Have I mentioned that I have kids?

Patience, and Wagon Rides

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

I am slowly but surely becoming a better person, and will no doubt achieve that flawless maternal perfection epitomized by, say, Dooce in time to work it on my great-great-grandchildren. I recently managed to go from being late all the time to at least much better (and wrote about it for Parenting–look, that glam mom in the accompanying picture is me! Really!).
This month (season? year? decade?) the project is: Patience.

The expert coach for the moment is Rory. Because she needs patience. Brusk snapping hurts her feelings, and her feelings have a right to be tender. Worse, because she can’t handle getting brushed off, or yelled at because she’s asked for me to, say, pick her up when I’m carrying four grocery bags, three lunch boxes, a backpack and a vase of flowers, she has a tendency to collapse into the tantrummy shrieks that are her version of just being crushed and overloaded at very inconvenient moments.

So, I want to be better for Rory. And I don’t want her to implode on me in the parking lot of the nursery school. Plenty of incentive for improvement, both selfish and un. I have been forced to get more patient–and I have found that everybody wins! All kids are happier–and so am I.

I thought venting was good for me. I think I kind of thought I liked it. And I’m still prone to say things like, of course you can have another cup, sweetheart, because even though I’ve already poured your milk into the red cup I want you to be happy, and because I LOVE doing more dishes! Love it! Bring ‘em on! In a very good-natured, happy way that occasionally involves slamming cups on the counter so hard that they break. (Lily still says, Mommy, when I’m grown up, please don’t come to my house and dirty all the clothes and rub crumbs into the carpet.)

Oops–venting. Back to the patience. Which I genuinely have more of–turns out you don’t really use it up, because the more you practice it, the easier it is. I have been trying, so hard, to take the proverbial deep breath (I like blinking three times) to see if maybe I can find it in myself to answer nicely, to ask the child to put it’s shoes on for the fifth time in a calmer way. To make even those moments when I am truly saying, listen, honey, if you don’t put your shoes on I really am going to put you in the car without them, and then you will have to ride in the cart at the grocery store the whole time, and that has happened before and you don’t like it, calmer moments. For all of us.

And I know it’s better, because this morning when I had to dig hats, mittens and warner coats out of the basement for everyone right in the middle of the tight morning schedule (because look, it’s fall and it’s COLD! Surprise! man, if this happened every year it would be easier to plan for), and Lily didn’t want gloves she wanted MITTENS, and I HAD two matching gloves for Wyatt and lost one one the stairs and then he wanted mittens TOO and well…

I only yelled a little. And I got them gloves. And we were on time. Except that I forgot the lunch boxes, and had to go back for them after drop-off (I forgot them, not them, remember, these are the little kids, Sam would have just had to suffer). And I still didn’t yell. Much. At them.

As for those wagon rides? At school, in twenty minutes. Parent attendance “optional.” Which I tried to take them up on, but judging from the reaction I got we have different definitions of the word “optional.” But I am going to go and be happy, because, well, I’d rather be happy. I’m choosing to accept my lot and ride in the bumpy, chilly, hay-filled trailer behind the pooping horses with a pleasant smile. No, really. Promise.

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Updates and the Tattle Brigade

Monday, September 21st, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

Inspired by Guo Ji Mama, who updated her blog header the day her last daughter came home, I have FINALLY updated mine. Call it what you will. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Maybe I’d just forgotten how to use Cyberduck to upload the file to my theme, or more importantly to resize the picture. Maybe I’m just lazy, and the kind of hostess who leaves the giant bottle of nature’s miracle (used to remove the scent of doggie “accidents”) on the mantel when she has a party.

I’m thinkin’ d) all of the above.

And I have just been reminded to do the same on my rather rarely used Facebook page.

tonight I thought, well, ok, Wyatt, I’ll make Rice Krispie Treats with you guys! This is a special thing for Wyatt. Unfortunately, I suspect that’s because it’s something we usually do together, just the two of us. Tonight both of his sisters joined in, and there were ground rules intended to preserve my sanity–no sticking a fist in the rice krispie box, no eating the butter, no touching of any cooking utensils until so directed.

Wyatt got sent to his room briefly, and both he and Rory lost cooking privileges for unlicensed touching of cooking utensils and supplies. In other words, although the treats were made, very little fun was had, and then Sam came home from hockey and dropped a WHOLE BOTTLE of soy sauce on the slate floor of the kitchen.

Look, I would like to be patient mommy. I have even recognized that everybody–even me–is way, way happier when I am patient mommy. And I think that I have therefore improved. For example, although Sam was made to feel guilty, there was no yelling. And let me just say there is a LOT of soy sauce in one of those bottles, and there is no excuse for how quickly we go through one, and that in general it was good when they had those little plastic thingies that meant you had to shake them to get the soy sauce out, although not for cooking. And tonight was really a very good night, in which a good dinner was served on time and no tv was watched and no tantrums were had and there was little or no bonus scolding. But it wasn’t a particularly warm and fuzzy night. It felt more like I was cycling through the motions of being patient mommy than like I was really BEING patient. They say if you fake a smile, you actually feel happier. Do we think that works with patience?

On another note, I have been reading NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman. It’s an excellent review of the recent social science surrounding parenting in the Malcolm Gladwell style, and very readable. It also offers a lot of food for thought about how you parent without actually telling you how to parent. I commented a little on the chapter about teaching kids about race and racism on Double X, but today I’ve been thinking about the chapter on lying–or, more specifically, tattling. What I took away from it was this:

When kids tattle, they’re usually telling the truth. And they’ve been trying to work it out, and now they are at the end of their ropes, and they really need your help. And when you send them back with a little pat and the instruction to “work it out,” you are really saying: Don’t come to me with your petty problems as I am useless to you. And do, when they are older, they will not come to you with their problems because you have taught them that you are no help. And they will lie.

This strikes me as reasonable, so of course I thought, well, fuck you, Po Bronson. (Sorry Ashley Merriman–I too have been a co-author, and I know that it’s awful for me not to include you in my loathing filled inner cursing, but I just didn’t. Next time, I promise.) Because really, where does that leave me? If I have to believe them every time and act on it every time “Wyatt push me!” or “Lily take my phone away!” or “Rory snatched the cards right out of my hands!” then I should just give up cooking, dishwasher emptying, laundry or any of the other things I do for fun and move, body and soul, into the playroom. And probably buy a black-and-white referee uniform, because oh, the more I react, the more they come tell.

But I buy it, I do–I buy the argument. Sort of. Then I think, well…can’t they tell the difference? Some times I do help. The snatching of things, for example–I will often intervene to retrieve the thing if I’m convinced that it was truly snatch. I would help if you told me your girlfriend barfed up every meal, too, really.

Man, what DO you do when they tattle–or, really, just come to you with the whole he hit me, she pushed me thing—because I don’t think of that as tattling, it’s more seeking personal justice. Tattling is when Wyatt is trying to sneak a popsicle out of the freezer and one of his sisters rats him out (and once he gets savvy enough to sneak three popsicles, that will end). This whole interpersonal crisis management–Po (who is actually an author I love, love, love and who I even corresponded with once, making me feel very cool and writerly) was no help. No, instead, he just drew my attention to the problem and abandoned me to it, and I would really like some ideas here.

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Consequences, baby.

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 7 Comments

I totally love Rory now–no hesitation–which makes it ok for me to say this: sometimes I like being mean to her.

In a totally virtuous way, of course. I just reviewed the dvd of Olivia for DoubleX, and in one episode, Olivia refuses to wear her soccer shirt–she doesn’t like dressing like everyone else-and she’s rewarded, in the end, by getting to play goalie and saving the game, and I just wanted to slap that pig upside the ears. Sometimes you have to play by the rules. Sometimes you have to do exactly what you’re told.
Doing exactly what she’s told isn’t really Rory’s special gift. What Rory likes to do is make up some alternative version of your instructions, which allows her to remain in control while still, in her eyes, fulfilling your wishes. Tell her she can’t eat a popsicle in the living room and she needs to go to the table, and she’ll go sit at the bar. Your goal, her decision. It makes me wince, to be honest, but in that case, I can live with it.
But today, as the light turned green to allow us to cross Hanover’s busiest intersection (so not much, but a speeding car is a speeding car and it only takes one), I took Lily’s hand, Lily took Wyatt’s hand and I instructed Rory to take Wyatt’s other hand as we stepped into the street.

She didn’t want to. She dithered. She ran around us. I no hold Wyatt’s hand. I hold your hand. I didn’t have a hand, I had Lily and a basket. I hold Lily’s hand! She yanks Wyatt away from Lily. Mind, we’re standing in the street, the light is counting down and a car turning right could take us all out in an instant. I throw the basket back at the sidewalk and shove them all back up out of the street. If you won’t hold Wyatt’s hand, we’ll have to go home, I say, then back off–oops, can’t do that, this is dinner–ok, then, but only BIG KIDS can hold hands while we cross the street. And now we have to wait for a whole nother light, and it’s all because Rory wouldn’t listen.

I pick her up.. I make a big deal. Look at Wyatt and Lily, holding hands. They’re such BIG KIDS. I thought I had three BIG KIDS who could hold hands, but I have two BIG KIDS and one BABY.

It’s sick how much I’m enjoying myself, really. Rory is crying–although she’s still saying she’ll hold my hand, or Lily’s hand. (Who held whose hand was just about where we were standing, btw, and getting across quickly.) She’s not crying hard, but she’s not happy.

And at every street corner, for the rest of the expedition, I pick her up and remind her that this is because she’s a BABY, and Lily and Wyatt are BIG KIDS WHO LISTEN.

Honestly, I enjoy this because it works. She doesn’t want to be a baby, and I’m sorry–there are times when you need to do exactly what I say, and quickly, and crossing the street is one of them. If I told her to run to the sidewalk because a car was coming, and she decided to run, instead, to the sidewalk on the other side of the street, she could end up dead.

So I know this is not very zen. I know it’s not in keeping with the book “Beyond Logic and Consequences” described in an Adoptive Families recently. The author of that book would prefer me to stay calm, and be open to understanding where Rory is coming from. I say, I was calm–and I do know where she’s coming from. She wants to make every choice, because so many choices have been made for her. Got it. But sometimes, in life, you don’t get to make the choice, and there isn’t time to talk you through it. Sometimes you need to grab the hand of the nearest person and run across the street before the light changes. Sometimes you have to do what I actually told you to do.

It truly is my job to teach her that, just as it was my parents job to teach me–and I didn’t like it, either. I think that’s why I secretly enjoy these little teaching moments. I don’t always want to do what I’m told either, kid. But sometimes you do it anyway.

And sometimes you have to wear the green soccer shirt, Olivia and Olivia scriptwriters! Geez!

I am trying to be more zen and open in all things, and to let much of what Rory does–and Wyatt, and sometimes Lily, for that matter–come into me as though I were water and flow out without leaving a mark. But allow me my little tiny pleaures, won’t you?

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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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One Angry Cowboy-hatted Dude

Thursday, August 27th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

No consideration, he shouts, nodding to his friends. A little quiet, please, kids. Quiet! Thye don’t even apologize. His gaze fixes on me. Aren’t you even going to apologize? You’re not going to say you’re sorry?
I’d really only just tuned in to him. He was sitting at a table at the Boloco we’d just eaten at, with three other moms and 5 other kids, outside, looking at the little town square our kids had been tearing round. I recognized him–Lily and Wyatt had cut him off, earlier, racing across on some mission, and I had apologized, although probably a little perfunctorily. Frankly, I’m tired, and I’m not really at my public best just now. That was about forty-five minutes before this encounter, and the kids had been racing around the square, not quietly, the whole time.
Truly, I don’t know if their behavior was atrocious. I’m usually pretty sensitive. And I had stopped them, several times, and finally persuaded them to stop running right in front of people and to either walk or stick to the grass. Beyond that–other than the shrill group shout that had greeted the news that we were adjourning to someone’s house and prompted the complaint about the noise–I hadn’t really thought about it. We were outside, in the middle of the day…I don’t know. It hadn’t been that long or bad a morning, but it had been a whole morning, and I finally had a couple of adults to talk to.
I just looked at him. Wyatt was asking me something, and Lily pestering my other side, and there he was, angry, glaring. Aren’t you going to apologize? And I just couldn’t deal.
Nope. I shook my head and said it. Nope.
And then I asked Wyatt to throw his cup away, and he did, and we left.
And that was that, except that it’s still bothering me. I’m tough about public behavior–maybe I lapsed. We were with a group of friends, in a very familiar place, and there was a game going on that I didn’t like, but one of the other mothers had started it, and it was funny, that was making them run across the square. One the one hand, I didn’t get angry, or defend them, or shout or curse at the guy–all things I might easily have done. On the other, I do wish I’d just…apologized. No skin off my nose, after all. I’m sorry my kids disturbed your lunch, I could have said. And that would have been that. That would have been the answer that turneth away wrath, the accepting, absorbing thing to do, and probably the thing that would have enabled me to just let it go. I don’t want them to disturb anyone. I suspect their behavior was on the borderline, and I don’t really want that, either.

So I feel bad that my kids weren’t good citizens today, and that I barely noticed, and that I didn’t just deflect the anger directed at all of us. I didn’t do too badly, I guess. I didn’t absorb it and turn it back, which would have been so easy to do. So, a day of semi-spiritual growth. Sort of.

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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 May Be Worried About the Wrong Control Freak

Monday, August 10th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

I was trying to work through Rory’s tantrums last night–well, not the tantrums, but the way I react to them. And I was getting all fancy about her need for control, and how maybe I could understand that, as she’d had no control over being abandoned, and adopted, and yadda, and so I shoudl be more tolerant of her need to choose, say, which of the three potties in the pool bathroom she uses, every single time, and maybe if I was more tolerant of those things, I would be more patient in general, and not want to stick a sock in her mouth when she starts in on the whole gulping and gasping and repeating things over and over. (have I mentioned that she continually changes the screamed demand, say about every fifty repeats, in an attempt to land on something that she can scream for and you will give in to–the potty, maybe, or a drink of water…)

Ok, so I get a little attitude change out of me, and this is good. I’m able to head a tantrum off at the pass. I’m a little more patient today, and it’s a good day.

But at dinner tonight, while I was off at the buffet, she fell asleep in her chair.

Now, this was not the way I wanted dinner to go. I wanted to get THROUGH dinner, and get everyone bedded down to preserve our brief interlude of adult time. A sleeping Rory, I believed, meant a Rory who would wake up when we lifted her to leave dinner, and wake up ugly, and also refuse to go to bed until midnight, and everything, everything would be ruined, my whole life, vacation, pretty much the whole shootin’ shebang, ruined.

I went to wake her. You can’t. Rob said, I tried. Oh, yes I can. (I have a cup of ice in my hand at this point. Yep, charming.) She’ll ruin dinner, it will be awful, don’t wake her, she swam all day and she’s done, he says. I do not believe she will sleep on from here, and I say so, and add my every-thing-will-be-ruined-forever belief, and he looks at me like I am crazy, and I realize that I am, and put the ice down, and eat.

Turns out, we were both right, and we were both wrong. She did wake up, at about dessert–but she woke up kind of…pleasant. I sat her in my lap for a while, and then she wanted ice crean, which was fine, and then she was nice, which is rare, and then–with little additional complaint–she went to bed, and it was, all in all, a WAY nicer evening than it would have been without that 20 minute nap that I was so set against.

I do believe somebody else needs to relinquish a little control here, and it’s not Little Miss I-Like-Ice-Cream.

Lest you think all was hunky and then dory, though, the final scene of the evening had Lily in tears, as Rory repeatedly and happily declared: I like Sam. I like Wallet. I no like Nini. For no reason, other than just to torment. I have some thoughts about that–think I’ll enlist Sam’s help. It’s not the first time it’s happened (sometimes it’s Wallet she “doesn’t like”) and I think if he had a response, like well, I love Lily (or Wallet, or whatever) and you’re being mean, and I don’t want to talk to you when you’re mean–that would nip this. If they could all respond that way, that would be good, but I don’t know that I can get Lily and Wyatt to resist the flattery.

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Do you Snuggle Post Time-Out?

Saturday, August 8th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 6 Comments

Ok, so I sent Rory to her room today–probably for a slightly lame reason, but there it is–sometimes I give one or the other the “go to your room” line and then I think, well, that wasn’t really a big deal–but once I’ve said it, there we are. They’re used to it; they march. Rory has marched, but today she didn’t…I had to deliver her.

I went up to release her pretty quickly. The point is, unless there’s some dramatic reason to do otherwise, I am usually just very matter-of-fact about the end of a time out. You can come out when you’re read to apologize, or whatever (in Rory’s case, it’s always “when you’re ready to stop screaming.”)

She wouldn’t do it. In fact she then REFUSED to come out at all, which became a problem, as I needed to get her dressed, and I knew we needed to leave the house soon. But she would not come down to get dressed. It became clear that she wanted me to come get her, and carry her, and soothe her–and I wouldn’t. In the end, I went up, dressed her briskly, told her that since she had chosen to stay in her room, she would stay there until we were ready to leave, put her back in her room and closed the door.

Much hysteria ensued, but that’s not the point. The point is that, again, I eventually went up and told her she could come down as soon as she was ready to stop yelling, because we would be leaving soon–and she wouldn’t come out. I want you, I want you, I want you.

Ok, fine, it’s good that she wants me. I do think we’re bonding. But I also think this was a power stuggle. It became clear that she wanted me to come up, pick her up, carry her downstairs–she wanted me to come to her. And–one, I never do what a kid having a temper tantrum wants me to do, and two, that’s just not my style. A quick hug, and an “I still love you, I just don’t want you to do whatever” is about all you’ll get from me. Anything else seems to me to be rewarding the bad behavior…

I had to go up and tell her, a couple of times–you need to stop screaming now. You can come downstairs as soon as you do. Eventually, she came down. Slowly, On her butt, one step at a time, sniffling dramatically the whole way. And sat on the floor of the kitchen. Sniff. Sniff. If anyone but me talked to her–WAIL! GROWL!–I ignored her for a while, then offered up one of the strawberries I was cutting, just as I was offering Wyatt. I tried to keep it low-key.

Low-key is a little tough, with Rory.

Does anybody out there do a big forgiveness scene after a time-out? How does that work? How do you think it affects the kid? I can tell this is going to come up again.

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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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The Mother You Get (and also, a little background)

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | Comments Off

When I think about it, all of my kids have had a totally different mother. They all had certain traits in common–overwhelmed, low on patience, mildly irritable–but in terms of permissiveness, we–the four mothers I have been–have run the gamut. When I was Sam’s mother, and only Sam’s mother, I made all of his baby food. I can tell you precisely when he had his first lollipop (Easter 2002–thanks mom!). Salty snacks were limited, and fell into the faux-good-for-you category. On the other hand–would I play trains with him? Sure? Would I build him a little airplane he could sit in and steer out of cardboard boxes and let him paint it? Yes, and I have the puctures to prove it. Throw a messy party (and write about it for Mothering magazine, my one and only piece for that rather difficult market) Of course!

Then there was Sam and Lily’s mother. She did a lot of hissing at Sam to just be quiet for one more minute while she got the baby to sleep, I remember. She didn’t even pretend she was going to have Lily sleep in her own room, there for a while–Lily was a much-wanted baby; there had been issues. Then…Lily had all the candy she could grab (and wouldn’t choke on) as long as she would sit in her high chair while Mommy and Sam made a gingerbread house. She was eating french fries as soon as she could gum them. She rode in a stroller occasionally, while Sam spent most of his babyhood in a sling. That mom still gave some wicked parties, including one where each child left with a crafty decorated pair of sneakers, but the days of the hand-made tea sandwiches for three-year-olds were over.

Sam, Lily and Wyatt’s mother thought maybe Wyatt could be left in a bassinet at naptime, even if he did cry a little. She figured that if the car was where he napped best, she’d just buy a monitor and stick it in the garage. She let him eat nothing but goldfish crackers for months, having figured out with Lily that this was indeed a stage he would outgrow. She gave him birthday parties he would appreciate, which meant he had the same single friend and family over for the first three years of his life–one who was willing to bring the pizza. But she did bake him his cake.

Sam, Lily, Wyatt and Rory’s mother knows how to say no. Sometimes it feels like that’s all she knows how to say. No, she won’t read the book with the flaps, because everyone will fight over who opens them. Nope, no candy today. Nope, not now either. No, you can’t have bread and butter until dinner is served. Don’t climb on the garbage can. No, you can’t roast your own marshmellow. One, because you’re three. Two, because you don’t like roasted marshmellows. Just eat this plain one and let me drink my wine. But on the other hand–Doritos at the pool? Sure. Doritos again tomorrow at the pool? Sure. More Doritos at the pool? Bring ‘em on, sister. Because the other thing I know now is that saying yes to Doritos today doesn’t actually mean I have to say yes to Doritos tomorrow, and that a few bags of Doritos during a difficult summer isn’t going to kill anybody. Saying yes when you want to say yes–or better yet, when saying yes will just make life easier and more pleasant for everyone–is one of the joys of parenting.

Oh–the background–someone asked if Rory’s foster mom was Amercian. Yes–she was raised in a foster home run by an extraordinary American family. Click to check it out.

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