“Was I so nice to get Wyatt his lunch box?”
“Did I throw that ball just great?”
“Is this paper airplane so awesome?”
Rory wants approval. Specifically, she wants my approval, and I’m torn.
On the one hand, I buy my Parenting on Track guru’s take on praise: kids should learn to value what they think of their accomplishments, not just what we think. She suggests we turn questions like that back on the asker: “Do you think you were so nice? Did you like the way you threw it? Do you think the plane is awesome?”
But that doesn’t satisfy Rory. Sometimes she buys it–yes, she does in fact think the plane is awesome–but mostly, questions like that make her look sad and disappointed even now, months after I first noticed her quest for my rousing endorsement of every last drawing, letter or creation and began to temper my enthusiasm with encouraging her to consider how she herself felt about her accomplishment.
Praising Rory is dangerous. If i show myself to be impressed by the way she caught that firefly, we will need a Costco sized jar. Admire her printing on a sheet of paper, and by the time I’m done making dinner, I will have a full book of identically printed pages. She doesn’t just ask for my praise. She courts it. She craves it. I think she needs it.
But I’m struggling with those two downsides. I don’t want a giant jar of fireflies or a book of words that could have been Xeroxed from the first one, and I don’t want to have to cough out a repeat note of praise while she does either. Taking it even farther, I don’t want her to carry my farmer’s market basket. I don’t want her to stand in the kitchen to open the trash can for me when I need to throw something away, and I especially don’t want her to do those things, then ask me–isn’t she so good/so nice to do that? Don’t I “preciate” her?
Would she do this, I wonder, if I had been easier to live with during our first months together? If it hadn’t been so clear so often that I did not ‘preciate her? Is this still a side effect of my behavior, that she’s so glad she gets a big ole’ share of my love now but she feels like she has to do this stuff to be sure to keep it?
Or is it just adoption? Is this not about me (no!) but about Rory and only Rory and her need to be reassured? I’m really leaping here, but I’ve noticed that she’s really anxious lately–lots of hugging the dog and thumb-sucking, which I hadn’t seen in a while–and there’s nothing of note going on. School will end soon but hasn’t yet. We’ve had no guests, no trips, no big switches–oh, wait, we did move the beds around in her room, including her bed. But the biggest thing I can think of is that we are coming up on our two year anniversary. Is it possible that she feels it? I’d say the change in season and shift in school would cue it, but of course the seasons and schedules in China were not ours. I think it’s unlikely.
But still, I’ve got an anxious, needy praise junkie on my hands in a way that feels suddenly escalated from where we were before, and I’m not sure what to do. I want to give her the loving reassurance she needs, but I’m reluctant to do it on those terms. Instead, I’m fluctuating between pushing her requests back on her and falling right into themâ€”because yes, it was so nice that she carried Wyatt’s lunch box. Even though I don’t want her to do that.
If only I knew what I want ME to do!