Protected: Realization September 29, 2012
Protected: Yours For the Asking March 25, 2012
When Stubborn meets Stubborn-er March 6, 2012
Up until two and a half years ago, I thought I knew what stubborn was. I could recognize that stony way a person sets their jaw or digs in their heels. I knew stubborn. I was stubborn. But I had never really borne the brunt of stubborn. I was so blissfully ignorant.
Because two and a half years ago, I met Matthew. And I learned how deep stubborn can run.
I could list the ways that his stubbornness has tormented me to my core, but I think that I can just tell you our current situation and you will get the gist.
Today, when we got home from school and running errands, he announced that he didn’t want to carry his backpack inside.
Me: Matthew, I have to carry in the groceries. I am not going to carry your backpack in.
Matthew: I can’t dooooooo it. I don’t want to.
Me: Yes, you can. You carry it every day. I’m am not carrying it for you.
I made 3 trips from the car to the house, bringing in groceries, and the entire time he stood in the van. Adamant that he would not carry in his backpack.
Each trip I would tell him–you need to obey me. Pick up your backpack and let’s go.
And each time, he would stare ahead defiantly.
So I made a decision. I scooped him up and set him down in the backyard. I handed him a mop bucket and closed the fence.
You will not come back in the house until you fill this bucket with pinecones. Period.
(Sidenote–the weather here is sunny and beautiful)
He could have been done with this task in less than 5 minutes. Easily. But no. He pouted. Then he screamed. Then he shrieked. Then he sat and stared into space.
30 minutes later, we had to leave to take some samples to Isaac’s doctor. I loaded him up in the car and told him that he would immediately go back to the yard when we got home.
We have now been home for almost an hour and he is still out there. Again with the crying, the pouting, but now you can add in throwing dirt in the air, digging in the ground with a stick, and filling his new shoes with dirt.
My blood is boiling. Literally boiling.
It has reached the point where I refuse to go back out there until Jason gets home. I do not trust what may come out of my mouth!
The best piece of parenting advice I’ve ever gotten is this: Choose your battles. But you had better make sure you win every battle you choose. This goes quadruple for kids who come from an attachment-challenged background. He needs to know that I MEAN what I say.
And I told him that he wasn’t coming back inside until that bucket was full.
Well, my invisible mommy friends, I chose this battle. And mark my words–I will win it. If I have to serve him dinner on the porch. If he has to spend every minute of his at-home time in the yard for the next 6 weeks, the bucket will be full of pine cones.
Because, as he is about to learn, I have a bit of a stubborn streak of my own.
Protected: Uncomfortably Numb January 25, 2012
I Have a Theory December 10, 2011
Last week, Matthew was sick. It was very strange–must have been a virus or something. Basically, he would get a fever of around 100 sometime in the afternoon or evening. I would give him one dose of Advil and then the fever would break very quickly and return about 24 hours later. Aside from some mild lethargy and a decreased appetite, there were no other symptoms, but this went on for about 4 days. It was really strange. Because of the fever, we kept Matthew home from church last Sunday and from school on Tuesday.
Here’s the really strange part though–right about the time the fever was gone for good and we knew he was better, he spiraled downward into a terrible mood, he began having night terrors again, and his behavior was really, really bad. Getting him ready for school reached nightmarish levels and he was being bad for his teachers as well. And as it was happening, I remembered that this has happened before, following other illnesses.
This has really perplexed me. I could understand this kind of behavior and regression while sick…..I still wouldn’t like it, but somehow, I could understand it. But to be for the most part fine (emotionally) while sick, but lose it once his health improves–that is odd.
But yesterday, I was washing dishes and I thought of something. I don’t know why it came to me, but suddenly I remembered when Isaac was 7 months old and I weaned him. For almost all of the 7 months, Isaac NEVER, EVER took a bottle. He would only drink from the breast and it was getting pretty limiting as far as me having any kind of a life. Every time we tried to give him a bottle, he would scream, cry, tantrum and refuse it for HOURS. Dude was stubborn! But the thing was, after all those hours, when he finally took the bottle, he would take it happily for each feeding after that. But the kicker was, if I let him nurse even once, the next time I tried to give him the bottle, we went through the same screaming and refusing it for hours. So it was like he was fine once he resigned himself to the bottle, but when I nursed him, I gave him a glimmer of hope that the bottle was gone and he could nurse to his heart’s content. For baby Isaac, it could never be either/or. It was one or it was the other. So at 7 months I weaned him.
So how does this relate to Matthew and our current situation? Well, we deal with lots of control issues with Matthew. And I would say that finally, finally, this past summer, he (for the most part) relinquished control to Jason and I. And when I say “relinquished” I mean that Jason and I were always in control, it’s just that he finally began to accept it. After 18 months, he finally realized that he didn’t have to fight us on every single thing. There are things that he makes his will known on, for instance, he will tell us EVERY SINGLE week that he doesn’t want to go to church (even though he clearly loves it) and he will tell us that he doesn’t want to go to school (even though he clearly loves it).
So when we kept him home from church and out of school this week when he was sick, he went on a major power trip. You could see him puff up with pride as if he had called those shots. Since he wasn’t all that sick, he was still able to play and go about his day, but he missed school and church, two of the things he always makes it known that he doesn’t want to do.
And lo and behold, it was like he thought, here we go, I’m calling the shots now, I’m running this place.
So you can imagine the jolt he felt on Wednesday when I woke him up for school. Let’s just say it involved hitting, screaming, tantrums, and crying until he gagged. And that was all before I got him out of his bedroom.
After 3 days of acting out in dramatic ways and 2 nights of night terrors, he’s back to his regular self, again resigned to the fact that we are the adults and we will be making decisions. The end.
And so it is for Matthew just like it was for Baby Isaac. There will be no either/or. We call the shots around here, kid, like it or not. Sometimes it works against your agenda and sometimes you dig it. But in the end, it is our call, our decision, and most importantly, it is always, always for your best interest.
Like it or not, this is one of the ways we show you that we love you.
And we do. And there’s nothing you can do to stop us.
Time Is On Our Side November 16, 2011
This is a week of anniversaries, of remembering. Two years ago we were in Korea, meeting our youngest son. Last Saturday was the anniversary of getting on the plane to Korea. Monday was the anniversary of meeting him for the first time. This Saturday will be our second family day.
But today? Today’s occasion is different, and somehow even more special. Today marks the day that Matthew has lived with our family longer than he’s ever lived anywhere else. Today is a day of permanence.
This isn’t an occasion I’m going to discuss with Matthew. Not right now, although as he gets older and feels more comfortable with his story, we will go there. (For now, the fact that he talks about being born in South Korea and being adopted is a huge thing.)
As I’ve come to learn with nearly every milestone in adoption, an occasion I’ve looked forward to with happy anticipation also brings sadness. I’m so happy that we have been able to provide permanence for him. And I’m also quite angry for him that it has taken 4.5 years to have this kind of permanence. It makes me sad to think of the first 6 months of his life–such an important time for attaching and bonding to someone, anyone, and he was let down. I think of the wonderful home that was provided by his foster family from the time he was 6 months until he was 2.5 and I feel terrible that he had to leave that.
But here we are. This is forever.
As the years go by, I see him settling in. It helps that we are a family big on traditions. At Christmas, I imagine him thinking–I remember this. We put a tree in the living room. We ride that train and meet Santa. Jingle the Elf visits us. We wear special pajamas and that one–that one right there is MY stocking. We get down the music box that Nuna gave me in Korea. We do this every year. I get it.
Or on vacation–Okay, we always drive to this same house. We turn in and drive over the rocks and over a bridge and I know this house! There are toys in a basket and I always sleep in THIS room. There is the pool and we drive to the beach and I remember. We do this every summer. I was here the last time we came and next summer we will come again. Together.
I won’t go all cliche and say that time heals all wounds, because it doesn’t. And while we’re on cliches, love doesn’t always conquer all, either. But I do see him healing. And in a way, time and love are both playing a part.
So today, I won’t mention this anniversary to him, but I will make him hoddeok as an after school treat……and I will pray that he feels the safe and warm feeling of forever in his heart.
Here’s the Thing–I’m Terrified August 4, 2011
I think I know where my funny went. Well, I don’t really know WHERE it went, but I think I know why it left.
I’m freaking out.
We’ve had a good summer. A really good, laid back summer. A happy, stress-free summer.
Emotionally and cognitively, Matthew has made extraordinary progress. He is talking and expressing himself wonderfully. The meltdowns that we were used to seeing multiple times per day last year are all but gone.
Our family is in a good place. A place where, if you had asked me last May, I would have told you we were YEARS from reaching.
Saying it has been great seems like an understatement.
And I am a nervous wreck.
School starts in less than two weeks, and this last school year was less than stellar. Matthew actually really enjoyed school, and certainly benefited from it. But he hated the act of going. He hated getting up and being rushed out the door. And frankly, he took it out on us in a huge way.
Last year was bad. I will leave it at that. And I can’t do it again. I cannot.
There will be some differences this year. Matthew will only have school 3 mornings per week. And Isaac will be going to the same school with him, which was not the case last year.
But they have to be out the door by 7:20 AM. I know, craziness right? But that’s the deal. This is the developmental preschool, where he will be getting much needed therapies, and it is at a public school and the public school is not very close to our home. So mornings are not really relaxed. There isn’t a lot of time to play before school (like there was over the summer when preschool was only 2 mornings/week and didn’t start until 9). Last year, on all of Matthew’s early school mornings, I would estimate that he spent 75% of every morning screaming and crying at us. And the afternoons weren’t much better.
I can’t do that again.
I started telling the boys this past weekend that school was starting soon, and there has been a change in Matthew. He is crying more, protesting more about things like getting dressed or leaving the house, and I am seeing tantrums that I haven’t seen in a while. And I know this sounds crazy, but he had been waking by 6:30 every morning and suddenly he is sleeping later and having to be woken up.
I think he felt had established some control over his life and his schedule this summer, and maybe he feels like it’s slipping away.
We’ve started laying out clothes every night and they are earning responsibility magnets in the morning for getting dressed and brushing their teeth (with no whining) before they come downstairs. And it’s going okay. Just okay. We are going to transition to getting up earlier (and going to bed earlier) this next week in preparation and so that it will give them at least 10-15 minutes of play time in the morning before they have to go to school.
But the fact is, I am freaking out. I don’t know what I’m going to do if his emotions begin to spiral out of control because of this. It was one thing when I felt like we weren’t making a lot of progress, but to watch things go backwards once I know how good they can be?? I can’t do it.
I do not want to homeschool my kids. I really don’t want to and I don’t feel led to do that. BUT, I also refuse to let the entire emotional health of my family suffer because of their school schedule. We were a mess last year. A collective mess. And it was not worth it.
I hope I am overreacting. I hope I am wrong. I yearn to be a wrong overreactor. I want him to be happy and I want him to thrive and I want everybody to tell me I was wrong and that they told me so.
But for now, I am simply terrified.