attachment

Enough.

Monday, April 11th, 2011 | Connecting the Dots | 12 Comments

Tonight Rory wanted some pineapple in her lunch for tomorrow, which requires that I cut a little off for her. Which I did, and put it in the little box she’d selected, and put the lid on, and presented it to her.
“I just gon’ LOOK,” she said, and opened it up.
I don’t know why this bothers me, but it does. It bothers me, I’m sorry to say, a lot. And I know I’ve blogged about it before-but I am NOT LYING!
There are no more cookies.
I do not have any gummy bears.
There is only a little rice left, and I am saving it for Daddy.

She’s got, now, that it annoys me, but she still really wants to do it. So she comes up with other stuff. I just like lookin’ at it, she’ll say. I just wan’ smell the (empty) bowl.

So I guess it really matters to her. Somehow, somewhere down the line, she got the idea that adults would hide food from her. I don’t think she ever went hungry by any means, but maybe she never got quite as many second servings of the good stuff as she wanted, either. And I’ve been able, mostly, to let it go. And find the little machinations to get around the need to see for herself funny. And you now what? I think she likes that I find it funny.

We’ve obviously come a long way, Rory and I. I think she knows it as well as I do on some level. And her favorite thing to do at the moment–and this is so perceptive of her, because if we HADN’T come so far, if we hadn’t finally clicked into full-on mother-child mode, it would never work—her favorite thing to do is to try to annoy me just ENOUGH.

To come just close ENOUGH to something I said not to touch—but smiling, and watching me, so that she knows that I know that she’s not going to do it. To announce just loudly ENOUGH that she’s going to, I don’t know, stand on the sofa or put her fork in her milk and then shriek, really quickly, “but I just kidding!” To remember all those buttons that she once pushed so proudly and come just close ENOUGH to pushing them to be reminded again that even if she pushed away, I would still love her.

And sometimes—often, even—it’s really funny. And sometimes, to be honest, it’s really annoying. And then I just tell her. That’s enough, Rory.

And then she bounces off. Thank God we adopted the world’s most resilient kid.

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The Hug.

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

Tonight I blew up at the kids in the car.

This was once a regular occurrence, so regular that it’s safe to say they pretty much ignored it unless there was a threat involved, but I’ve grown. Mellowed. Come up with largely effective new methods of discipline and whatnot, and not only picked my battles, but mostly just chose not to battle. I lay out the way it’s going to be, and then it is.

But tonight there was such a flurry of “punchbuggy!” and “I’m not playing” and then Wyatt and Rory beating on each other in the back seat that I slammed on the brakes, yanked the car off to the side of the road and let them have it.

I really was angry, too. Not as angry as I used to get. But angry. After I’d shouted and declared an end to punchbuggy once and for all, I traced it back to some horrible behavior of Wyatt’s at our last stop and let him have it on that one, complete with a very clear explanation of what will happen to him if he ever, ever behaves like that again (that would be a dramatic temper tantrum because tennis was over and it was time to leave).

And then Rory saw a PT-Cruiser-Punch-a-Loser and I reminded them, again, that that was OVER, that it was all because Wyatt hit too hard and she and Lily were complete whiny babies about the whole thing and only wanted to play if THEY were the ones who saw the punch-giving vehicle. I did this rather meanly, I’m not going to lie to you. But it was evenly distributed meanness. And I was kind of playing it up, you now how you do, to make sure the message gets across.

Everyone suddenly became very anxious to be nice and helpful.

We got to our destination and I got out of the car first, slammed my door, and walked some distance away on the sidewalk. Rory was the first one out. I knew she’d be taking this hard; she doesn’t like it if I’m mad at her and it’s because she was in the wrong. Mad because she has been defiant is fine, mad because she’s begun a mutual destruction battle over something is fine, but mad because she’s actually done something she shouldn’t and she knows it (that would be repeatedly hitting Wyatt)—she really can’t stand that. So she hops out of the car. I can tell she’s trying to please.

And she runs over to me and hugs me, hard.

And I hug her back, and any real anger I had is just—gone. And later I whispered something to her—who do you think made me feel better? And she pointed to herself and I said “yes!” Because, you know, she really did. And Rory and I have had a long, hard road (mostly for me) of getting to the point where she could hug an angry me instead of fighting back regardless and of my really needing that hug.

I probably do need to say how much I love her. I love her like crazy.

But I still hate the game Punchbuggy.

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‘Member? ‘Member, Mommy?

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

Rory is bothered by conversation.

She’s largely a native English speaker, since she grew up understanding and speaking more English than Chinese (she was raised in a large foster home with American parental figures and Chinese nannies), but the ebb and flow of conversation still goes over her head, and she’s hampered by a natural 5-year-old inability to tell the difference between a suitable topic for conversation and a random non-sequitur. But she wants to be a part of any conversation that’s going on, especially if it feels exclusive. Rob and I, trading notes on our day; Sam, describing a key moment in his last hockey game, Lily, planning a playdate, Wyatt, offering observations on fascinating mathematical subjects–if I engage in any of these with Rory around, especially in the car, the little voice will interrupt almost immediately.

“‘Member? ‘Member, Mommy?”

“Remember what?”

There is now a pause, as Rory never plans what she’s going to ‘member before she ‘members it.

“Member you hit your head on the airplane?” That’s a favorite, along with “‘member you drove away at school” (referring to a time when I started to leave the carpool line at Sam and Lily’s school while the teacher who’d opened the car door was still shutting it), and also “‘member I have lice” (oh, yes, I remember that one), and “‘member I throw up my bed?”

These are mostly memorable for having been emotional moments–I hit my head on the airplane during turbulence, and Rory was pretty frightened, although I don’t think that was her first plane ride with us–it happened another time. The lice were traumatic for everyone, and Rory took the brunt of it, getting the worst case first and having to deal with my barely compressed fury at the general unfairness of life full on. The throwing up was mostly memorable because she really, really did not want to admit to having done it, as though perhaps someone else had snuck into her bed, barfed, and then returned to sleep in their own, but once she did admit it, she was painfully pleased and shocked that I was not angry at all. (The car thing she just found really, really, really funny.) But it doesn’t seem to be the emotion of the moments that’s pushing her, since she invariably engages me not because of something she’s thinking about, but because I am engaged with someone else, and oh, that’s hard.

It used to be harder. Seeing me occupied with another used to prompt tantrums, sudden imaginary injuries, and, until I realized what was going on, the mournful announcement that she wanted to “go back China.” Now it’s just this passionate urge to be a part of things, and while it can be a little annoying–she interrupts indiscriminately; she’s five–it’s mostly endearing just because it is such classic adoptee stuff. It reads like something out of some adoption manual: “your child may be jealous and want your attention constantly. Be sure to respond in a way that shows you understand her needs.” And yet, in a classic Rory way, she preempts my response. Not only has she drawn my attention, but she’s drawn, with her “memberies,” the link between us. All I have to do is grunt out a yes, and her attachment to me is affirmed, and she can go on her merry way. It’s really very efficient. it rarely even gets her scolded for the interruption, since often all I have to do is nod. This kid knows what she needs, AND she knows how to get it.

Think I’m impressed? You’re right.

Cross-published at No Hands But Ours.

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When Things Refuse to Stay the Same

Sunday, September 19th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

Last week, Rory’s beloved babysitter, who is pregnant with her third, was put on bed rest. From Rory’s point of view, she disappeared with no warning–I was traveling, and it was all we could do to get all the kids and their needs covered, let alone get Rory over to see her Heather. We explained, of course we did, but Rory was bit suspicious and very clearly thrown off course. She liked all the activities that filled in for Heather, like a trip to the indoor pool and dinner out with Daddy–but it was not what she expected.

And Rory still does not deal well with that which is not what she expected. Rory likes things to stay the same. The result was a kid off balance, extra whining, extra needs, extra picking at her brother and sister. And a LOT of questions.

Which we dealt with as best we could. On Saturday, I promised, I would take Rory to see Heather, and on Saturday we got ready: made cookies, gathered some things a person stuck in bed for weeks might need, picked her some tomatoes and made a little veggie dip. At the last minute we were a little delayed by the need to pick Lily up at a playdate, and then we were off to the hospital.

We knew what room she was in, and we headed blithely there. We were literally at the door when someone stopped us. She’d had the baby, only a few minutes ago.

It was very early. That part of things is Heather’s story and not mine to tell, although I will say that the baby (Ollie) is doing really well. But at that moment they knew very little, the baby was in the NICU, Heather hadn’t even seen him…and she still insisted I bring Rory in. She knew how thrown off Rory was. She knew how hard it would be for Rory not to see her. And she insisted.

We went in, we gave love, we left. But that meant so much…Rory feels a million times better. And Heather knew she would.

You know that bringing a preschooler into our world wasn’t easy, and you know that being torn from her own world was anything but easy on Rory. Heather has been solidly there for every minute. She never made things complicated, never worried about attachment or trauma or anything. She just showed up, took care of Rory, learned to love her, and loved her in this totally ordinary way, and that has meant more to Rory than Heather probably knows. When Rory and I were struggling, Heather was the same. When Rory was battling to see if I really meant anything I said, there was Heather. When I was wrestling with what it meant to “love” someone I’d known a matter of months, and how to handle it when that someone bit my baby, Heather was there. Without her, I would surely be either institutionalized or bar tending in Kokomo by now.

And now, she put Rory ahead of her own needs at a really, really tough moment. And made things better for her, just like she’s been doing all along. A number of people have asked me this past week how I would manage without Heather. They meant, immediately–how would I meet deadlines, how would I stay sane. I didn’t have any plans to do anything other than wait for Heather to come back, because Heather is irreplaceable. I might fill in with an after school activity here and there, or see if one of the students who does occasional evenings has any afternoons, but we aren’t going to work anyone else into our complicated lives. It’s not just about me working, but about the delicate and loving balance we’ve got going in our lives right now. I can slow down a little for a few weeks or months; Rob can do some more driving and shuttling, we can teeter and totter on until Heather comes back a little at a time, with plenty of time for whatever she and the baby need.

Heather was always coming back, and we always knew something like this could happen, pregnancy being the unpredictable thing that it is. If things had gone as planned, I might have brought in a kid with a car and filled in for a few weeks while she was off. But when you have kids that have seen a lot of upheaval, I think it makes sense to minimize its result. People she loves have been suddenly replaced in Rory’s world, and even for the other three, things that appeared to be permanent have proven to be more in flux than they expected. We love Heather, and her family, and when things happen to them, we rally and gather and come closer. We don’t rush off to try to keep the superficialities of life exactly the same. We take time to figure out how it feels when things are different, and we go from there.

As a blogging friend, Shirlee, said when her daughter met her grandparents for the first time, family in China was family, but it was permeable. “Aunts” and “Uncles” came and went. This family our girls have now is permanent, and people we love can’t be popped in and out of the picture like so many puzzle pieces. Heather was gone, and Heather will come back, and in the meantime we won’t pretend to be anything but lost without her. Because Heather’s love is forever, too.

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