Monday, April 14, 2014

I.D.C.

I'm going to start off this post with a disclaimer: It's 8:20 pm and I'm exhausted.  My Crohn's symptoms have been really acting up today, so I'm already in bed.  Post might be unusually blunt.

I've mentioned before that so far, this adoption has been a lot smoother than our other adoptions, and I've been thinking about why that is.  Sure, the kids are great (honestly, they are), but as you know from my other posts, they have their share of issues, just like my other kids (both bio & adopted) did/do.  After much thought (and much coffee) I've come to the conclusion that the reason this adoption seems easier can be explained in three little letters: I.D.C.

I.

Don't.

Care.

Put away your shocked face.  It's not the kids I don't care about, it's their behaviors.  Let me put it this way.  When you have six kids, sitting on the sidewalk next to your screaming toddler ceases to bother you.  You just wait it out.  They'll stop screaming eventually.  I can't count the number of times I've had to carry Gabrielle out of a restaurant because she had a meltdown.  And let me tell you, you haven't been stared at until you're a blonde Caucasian woman sitting outside of a Pizza Hut in Jinan next to a screaming and stomping Chinese girl.

We were a spectacle.  Several times.  Ten years ago, I would have been mortified.  I would have stood on my head if it made her stop screaming.  Now?  I.D.C.  Stare at me if you want.  I.D.C.  Trust me.  I really don't care.  Kids scream.  Especially kids with traumatic backgrounds who are in the middle of a difficult transition.

As I mentioned in a prior post, Gabrielle screams herself to sleep every night.  She also kicks and flails around like a crazy woman.  To help her transition, I'm sleeping with her at night.  (Too scary for a kid who's shared a bedroom with several other kids all her life to suddenly sleep in a big room all alone.  See, I do care about the big stuff.)  So every night, I tuck her in and she starts screaming.  Loudly.

What do I do?  I read her one story.  She bats it away.  I sing her one song.  She screams louder.

Then I roll over, put in my earbuds and listen to a book on Audible until she falls asleep.  I.D.C.  If she needs to cry to deal with her fears/insecurities/anger that's fine.  I.D.C.

And guess what?  Last night, she went to sleep for the first time ever without screaming.  And today at nap time?  Same thing.  She even sang along with me during my stirring rendition of "House at Pooh Corner".  (Thank you Kenny Loggins.)

Another picture of them sleeping because they're so darn cute!

The beauty of I.D.C. is that it works with so many adoption related behaviors.  You need to scream?  I.D.C.  You don't like me?  I love you, but I.D.C.  (BTW - your kid doesn't need you love you for you to love them.  They'll get there, eventually.  In the meantime -- I.D.C..)  You're pouting because someone got a bigger bowl of soup?  You guessed it, I.D.C.  You're slurping your soup up and chewing with your  mouth open?  (Have to admit, this one is harder for me.)  I.D.C.  You'll learn manners sometime.

The thing is, integrating a new child into your family takes time.  My kids come from hard backgrounds.  They've never been taught how to behave in a family.  But they'll learn.  It will take time, but it will happen.  I think the mistake I made when I was a new parent was thinking that everything had to be fixed right then.  My children needed to love me madly from the start.  They needed perfect manners.  They needed to know they were safe.  So I did my best to fix everything for them right then.  If they cried, I tried to fix it.  If they demanded something (rudely) right then, I got it.  (Until fatigue caught up to me and they learned to wait.)

We've all faced hardships in our lives, and I'm willing to bet that you didn't conquer the hardest times in your life overnight.  It took time.  And that's where I.D.C. comes in.  You see, when my kids cry or act out, I care that they are hurting, but I don't care that they are making a scene.  Honestly, I really don't.  The other four broke me of that.  And strangely, it seems that by not giving them a reaction, it stops the behavior. Gabrielle's tantrums are getting a lot better.  Jonathan doesn't sulk so much.

Adoption is born from trauma.  Yes, it's a joyous event, but it's also a painful one. You gotta let the kids feel what they're going to feel.  But, you don't have to let it bother you.  You don't have to "fix" it.  Just ride it out.  It will get better (might get worse first, but that's another post.)  Time will help you create the relationship with your children.  Their behaviors won't be as extreme.  They will learn to love you.  But until then, remember: I.D.C.



Friday, April 11, 2014

Keeping it real

Yesterday on Facebook, a fellow adoptive mom (Hi Sharon!) thanked me for "keeping it real" in this blog post.  I greatly appreciated her comment because I had made a deliberate decision not to sugar coat the post.  In adoption, there is a tendency toward black and white.  Adoption is either all rainbows and lollipops--everyone lives happily ever after as soon as the family is united--or it's all doom and gloom--either the adoptive parents or the adopted child turn out to be monsters.

Come on people, this is life.  Rarely is anything black or white.  Like everything else, adoption is full of shades of gray.

Sometimes I'm a really good mom.  Sometimes I'm not.

Sometimes my kids (both biological and adopted) are great.  Sometimes they're not.

Times of transition--like integrating two kids from a different country into the family--bring out the best and the worst in all of us.  Keeping this in mind will save your sanity the first few weeks after you come home.  You will not be perfect.  In fact, you probably won't even be close to the parent you want to be.  You will lose your patience.  You will let your kids eat junk food because you're too tired to cook.  You will park them in front of the TV, grateful that Sponge Bob transcends language and cultural barriers.   You will snap at your kids and immediately regret it.  You will snap at your kids and not regret it for a loooooong time because they are driving you crazy!

Your kids will kick and scream because it's bed time.  They will crawl behind the couch and pout because they think their sister got a larger piece of apple than they did.  They will wait until the last possible minute to tell you they have to potty and then pee on the floor.  They will scream at you to give them a drink RIGHT NOW, not caring that you are changing their brother's diaper.  They will whistle or sing at the TOP of their lungs just to get your attention.  They will throw toys at the television.  They will hit the dogs.  They will pull the cat's tail.  They will choke you and scream in your face because they don't like their dinner.  They will reject everything you offer them to eat.  Or they will gorge themselves to the point of throwing up.  Everyone (including the dogs) will urgently need your attention at the same exact time--most likely when you are either trying to sleep or go to the bathroom.

This has been my house for the past week.  Ugly, isn't it?

Also completely normal when you bring a child home.

In adoption, I think we spend so much time preparing for the child, anticipating the child, reading travel blogs, and planning to travel that we forget the real work begins after we get home.  And when it gets real, we can feel so, so alone.  After all, the adoption blogs we read were full of sunshine and lollipops.  Other people didn't have any problems after bringing their child home.  Their kids didn't spit on them or slap them across the face while saying (in Mandarin): "I'm going to hit you until you die."  All those other kids are dressed in matching outfits for an outing in the park.  They're also sparkling clean when they get home.  No grass stains or mud to be found.

Um, no.  Not real.  We sanitize our lives to appear perfect, when the truth is life is messy.  It's full of mud and grass stains.  We don't help anyone when we pretend otherwise.  So from now on, I'm going to do my best to be Real.  Both about writing and parenting.  If I'm honest, that's why I haven't blogged so much.  Because I thought no one would want to read about the real life struggles (and joys) we go through.  It's not that I wasn't truthful before, I was.  It's just that I presented things in the prettiest way possible.  And I often left out the really messy bits.

Well, enough of that.  I write this blog in the hopes of helping others, whether it's with writing or parenting/adoption.  But I'm not any help if I scrub the reality out of my posts.  It's time for me to get real.

I hope you'll stick with me.  Even when it isn't pretty, because I promise, it gets better!



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Coming out of hibernation



Yesterday was the first day I felt like my head was above water--at least for part of the day.  It probably has something to do with Tuesday night being the first night I slept all the way through in over a month.  Mostly because for the past month I've always had a child sleeping with (or on--see above) me.  But Tuesday night I was child free.  I made it to 11am before sliding back into my now-typical sleep-deprived haze.

As of today, we've been home one week.  One loud, crazy, exhausting week.  The two new kids are learning what it's like to be part of a family.  The first four kids are on spring break.  Steve is back at work. And I'm exhausted.  I want to sleep all of the time.

In fact, I'm so tired, I just spent the last five minutes zoned out staring at the computer screen.

On Monday, Jonathan woke up with a tummy ache.  He has spina bifida and can't feel anything from the waist down.  Sometimes that results in bowel issues.  It was coming out of both ends all day Monday.

He has to make sure he has exactly the same amount of food, toys, whatever, that everyone else has.  If he doesn't, he sulks.  If we tell him to do something he doesn't want to do, he sulks.

Gabrielle screams each time it's bedtime or nap time.  She screams when I don't let her hit the dogs or pull the cats' tails.  She screams when I won't let her hit Jonathan.



Both kids are jealous of each other.  If I'm talking to one, the other starts up with, "Mama, mama, mama."

Neither one has any patience.  When they want something, they want it NOW.  If I'm not fast enough, they just get louder and louder.

They both have trouble being told "no".  That's when the real temper tantrums/sulking starts.

I've had a headache for five days straight, and my Crohn's symptoms are acting up.

Yet, so far, things are going well.  No one has tried to run away.  We are (basically) on U.S. time.  No one is on a hunger strike.  And most of the time everyone is happy.  Loud, but happy.  We are finding foods that everyone will eat. And yesterday, I got Jonathan and Gabrielle to sit down at the kitchen table and color some ESL (English as a Second Language) worksheets.

I've even found time to spend a little time working on Book Two.

Baby steps.

This is the reality of adoption.  We knew what we were getting into, but it's still rough.  The good thing is that this isn't new to us.  That makes a HUGE difference.  When things get rough, I tell myself to wait.  Time will smooth out the rough spots.  It takes about six months before you figure out what your new "normal" is. So right around Halloween things should settle down.

Seems fitting.