Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Adoptive Father Thinking about Moses

I was soooo looking forward to writing about Monday’s foreign policy debate. I had it all in my head: how intervention in Libya led to the radicalization of Mali, how the lack of debate on drones shows that both Republicans and Democrats think that they own the world, Mitt Romney’s “America doesn’t dictate to other nations” line –all of this was leading to what I thought was going to be a Pulitzer-prize winning essay on American exceptionalism. Then my son Isaac had a meltdown.

Screw the Pulitzer…Let me tell you about Isaac.

Isaac was abandoned by his biological mother in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. When the police found him, he was emaciated. It took the orphanage 6 months to nurse him back to health, during which time he almost died three times. The adoption agency had given us his picture shortly after he was found, so for months my wife and I were praying that he would survive. As soon as we signed the papers to accept Isaac, my wife got pregnant with our son Christian. Five months into the pregnancy, we found out that Christian had an AV Canal defect and was going to need open-heart surgery a few months after the delivery. Christian was born in January of 2010, his surgery was in April, and then in May my dad and I flew to Ethiopia to pick up Isaac. Isaac was 18 months old when he came to our home.

You know all those stories you hear about internationally adopted children instantly bonding with their new families? That wasn’t the case with us. It was instant shock and horror.

Although things are better now, the first year was around the clock screaming, hitting, biting, throwing things, slapping my wife and I across the face, beating the crap out of our son Christian, tantrums, meltdowns, anxiety attacks….If you were to eavesdrop on our home during one of the meltdowns, it sounds like something out of a Freddy Krueger film…it’s that excruciating. There’s no way to exaggerate it. The screaming is the peak of extreme.

I know a lot of people might think that the things I’m describing are normal toddler behavior, but trust me, anyone who has adopted a child with similar issues can tell you, it’s not normal. Within a week of receiving Isaac into our home, we called Early Intervention, and when EI took us as far as they could go, we found a child psychiatrist who diagnosed him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and an unspecified attachment disorder (not RAD).

Now that Isaac is almost four, he no longer pummels Christian. He’s turning into a good big brother who not only loves his younger brother, but in many ways has become Christian’s protector. The tantrums/anxiety attacks/total meltdowns aren’t nearly as frequent as they were, but they’re still pretty extreme when they do occur. Before our two children, who for very different reasons have undergone speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and in Isaac’s case—social/emotional/attachment therapy—I thought that all this stuff about brain development in early childhood was a bunch of hocus- pocus. I now know that children that have been traumatized—even as infants—develop very differently than other children.

Which brings me to Moses....

After Isaac’s meltdown tonight, I started thinking about Moses. It occurred to me that Moses was an adopted child who also experienced separation from his biological mother, first as an infant and then as a small child. We know that Moses had anger issues because he killed an Egyptian who was in the middle of beating a Hebrew slave. And yet, by the end of his life, Moses was known as the meekest man alive, a man who interceded for a people that wanted to kill him, and a man who God himself testified that he shared a special relationship with, unique to Moses alone.

Yes, I know. I should probably talk about the slaying of the Canaanites, about whether God actually said all the things to Moses that are written in the Torah, or whether the Torah was written by Moses, whether Moses is a historical figure…..or….

None of that matters to me right now.

As an adoptive father, when I see my son’s love and laughter, when I see his compassion and affection, when I see his zeal for knowledge and his thirst for adventure—I know that my son is more than just a traumatized brain. My son is a human being endowed with the capacity for communing with the living God. That’s what the story of Moses is speaking to me tonight as I type this at 1:00 in the morning. Out of all the people that God could have chosen to rescue his people from slavery and to share a special relationship with, he chose Moses.

Isaac is sleeping….I think I’ll sneak a kiss.


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Donna Barten said...

Thanks be to God for the love you can give to Isaac, even when it is difficult for him to give it back. As a neuroscientist, I know that Isaac has some changes in his brain that does make him different from a child that received love from his day of birth. Yet God loves all of his children, even though they may be not particularly easy for us to love at times. You are an inspriration in that love. I imagine that there are some days when it is difficult to be called to such a path in life, among your other callings, but without people like you, people like Isaac have so little hope. Keep up your own hope in a bright future for Isaac.

Donna Barten

PS Came across your blog after reading your excellent review of Alick Isaacs Prophetic Peace. I also found parts of it dense to read without a better background in Judaism, and it led me to listen to an audiocourse on Basic Judaism which also helped. I agree that it was well worth the read in the end, and helped me to understand that Orthodox Jews could also use their faith in the furtherance of Peace in the region. Also enjoyed the Holy Wars documentary. May God grant you wisdom in all of your callings.

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Hi Donna,

I really appreciate you writing me. We've had a difficult week with Isaac. I believe that he'll pull through and be okay, but the process can be so torturous! We've started the therapy back up, and we're also starting up with a pediatric psychiatrist to get him the medical attention that he needs. This is a critical juncture for us, but I know we're making the right decision.

God bless you and have a wonderful rest of the weekend!