Hoo, Boy

Worst. Parent. Ever.
That’s me. Flat out worst.

Which is a pity, because the day had gone rather well. Kids playing together, birds singing, sun shining, whatnot. I went out–promising Rory I would come back–and i did, which she seemed to see as a good thing. Better yet, I went for a bike ride with a friend, and every hill just felt good, because it was just so great to be out on my own.

And then…
I miscalculated dinner. I had an easy entree, so I thought I’d go all out and make actual French Fries (there’s a new recipe, super easy, in the newest Cook’s Illustrated and I highly recommend you run right out and buy it) and a chopped salad, which (surprise!) turned out to involve a lot of, well, chopping. All of this took time and dinner wasn’t ready until close to seven, and since we’d actually hauled everyone through the day without napping they were pretty tired and whiny. Rory, in fact, was half asleep on the couch.
Everyone else came to the table, french fries being a huge draw, But she refused. I’m tired, she yelled. I’m SLEEPING.
Fine–but not if it involves disrupting everyone’s dinner…so Rob offered to carry her upstairs, and that’s when the fun began. No no no, i not want to go to bed, no no no no no. Did she want to come to dinner? No no no no no. I don’t want go upstairs, I no want diner, aaah, aaah, aahh.
I’m wishing we’d just let her on the couch–it wasn’t that big a deal, when Rob shouts–she’s just peed all over him, and the kitchen floor, and she is still screaming hysterically. No no no, not upstairs, no dinner.
Dinner is pretty much screwed, anyway…and we all know how I am when I cannot eat my dinner hot. Especially when I have worked for the last hour making it. I grab pajamas, clean her up, not particularly kindly, and am about to haul her up to bed when Rob intervenes. She can eat, he says–by now she wants dinner–if she helps him clean up. (I know, the orphan wiping up her own pee…I can see the DIckensian implications of the whole thing now, but at the time it seemed reasonable and we’ve done the same with Sam and Wyatt over and over again.)
She gives it what I see as a cursory swipe, tries to but the rags on the counter and then, when I tell her to throw them away–she’s giggling, and I say it’s not funny does so–and then goes, sits down at the table, and starts to eat my dinner.
I yell. Loudly. I take her away and tell her that’s not the way it works, she doesn’t get to go eat my dinner after all that…I am fierce. It’s not pretty. She cries.
Rob helps her to clean up. I get her a plate. She eats, sniveling and hicupping, a huge plate of food, but she won’t talk. Only the same Maa and grunts that we were getting hours after we picked her up. I feel awful. Awful.
After a while I apologize. She thought–I can see now–she’s three, for god’s sake–that she had cleaned up. And she probably thought, in spite of it not being at her place or on a kid’s plate–that that was her dinner, or at least, she didn’t think about it. And I yelled at her for it. So I tell her that. You thought you had cleaned up, and you thought this was your food, and I yelled at you. I was angry, and I’m sorry. I see a glimmer of understanding and get stony silence. A glare, even.
Well, at least I won’t get fat from eating the tasty fries, right? Because I can’t eat now.
Rob jollies her. He moves in slowly. While I clean up, and get the other kids settled, he approaches slowly, gets her giggling, finally laughing, and has her, as we always do, clear her place. Me, I just back off. I’m picturing a major setback–we’re all she has, and I in particular have been a real rock for her, even when I don’t want to be–and I have been horrible, scary, she will probably never forgive me. Would I have said the same to one of the three? Absolutely, but that’s the thing. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe I’ve just been nasty and scary again and again, and they just recover because this particular mommy is the one they’re stuck with, and someday they will be telling tales of my manic rants in their EST groups.

But no–she’s looking for me. She hides her face in my bed, and when I come, and hold my arms out, she giggles. She wants hugs. Can I take her to brush her teeth? Yes. Can I read her a book? Yes. Can I put her to bed? Yes, but only if I’ll stay where she can see me while she falls asleep. We settle on the couch outside their room. and I read for five minutes–she’s asleep right away.

Happy ending, I guess. More than happy–paradoxically, tonight may be the first time I’ve enjoyed her for her. Found the on-my-own toothbrushing cute. Been able to read to her, and see her find the pictures funny. Let her “read” to me and been charmed. That a baby. She cryin, she goin in crib. Letters, abc def (turn page) lmn op. I have always especially enjoyed one-on-one time with the kids, but so far I’d been reluctant–I just didn’t want it with her. She seemed so needy, so unpredictable. What would we do? I didn’t know her. I knew the others. Why not spend time with them, and just leave her as part of the pack for a while? Her need for me seemed weird and un-meetable. I couldn’t exactly replace her foster mama. I almost couldn’t see why her heart was open to even let me try. Plus, well, I suck on not enough sleep.

But when I thought it was gone–when I thought we were back to square one, or worse, that I’d lost what I hadn’t even realized we’d built, or that I valued–well, then it was different. She’s adjusting beautifully. She really is. She’s doing more than meet us halfway, she’s throwing herself into us, and I’m letting her do it, without giving the the help she needs. I hope tonight will change that, not just for tonight but going on. It’s must a little bit of time, this. It really is.

7 Responses to “Hoo, Boy”

  1. amy says:

    I just wanted to write and thank you for your transparency. We are getting ready to travel next month (if we EVER get our TA) and have 3 bio kids as well. I am in a “moms group” of moms who have all actually adopted from our same SWI. The point is that I know that in the safety of our meetings that attachment and becoming a family isnt always pretty. That blending a family takes work and that just because you fell in love with a picture doesnt mean that you love the child automatically. I dont mean to offend. I just want to thank you so much for being transparent on your blog and not giving the same old everything is perfect routine. I feel that it is SO important for PAP’s to realize that it is so very hard so they arent shocked and feel as if they are the only ones having issues.

    PS…read about you all in the Family Fun magazine…what a cool write up!

  2. Beth says:

    a wonderful post. SO honest, and some people will just not understand – but I do – and there are many others who will as well. For us and our daughter, it was 3 months or so of pure hell, and then things slowly got better. And it will for you too. Believe in yourself, and take lots of deep breaths!

    soon meet my Fuzhou boy!

  3. Vicky says:

    You have said what many try not to express – I’m mum to three, eldest two bio and youngest born in China. It is tough, anyone saying its a bed of roses is being very limited with the truth – The first time I shouted at number three (all of 13 months – had pulled my hair and scratched me) I immediately burst into tears! DH told me to pull myself together, stop feeling guiltly and realise that rules were rules and expectations of behaviour were the same for all the children – regardless. It’s been hard – but she knows (now four) when the line has been stepped over, she sees me get mad at the others. Also I found the change from 2 to three kiddies very hard – especially managing everyone’s expectations. However three years on the balance still goes a bit wonky on a regular basis – they all still drive me round the twist (sibling bickering and answering back are my bugbears – ugh!) However would I change any thing? – No way! Hang in there – it’s a roller coaster but the ride is great, especially if you let go and just throw your hands up in the air every now and again! Vicky

  4. Debbie says:

    Okay -Here’s my pep talk and good wishes for the family who has been through A LOT:
    They say International adoption is not for the faint of heart – but don’t be discouraged because YOU ALREADY PASSED the test! Just look at the trip you’ve been through. You are emotionally and physically exhausted, who wouldn’t be? Getting back from the trips (I went twice) always seemed like getting through a very stressful crisis – you are in overload and now you want to crash. But you can’t! The reality is –the trip isn’t over…it just changed locations. The difference is you just speak the language and know the food. 🙂 It takes time. Actually it was tougher with my toddler (#2) than with my 1yr old daughter (#1) BUT You can do it. It WILL NOT TAKE DAYS. It may take at least months, but it gradually gets easier. Don’t beat yourselves up over having a bad day. Everyone has them -EVEN parents. She forgave you! Here are some blessings to think about when things seem bleak – I’m sure you can think of more – but here are some: you all got home safely, you and your husband have each other to share in this(I did this as a single parent – how many times did I wish I could say – okay your turn!), your daughter speaks English! Wow! That is so terrific. How did that happen? I found both times that communication was the toughest hurdle to get over to enter the world of “smooth sailing”. So you are all on the right track. Just think in baby steps and then you won’t believe how far you have come. Hang in there. Wishing you the best!
    From another New England Family

  5. ruth in NZ says:

    Well I still have moments like that! I have 3 gorgeous children all adopted and 2 from China!
    It is hard they need boundaries even from day one!
    It has taken over a year for me to truly feel the love and total love I have for DD#2
    It is always a hard transition and we thought with Demon child number #1 we had battled the hard road! We were prepared however I see that it in hindsight we are not and it is okay!
    WE are parents first and we make our mistakes and sometimes our children pay the price however we are good parents when we see the price paid and we modify our behaviour to get different actions and reactions.
    It is a journey and I am sure we will all make mistakes it is how we learn!
    Holly Van Gulden an attachment therapist said we need to fake it until we make it!
    So now I don’t need to fake it as I have made it.
    however when we are trying to new behaviours and technics I do remember we have to fake it and we make it!
    Hang in there!
    Cheers Ruth

  6. catherinethegreat says:

    All I can say is ‘ditto’…your not a bad mother, your a REAL mother…no one is perfect. And really who wants perfection, when you have reality to deal with? I am the grateful mom to three wonderful girls who can drive me to distraction at times too. It happens…and life goes on…I think Rory is seeing this too…its one day at a time..

  7. Wuxi Mommy says:

    Thank you so much for your honest posting! We arrived home three months ago with our 3.5 year old daughter from Wuxi, and I felt like we were the only ones whose lives had been turned upside down! What you’re going through sounds totally NORMAL, and it was a relief to know we weren’t the only ones who struggled at first. Things DO get better, but I would say it took us a good 3 months to begin getting used to our new “normal”. And we’re still not totally adjsted yet!

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