adjusting

Ouchie, Ouchie

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments

Rory is mortally wounded several dozen times a day. Rarely do ten minutes go by before the refrain begins: OUCHIE! OUCHIE! I know, I know that this is more of exactly what I blogged about two days ago. I know this is Rory, who just wants as much of me as she can get, and a true wound is an excellent way to get my full attention. But oh, it is getting old. And hard on Wyatt, giver of all wounds and injuries. “WALLET HIT ME! WALLET HURT ME!”

I blogged a while ago that I’d decided to always believe her and oh man, did it backfire. I often don’t see, and I’ve been erring on the side of believing her, but getting suspicious. Here’s what happens (I’ve been sneakily watching them around doorways): she puts herself in Wyatt’s way. If he is spinning, she is right there where he will whack her. If he IS kicking her–the annoying poking kind, which still isn’t ok–she’ll position herself even closer and start to yell. This morning I watched as he gave up a chair she wanted to her (rare) and then, when she didn’t take it right away (because she was on the floor, hoping that I would respond with massive sympathy to the fact that Wyatt took her chair), left, then came back with the clear intent of sitting down. She got up then, ran for the chair, ran into him (not hard) and flung herself to the ground. “WALLET HIT ME! HE HURT ME! HE HIT MY EYE!”

Well, no, YOU hurt you (and not much, either).

I know this isn’t some massive conscious plot on her part. I know she doesn’t actually think, well, I’ll just lay here and scream until Mommy comes over and does the whole, oh, poor baby bit. I do. But it’s a real problem, and one I’m struggling with for a lot of reasons. For one thing, we do this, oh, four or five times an hour when we’re home. Seriously.

For another, again as I’ve said before, she has no speed in between OH MY GOD I’VE SAWED MY ARM OFF AND I AM BLEEDING BUCKETS and WYATT’S FINGER BRUSHED ME IN PASSING AND THEN HE GIGGLED. She is the boy who cried wolf, and I never ever believe her anymore–which Wyatt then takes advantage of, because it’s not like he never hits her, he does. (She hits him, too.) Plus, she doesn’t get anything when she really needs it. I really, truly can’t tell the difference between actual hurt and the kind that, if she realizes I’m in the shower, will go away in a heartbeat. She’s that good.

So she loses, I lose, and Wyatt loses–no one is coming out well in this little game. And I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried pouring on the sympathy, on the theory that in some sense she’s always hurt–meaning that she always needs me. But sympathy isn’t enough; it has to involve punishing Wyatt too, and it has to be big, and long, and drawn out–which doesn’t work three minutes before we have to leave for school. Plus, to be honest, I HATE THIS. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for whiners, especially when they’re requiring “fairness”, and I know she’s physically as tough as nails. I’ve seen her fall four feet onto a concrete step, get up, brush it off and smile–if she’s desperate to get back to the playground, and if there’s no possible argument that someone else did it. (You should see her when she thinks I did it–as in, I leaned over her and the string from my hoodie hit her in the face, as it did yesterday. The outrage. The confusion. How to both get Mommy to punish herself and give Rory big time hugs and snugs and poor babies?)

And yet I know that the universe has scarcely been fair to Rory. I don’t exactly blame her for trying to get some justice now. Well, I do blame her, but I get it.

Let’s just say I cannot WAIT for this phase to end.

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Powerpuff Girls

Saturday, March 27th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | Comments Off


Powerpuff Girls

Originally uploaded by kjda

Bubbles and Blossom. Buttercup won’t play… Which, if you know
anything at all about the Powerpuff Girls, is totally typical. You should have heard Lily–oops, Blossom–”but we need someone with beautiful black hair like Buttercup!” “No! I don’ wanna!”

I think she would have done it if Lily hadn’t demanded that she dress up. She’d already spent ten reluctant minutes as a fairy. Rory likes to be comfy.

I have been cleaning out closets, and wondering how we gather all these clothes that I don’t even like, that are stained or tacky (ok, in some cases, because I bought them). We have a friend who gives WONDERFUL handy-downs, so it’s not that…I think it’s that I make the same mistake with the girls that I used to make with myself: I buy stuff on sale. Which means there is nothing to go with it, or the color isn’t really right, or I only liked it because it was cheap…

I reformed, not too long ago, and cleaned out my own closet down to a finely honed, kinda monochromatic but very wearable small set. I try to do that for the girls, but I get very caught up in “Oh, but this is perfectly good,” or “oh, but Rory will grown into that some day.” Boys, too, on a lesser scale. And I have trouble pitching the stained tshirts if they’re the tshirts I actually liked.

But it’s spring, and spring will continually inspire me to dump more and more stuff, and bring out the summer stuff (ok, we’re WEEKS from that) and maybe it will all get a little better. I’ll watch Clean House, and that will make me ruthless.

One thing I did was to throw away a whole bunch of the clothes Rory wore when she first came home because (ok, this is awful) I associate them with this time when I wasn’t liking her, or life. I don’t want to see her in those pants. I hated her in those pants–and it had nothing to do with the pants. Those are tainted pants, and they had to leave the house. And so on. I feel really good about getting rid of them–like I symbolically threw away the way I felt back then, too.

KJ Dell’Antonia
sent from my iPhone

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Love, that Thing That We Talk About

Monday, March 22nd, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 6 Comments

It’s been a long time since I visited the “do you love her yet” question.

I’ve loved very few people on sight. Most of my friends turned out to be better after you got to know them some (which, in some cases, means I didn’t like them at all until later, when I did). I didn’t fall in love with Rob when we first met. In fact, it wasn’t until about 2 years later that I looked at him, strewn across a low chair in the 60′s mod lounge of our law school, one of a group of people planning how best to get as drunk as possible during this, our final year before “real life” (which actually turned out to be a totally inaccurate description of working as a young associate at a law firm, but I digress, again) and–I just realized I’m still in the middle of this sentence–I looked at him, and realized, whoa, that’s it. Him.

It was unfortunate that I’d just broken up with his roommate at the time, but otherwise, it worked out pretty well, as have all of those friendships. I’d even go so far as to say that people I did like instantly mostly did not work out so well. I’m lazy, and I fall easily for the kind of charm which results in 300 Facebook friends and hey, sorry, no time to talk. So, so sum up: love which develops slowly has been the best kind. I wouldn’t say I loved my original three kids at the moment they were yanked, ripped or (in one happy case) squirted out of my body, either. I mean, given that description, you can see why not.

So I should have KNOWN that I wouldn’t love Rory right off. No one would read the above an accuse me of not really loving my husband, or of letting my deep resentment for what having three kids did to my innards and outards interfere permanently with my affection for Sam, Lily or Wyatt. But in adoption-blog-land–oh, adoption-blog-land, the many and myriad ways you’ve messed up my head–instant love is the default. It’s the way to go. “We just met our Tippi, and she’s doing great!” “We just couldn’t love her more, and it’s only been thirty minutes!” “We’re just dripping with love for this snugglebug!”

So I felt just a tad insecurish about the whole this kid has to pee all the time and she’s constantly screaming and she hits the other kids and when-is-she-going-home thing.

I think it comes down to how you use the word love. I was kind of going with the “would you leap in front of a speeding train to push this person out of its path” definition, and I kept coming up short. Well, no, I kept thinking. I love life, and trains are messy, and I really want to stick around with all these other people. I over-thought it constantly. It couldn’t just be love, it had to be these Sophie’s choice style scenarios. Nothing else would do.

But I have yet to be called upon to jump in front of a train for anyone I love. What’s harder, I find, is the kind of love that allows you to push a train–a small wooden one, say–around the tracks for half-an-hour when you would much rather be doing anything else. I didn’t have much of that kind of love this summer, either. But here’s what I can do. I can help Rory get dressed, at 6:55 in the morning, even though she can dress herself, and I have not yet had coffee. And I can do it without being sarcastic or unpleasant about it, and even manage a kiss or two most mornings.

I am not a morning person. It has taken me years to get to the point where I can handle human interaction before 11 a.m. And this–this is unnecessary, frivolous interaction of a kind that doesn’t get anyone out the door any faster. Plus, as I said, it’s pre-coffee. But I can do it. Have, for months. I don’t know what love is. For now, this is going to have to do.

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One Less Kid Than You Have

Thursday, November 19th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments

A wise parent once told me that the easiest number of kids to deal with was “one fewer than however many kids you have.” It’s not the smoothest statement, but it is so true–if you have three kids, going out with two is a piece of cake, and so on.

My new addition, even less smooth, is that the easiest number of kids to deal with is one less than the number of kids you wish you didn’t have. Actually, I think that doesn’t work at all, but what I mean is this: Four kids, back when I was rueing the day we ever even considered adopting, was TOO MANY. It was UNBEARABLE. It was HARD.

And four kids, now that I gaze upon our last addition with pride, brag to everyone about how well she’s doing, and generally can’t imagine life without her, is fine. It’s dandy. It’s easy-peasy. Not every day, maybe, but I’m constantly marveling, at the end of an experience that once would have been like going through a wringer–a solo night and breakfast, say, or dinner out, or taking them all to the store–at how easy and drama free it was. Yes, they’re getting older. Yes, Rory’s adjusting, with fewer tantrums and less general unpredictability. But I think most of the change is in me.

And it feels really, really good. Like banging your head against a wall, just to feel it stop. I am so glad to be where we are.

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Being means WAY more than acting.

Monday, October 26th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | Comments Off

There’s been a shift again. Emotion is nothing if not seismic in this family, but this has been a nice, gradual drifting of continents.

Rory likes to perform, but sometimes I have felt that she was putting on a father frantic show for us–a show of happiness, a show of belonging, as if her performing it would convince us all. Sometimes she’d be just sitting there, kind of expressionless, and I’d look at her, and I’d get this frantic grin—not a grin of happiness, more one of desperation.

That”s ebbing away. Today she went upstairs on her own for a while, sat with Daddy in the office, and then went off to poke around, and appeared a few minutes later in a black velvet leotard of Lily’s (a handy down from another friend, actually). She checked to see that I was in the kitchen, then disappeared for a moment, then leaped in. Trick or Treat! Then she did a most elegant little dance (she hasn’t learned to expect candy from those Trick or Treats yet). And then did it again. And again. With plenty of “you got WATCH me, Mommy!” and lots more dancing.

I know that at some point, very early on, I was just begging–when will she act like a normal kid? And then she started to ACT like a normal kid, and that certainly didn’t feel right, either. Today–not all day, but at least for some–she just WAS a normal kid, and that felt great.

As for me, I was rounding them up for bed tonight, and no one was making that key first move towards the stairs (once you get one to go, they all do, and it doesn’t matter which one). It was unusually late, and Rory was resisting passively–rolling into the sofa as if to sleep there, popping in a thumb, eying me, and a little bubble of anger arose–I DO hate being defied, and it doesn’t matter by whom–and then I shrugged and held out my arms. I’ll carry you up, I said, and you will be the very first, and off we happily want.

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Poopyheads R Us

Friday, October 16th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

We have a playdate this afternoon, one of our favorite neighbors and a friend of all three. She, Lily and Wyatt are all playing an elaborate game of make-believe. Rory is not; she likes some quiet time after school to do things without, I suspect, teachers coming over to make sure she is doing them in the approved Montessori way (although she loves Montessori; she has a bell and she rings it constantly around the house, saying “Please sa-ye your work and come to circle!:)

But the make-believe family has moved down to the playroom, where Rory is, and I hear them all trying to blend in together. Who will be the leader? Will there be compromise–Ann is the teacher, but Rory has the bell.I am staying out of it. Looking in, I see Rory is still off on her own. I can’t see what she’s working on–a train track, I think–but she’s intent (and she’s given up the bell), so now the question is–can the other three leave well enough alone?

I’m hopeful. We see them more and more adjusting to one another, changing what they’re doing to add someone else to the game, or taking no for an answer, or even just altering an annoying behavior into a lesser one. Today in the car, I heard this:

Rory: You poopy-head!
Wyatt: No I’m not!
R: Yes you are. You poopy-head.
W: I’m not! You are! You’re a poopyhead!
R seems ok with this. R, happily: You poopyhead!
But Wy wants to win. W: You’re a poopyhead because you have black hair!
Oh, now it’s personal. R, outraged: I NOT! YOU POOPYHEAD!
W: I don’t have black hair. You do. You’re the poopyhead.

(The alterered grammar is accurate; listening to the two of them is like listening to Henry James debate Hemingway.)

R: NO!!!NO!!! I NOT POOPYHEAD! YOU! YOU!
W: Lily’s a poopyhead. (No response from the back seat, where Lily is talking to her friend.)
R: YOU POOPYHEAD!
W: Sam’s a poopyhead! (Sam isn’t in the car.)
R: Yes!
W: The trees! The trees are poopyheads!
R: They poopy! They poopyhead!

And then they moved on to some other topic. Perfect, if poopy, harmony.

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News Flash: Not Everything is About Rory

Monday, September 28th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

Or having four kids instead of three (or two, or one, for that matter). At some point over the weekend I said to myself “Self, you have got to quit this blaming it all on Rory/having four kids business.”
I had bad days before we had Rory. I had days when I felt like I would never get out of the house, that the dishes would never be done and the laundry would never be washed (Full disclosure: I have help with those things, so this is a doubly pitiful stance). When I was convinced that my life was a pit of endless dispair and I would never, ever get to go for a bike ride or advance my career again. During those times I took this out on everyone around me, and myself, hard. Just like I still do. (A buddy and author of this really good kids’ book that everyone should own refers to his evil alter ego “Black Mood”, a horrendous monster who can destroy the mood of a whole household in thirty seconds or less.)
The good news about this revelation is that it enables me to stop focusing on Rory as the cause of all stress (whether directly, or as the harbinger of the difficult four kids phenomena). The bad news is that, well, I will undoubtably still have bad days.

Not that this was one, in fact, it wasn’t at all. Here are some recent miracles: I took all four kids for pizza the other night solo, and it was relatively painless and indeed almost pleasant, what with the whole not having to cook or clean up thing. Rory did drop her whole Sprite on the floor–she was so grieved and embarrassed–but these things just happen, it’s not like she was goofing around with it, although she may have been attempting to carry it with one hand. Another cup full of 3/4 ice and 1/4 Sprite was easily obtained. And she thanked the young guy who cleaned up beautifully, which was especially nice as her earlier attempts to ask the same kid for a straw resulted in his asking me if she spoke English. (I didn’t hear her asking, since I was actually getting her a straw and she was actually pointing to the cup of pens on the counter, which she could barely see over. I think we can all agree that pens look like straws, and that four-year-olds can be tough to understand at the best of times, but this guy looked a little young to get that. So I’m not sure if she remembered the word “Straw” or not. She does forget when she’s nervous, and it’s kind of a big deal for her to talk to a stranger at all, so I was pleased with her and not bothered by him. It was fine.)
Oh, back to the miracles:
Two days worth of lunches already prepped tonight.
Rory enchanted by adorable green corduroy jumper and tights I put out for her this am. (She likes comfy clothes, so I wasn’t sure they would qualify.) “I pretty!” And she was–my favorite lime green is a perfect color on her and I predict she’ll sport it often, since she doesn’t share her big sister’s passion for all things pink…yet.
Lily equally enchanted by her one super special new school outfit, which it was too warm to wear until now: Purple and green with no pink in sight.
Wyatt very pleased by new shirt, gift of grandma several weeks ago, as yet unworn, and pants that he perceived as new in spite of their handy-down status. (Rory’s ensemble was a handy-down too, but she has a few new things coming. I think Lily wore through a few pair of leggings. Plus I couldn’t resist…Rory lets us dress her, and Lily wouldn’t accept anything I wanted her to wear, so it’s nice to have a little girl to deck out. Although many of the things Lily would not wear are waiting, nearly pristine, for Rory.)

Any more miracles? I can’t think of any. I’ve been asked–which is to say, hired–to cover more parenting issues for DoubleX, and I’m happy to be in such good company, while still struggling to balance varying work assignments. Getting there, though, definitely getting there.

I told Rob about our pizza dinner, and said I thought we’d all crossed some sort of rubicon. (I think I really said we’d gotten over the hump.) He shrugged. “The rest of us were there weeks ago.”

Hey, at least I’m there.

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Be as the Powerful Current (I made that up.)

Sunday, September 20th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

Three solid i-friends (Mommy, Lori and the mother of Awesome Cloud) are in China right now. Some bonding troubles, not all is going perfectly–but I find myself envying them, especially those last two, who sound, at least, uncomplicatedly happy.

I think China really screwed us–and this has nothing to do with Rory at all. But the quarantine…that was so hard, and so scary, even though in retrospect I can see that we didn’t need to be frightened, and so long…you know, in order to accept it we just had to be so beaten down, from the American point of view, that I think I, at least, was at a real disadvantage going forward.

I am thinking that to be as water–to let things roll into you and out of you, which is a very Buddhist way of being…I am thinking that that truly is a very Eastern religion. To be accepting of all things and to recognize that it is not the thing itself which troubles you, but your attitude toward the thing–that is an attitude which, admirable though it seems and as good a goal as it may be in the modern world, truly reflects a life in which you do not control your own destiny. In other words, a very Chinese life. We got that lesson, in China, and I much prefer the Western idea that we do have some control. I can see that in the end, death and its timing overtakes us all–but why not enjoy, and do more than just accept, life as we live it?

This is a tad incoherent, but I feel like it’s the beginning of a thought for me, and maybe even a change. I have been trying to be more accepting, but maybe to be accepting of those things that are not about me, and more in a spirit of movement and change towards those things that are, or that I can help move–that would be better. Maybe I would rather be moving water than still. I am going to see if I can develop that, and do more with it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, more compromise was spotted this weekend–lots of it. Many, many tantrums weren’t just headed of at the pass, but died on the vine (as did many metaphors). Me, I rolled–Rory being something I do prefer to be as water with, at least when it’s not important. Important matters worthy of correction today included: grabbing the 14-year-old dog by the collar and hauling her into various rooms and shutting the door (I think Rory just wants to have control over SOMEBODY), chasing the younger dog with a grabber-stick (you squeeze the handle and it grabs, but the point is just that the dog was scared), throwing a tennis ball at the ceiling, bouncing a soccer ball off the back of the driver’s seat, and the usual trying to take food into the living room to eat. A retrospective look at those, and the mild corrections entailed in each, still seems like a dandy day (and I could make similar lists for any of the three littles, although probably a little briefer). Things that I let slide included a desire to keep her bed made–daddy “mess it up” when he flips back the covers to tuck her in, and she is very upset–and yeah, that’s obviously not worth a battle, but not only did I let it slide, I got her an extra blanket. And for me to have the patience to get you an extra blanket at 8:30, after cooking dinner and brushing teeth and yadda–at a moment when all I want is to close the door on the whole pack of them–that’s love, frankly. I wasn’t even getting it to shut her up–she’d already accepted that there wasn’t one. I just wanted to make her happy. Hmm, what else? She got to eat raspberries in the car. And beef jerky straight out of the bag. And the last pop tart, which she got by actually looking in the drawer after I told Lily there weren’t any–which wasn’t subterfuge, I thought there weren’t any, so double checking me seems like a good plan. Food heavy, but then, it was a kind of a food heavy day.

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School day, redux

Friday, September 11th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 5 Comments




School day, redux

Originally uploaded by kjda

I don’t wan’ go school! That pretty much sums up our morning. Our babysitter, fabulous in nearly every way, isn’t on the school night train yet (and it’s been a tough one for us to get on, too). Rory went to bed an hour plus later than she needs to. She had to be dragged out of bed. All the way to school she insisted–she did not want to go. Wyatt had some of the same issues.

I heard you, I said. I’m sorry you feel that way. In our family, when it’s a school day, we go to school.

I’ve been saying those same things to Lily and occasionally Wyatt for a couple of years now. Rob was in the car this morning–we’d had a one-car night and left his at the office–and he said afterwards that I had been very annoying, and he wanted to kick me himself, so it was no wonder that Rory did. That was ALSO a deeply annoying thing to say, and not at all helpful, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, as you’ll have gathered, into school, wailing. Off with coat, wailing. Into slippers, wailing. Attempts to throw self on floor, to remove slippers, to go back out the door (by Rory, not me.)

Wyatt has resigned himself–he’s fine. Hug and kiss for Wyatt. Rory tries Rob, clinging to his leg..no dice.

We deliver her to the patient teacher, and she wails as we say bye. I’ll be back at pick up! Wailing, wailing.

And we’re off. Following the critique of my parenting style, I headed to an internet-positive location, put in three hours of work, and returned to the school. 10 minutes, said the patient teacher. I got a big hug from Rory but neither of us said anything. And that was it.

We went through this with Lily, I remember for certain. Wyatt maybe. I think so. It is what it is. Did it feel a little different? yes, but I couldn’t bring myself to believe this was about the adoption separation, or her not thinking I’d come back. I’ve left her so many times now, and come back so many times. I thought this was Rory tired. Rory facing another day of learning new rules (don’t like rules, and having to learn them is even worse). Rory with another day in a regulated, predictable environment–which is actually something she loves, but I’ve noticed she really disliked being “shown” the routine. She likes to pretend she knows what she’s doing at all times.

One teacher did toss at me that Rory “said you weren’t coming back.” Here’s how I imagine that went down:
Gentle but annoyingly knowing teacher: Rory, are you sad?
R: NO!
GBAKT:Are you sad that Mommy and Daddy left?
R: NO!
GBAKT: Will Mommy and Daddy come back?
R: NO!

I’ve noticed that there are plenty of people out there who want to put every behavioral issue down to being adopted, and man, are we conspicuous with it–here we are! we just adopted! We’re hauling her into everything! I find pockets of people who think I should just hunker down and smother her with love and affection for a year or so. That’s not the family she got.

Thanks, Nancy, for a great comment on my earlier post. I was hoping for a little sympa…thanks all!

This is just how today went. School is tough for the first few weeks. Tiring. We’re having some nice tv now.

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Not the Worst, But Still Not There

Thursday, September 10th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 8 Comments

An adoption bud is in China right now, three days from meeting her daughter, and she wrote a line about “that sweet little face that needs her mama to come pick her up” and my heart just broke.
Rory has a sweet little face, and she could use a mama to come pick her up, too, and in all honesty I’m still not feeling it.
I like her fine. She’s swell. She’s even very special, and she’s been through so much, and this is undoubtably tougher on her at some deep level than it is on me. She deserves way better than me. Would her foster mother’s heart open wide, if Rory were to run towards her right now, the way I would if Wyatt were returned to me after we’d been apart for two months? Or does no one’s heart pine for Rory? Oh, that’s even worse.
I also just read a line in Martha Beck’s memoir, Expecting Adam, that resonated for me. Adam, she says, is surrounded by little miracles. I have felt that with Rory, too–that forces move mountains on her behalf–but I seem to be the immovable object.
I’ve said a couple of times today, to people I know and know a little, that we’re fine, that we’re good, that the worst is over, as I said in an earlier post, and it is. It’s quite over, it’s completely over, the tantrums have eased and my rages died down and we are all settling in together quite nicely, like room mates in for the long haul.
But Rory needs passionate, abiding maternal love, and all I’ve got is vague affection. My blogging friend, and so many others, fell in love with their adopted children. I haven’t. That’s the hard question, the one that should get left but brought back out once in a while, I guess. Do I love her yet? Do I love her yet?
Isn’t it ok that I don’t? Shouldn’t I get a few months, a by until Christmas, maybe? I’m taking care of her. I’m snuggling her when she falls down, I’m kissing her good night, I’m reading her and telling her all day long what the word is for this and that. I’m wiping her. I am going through all the motions.
Ok, force that has powered Rory through her life, tossing her up and then gently landing her on her feet again and again. Move me. Fix this.
Seriously, let’s get on with it.

And can I say, that I don’t think she’s there yet either? She talks about us a lot. Proudly. That my mommy! That my daddy! But is she really convinced? I like her best when she’s running around, running like any kid (and, probably not incidentally, not sitting on me or yelling). Maybe she likes it best then, too, when she doesn’t have to think or try anything new or adjust to us. Maybe she needs some down space too, somehow. She’s not much for tv. She’ll play on her own, but I can’t give her that, exactly–she kind of has to go find it.

Maybe this is the point where we just need to settle in and let it kind of, take. The cuts have been made, the graft taped, let the healing begin.

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Who is this kid, and what did she do with Rory?

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

At dinner last night: This good, mommy! Thank you!
To Wyatt, instead of a slap: You make me so MAD! (Wyatt: You make me so mad TOO!)
This morning, 7 am, standing in our room fully dressed: I ready go school now! I get my shoes on!
Tonight, awakened from an accidental post-dinner nap on the way home in the car (I tried to put her to bed, but it was just that much too early) and about to have a temper tantrum, she…got a grip. Your choice, Rory, get up, put on your pjs and come downstairs, or go back to bed–but don’t start this. And she actually didn’t.

We’re on, then, to just normal irritations. She’s a talker during bedtime reading; she just is, and tonight when I discovered I’d left my wallet at the pottery-painting place (they’ve got it) I nearly bit off everyone’s head. They take off their shoes in the car, they play through dinner and then are “so hungry” when it’s all put away, and yadda.

I still have moments of–I don’t know what to call it. Not regret, exactly, and certainly not the active dislike I was unsuccessfully stifling or so long (gee, bet that doesn’t exactly surprise anyone, does it?). Adjustment. I’m still adjusting. Two three-year-olds is just plain more work than one three-year-old–although they play together, and occupy one another, so in some sense it balances out–but for me, who’s at my best one on one with the kids, two three-year-olds is just less rewarding. I’ve said this before, but I still haven’t found a way to grab time with just my little Wy. Time with Rory, I can do–he’s not as overwhelmed with a need to be with me if I sit down with her, and he has other things he likes to do. Her, anytime my attention turns to Wyatt, she’s right there. Can’t I just say, I’m doing this with Wyatt, and you’ll get a turn next, or whatever? Yes. And she stands there, and waits. Are you done yet, Mommy? It my turn yet, Mommy? I waiting, Mommy! I good girl! And she is a good girl–she just has no concept of time and nowhere else she’d rather be. I’m going to need to get him out of the house. WIth a deck of cards. Next week, we’ll do it sometime when Rory is either with Heather or at school, and then I’ll plan it into the schedule, and then I’ll feel better. He just won’t be this little for much longer!
I’m thinking the worst is over. And oh, boy, was it sometimes ever the worst!

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This Rory I Like

Saturday, September 5th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments

She’s getting used to us. I have judged her harshly these past weeks, this girl. I have a personal problem, which is that I invariably believe that whatever is happening right now must and will continue to happen exactly like this, world without end, forever and ever, etc. This applies with kids–Lily will always be unreasonable about the blue plate, therefore I should go buy all blue plates and just end this issue now (so last month)–and in other ways–I really like this candy, and I want to eat more of it, and I should go get more so that I will always have it, because what if the store runs out…ok, so tired of that candy now. Those aren’t the best examples, but basically I expect any phase–mine or theirs–to go on forever, when really, things end. They get potty trained, I lose interest in knitting (who was I kidding?).

Rory changes like New England weather. New things–she’s able to pretend now. To ask for help. To talk to strangers. To join into activities without it being a big deal. To take no for an answer. She’s getting…normal.

Normaller.

I think some of my trouble before was that because I haven’t seen Rory change, I don’t fathom the ways she’ll change. When she, in answer to any question by a stranger, would put her dead down and start screaming “MAAAH” or yell “I no want you,” I felt–well, then, that’s how she’s going to be, and how will we ever send her to school or get anyone to invite her to their birthday parties? I feared for her–socially inept, largely unpleasant, how would she–or I–manage? Why couldn’t she just act like a regular kid?

And I do believe one or two people out there said, ok, cut the kid some slack, will you?

And I do believe I bit your heads off.

So, sorry about that.

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No Spoiled Youngest Here, I Guess

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

Wyatt’s my baby. My buddy, my beloved littlest one and the only one who looks like me. When I got to our sitter’s today I heard him sobbing through the window, and I rushed in–pausing to give Rory a hug on the way–calling what’s wrong, Wy?

He didn’t want to come home, that’s what’s wrong.

Now, I know Heather’s house is a haven of legos and turtles and popsicles (and it’s SUPPOSED to be, I love that they love it there)…but ouch.

So of course, i jumped to the adoption. He doesn’t want to come home because he doesn’t get any attention there anymore! Because he’s been displaced! Because I never do anything with him because anything I do with him Rory joins it on too and I’m not mentally strong enough to make Rice Krispie Treats with more than one child at a time, and he still begs me–can we make Rice Krispie Treats?

It’s one thing, I think, to have twins. I don’t know from twins. But these two–so close in age, so stuck together–need some more me. But not necessarily together. I’m going to have to come up with something–it will be hard at first, I think–that they don’t EXPECT to do together. If I cook with Wy, say, and just always say no to Rory–no, this is Wyatt’s thing–and then do something with her that’s her thing–honestly, there’s not much more I like doing with a three-year-old than cooking. I like puzzles, and I’ll read out loud but that’s a tough one to do with just one kid, and Rory’s not really into puzzles–too much sitting. Maybe we could draw pictures. Maybe she could learn to write letters–his hand coordination’s not up to that yet. That might be good.

Ok, so a little bit of solution. And really, I think it’s ok that I don’t play with them much, that they’re expected to entertain themselves and each other. But I would like to do a little more, and in particular, I don’t want to lose my bond with Wyatt. I do have this plan–once school’s started, I am going to take turns sneaking the two youngest out for breakfast–do two drop offs, once things are rolling smoothly and there’s no trouble at drop off.

Things with Rory are normalizing–for both of us. This weekend I was explaining a pot luck to her–all the friends will bring treats, and we will all share them–and she said “oh! well, that goin’ be fun!” and it was such an ordinary and cute thing to say, and something new for her. And she has this Maisy doll she’s adopted, kind of like a cloth paper doll with velcro clothes–and she’s started to move it around and talk to it, and make it talk, and this is play I can relate to. You know, we were pretending she was being normal–that all of those tantrums and craziness was just her, and I know she HAd tantrums–and does, and will–but there’s clearly some ordinary day-to-day Rory we haven’t seem yet, and of course, there’s the part where she changes. Oh, and the part where i change.

I had Sam out for a golf lesson today (Rob has Tiger Woods dreams) and a snack beforehand. He’s getting more and more privileges as the oldest that won’t happen for the others, who’ll get old enough to do everything in a pack–but then, he doesn’t get to be part of the pack exactly. Silver linings, advantages, disadvantages–I just chew on those all day.

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Still Not There.

Saturday, August 29th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 7 Comments

I’m still waiting for the day when life just feels normal. Last night I dreamed that one of our neighbors covered the slopes of their yard with snow somehow, and I walked down the road with Rory, Wy, Lily and Sam and we just happened to stumble across it. It would be Rory’s first time playing in the snow, and I wanted to see her reaction, but she’d wandered off, and somehow we were surrounded by hundreds of families, all with Chinese daughters about Rory’s size and with her haircut, all happily playing in the show. I was reduced to searching for the shirt I knew Rory was wearing, but still, I couldn’t find her anywhere. I kept searching, trying to wathc Lily and Wyatt, who were looking for her too. Finally I found a silent child playing in the sand, wearing disheveled clothes–somehow I knew that they’d just been put on, traded with another kid. I thought it was her. I wasn’t sure, though, and she wouldn’t talk to me, and I just stood there, looking at her. Had I found her, or not?

Then I woke up.

I don’t think we need a professional to sort that dream out. Gosh, what could possibly be on my mind?

Two things struck me lately. One was on the blog of a net friend home just a couple of days (she’s password protected, so I won’t link). Her husband said something like “it doesn’t feel like home, with her here. It feels like we’re still at the hotel.” That resonated for me…i think some part of me feels like we’re on an extended playdate, and the kid just won’t go home. I like the kid fine, and she’s adjusting to us better every day, but she’s not set in our ways and I’m responsible for her.

When we’re with other people and I hug or kiss her, it feels so artificial–like I’m putting on a show, to say look, I love this one too! Really I hug and kiss her plenty at home, but I notice it more with an audience. And she just…bugs me. She’s not unobtrusive. If she’s running through the house, as she mostly is, she’s stomping madly. If she’s talking, she’s yelling. If she’s getting a drink of water, she’s slamming drawers and announcing it at the top of her lungs. ANd she’s omnipresent. If we have another family over, she can only play with the other kids for a very limited amount of time. Then it’s back to me, touching me, sitting near me, asking for the food off my plate and a drink of my drink. Or even just looking at a book (something only she could do loudly) on the couch–I have to think, why isn’t she with the others? Do I need to do something? Does she feel left out? Does this mean she won’t succeed at school or that no one will EVER ask her for a playdate and she will be forever glued to my side? (I know that it really means she wants to make sure I’m still there, and that she gets tired of the effort of interacting, especially with kids who come and go–something that never would have happened in her foster home).

I don’t hate either of us anymore. I’m rolling along with life, but I am tired of this half-way emotional state of mine, and the way it affects the way I am with the other kids. Will I do a workbook with Lily? No, because it means Rory will be right up there with a book of her own–or no, just because I’m so tired of them, of all of them, of putting them in the car and getting them out of the car and just plain talking to them. Read to Wyatt? No. Play cards with him? No. I’ve removed myself from them so much because I don’t want to interact with Rory any more than I already do–which really feels like quite a lot. I’m not happy about that, it’s not the way I want to be–but I don’t want to referee every spat, or insist that Rory take only her turn at cards, or play by the rules. I can’t interact with them easily anymore, and my temper is so short, that not doing it at all seems like the best course of action.

On the other hand, I was also struck by something our pediatrician said about another adoptive family. She has a graceful way of providing advice by describing it as something she’s seen others struggle with, or do, and she mentioned an adoptive parent with a few adopted kids, from a tougher background, and the way the parent felt she had to jump on every little thing, including things she’d probably let slide from her bio kids–because she didn’t know where they came from, or where it would lead. And I thought–yes! There’s a legitimate reason why every second word out of my mouth to Rory is no. If Lily gets her own pop tart one Saturday morning without asking, I know it won’t lead to her taking six pop tarts a day every time I’m not looking. If Wyatt pushes the dog out of the way a little roughly, I know it’s a one-off, not the start of a pattern of beating the dog with sticks. I don’t know that with Rory. So it’s actually fair to chastize her more than the others–more than fair, it’s the right thing to do–but it doesn’t feel fair. I think it makes it hard for me to bond, too, because it’s all I feel like I can say, and because everything could be a harbringer of something else, or a sign of a problem. Nothing’s just a cigar, so to speak.

So that helped, some.

Another net friend, about to travel to adopt in 8 days, asked me a day or so ago if I wished I hadn’t done this. What I mostly wish is that she–and I–wouldn’t ask that question. It seems so big, and it’s unnecessary. I have come to see that every moment of discouragement doesn’t mean things are horrible. Some days are good. Some days are not. Some days are in between. Asking myself–Do I love her yet? Do I wish we hadn’t done this? Is just keeping me in a tough place. Right now, Wyatt and Lily are systematically emptying some boxes of their art projects that have been sitting there for months, waiting for me to sort them and throw some away, or not. I’m angry at me, that they’re still there. I’m angry at them, for dumping them out and I know they won’t be able to clear it up by themselves. I’m cross that I’m sitting here writing instead of encouraging them to do something more productive, and that the fact that they’re now about to go outside to gather yet another “rock collection” fills me with a sense of doom. And none of that means that things aren’t ok.

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I No Like You!

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

Rory told me she “no like you” for the first time today. It was totally ok, because at that moment, I didn’t like her much, either. She’d thrown a massive, all out temper tantrum at the swimming pool–the kind people date from–remember that time the naked kid screamed in the grass for 20 minutes? Oh, yeah, that was the day they had adult swim…
Ah, adult swim. I mocked it at first–who wants to haul their kids out of the pool and entertain them for fifteen minutes? And then I realized–you don’t have to. They line up on the side of the pool, dangling their feet, and accept the fate the lifeguards have doled out to them. At least they do until you (the adult) decide to swim…
Adult swim was wonderful. So peaceful, so un-splashy, so free of little hands pulling down one’s swimsuit bottom. The first one went well. For the second one, Rory came trotting down to the deep end. and begging “I want swim you!” Well, she couldn’t, obviously, and I thought that would be ok, until she decided she’d go hang on the deep end ladder. Suddenly my adult swim was no longer relaxing, so I started to walk back to the shallow end. Rory, you need to go sit with the other kids. No! (Outraged). You need to sit with the other kids No! I no want to! If you dont go back to the shallow end and sit with the other kids by the time I count to three, no more swimming.
I questioned this. Would she really understand? One. Two. Are you going to go back to the shallow end? No NO NO NO! Three.
I got out of the pool, and that’s when I knew for sure she’d understood. “I go shallow end! I no want leave pool! I go SWIMMIN!”
I’ll be honest–it was five, and we were out of there in ten minutes, anyway. I love seizing these little opportunities to enforce a threat, especially when it comes at so little personal cost to me, and this was our second temper tantrum of the pool day. Nope. Sorry, kid, you’re out of here. “You made your choice. You chose to leave the pool, and now were going.”
Ooh, was she mad. She hit me. She kicked me. She threw punches as I carried her to our bags. I was a little mad, too, so I flipped her over, still carrying her. You can not hit me! I hissed, and went to swat her on the behind–ok, the sheer irony of that one made me laugh, even then. No, I didn’t spank her–sure was tempting, though!
I lay her down on the grass. She threw herself back. She kicked, she hollered, she gathered quite a crowd. I had two (big) kids besides my four, so we were a slow moving train. Everyone had to be gathered and dressed and shod. Rory would not be dressed–I had to physically drag the swimsuit off of her and put undies on the writhing, kicking, screeching kid. She kept trying to tear them off, too. I GO SWIMMING! I WAN GO SWIMMING!
I was flustered–but you know, I’m actually feeling pretty studly about the whole thing, because I was overall pretty calm. I did remind her a couple of times that this was her choice, and I added that she’d ruined swimming for everyone by choosing not to listen. Not surprisingly, this made her scream harder, but I took that as a gratifying sign that she’d understood.
This went on, into the car, yadda, on the way home, yadda–but once we got home, that was it. She recovered. She ate dinner with our friends. She had s’mores, her way, which is to wave the marshmellow in the general direction of the fire while shrieking “I TAN DO THAT MYSELF” and then eat it, and then ask for and eat the chocolate. She doesn’t like it as a s’more, which is frankly a lot less messy, anyway. And then everyone went (without Rob, who’s still out of town) to bed, reasonably peaceably.
I’m going to consider this a relapse–a reminder that we’re not out of the woods yet. The tantrum was just a tantrum; it’s my reactions that I have to watch. I know I’m a little harder on her, a little more ruthless, a little less tender, or maybe just less inclined to believe that she means well. First, because she’s just not totally mine yet. Second, because the irrational stuff makes me crazy no matter which of them it is. What difference does it make which of two identical bags of Doritos you get? Third, because–and this is awful–she follows me. If I’m making the bed, she’s under it. If I’m in the shower, her hands are on the glass door. If I’m getting the meat out of the freezer, she’s taking an ice cube. If I turn around suddenly, I fall on her. All of my kids did this–at two, generally–and it made me crazy with all of them. Don’t follow me into the basement to get the milk! It will take you fifty times as long to follow me as it would for me to go and get back. I’m just putting something in the hamper, I’m just letting the dog out, I’m just going to the bathroom–STOP ALREADY!
I know I know, just say Mommy needs privacy. I do, with the bathroom, but the other stuff–it seems churlish. But it makes me very irritable, just the same.
It’s funny, I’d planned on a “cute things Rory does” post tonight. I really am mostly getting quite fond of her, and you should absolutely hear her belt out “Snuggle Puppy.” She can’t carry a tune in a bucket, that girl, but she’s loud enough for two, and she knows we sent her that book while she was still in China. She calls it–like every present, like everything we give her–”my birthday.” “That my birthday!” It’s charming, and I am charmed– but not charmed enough to let her get away with murder!

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Just a Good Day

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

Today’s activities included a chanterelle hunt, an activity that required a high tolerance for mud, bugs and failure, as we certainly didn’t find enough for dinner. The kids petered out early when one required the bathroom, but the dog and I soldiered on, finding…zilch. Our only stroke of luck came early, and each child was able to pick one mushroom. Dinner, though, was mushroom free–it just didn’t seem worth the bother, although in retrospect I could have served the one each!

Today was our best post-Rory day yet. In fact, we had a good weekend. Both parents had a share of alone time. There were various mixed up kid activities–swimming with everyone, playdate for Lily, canoeing with just Sam. Rory paid her first visit to our babysitter’s house (with Lily and Wyatt) and loved it. She loves, loves, loves Heather. I even felt able to scoop up two extra kids (big kids) on the way to the pool yesterday, and they repaid me a thousand times over by letting Rory jump in to them, again and again. I don’t like having Rory jump in to me. This has nothing to do with Rory, and everything to do with me hating to be splashed. Well, I guess it has something to do with her–if she just wouldn’t belly flop! It’s not personal, though. It was pretty much a perfect summer weekend–biking, canoeing, blueberry picking, swimming, hiking (if you don’t take into account that we had to wear long pants, boots and raincoats for said hike, because it was raining and because of the aforementioned bugs). Downright idyllic, and certainly part of the reason to live in New England. Not everybody did everything, either, but it was still good.
Do I love her yet? That’s a recurring theme of one of my favorite adoption essays. Do I love her yet?
Can I say that I’m fond of her? I like her quite as much as any of the kids’ friends, say. I no longer resent the extra work she represents–well, not any more than any of the other kids, say. My snuggles are no longer perfunctory, my tone not as sharp when I’m irritated, my kisses becoming genuine. In other words, I’m not quite as thoroughly faking it.
Someone pointed out in the comments that in times like these, there are more boo boos needing to be kissed–everyone needs a little extra tenderness, and they’ll scrape or bump anything to get it. This is so clearly true. Every ten minutes, someone has bumped a toe or closed a finger in the door, and I am trying to bear with it. I know, I know, what kind of person wouldn’t rush to their kid to soothe a skinned knee? What kind of a Mommy Dearest am I?

An impatient one, one who’s trying to get dinner on the table or put shoes on the kid who’s just changed his mind and taken off the shoes we just put on to get us out the door, and one who’s left, it seems, every single thing she’s started in the last month to rush to and sooth a suddenly wailing child. I thought it was just the addition of one more highly bruise-able kid, but now that I see that it’s more than that–I do think the commenter was right–it’s helped. But I have to admit, most of that sympathy–now that I’m faking.

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Alone with the Needy

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments

All night I’ve been thinking–who can I get to hang out with us tomorrow morning? No babysitting Thursday mornings, see, and I’m faced with three hours alone with the dynamic duo, waiting to pick up Lily. Alone, in the house, with Mr. Mario Cart and Miss I Want Scissors I Want Painting I Want Coloring. Actually, both of those activities are fine, as they are individual and require nothing from me except, you know, something about every ten minutes, or whenever I get involved in doing something else. In short, the usual.
In my mind it wasn’t like this with Wyatt alone, and I know it’s true that we had our Thursday morning ritual of coffee and crullers. But I have given up the coffee, which I suspect was making me fat, and also the crullers, which I KNOW were making me fat. But for him, I would do it once a week. For him and Rory–well, that’s a less appealing equation. Their interactions are not always golden. I could take them to Lou’s, but breakfast would still have to be provided for the older two, so I feel that I would gain nothing.

What’s relevant is that I’m afrais to be alone with some of my kids again, and this is a familiar feeling and one I had sort of just barely grown out of. I still like adult company, but I was ok, for one morning, hanging with my little boy, running errands. Happier than I would have been running them on my own. I wonder if that will come back, or if it will always just have to be just one to get it back that’s going to be tough to develop for Wyatt, who’s the obvious candidate for any small activities or classes a three-year-old might be able to do after school. We will see, in some sense there is no rush, and yet there is. How can he feel that things are normal when something that was so integral to us together–those mornings alone with our junk food–are gone? But there is no friend to take Rory and no way to leave her alone with a sitter. Next week I can find time to leave Lily and Rory–in fact, I can do that until school starts. I feel better.
I have to admit to feeling no compulsion to be alone with Rory. I have grown very fond of her, but I woudn’t say the graft has quite taken, yet, and her need for me is so much greater than my need for her that the intensity of it can be tough to take. But then, sometimes it happens, and it’s fine. It’s just not the same.

Incidently Ambien is really wonderful stuff. There’s the guaranteed slinking into sleep, which I treasure, and there’s this feeling of lightness, as i lay here, getting ready for bed. Everything looks kind of flat, and my eyes don’t focus very clearly, and walking from place to place has become a bit drifty, like my typing. Letters wander. Mmm…Ambien.

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Rory’s Other Mother

Saturday, July 25th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 5 Comments

How weird must it be, to talk to your kid’s new mom about what she was like as a baby? Is it akin to giving your husband’s new wife a call to tell her what he likes in bed? Only Rory’s other mother knows, and she’s not telling. Because she is a kind person, and because, I suppose, we both know it would change nothing. The way it is is the way it is. She belonged with her first family once, now she belongs with us. Inexplicable but true. (Her second family? She was somewhere, once, for a few days…but because of the circumstances, it’s her foster mother I think of, not her birth mother. That will come later.)

Tonight I was finally able to talk with Rory’s foster mother. The family has been traveling in the States but we’ve been unable to connect until now. What I learned told me both that Rory is adjusting even better than we knew, and that we have quite a road ahead. Everything she does here–the tantrums, the waking up very very early in the morning and trying to get up, the testing of every little boundary–ah, everything she does here she did there. The repetitive screaming. The outraged demands for justice. The sneaky slipping off to forbidden things, like my mobile phone, complete with guilty expression when discovered. None of it is adjusting–it’s just Rory.
She talked to them both, her foster mother and her foster father, and she seemed pleased (it has to be said that she loves to talk on the phone) and more animated than she’s been on the phone with anyone else. How she makes sense of it, I don’t know, but she seemed to. They got three whole minutes before she demanded to return to her harmonica. (And what does that feel like–I gave you three years, you prefer a harmonica–but she’s little, she can’t process this, and I know her foster parents know that. It hurts to see, a little.)
“Be a good girl;” they reminded her, and reminded her of bargains they had made in the past, of the way she was supposed to behave, and I saw a glimpse of how much they want this to work out, how much they want all of our happiness, and how it reflects on them, these tiny little children that they send off to new homes.
I loved talking to her, I did. To hear that she’s tried the same things with Rory that I have. To hear that she, too, said “you can’t get up until you can see the sunshine, and no, you cannot wake the others!”. That she’s demanded that the repeated screams stop, or there would be consequences. It was–validating. This is a woman who’s mothered thirty-plus kids, one who’s given up the life most of us live for a much much different one, one who’s mothered my kid, and she too sends two battling children off to work it out. I feel refreshed and ready to re-enter the fray.

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Amish Friendship Bread, Defrosted

Friday, July 24th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments

On June 6, I completed the squishing and flipping and baking project that is Amish Friendship Bread–which I know for a fact is slowly conquering the country, and may be nothing more than a ploy to get us all to buy at least one package of vanilla pudding this year–baked my two loaves, and froze one.
June 6 was just a few days after we got our travel dates. Rory was still pictures and an idea. We were thinking packing, Lily’s birthday, school ending. And I was freezing this cakey bread thing.
Every time I’ve been pregnant, there’s been this moment–this moment when I looked at the milk in the fridge and realized it would still be there when we came home–with a baby. Today was that moment in reverse, when I pulled out that loaf of bread and realized–when I baked this, I had no clue. A lifetime ago. And the bread tasted fine, which is to say, none of us really like it still, and I baked some banana bread instead.
I doubt Rob would agree, but I’d take quarantine again over that first week home without hesitation. That was hard, it was ridiculously hard, it was madness. I’ve been so caught up in it–so caught up in myself and my reactions, in Wyatt, in everything–that I haven’t been able to see past it. Finally, with a couple of nights of real sleep under my belt, I might be regaining a tiny bit of perspective–enough to see that it’s enough just to roll along with this, and breathe.
We’re noticing Rory mostly parallel plays with the three, and with others. She saves most of her interaction–most of her energy, I’d guess–for adults, or older kids if there are any. I know that wasn’t true of her before. I’m suspecting a lot of what we’re seeing now isn’t what was true of her before. She seems so ok–ok in a weird 2-year-old screechy touchy sort of way–that I think I keep forgetting that what we’re seeing isn’t just Rory, but Rory after her whole world flipped over like a pancake. Rory who can never be sure, when we leave “home my house” that we will come back. Rory who can never be sure, when I leave, when Rob leaves, when Sam or Lily or Wy leaves, that we’ll come back, or that one of all these friendly adults who talk to her won’t just scoop her up and haul her away.
I am not the most empathetic person in the world, but I can get that. I can’t always promise I’ll temper my reactions to her based on it, but I can try. Things are better, indeed better, and I am gradually doing less wishing we could fast forward to a time of more normalcy. ALthough I did do one thing today that reminds me that we’ll get there.
I baked two loaves of banana bread and put one in the freezer.

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Just plain ordinary discipline

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

Rory ran off in town today, just shot merrily off down the sidewalk and around the corner. We were on a block with no crosswalks and a sort of little plaza, and she was going right back to where we’d been a few minutes ago, before we went to–you guessed it–the potty–so it wasn’t that bad, and I almost let it go. I wasn’t angry or even worried–even if she’d gone a little farther, we live in a small town and she was fine. BUT…we could have been somewhere else–Beijing, say, or Cape Cod. And she would have done the same thing, I’m sure of it.

So I called her back, and when she didn’t come, I started to go into the store we were heading for–she could see me–and she came running in. I knelt down, and I told her–you can’t run away from me in town. You were too far away, and you couldn’t see me, and that’s not safe. Next time you might not be able to find us, and that would be scary! Her face crumpled a little, so I added that I would always find her, but she still couldn’t run away.

Nope. I Maybe that was too little, too late, but I’m inclined to think it’s just that she doesn’t like to be told she was wrong when she didn’t KNOW she was doing something wrong. The crumpling continued. The little mouth opened. And the hideous wailing began.

So we walked out of the shop.

And stood on the sidewalk. And I reminded her that I would always find her, and asked herr if she could “stick close” to me in town next time. “Stick close” is a phrase we always use, and it’s become what she says when she doesn’t want to hold hands, which is fine.

No dice. She’s pissed now. Wail, wail, wail. I sit down on a bench with Wyatt. As soon as she’s done, we’ll go in. But no, wail, wail, wail, fury, fury. So I say it again. Can you tell me you’ll stick close to me in town? She stops wailing for a minute. I know she’s listening. But nothing. Stony silence. She’s giving up nothing. Then you’ll have to hold hands when we’re in town, and right now, we have to go home.

La, la, la, through town, holding the unwilling, wailing struggling hand, sometimes carrying her by it, but I don’t want to pull her arm out of the socket, so if she won’t walk, I pick her up to carry her in a safe–but uncomfortable for her–way. Wyatt is trotting along, so proud to be the one being good! And I am saying, cheerfully, big girls stick close! But Rory can’t stick close, so she has to be carried. Wyatt, I am so proud of you, you are such a big boy! You are being so good! Rory, look at Wyatt, having fun, walking along next to Mommy. I’m hitting her where she lives, and I know it. She HATES being told she’s not a big girl. And I am getting the sympathetic fellow parent smiles–everybody gets this one.

Into the car, and on to phase two. She’s still yelling. I don’t want to go home! I don’t want to go home! Oh, but we’re going home (which I’m not thrilled about, as I’ve been trying to get into that store for days, but the owner was late yesterday and didn’t open early enough–told you this was a small town–and I just haven’t been able to get there, but it’s not that urgent). We’re going home, and now it’s no yelling in the car. If you can’t stop yelling, I will stop the car, and Wyatt and I will get out, because we don’t want to ride with someone who’s so loud. And we do, twice, and we stand right by the open window, and I say, will you stop yelling? Will you stop being so loud? And she shakes her head fiercely, and there we are. Until she does. And I thank her for being quiet, and she sniffles all the way home, and dozes off, and when we get home, she’s a snuggly contrite muffin.

And that’s exactly what’s happened with every one of my kids at some point or another, except for the getting angry at being mildly scolded part. (And that was seriously mild.) I could find a nearly identical story about any one of them, including me getting out of the car and waiting right outside where they could see me until they stopped yelling. Sometimes, you tell them the way it’s gonna be, and that’s the way it’s gonna be. So I guess we’re moving on to just ordinary parenting.

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