adoption blog

I Did the Right Thing

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

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.

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One Year

Saturday, September 4th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments

One year.

Actually, one year and 2 months.

I didn’t think a year meant that much, once we hit that year. I’m just not feeling the milestone, I said. This is still hard, it still doesn’t feel worthy of some sort of “this-is-how-we-were-meant-to-be” record. I suspect that maybe isn’t my style, anyway…that this is how we are will always be what’s important to me… But thatsnnot my point. We’ve hit our stride, I feel–as I said a few days ago, everything feels more established and more settled now than ever before. And I realized, yesterday at Rory’s annual physical, that “one year” is a big part of why.

“One year” isn’t really just some arbitrary anniversary. It’s how we, culturally, seasonally, naturally, divvy up our own lives. Every year the snow will fall, every year the days will get longer, every year the raspberries will ripen and the apples will fill the trees and the pumpkins will be ready to pick. School will start, doctor’s visits will happen, birthdays, annual festivals…we structure a million and one things around an annual calendar, and for Rory and the rest of us together, all of those things will now have happened before. Wemhave entered the great and wonderful stage where nearly everything is “just like last time.”

I don’t think you can underestimate the value of that for someone who, once, when things took a turn for the seriously different from everything that had ever before happened, found herself with a new life, family, hiiom, language and nearly every thing you can think of. Rory is a lesson who naturally leaps into new adventures, and for her to have been so overwhelmed by one really took a toll on her personality. Now, new adventures are easier to welcome because they come in the context of things that have happened before. New people may come visit, but then they will leave, and next weekend we will go to the same party we went to for Labor Day last year. There may be a new teacher, but the classroom and most of the kids and the routine will be the same. She can wear new shoes with an old pair of shorts.

That seems to make everything much better, and suddenly, really truly suddenly, everything isn’t just striding, it’s going rather smoothly. You fight less with your siblings when you have that year base to fall back on. You’re more able to come up with simpler ways to deal with moments when you can see that you will not possibly get your way. Sure, your friend has to leave, but instead of crying or getting yourself into a temper tantrum worth of trouble over it, maybe you could just insist on holding the dog so she doesn’t chase your friend’s car.

From my point of view, we’ve left the realm of “what will she do next.” At last year’s physical, our pediatrician tactfully told me a story about an adoptive parent she knew who felt like she was too hard on her child. “she really had to be, sometimes,” the doctor said, “because if a child she’d known all its life gave another child a push inbfrustration, she knew how far the kid would go next, but with the newer child, she just didn’t know, so she had to be much more responsive and careful abo ut everything.”

That turned out to be very true, and very comforting. But now, for the most part, I do know. Which in many cases doesn’t mean I can be less vigilant, but in many cases it does. I do know Rory, now. I know where she’s going and what she’s likely to do next and whether I need to head her off at the pass. It’s a good, and much easier, feeling.

Without wishing our lives away, I can see the next milestone–the moment when she’s lived longer with us than anywhere else–coming, and again, I can see why it’s not just some arbitrary marker, but a moment with real and deep resonance. These anniversaries mean something more that cakes and candles. They speak to something deeper inside us, the movement of time and seasons that binds us together.

So, in short, one year: now I get it.

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Stride.

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

We have hit our stride.
Rory has been home for almost 14 months, and it’s time to call it good. And oh, it is such a relief.

The past year been like hitting my head against a wall, in that it’s so much better now that it’s stopped. I’ve never, ever been so glad that a year was over, and I would repeat sixth grade before I’d live through the first six months again. Of course, we had our beautiful moments. Of course, it’s always tough to see calendar pages flip, and I’m always telling myself not to “wish my life away.” But it has been a tough year, and that’s putting it mildly. And suddenly, with little fanfare, it seems to be over. Last month I posted to No Hands But Ours about how I wasn’t ready to do the squishy lovey one year post. If this month were our one year marker, I’d be more inclined, although I still resist putting a rosy haze over the changes any of us went through last year. I can’t imagine our lives without Rory now, although sometimes I still do. (I also sometimes contemplate what life would be like with Sam as only child, or with Sam and Lily as a tanned and tow-headed pair of co-conspirators, a role they took on tonight when Wyatt and Rory went off to do some twin thing in the playroom. It’s not personal. It’s just one of those things.)

Things that felt impossible six months ago, like taking all of the kids to the swimming pool without another adult, or the three youngest to a bead store for a little craft action, today manage to seem like good ideas. (Although there are some situations, like kid concerts, that I still avoid like the plague. I can’t see any possible way that would be fun.) The house is cleaner, our lives slightly more organized. We buy milk in glass returnable bottles, and the process of returning the empties no longer strikes me as the straw that might break the camel’s back. In fact, I broke two full ones the other day (it was bound to happen) and dealt with the result with far more equanimity than I would ever have expected of myself. We make plans. We look ahead. We sit at home, and I periodically actually sit down on the couch with a magazine without anyone on my lap.

On the Rory herself front, too, we’ve made one of those startling leaps. Her language suddenly shot up to a level where she feels she can talk to other people, outside people, even people she has never met (whom she really likes to tell that she is from China, and rarely fails to ask if they know Baba Mike, her foster dad). She chats with us about all sorts of things, about how she feels and what she thinks and what she did and will do today (all of which she avoided before). Lest you think it’s perfection, very few people can actually understand her, and she’s still got a weird sort of noun fatigue, with little gaps of common words simply not finding a place in her head (like sausage and soup, which she forgot yesterday). She handles the gaps so much better, though. “I don’ know what that is,” she’ll say. Tonight she turned to me from the kitchen counter and declared that she wanted to make “a nakkin.” You can have a napkin, I said, and reached for one. “NO! I wan’ make a nakkin!” Well, I said, you can make a nakkin, here’s the paper towels. “No! NO! A NAKKIN! A NAKKIN TO GO ROUND MY NECK!” I was still obtuse (she often makes these sort of napkin bibs for herself or for dolls) and she was near tears. “It’s ok,” I said. “Stop. Breathe. We’ll figure it out.” And she actually did stop, and hold back the howls of frustration I could see right on the edge, and I looked at her, and what she had, and what she was doing, and I said “oh! a necklace! You want to make a necklace with your beads!”

Which was what she wanted to do, and then sat and did, very calmly and very well, too, considering that she made the beads at art class and I never, ever thought she would get the tiny thread through the tiny holes. Of course. A nakkin. We had another, similar near breakdown a few nights ago, when we had guests (which is always tough on Rory). She wanted a tub, she kept repeating it, getting angrier and angrier and more and more determined. It was 9:30, there would be no tub and I was getting frustrated, how could i make her see that there could be no tub and not have her loose it so badly that we might as well have just had the tub, because it would take less time? And just as I was getting my stubborn reared up and ready to go, (and pretty much matching her and forcing us both into a standoff) she stopped, thought, and said, “then I have tub tomorrow?”

Well, yeah, sure. You have tub tomorrow. Situation defused by Rory, who might, at that moment, have been more mature than I was (but note how she found a way to control it, too. I think that’s ok). She’s come far, and all of a sudden, it shows. We both have. I know it was gradual, but it has a way of feeling sudden, as if someone quite quickly uprighted our household snow globe, and things were settling gently into place.

Cross-posted to No Hands But Ours, click picture at left.

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