adopting

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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Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…

Monday, November 23rd, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

I came in from clearing out the garden for winter a few days ago and found Rory–who’d been outside a few minutes before–sobbing at the top of the stairs. Wailing. I ran up–I thought she was hurt–and she took one look at me and ran away, shouting no! No!

Well, that’s never happened before. So I followed her. No! No! I don’t want you!

This is dreadful. Did she come in and feel like she couldn’t find us? Did something happen? I’ve been outside for a while, did she need be and I wasn’t there and now she feels just utterly betrayed?

Meanwhile, Rory is hiding behind a chair. Still screaming.

When I can make myself heard, I try to talk, sitting close. Is she sad? Could she not find me? Did she know I was outside? Does she miss Mama Deena and Baba Mike? NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOO!

What do I do? Get her out from behind the chair and hold her whether she wants it or not? SIt companionably?

About this time I notice she’s eying me a little–I don’t know–appraisingly. And I hear Rob come in. Do you know what’s wrong with Rory?

Oh, yes. What’s wrong with Rory is that she wouldn’t clean the playroom, so she got sent to her room, and then she came down, and then something somehow offended her sense of justice and fair play, and so she went back up and started screaming for Rob.

What’s wrong with Rory is just ordinary, boring, 4-year-old stuff, a little complicated by the incomprehensible, convoluted rules Rory has created within herself for when she will emerge from being sent to her room. What’s going on here is just…nothing.

Rory listens intently as Rob explains, adding that he’s asked her several times to come back down, and that she knows she’s not in trouble. I get up, and Rory throws herself at me. NOW she wants to be held. NOW she wants rocking. Is it that she wanted Rob? I think so–because he was the one who’d offended her, and having me couldn’t fill in that space without him. Or maybe she was playing me. Or maybe both. But what really mattered was that it was just about her, and Rob, and us, and that’s kind of the way it’s been for a while. For the moment, all the cigars are just cigars.

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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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Click.

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments

This may be an exaggeration. It may be wishful thinking. It may be putting too much weight on one good day…
But I think we’ve crossed some kind of line. Yesterday was a pretty good day. The parts that weren’t good were mostly in…my head.
Today was a totally good day, and I’m looking at Rory with fresh–and more loving–eyes. I’m hearing her differently. Every hug isn’t an attempt to steal my attention away. Her little family recitation–that my Nini, that my Sam, that my Wallet, that my Mommy-Daddy–isn’t possessive, it’s adorable. How could I have missed that–even amidst her struggles, and I’m not making light of them or blaming myself entirely–she’s overjoyed to be part of our family?
Last night she hugged me at bedtime and said “my mommy!” And I said that’s right, your mommy–not in the resigned, I’ve said this fourteen times today tone I’ve been known to use, but happy right back at her, and added “your mommy, forever and ever and always.” And she giggled, and hugged tighter, and I thought–maybe she did understand that. Maybe it means something to her.
And maybe I fell just a little bit in love.

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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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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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Swimmingly

Monday, July 20th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

The thing I like best about the swimming pool is that they can all touch.

Not that this means I am off in my plastic adirondack chair licking a Jolly Rancher icepop (the biggest vice available at the pool, sadly–where is my mojito?). But I can sit on the side, in primo splashing territory for all the horrible little splashy children in their swimsuits, shoving the ones that don’t belong to me aside and saying jeez, kid, don’t get between me and the three-year-old who can just barely swim! Get your aged butt into the deep end, first grader!

It’s probably fortunate that, in general, the swimming pool is the closest I have to come to other people’s children en masse. Rory loves the pool, the delightful, exhausting pool, and she now loves her new swimming teacher, who she will allow to swim her around on her back, and will jump off the diving board to. All she wants is to move, this kid, to do more and more and bigger and better things. She’s driven, and she pushed herself to swim this week exactly as Lily once did—by throwing herself forward in the pool and kicking madly until she started moving. The pool is better than candy, it is better than naps, and it is possibly even better than mommy–at least, in that if I won’t get in, and only the swim teacher will–then yes, why, sure, she’ll trust the swim teacher!

In other news, today I had my coffee, my lovely lovely coffee–not just my coffee, but the one all by myself that I’ve been craving for weeks. And everybody did just fine.

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Dear Kittymama and other new parents…

Sunday, July 19th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 6 Comments

I’ve been thinking lately about one particular internet friend, known online as kittymama, and I’ve been thinking about her because the child she brings home will be her first. And I want her to know, in advance, one thing:

You hate them sometimes no matter what.

Babies, biological, adopted, I’m guessin’ any way you bring them into the family, they screw things up. And I mean that in the most loving, actually dealing pretty well way.

When you have your first kid, no matter how you have them, it messes with your entire existence. And it continues to mess with it, and when you add others, it messes with it again. I’ve hated each of my kids in turn for what they did to my nice tidy life, particularly between 3 and 4 in the morning, which is an hour when no one who isn’t having a really good time should be awake. It’s then that you consider strangling them, or wonder what would happen if you walked out the door and just kept going, that you weep and curse and moan. Well, other times too, to be honest, but really then.

And I keep thinking–if my first child had been adopted, if I didn’t know to an absolute certainty that I, at least, go through this every single time, what would that feel like?

Horrible. There’s an additional sense of needing to love the kid that comes, for me, with adoption. A baby can’t actually tell, especially if it’s kind of fitfully sleeping, or chowing, that you’re loathing it some of the time, but a kid–a sensitive, already abandoned kid who’s had its whole world overturned–who could hate that kid? Who could be so cold?

I think–lots of people. People who’ve spent the day in a port-a-potty, or haven’t slept in weeks, or are watching the rest of their lives flip over and over, unable to settle, completely at the mercy of something you somehow thought was within their control.

That’s just parenting. Sometimes it sucks. There may be people out there who take it all in stride, but I don’t know any of them, and if I did, I wouldn’t like them. It’s hard, being a parent, it’s hard becoming a parent, it’s hard becoming a parent again.

So if that’s you, and you’re thinking it’s just you–it’s not.

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Not a, Baby

Friday, July 17th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 9 Comments

Adopting a three-year-old is not very much like having a baby, except in the level of shock to the system. One does not, for example, have to nurse, or wake up every three hours, or carry the baby around for hours on end in the hope that it will somehow stop crying. But the wow factor–the shock and awe and the what have we done–that’s there, in spades.

Tonight was a wall-punching night for me. I was congratulating myself on a good day; Wyatt and Rory were asleep–and then they weren’t, both at the same time, and I was the only one home. If I comforted one, the other wailed. If I went to the wailer the conforted ceased to be conforted and became the wailer. You can see how neither wailer was likely to go back to sleep under these circumstances. The feeling was Sisyphian, the results never good, and much of the good of the day evaporated for a while. Eventually Rob saved me, and routine was resurrected, and things were ok, but I am still reeling (plus my hand hurts). We are still reeling, all of us, reeling. Our routines are shattered, our expectations nil, our ability to cope limited. Sometimes things are good, sometimes not, and there is a general air of enabling and living with an abuser surrounding us all.
A few friends–those who’ve really seen me in action–have backed off. I suspect my attitude, particularly midday, is poison, that I am like the work colleague who bitches so much that to be around her is to cease to enjoy anything about your own job and to have all of the oxygen gradually sucked out of you. It’s not that I’m that bad with the kids, it’s that I can’t be a good sport about anything. Why is our pool so crappy? Why, on top of being generally crappy and having no little kid friendly facilities, must it also close both bathrooms AND the in-pool-fence entrance to the snack window, forcing one (after one’s eighth trip to the port-a-potty and I am so not exaggerating) to leave the pool and march all the way around it, only to end up pretty much where you started, only on the other side of the fence.

Whine, whine, whine. You can see why no one wants to talk to me…I can see why no one wants to talk to me. I don’t want to talk to me. But I can’t help it. I really can’t. And that’s what’s like having tha first baby about this, it’s so unfair, all of a sudden your friends can do things that you can’t, and you are at someone else’s beck and call, and you can’t think about anything else, or go get a coffee, or just go to the bathroom by yourself and maybe get in a shower. And it makes everything, all of life, feel just so much like it’s all out to get you, because the minute that baby goes down for a nap the Fedex guy shows and the dog goes bonkers.
It’s like that emotionally.
And now, one more whine-fest–next weekend is the barbeque festival. We love the BBQ festival. There is music. There are festive crowds, and most importantly, there is award-winning smoked meat, and lots of it. Also, beer. Mmm, beer.
We always go. We take the kids, and never have as much fun as we thought we might, but we still go.
But in a 2-hour-long span of time today, I took Rory to the port-a-potty at least eight times. I think it was probably more. And the port-a-potties at the BBQ festival have lines. It could very easily be that every time we came out, we would just need to get right back on line.

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Why Are You POKING Her?

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | Comments Off

I don’t understand. Not that Lily and Wyatt don’t touch one another, or bug one another occasionally–but Rory they feel compelled to constantly poke. If she is sitting on a barstool, one of them is touching her feet. If she is on the couch, one of them is on top of her, prodding her. If she is wandering around, someone is following her–touching her. They poke her in the car, they prod her in the stroller, they nudge her at the dinner table. Do they not believe she’s real? Do they not believe that she will scream and push them away? Because I guarantee that she will. She will scream, she will growl, she will push their hands away–and who could blame her?

And then they will poke some more, and I will tell them not to, and they will do it again and either a) Rory will hit someone and get yelled at or b) the poker will get sent to his or her room. It’s a delicate dance depending a great deal on who appears to have transgressed more at the moment, and I am tired of it.

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Warming up–to our babysitter!

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | Comments Off

We’re discovering a pattern, and it’s a good one. Once something happens once–she meets someone, we go somewhere, someone leaves the house and comes back–and nothing dramatic happens, then it’s ok. It’s worthy of interest, and possibly comment. One thing that’s important is that I notice what’s happening. Mama, come see. Come see Heather. Come see Eli’s daddy. Once I’ve seen—Yes, it’s Heather! Hi Heather! Big deal greeting…. Then we can all go on, somewhat hesitantly. Today is the third time our babysitter has been around (I’m home too, but working in the office) and today, it’s pretty good. Heather can help Rory, she can get her a snack, Rory can stay downstairs and play…all progress indeed, and more than I’d counted on.

But I know Rory is still working and processing. She woke up in the night last night calling for “Mommy, mommy!”–and I don’t think I was the mommy she was hoping to see. I got a frown, a stony face, and no hug. So I whispered—do you miss mama Deena? It’s ok. It’s ok to miss her, and ok to be here, too. I have no idea if it helped. But I lay next to her bed, not touching, not intruding, and she went back to sleep (until 4:30, when she told Rob “but I’m UP!”). And this morning it was all good again.

She has a book of pictures from her foster home. This morning she pointed to Mike (her foster dad) and said “That’s you, Daddy.” No, that’s Baba Mike. Pointing to another picture–”That’s mommy.” No, that’s Mama Deena. Maybe this is a way to make sense of things, to make it ok, if somehow we ARE Mike and Deena, who left a week before we came to pick Rory up for a visit to the States. Maybe this is just how she makes it easier on herself somehow, or just a way to think about it until she’s ready to cope. I don’t know. We’ll handle it gently.

Here’s a funny thing: If you tell Rory there’s a rule–as in, no jumping on the sofa–then that’s it. There’s a rule. Anyone else violating it is turned in with a gasp of horror. Any accidental transgression is apologized for. It’s a rule, after all. You know what that means, don’t you? It means that it’s possible to teach kids rules. Real ones, not the kind that you have to remind them of over and over, and not just “no jumping out of the car while it’s moving” sort of things. Arbitrary, but enforceable, rules that allow things to happen sometimes and not others, or in some places but not others. We didn’t manage that. Good thing we had some help on this one, because she’s the most stubborn of the bunch–but somebody trained her up already! hooray! Somebody with a stronger will than we have, thank goodness. Remind me to send Mike and Deena a fruit basket when she turns 16.

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Hoo, Boy

Sunday, July 12th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 7 Comments

Worst. Parent. Ever.
That’s me. Flat out worst.

Which is a pity, because the day had gone rather well. Kids playing together, birds singing, sun shining, whatnot. I went out–promising Rory I would come back–and i did, which she seemed to see as a good thing. Better yet, I went for a bike ride with a friend, and every hill just felt good, because it was just so great to be out on my own.

And then…
I miscalculated dinner. I had an easy entree, so I thought I’d go all out and make actual French Fries (there’s a new recipe, super easy, in the newest Cook’s Illustrated and I highly recommend you run right out and buy it) and a chopped salad, which (surprise!) turned out to involve a lot of, well, chopping. All of this took time and dinner wasn’t ready until close to seven, and since we’d actually hauled everyone through the day without napping they were pretty tired and whiny. Rory, in fact, was half asleep on the couch.
Everyone else came to the table, french fries being a huge draw, But she refused. I’m tired, she yelled. I’m SLEEPING.
Fine–but not if it involves disrupting everyone’s dinner…so Rob offered to carry her upstairs, and that’s when the fun began. No no no, i not want to go to bed, no no no no no. Did she want to come to dinner? No no no no no. I don’t want go upstairs, I no want diner, aaah, aaah, aahh.
I’m wishing we’d just let her on the couch–it wasn’t that big a deal, when Rob shouts–she’s just peed all over him, and the kitchen floor, and she is still screaming hysterically. No no no, not upstairs, no dinner.
Dinner is pretty much screwed, anyway…and we all know how I am when I cannot eat my dinner hot. Especially when I have worked for the last hour making it. I grab pajamas, clean her up, not particularly kindly, and am about to haul her up to bed when Rob intervenes. She can eat, he says–by now she wants dinner–if she helps him clean up. (I know, the orphan wiping up her own pee…I can see the DIckensian implications of the whole thing now, but at the time it seemed reasonable and we’ve done the same with Sam and Wyatt over and over again.)
She gives it what I see as a cursory swipe, tries to but the rags on the counter and then, when I tell her to throw them away–she’s giggling, and I say it’s not funny does so–and then goes, sits down at the table, and starts to eat my dinner.
I yell. Loudly. I take her away and tell her that’s not the way it works, she doesn’t get to go eat my dinner after all that…I am fierce. It’s not pretty. She cries.
Rob helps her to clean up. I get her a plate. She eats, sniveling and hicupping, a huge plate of food, but she won’t talk. Only the same Maa and grunts that we were getting hours after we picked her up. I feel awful. Awful.
After a while I apologize. She thought–I can see now–she’s three, for god’s sake–that she had cleaned up. And she probably thought, in spite of it not being at her place or on a kid’s plate–that that was her dinner, or at least, she didn’t think about it. And I yelled at her for it. So I tell her that. You thought you had cleaned up, and you thought this was your food, and I yelled at you. I was angry, and I’m sorry. I see a glimmer of understanding and get stony silence. A glare, even.
Well, at least I won’t get fat from eating the tasty fries, right? Because I can’t eat now.
Rob jollies her. He moves in slowly. While I clean up, and get the other kids settled, he approaches slowly, gets her giggling, finally laughing, and has her, as we always do, clear her place. Me, I just back off. I’m picturing a major setback–we’re all she has, and I in particular have been a real rock for her, even when I don’t want to be–and I have been horrible, scary, she will probably never forgive me. Would I have said the same to one of the three? Absolutely, but that’s the thing. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe I’ve just been nasty and scary again and again, and they just recover because this particular mommy is the one they’re stuck with, and someday they will be telling tales of my manic rants in their EST groups.

But no–she’s looking for me. She hides her face in my bed, and when I come, and hold my arms out, she giggles. She wants hugs. Can I take her to brush her teeth? Yes. Can I read her a book? Yes. Can I put her to bed? Yes, but only if I’ll stay where she can see me while she falls asleep. We settle on the couch outside their room. and I read for five minutes–she’s asleep right away.

Happy ending, I guess. More than happy–paradoxically, tonight may be the first time I’ve enjoyed her for her. Found the on-my-own toothbrushing cute. Been able to read to her, and see her find the pictures funny. Let her “read” to me and been charmed. That a baby. She cryin, she goin in crib. Letters, abc def (turn page) lmn op. I have always especially enjoyed one-on-one time with the kids, but so far I’d been reluctant–I just didn’t want it with her. She seemed so needy, so unpredictable. What would we do? I didn’t know her. I knew the others. Why not spend time with them, and just leave her as part of the pack for a while? Her need for me seemed weird and un-meetable. I couldn’t exactly replace her foster mama. I almost couldn’t see why her heart was open to even let me try. Plus, well, I suck on not enough sleep.

But when I thought it was gone–when I thought we were back to square one, or worse, that I’d lost what I hadn’t even realized we’d built, or that I valued–well, then it was different. She’s adjusting beautifully. She really is. She’s doing more than meet us halfway, she’s throwing herself into us, and I’m letting her do it, without giving the the help she needs. I hope tonight will change that, not just for tonight but going on. It’s must a little bit of time, this. It really is.

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Re-entry: Not Pretty

Friday, July 10th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 9 Comments

Some of my publishable thoughts on arriving home: Whoa. We got in at 11:00 night before last and the kids were up until 3. We hauled them through yesterday, even taking Sam and Lily to a tennis lesson and getting the boys a haircut–and put them to bed at a relatively normal time (when Rob and I were nearly asleep standing) but at 1:30 the first of them–Rory–appeared.

And this is where the fact that they all sleep in the same room bites us in the ass, because although I get her to go back to bed, Wyatt wakes up soon after and awakens everyone with his screaming, and it all goes downhill from there in a big way. Only Sam, who came down and slept on the sofa, got anything like a normal night’s sleep.

At 4:30 we let them get up and trash the house while we went to sleep. I woke up at 7:30 feeling like it was non. All night I dreamt of China, chaotic airports, crazed shopping, chasing kids through hotels. I woke up and inhaled a panful of brownies one of our friends baked us last night. So I’m doing fab.

Rory fell asleep midafternoon and had to be woken up using the kind of cruel behavior (turning them upside-down, standing them up even though they are asleep) that forms a parent’s only revenge for sleepless night, but because we were in public, I couldn’t really appreciate it. Which reminds me of the glorious moment in the airport where she whacked Wyatt full in the face for nothing–as in, he walked up to her and she hauled off and belted him–and she had to be removed, screaming, to a corner until she became willing to apologize, which took about 20 solid minutes of screaming. (We do cut her plenty of slack, but there are a couple of non-negotiables, don’t you think?) Anyway, the stares were impressive. At least she was screaming in English, which gave us some credibility…

We’ve also had a couple of episodes where she’s been with Rob, howling for “mama”–and although that’s fine, we don’t let her get away with it if she’s hitting him and refusing his help for something because she wants me–and when she finally gets me, it’s clear that I am NOT the mama she had in mind. This is hard for all of us…but mostly she’s doing remarkably well.

I am doing slightly less well. I am not a patient person at the best of times, and I become particularly unpleasant with lack of sleep. I’m also not very playful anymore, I find. I do not want to play Wii with Wyatt, or play with blocks or the remote control train with Rory, which makes me feel like all I do is dress them, feed them and say “no” to them…and I am not sure I really truly considered the ramifications of one more voice crying mommy mommy mommy in our particular wilderness.

I’ve resented every new child in turn for taking me away from the old ones. There are elements of that here–Wyatt, in particular,needs me badly every time Rory does, and saying no to him is heartbreaking. And there is just the added drudgery. Look, more toys on the floor! Look, more sippy cups! Look, more laundry! Oh, boy, somebody else who needs me to wipe their ass! I’m intensely aware that some of the people who are reading this “told me so”, and that others will be worried that I can’t meet Rory’s needs or learn to love her. I think it will all loosen up in a matter of months or even weeks. I think it will be fine, even great, fairly soon. But I don’t want to minimize or hide the growing pains. Wyatt screamed hysterically last night because he wanted me to remove this baby doll from his bed–a doll with Asian features, that we bought partly in order just not to have a whole house full of blue-eyed blondes. And when she’s the one causing the bedtime and wake up issues. I boil over. Lily gets frustrated because Rory’s not exactly what she pictured–which, as it amounted to a fully cooperative live doll, isn’t too surprising. Only Sam seems fine, and we all know that Sam has a lot of himself invested in always seeming fine.

We’ll get through it. But probably not today.

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