Photo Credit: Casey Alexander


Yesterday, I sorted through paperwork accumulated since the kids arrived. Every medical document, communication with social workers, school form. Each piece of art or writing I thought they might like to have later.

All dropped into boxes in no particular order, for five years. 

Hours after starting, I accomplished my goal: a box for him, a box for her, a box for documentation (school/medical/legal). In the process, I found a picture he painted.

I’d forgotten “The Blackbird.” Although his artistic leanings often surprise me, a blackbird is out of character. His illustrations tend to be technical (buildings, vehicles, maps, stars in the sky, landscapes, World War battle tactic representations), with many details. Representation of anything living (other than “military guys”) is rare.

Blackbirds...symbolize freedom and the link between the the temporal and the eternal in many cultures…they tend to symbolize secrets and mystery, and…being a highly intelligent animal, can also symbolize the human soul, specifically human intelligence as well as wisdom.

Whether he intended it or not, the description fits him.

He’s a ten-year-old mystery we’ve spent the last five years understanding. Rare revelations of the secrets in his heart and mind give us glimpses of the trauma he endured. He’s highly intelligent; in spite of five years of neglect in every sense of the word, he’s reading two years ahead of his grade.

He’ll bring you to tears when he prays. It seems he has a direct connection to God that everyone around him can feel. He’s a paradox of impulsive behavior and wisdom beyond his years: attempting to corral him leaves adults frustrated, while a one-on-one conversation renders them utterly floored by his deep thought process.

Picking up the paper to add to “his” box, I noticed a flap folded behind the page. As I straightened the piece, two words changed everything.



Self Portrait.

My initial perception of his artwork was completely off.

You don’t have to be an Art Therapist to figure out this one. 

We’ve known for some time that his self-image is a little blurry. It’s difficult to like yourself when you know the people around you think you’re “bad.”

Until third grade, every time I walked into his classroom (even for a class party), children approached me—in front of him.

“Do you know what he DID today?”

“Can’t you make him behave?”

“Why is he so crazy? He never listens. He distracts the class.”

Pickup from the children’s group at church usually involved a monologue of his exploits and interruptions. Babysitters kept lists (and quit). Parents and children complained after play dates. And honestly, interactions with us weren’t much better. His behavior was so out of control, many of our conversations the first three years centered around discipline or instruction.

Looking at his painting yesterday, my heart broke. Realistically, he probably drew a self portrait and didn’t like it, got frustrated and painted over it in black. I can tell the piece didn’t begin as a black smudge. But still.

The art is an accurate expression of his recent testing, which showed some depression. When we received the results, I was surprised, but perhaps I just haven’t been looking.

He’s heard from everyone in his life (whether they intended to communicate this or not) that he is less.

“I’m not good enough” is a message many kids internalize.

Growing up as a fairly “normal” kid, I felt as though all my friends were better at everything, that I wasn’t good or pretty or thin enough, that I was less talented. It left me hesitant to try new things, this desire to be perfect coupled with the knowledge that I was not.

He’s at an even greater disadvantage:

  • abandoned and neglected by family
  • misunderstood by untrained foster parents
  • dragged from home to home by inept social workers
  • deposited in a school system with little understanding of special needs
  • rejected by children who assumed his ferocity stemmed from meanness

Finding a solid self-perception is an enormous task for our little guy.

I found myself drowning in the overwhelming need to do something.  

And then, my perception shifted once more.

His picture started out fine but didn’t turn out as he wished. 

So he changed the artwork to something else.

Something beautiful. 

When we looked through a scrapbook of my art from high school, I told him that some of my favorite pieces were the ones that started as mistakes.

What I wanted didn’t materialize, my art seemed ruined, but then I saw a way to make the piece even better.

Maybe he wasn’t thinking of that conversation when he created The Blackbird. Regardless, he created something amazing out of what he considered an error.

It gives me hope for our remaining years together.

Yes, he had a rough beginning. Horrific years before he arrived with us.

Difficult years with us, learning to behave like a human child.

But the last two years have been better.

This summer has been the best yet. 

Hubby and I have been intentionally focusing on the things he and his sister do right, rather than the negative behavior.

We’ve encouraged reading, art, karate and physical movement.

We’ve noticed the improvements and celebrated.

Together, we are all painting over the original masterpiece; broad strokes creating wings for a broken boy. 

He’s already learning to fly. 


I can’t wait to see how high he goes. 


**How have you helped your child overcome difficulty? Share it below. 


Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind


About Casey

Adoption = my life. I'm determined to give my kids the chance they deserve. Adoption isn't always easy. I promise, you're not alone in this. Join me at - we're in this together.

Posted on August 19, 2016, in Adoption, mental health, parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. This is similar to the mentality of our adopted son. Even though we’ve had him from young he struggles with his behaviour and neither kids, school or other parents can cope. As a result his self image is poor.
    Trying to find a way through this is hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Truly. It’s both heartbreaking and frustrating. (I find it funny that my “auto-suggest” wanted to add “exhausting” here…apparently even the electronics around here are tired.) 😉
      Finding his passion had helped a lot (Legos and the World Wars). That second one may have more to do with his Aspergers…he’ll sit for hrs with black &white documentaries. Regardless, showing our support for what he loves helps us connect with him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, we and the electronics are tired, he’s never been into anything until he got his brothers old Xbox 360. It’s the only thing, ever that he’s not got tired of. But it’s not good for him and many of the games available aren’t suitable.
        It’s like earlier in the year I was taking him to skate Parks to ride his scooter. I thought it would last. Then all of a, sudden he’s not interested.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Since he likes video games, you might want to try the Wii Fit and Wii Sports. Our kids really like it and it has balance and strength training games. A lot of the Wii games are very interactive for multiple players. We recently started and it’s been good for everyone (and it keeps their attention). They have Mario games and stuff like that available, too. It’s an older system so you can probably find a fairly inexpensive one. If you do, definitely get the balance board (not sure what is called but it’s a white board you stand on). We use Wii time as a reward (and they generally don’t care about rewards, but the Wii motivates them).


  2. No child deserves to be treated as so many are in the social services system. I don’t know anything about Fostering but I would think if the child/kid needs fostering there are issues. You and your husband spend so much time trying to lay the foundation for a brighter future. It’s a shame she remembers her birth mother, I think it would eat me alive. They are unruly and hard to trust, they don’t trust easily. If you are seeing a difference then all the energy spent teaching and loving them is paying off.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the encouragement!! Some days feels like nothing was accomplished, but I know it’s not true. I just hope it will be enough, so when they’re grown they make good decisions and have happy lives. 🙂


  3. OH Casey, your posts like this tug so hard on my heart strings! Beautiful post and Yes he is going to fly, further than you can imagine! Hugs again to you and your husband for the awesome job you are doing at helping your kids to fly! I know the heart ache is real and at times it can be so hard, but in the end will be so worth it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A wonderful post, Casey. It’s tough – as you say, many kids have low self esteem and mild depression. Although I didn’t have the smoothest childhood, but I was definitely depressed at times and had terrifically low esteem, something that has only improved as I’ve aged.
    Your little chap is almost inevitably going to have such problems as he had such a troubled beginning. But your progress with him is inspiring and it seems he’s improving all the time, especially in recent times. He’ll only become more secure, more grounded as time passes. Well done to him and well done you for giving him the chance to fly 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, my friend! Some days are tough, but days like yesterday really show me how far he’s come. We went out on a friend’s boat and it was the first time I didn’t feel the need to hold onto the back of his life jacket the entire time (to prevent jumping off the boat while we zipped along). I realized, about halfway through our fun, that the thought hadn’t even entered my mind. Definite progress. 🙂
      Thanks for reading! It means a lot, since I have some idea of how busy you are! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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