When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

June 15, 2010

Sophie's "Flat Stanley" with Pushkin (Moscow, June 2010)

June 15, 2010.  Our morning undulates with more than the typical inconsonance because Peter is still reeling from yesterday’s excitement.  On the way to school he punches Sophie over and over, without warning, as Pat momentarily steps from the car to put the garbage bags into the bin at the top of the driveway.  Our daughter is always vulnerable in these brief snatches of unsupervised time and so we try to minimize his predatory, albeit fleeting opportunities, as much as possible. There’s something very primal about Peter’s split second decisions to purge his impulses on someone or something before an adult reappears to snap him back into a more regulated state of mind.  If Sophie weren’t his favorite victim, this morning’s chaos would almost be worth it.  Yesterday after school we spent several hours being filmed by a crew from Russia Today, which is an English broadcasting 24/7 news channel, for a segment about American families formed through Russian adoption.  We were told the purpose of the segment is to counter the negative publicity in Russia resulting from the string of recent events that led to the halt of its adoption program with the United States.  Though a little nervous, I found the entire experience incredibly positive, even validating.  Against the backdrop of the horrendous ordeal with Peter’s school, which has accused us of child abuse, neglect, wanting to send our son away, and countless other demeaning judgments, it was wonderful to watch the correspondent absorb the ambiance of our home and express genuine gratitude and awe for all we’ve tried to do for our children.  In the United States only three weeks, this gentle, kind woman clearly was moved by the love and devotion we’ve poured into Sophie and Peter.   Its no more than any others would do for their children, and maybe that’s the point, an important impression I hope she took away from the experience.  Most of us adoptive parents are doing our best.  We love our children just as much as anyone else.  However, because not all prospective parents are equipped to raise all children, there are instances when a significant mismatch occurs between the innate and external resources of the adults and the child’s needs.  This fundamental fact of human nature is blind to adoption-biolological parenting lines.  It’s why we have a foster care system in this country and why children who aren’t “orphans” in the traditional sense are adopted from all over the world.  But society holds adoptive parents to a higher standard even though the challenges they face in addressing their children’s needs are empirically, and undeniably, higher.  Maybe that’s okay, though.  Maybe adoptive parents should be more accountable to the children they bring into their lives.  After all, they are agreeing up front to love and care for a child that by definition has suffered tremendous damage as a result of being permanently separated from his or her birth parents.  But that’s where I believe the difference, and perhaps judgment, should end.  The motivation that drives them to adopt, the motivation that certainly drove me, derives from the most universally basic want: to parent and raise a family.  But occasionally there are clashes between desire and ability, between hope and reality, between an adoptive parent’s capacity to give and a damaged child’s bottomless pit of needs.  When the disparity is great, the outcome often is poor, and can even be devastating.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, as in the case of the Tennessee woman who sent her Russian son on a one-way flight to Moscow, society is horrified.  The woman interviewing us yesterday asked Pat and I the Million Dollar question: if we knew the extent of Peter’s problems prior to his adoption, would we still have adopted him?  An impossible but fair question.  I can’t answer that exact question, however, because Peter is my son, he’s now and forever part and parcel of who I am and there’s no changing that.  I wouldn’t even try.  My heart belongs to him, forever, and I’ve fought long and hard to be able to say those words, and mean them.  But if Pat and I were considering bringing a third child into our family, a stranger to us like Peter and Sophie once were, and we were told the child had FAS, seizures, a bipolar mood disorder, and an autistic spectrum disorder, I wouldn’t hesitate to walk away.  My capacity to parent Peter is far greater than I ever imagined possible, and it’s a good thing, because I draw from it every single minute of every single day.  At times my meager reserves are barely enough to see us through a sudden crisis or a heartbreaking period of lasting regression.  So the truth is I’d never purposely choose the path that adopting Peter has lead us to even though I would and will always choose Peter.  I think the woman from Russia Today understood that, at least I hope so.  There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about our efforts with our son.  People from countries all over the world are coping with similar issues and in many cases, their adoptive children’s problems are far more profound.  But we are a success story.  We’ve found a way for love to bloom in what was once a little boy’s terribly hostile, barren, and terrified heart.  I’m glad Russia Today, and those watching when it airs, could witness our family’s transformation and our unceasing commitment to heal and love.  Peter’s not whole, he never will be, and this morning’s behavior wakes me abruptly from the dreamy revelry that yesterday’s excitement evoked.  But that’s okay.  I can handle it.  I know that now.  Maybe our family’s tiny little story will help the Russians understand that too.



  1. Mary,

    Your words are so eloquent today. I just felt so calm and happy reading them…

    You are so correct. I tell people my kiddo has been a character builder for me. But, it never occurred to me until now and by what you wrote, that maybe it is alright that we are held to a higher standard, than possibly many other parents. I just know most who know me tend to say I am a strong person, but usually very down to earth type also. With my kiddo, and as you mention, I have found I’m ‘stronger’ than I ever knew, but in a very deeply compassionate way, because now due to my child. You wrote these thoughts so well, it really has helped me understand what I’ve been feeling…

    In Russia, while in court, the woman with the what I call DCFS office who helped legalize, with the judge, our adoption of our daughter, actually started crying when they asked if I’d adopt another – if a brother or sister came along. It was an of course to me. I’m glad that so many in Russia do see that we really do love our children with all of our hearts.

    Thank you so much for telling our story, and your husband too, and your darling kiddos. I tell ‘ya Mary, you are one brave woman, and I do so admire your gentle strength.



    Comment by Lori — June 16, 2010 @ 11:00 am | Reply

  2. Mary,

    I just saw this article in the New York Times. It’s not completely on point for your situation, but thought you might be able to pull something useful out of it.



    Comment by Nan — June 20, 2010 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Mary,

    When I read your blog, I feel like I am reading about our life with our son. Thank you for writing so well and sharing your family’s story. I am thrilled that your story will be on Russia Today.

    I wonder if you would consider linking our website to your blog? My goal is to connect families to families. Thanks,

    Allison Leet
    Chair for Advocacy and Outreach
    Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption

    Comment by Allison Leet — June 21, 2010 @ 2:05 pm | Reply

    • Allison – for some reason your comment went into the spam folder – my apologies for getting back to you late. I would be happy to link FRUA to my blog – can you reference mine? Thanks!

      Comment by whenrainhurts — July 12, 2010 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

  4. Twice in the last several months a professional has asked us if we plan to continue parenting our son. I’m astounded by that question. The first time I was speechless, wondering what I could have possibly said or done to make someone think we would just give up on our child. The simple answer to a question like that is “he’s our son!” No, this is not the life we had envisioned, and yes, there are times when I think I can’t do it anymore. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop! I will never stop being his mother. I will never stop fighting for him.

    That said, if someone had told us before we met our son what our future would hold, then no, we would not have gone through with it. We never would have believed we had the strength to live as we do now. All that changed once we held him in our arms though.

    We had our first session of a week of intense attachment therapy with him today. We hope this will help his control issues. It was very powerful today to see him fight for over 90 minutes before he would follow one simple command. So much rage inside him. Once he finally gave in though it was amazing. And once again we were given a glimpse of the boy we are fighting for. He’s in there, he just has a lot of crap in the way.

    Comment by Kristine — June 21, 2010 @ 10:07 pm | Reply

  5. I just stumbled upon this blog and feel so connected to your situation. Are you still writing? I was actually looking for information on Dr Federici and your blog appeared. Have you met with him? I’d like to hear your opinion, if you would be willing. Hope to hear from you.

    Comment by A. G. — February 27, 2012 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

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