Protected: Notes from the Pool May 28, 2010
Here’s Your Seminar May 25, 2010
Back when we were going through the adoption process, we attended an optional educational program offered by our agency. It dealt with loss in adoption and also featured a speaker who specialized in sensory issues that adopted and/or institutionalized children could face. I am glad that our agency offers things like this and I wish everyone would take advantage of these types of programs when possible.
I still remember a number of specific stories that were shared by adoptive parents that day, but someone in the audience asked a question that I will never, ever forget. It was during the discussion of loss. Loss was discussed from many angles, even to the point that some adoptive parents go into the process because of loss due to infertility, but for the most part, it was discussed in reference to the long list of losses that the child has experienced and will experience. If I remember correctly, our social worker had taken the podium to discuss the time when you first meet and take custody of your child in-country.
I love our social worker–she is so tender-hearted. Her voice cracked and she choked back tears through her entire talk. I will never forget at our last homestudy meeting when she had this discussion with us (at that time we were planning to adopt from China). She told us as lovingly and kindly as she could with tears streaming down her face (and mine) what a complete trauma this was for the child. She made the point, calmly but clearly, that this is downright soul shattering what is happening for them, no matter how happy you are. And I truly thank her for reminding us of that…because it is true. Anyway, her part of the presentation was to relay this information again to the audience, because let’s face it, we (prospective, at the time) adoptive parents DID need to be reminded of that a lot. Frankly, it probably wouldn’t hurt for us all to at some point get a tattoo to remind us, “It’s Not All About You”. Believe me, I could use one of those. Big time.
At some point a question/answer session began. Here is the part I will never forget: a man raised his hand and introduced himself. He and his wife were preparing to adopt a sibling group from Ukraine. He asked (unashamedly, I might add):
Shouldn’t they just be grateful to be leaving the orphanage? I mean, now they get to have a family. Why can’t they just be happy that they get to come to America?
Oh yes. He did.
I don’t know what other people were thinking when it happened, but for me it felt like all of the air got sucked out of the room. In my mind, I pictured his social worker walking swiftly towards him with her face down, grabbing his arm till her fingers turned white, and ushering him out of the room. I imagined her revoking his homestudy then and there. Obviously that didn’t happen. People politely answered his question and RE-reiterated the point.
On the drive home, my mom, my husband and I talked about it. Can you imagine? Don’t you think his social worker wanted to die??
While it still makes me shudder to think about that question (and especially about how their adjustment period might be going–YOWZA!), I have to admit that at times my attitude might not have been much better.
I have to say that I would truly, truly listen to all of the speakers when we attended these events, knowing full-well that the things they were saying were true, and I would think: Yes, that is all awful, but we will be fine. Because I will do whatever it takes. If my child is angry and hits me, I will sit there and take it and return only love. If he grieves I will hold him and rock him and show him with my actions that I will never leave him, that I will always love him.
And now, I look back at my sweet, little, naive self and shake my head. Not because I haven’t done all of those things. But because I thought that I would do them all gladly. I didn’t realize that my own heart would be ripped up about all sorts of things during that time as well. I didn’t realize that it is HARD to comfort a child that you just met through night terrors and tantrums and grief. I didn’t realize that I would think, I’m not up for this on some days.
Did they tell me all of this during our educational classes? I have to think at some point they did, at least some of it. But I chose not to hear it…..because I was special, immune to the bad stuff, or so I thought. As it turns out, I am only human. Bummer, right?
I guess I’m trying to say that until you “live” something (and I can only “live” it through my own experience as an adoptive parent), you can read all you want, you can go to as many educational classes as you want, but you still have no idea. It does help, but you can’t really know. Until you remove your child from loving arms and have to walk away. Until your heart breaks in half when that plane leaves the soil of their birth country. Until you comfort them through night terrors for a month or more. Until you watch them lose their language.
These are the things that you just can’t know after attending a seminar.
Moy Chipee May 24, 2010
It has been awhile since we have had kimchi at home. We were buying it at our regular grocery store after Matthew came home, but then all of a sudden, they stopped carrying it. By that time, Matthew was comfortable with eating all of our food, and I didn’t have a real sense of urgency to go seeking it out.
The Korean grocery store isn’t very close to our house and I haven’t been over there lately. But my mom was in that neighborhood and she dropped by to get Matthew some treats. She told 2 of the Korean women working there that she was buying kimchi for her grandson. They warned her over and over NOT to buy this kimchi for a 3-year old, that it was just too hot. But Matthew’s grandma knows him….she knows that he learned to sign “more” when eating spicy chicken tortilla soup.
I got it out at dinner tonight and it did look (and smell!!) very hot. While I do love a lot of Korean food, I am not a fan of kimchi, so I didn’t try it for myself. I put it on his plate and he was so excited. He wolfed it down, saying over and over that it was HOT! But he must have meant hot in a good way because he kept eating. When he finished, he didn’t touch anything else on his plate, but turned to me and said, MOY CHIPEE (more kimchi)!
His pronunciation may not be perfect, but when he really wants something, he will let you know. Thanks for the “Chipee”, Grandma!
Bumpy May 21, 2010
The other morning I was drying my hair after my shower. Isaac came to stand next to me and was rubbing his hand up and down my leg. I was silently congratulating myself on having shaved my legs AND applied lotion. (Yes, it is sad that this is such a feat, but it is what it is).
Then I noticed his hand stopped right beside my knee….he slowed down and began exploring down my calf. I knew what it was he had found.
Mommy, your leg is bumpy.
I spared him the explanation of varicose veins. I especially spared him the information that the particularly bumpy one ruptured while I was giving birth to him.
My leg is definitely bumpy, not to mention spattered with purple-y spider veins. My stomach is certainly softer than it was 4 years ago. We don’t even need to go there when we talk about the array of bra sizes I have worn in my career of motherhood. I swear my feet are wider. And yes, when I laugh really hard (or sneeze, or jump out from behind a door to scare one of the boys), I pee a little bit.
He has only ever known me with bumpy legs and wide feet, so I guess it is normal to him. He has no idea that the act of bringing him into this world heaped all of these imperfections on an already imperfect woman. And really, at 3 years old, he doesn’t need to know all of that. But when he is older, when I do explain all of this to him, I will be sure to tell him….Every bump, both the metaphorical ones and the literal ones, every one was worth it for you, precious boy.
Protected: The Day We All Said Yes May 20, 2010
I really want to thank all of you who have commented on the post about my communication frustrations with Matthew and also my post about working on the boys’ behavior/my reaction to their behavior. As always, I appreciate the comments, Facebook messages, and private email messages that I get from supportive people out there. There were lots of great book/article recommendations, good ideas, and just in general a feeling of SUPPORT and community. It truly does take a village, and I sincerely take to heart all of the advice that is offered to us. Confession time: it is probably PAINFULLY obvious, but I have never actually read a parenting book. However, there were some good recommendations, and Gina, if you’re reading this, I would love to hear more about your marble reward system!!
So here’s the general plan. We’re going to go back to the International Adoption Clinic for our 6-month follow up and get THEIR opinion and advice. From a medical, developmental, and even a family counseling standpoint. Second, it is obvious that Matthew wants to be in an environment with his peers. We have kept him out of preschool for this long because we knew it was more important for him to bond with us at home and adjust. He has let me know in numerous ways that he is ready to go (would you call trying to climb out of the car and screaming “Matthew school!!” every time we drop Isaac off a pretty clear hint?). So even though my initial plan was to keep them both home all summer we have decided to send them to preschool 2 mornings/week for the month of July. They will be in different classes but will see each other on the playground. I honestly think Matthew will be in seventh heaven. Then in late August, he will start at the preschool offered through our school system. He will be working one on one there 3 days/week with a speech pathologist. So I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. Now my focus is all about getting there.
Sometimes I worry about putting the bad stuff out there on our blog. Yesterday I asked Jason if I went too far and if it sounded like I was blaming Matthew for our issues (because that is NOT what I intended to do at all). I just really need a place to vent all of these feelings, and this is my place. The good news is that even though we are struggling in some areas, we are still doing very well in other areas. Matthew and I do have a closeness, he is extremely loving towards me and is very accepting of my love and attention. He is very secure in our relationship and accepts the safety of it. Believe me, I know this is a struggle for many adoptive families and I am very grateful that the love and trust have come relatively easily. Knowing that we have such a loving foundation reminds me that we can and will tackle the talking thing…..but until then, there will be incredibly frustrating and sucky days. And I’m coming off a string of about 10 of those days in a row.
I know that it is probably a lot more enjoyable to hop over to a blog and see really cute pictures of kids, or read a post of funny things they said, and I could have just done a sweet little Wordless Wednesday post yesterday (which would have been fine–I love those!), except that my heart wasn’t feeling it.
Because while life IS full of cute kids and funny stories, and funny POOP stories, and hilarious videos, it is also tantrums, time outs, deep breathing, and handing the kids over to dad when he gets home so you can lay in a dark room. Thanks for hanging with me and encouraging me on the “dark room” days.
Like Driving into a Brick Wall May 19, 2010
I realize that to some people it may seem that he doesn’t know how to tell me what he wants or maybe that he forgets the words and needs to be reminded but that isn’t the case at all. When he wants to, he becomes very animated and can express a lot. For instance one day, he let go of his balloon outside of the grocery store and it was windy and it blew away. For days he would go on and on, saying, “man-oo (his word for balloon) lkdsjlkgjsalgjlkahgahg FLOATED AWAY!!!!!”. Yes, there is mumbling but it is more there because he has a lot he wants to express and is so very excited to be telling you something.
I know, I know, the differences seem subtle, but it is also his attitude when he does this. He also tends to be much more verbal and clear when others are around. People say all the time that they can’t believe how much he knows or how well he is doing and yet when we are at home, I feel that he is choosing NOT to communicate in a clear way.
Then there are times when he bursts out with complete sentences, which leave Jason and I staring in disbelief. The night we spent in the ER, we asked him where Isaac was, just making conversation, and he replies, “Isaac in his bed, sleeping, with a nightlight.” HUH??? Did you seriously just say that? Clear as day? And a few weeks ago, I took him to a little drop-in childcare place at a local church. I told him it was school because he is always begging to go to school. That night when I was telling Jason about it, Matthew interrupted us to say, “Today was Matthew’s turn to go to school.” To which I again say, “SERIOUSLY??????”.
You also have to understand that those 2 sentences are the most he has EVER said at any time in the entire 6 months he has been home. EVER. That is why I remember them verbatim. Six months is a LONG time to live with someone who does not communicate with you. Obviously when you have a baby it is different, but when you are dealing with a child who can’t or won’t it is a world of difference.
I completely see that whether he “can’t” or “won’t” is still up for debate. Both have a strong case going for them. I don’t know if it is because he lacks the ability to communicate or is refusing to communicate. I only know that he doesn’t.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I feel so very manipulated by him right now, which makes me angry first, and then makes me feel so petty. I know that kids have so little control over their own lives, so that is why potty training is hard, picky eaters are hard. They can’t control much, but they can control when and where they go potty and what they eat. I never thought about communication as a way to control until recently, because that is what I think he is doing. I don’t fault him for looking for ways to maintain some sort of control after his life went topsy-turvy 6 months ago, but I just want to scream, “yes, you are making this really hard for me (congratulations!!), but don’t you see that you are making it so hard for yourself too??”.
Then I wonder, could it be medical? Could there actually be something that is caused by the clefts in his brain to make him unable to communicate at some times and able at other times?
And then I internally berate myself because I am 32, and he is 3.
But I am human, and the way I feel is the way I feel.
The truth is that I feel like our bonding and attachment has hit a standstill right now, and I hate that. I hate it. I want to “be there” with him, and I’m just not. And it’s not even that I’m not there, it is that some days I honestly feel like I’m losing ground. I did not want to be feeling like this 6 months in. I did not expect to feel like this 6 months in.
Today we were outside and the boys were riding tricycles and Matthew did something that he chooses to do a lot. He positions the tricycle in front of some sort of a roadblock…..a drainage pipe, large landscaping rocks around the mailbox, or in this case, a brick wall. And over and over, he attempts to drive over it or through it. Sometimes he does this for 20-30 minutes, working quietly. Today he whined and struggled. So I went to him and tried to put him on a clear course. He immediately drug his tricycle back and began banging into the brick wall again and again. Such a metaphor for our relationship right now.