All posts tagged: adoption attachment

The Birthday that’s Family Day

It’s Sam’s tenth birthday! It was a spectacular one…about which, more, with photos, anon.

It’s also Rory’s “family day,” and that’s what I want to talk about.

For “family day,” we did nothing.

Not that Sam would mind. He wouldn’t, not at all. But I am not, and never have been, sure how to mark the day when Rory both lost and gained her family. I did say something–to her, and to everyone, about it (just to point it out, really), but that’s it.

But there were other signs that it was on minds. I said something to Lily today about her “finding it hard to share and being stuck with a family that shares a lot,” and Rory piped up: “And then you add me your family!” I assured her that it was her family too, and she agreed. At some other point she mentioned me coming to China to get her, too.

And Lily–Lily demanded, at some point today when Rory didn’t come get in a picture quickly, that it be “just the original Seelig family!”

I don’t think Rory heard her. Usually I would jump down her throat for something like that, but… I didn’t want to make a big deal.

I think Lily still holds mixed feeling about “family day,” too…Rory hides hers, but I know they’re there. I think I need to do something more to acknowledge the whole thing (maybe and move it to the day we arrived home, to get it away from Sam’s birthday). Work in Progress…

KJThe Birthday that’s Family Day
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Rory, Still a Little Dubious

My bad tonight–letting all four kids take ice cream in the car. Not cones, cups, and in Lily and Sam’s case, more like milkshakes (FriendZs, to be exact). I don’t usually even let them EAT in the car. But circs prevailed in a not particularly interesting way, and the ice cream was successfully eaten, until (you knew there was an until, right?)…

Rory announced that she was done. At this point we were at the hockey rink picking up Sam, so I told her to carry it up to me and I would take it in and throw it away, and she started to. But as she reached the front seat, something went wrong. I THINK she turned it over to show how it was empty, but she may have just been distracted. It wasn’t empty, not nearly.

There was a freaked out silence in the car (they ALL want the no food in the car rule relaxed, so these little disasters when it is relaxed worry them greatly) as I uttered her name in that long, drawn out shrieky sigh familiar to all mothers: Rooorrryy!

And napkins were produced and the solids scooped up and the liquids wipes as best as we could by me and my Sam, who was somewhat under the spill, while Rory stood there, frozen.

Shouldn’t you say something? I prompted, and she managed a “sorry,” and that was pretty much the end of it–except that I know that frozen gig of hers. She was truly at a loss. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know what would happen. After all, no one’s ever eaten ice cream in the car before, let alone spilled it. And when Rory doesn’t know what to do, she has two default modes: frozen and banshee. Banshee is the running through the house giggling mode. It can be endearing, but it’s really a sign that she can’t settle to anything—she’s not certain what the right thing to do at that moment is, there’s no obvious game or activity afoot, and she hasn’t got her crayons out, so wild running is the only answer.

Frozen is the “I don’t know how this will play out” pose, when it’s possible that I (or someone else) might be very very very angry. I might have been, of course, but I wasn’t. What’s worrisome about frozen is that while Sam, Lily and Wyatt might similarly suspect that I might be very very very angry, they don’t freeze up like that. In Rory I can SEE the defense mechanism. I can SEE that she’s ready to cry, or fight back, or panic, or just stay rigid, and that she has no faith in her own ability to ride the situation, or in mine to treat her in some sort of fair or predictable way. There have absolutely been times when I was neither fair nor predictable, but in a rare turn of events, I don’t think this is about me.

I think Rory, in some great sense, has had the rug pulled out from under her. To her, if things aren’t proceeding in the normal and expected way, literally anything might happen. I liken it to autism, in the sense that an autistic person with a particular form of the disability can’t read social cues–so, similarly, anything could happen, and anything could be an appropriate response, and I try to treat it that way, with coaching. Instead of yelling at banshee Rory to quiet down and find something to do, I help her find it. And instead of scolding frozen Rory for the lack of an immediate apology, I ask for it. I see this as a place where she just needs more cues and help than she would have if she could count on her own instincts. What I don’t know is if it ever goes away.

KJRory, Still a Little Dubious
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I Did the Right Thing

A few posts ago, I talked about how I’d decided not to write a letter to Rory’s new teacher singling her out in any way. I felt confident–and underneath it, I felt certain that said new teacher, and new assistant teacher, would already have a pretty full scoop. After all, our last year had been unusual. And it had ended with what I saw as a pretty negative assessment of Rory from one teacher in particular, who said she couldn’t understand Rory and felt like Rory resisted participating in class or with other kids. Surely, I thought, that teacher took it on herself to fill new teacher in.

Nope. Today new teacher took me aside. Why, she asked, does Rory not stay a full day like many four-year-olds and all the 5-year-olds? Well, because I don’t think she’s ready. But she’s hungry to learn the stuff we do in the afternoon, says the teacher. The letters, the reading basics. I don’t have much time to do that with her during the day, and she really wants it.
Well, I say, I don’t think her brother is ready, and we have issues. I can’t pick up one and not the other. The teacher looks disapproving. And last year, I say, no one thought she was ready for this. She’s come a long way in three months. We’re letting her grow at her own pace.
More disapproving.
After all, I say, she’s only been here a little over a year…
Teacher did not know that.
Part of me is a little shocked–there are, after all, a total of six other teachers at the school who did–and part of me is pleased.
Without even trying, we gave Rory a chance to just be Rory. I am sure that teacher just assumed she was just another adopted Chinese baby girl, mostly raised by us, with whatever trauma or atttachment or yadda yadda well in the past. She was just another almost-five year old, with a teacher figuring she ought to be doing kindergarten stuff. I’m thrilled the teacher had that impression, and I don’t think what I said changed a thing–the teacher has an idea of her now, and it will stay.

And I feel like she passed. In both senses of the word. This teacher is a tough cookie, and instead of her thinking, oh, this child is behind, she’s incomprehensible, she’s not a full participant in the class, she’s lagging or taking up too much time or not understanding what’s going on–she thought Rory was ready for a full day there. And I feel a little like Rory fooled her–“passed,” as it were, as a normal kid. That doesn’t sound right–but I’m hyper aware of all of my kids’ issues, and I think the past year fell a little short of the “normal” front for any of them. Hell, for all of us. I guess I feel so far from “normal” myself that I get pretty excited when one of the kids manages to bring it off. If Rory manages to come across as normal, maybe she finally feels normal–settled, comfortable. Maybe we’ve revealed all the crap behind the curtains, and it’s all just–whatever it is–from here on in.

What does normal mean? I think, here, it just means, not needing any special treatment or concessions. I’ve had that feeling about them more and more lately–like maybe I’m the one who’s behind the times in worrying about how we’re adjusted or coming along. THere are these perpetual questions of adoption” “Do you love her yet?” (yes) “Do you love her the same as your other kids?” (I’d say love doesn’t lend itself to “same”-ness) “Is it adoption or is it just an ordinary phase” and some variation on “Are we there yet?”

Are we there yet? Are we adjusted, are we attached, are we all done with the beginning and on to the whatever comes next? Probably not. But hey, at least in one context, apparently we look like we are. I will so take that.

KJI Did the Right Thing
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