denney’s sisters know that Russian social workers removed them from a home where they were neglected, abused, and even tortured. They can all show you scars. Still, Denney only knew that his Russian parents were both dead. All children who are adopted need help to heal and Denney is no different. His psychologists told us to not force his history on him, but to honestly answer his questions as time went on. “He will always ask for what he is ready to learn,” they said.
I had seen a depressed little boy who would eventually need to work on overcoming (or at least dealing with) rejection. Denney saw a world, torn in two.
It seemed like Denney wanted to know, but he kept walking right up to the edge, and then he would stop. The first time I thought he was going to ask what happened to his first parents, he was about six. The teetering went on for years, though. Finally, I even began a gentle nudge. Denney: “Did my mama in Russia die in an accident?” Me: “No, Denney. But I do know how she died. Any time you want to know, you can ask me.” Denney: “Um… Okay. But I don’t want to know right now.” Those conversations between Denney and me, or Denney and my wife, Amy, continued for even more years. During that time my son was plagued by fits of rage. He could be the most pleasant and happy child in the world. He is also mischievous, in a fun sort of way (sparkly eyes; you have seen them, you know what I mean). But there were times when Denney could be mean. Really mean. One of his psychologists told us to get him a stress ball so he could squeeze out his frustrations. Yeah… I guess his frustrations were a little beyond squeezing them out. Amy found the stress ball torn in half. When she showed it to me, I finally got it, but only because of what was printed on the outside of the foam ball we had given him. To me, I had seen a depressed little boy who would eventually need to work on overcoming (or at least dealing with) rejection. Denney saw a world, torn in two. Like any adoption story, there needed to be truth before that could happen. When Denny finally asked for the whole story, he learned that both of his parents had chosen to end their own lives on separate occasions. He almost seemed relieved. He told us he thought someone murdered his father, and that his mother was eaten by a pack of wolves after dropping him off at the orphanage. Denney has shown real progress after learning the truth, but he’s still harder on stress balls than most people are. I think that I would be too.