That Limited, Rare, Desirable Commodity: Me.

Cross-posted at No Hands But Ours (a great site to find information and community for “special needs” China adoption).

It has been a rough trip, these last six or seven months, and there were times when I thought I’d never look at Rory and feel just unadulterated happiness. I thought I’d always see the shadow of the things I had trouble with–the way her arrival changed our family, the way it affected my relationship with the other kids, the fear I had that letting her fully into the family would somehow weaken the bonds I already had. There were a lot of things that helped: time, watching this little pumpkin struggle with leaving her foster family, and suddenly realizing that what seemed like sheer deviltry was Rory struggling in a different way, and watching a friend bring home a child Rory’s age, and–another realization–figuring out that adopting a three-year-old meant both making the adjustments you would for a baby, and making totally different adjustments. Not, unfortunately, making fewer adjustments–which I think is honestly what we’d thought.  In other words, this was totally new and it was ok for it to be hard.

Which it was.

But we got there. Therefore all should be right and all things in the world should be of a happy rightness, except when they’re not. But now that we’re all in good shape–rolling along as a family, thinking more about speech therapy and soccer than about bonding and adjusting–I just want to be there. But not Rory–she wants to revel in it. Which means that every time I kiss her or love her up, she follows me around, touching me, leaning on me, every gesture asking for more. I try, I do. It’s not like I put out limits–sorry, only six hugs a day for you!–it’s just that I lose patience. I am not by nature a person of great snuggliness, and I am a person of a natural business, and I just–look, if I walk into the bedroom to put a book on the nightstand and then turn around and trip over you, I’m going to be frustrated, ok? I am not that interesting. You do not have to follow me quite that closely!

Then I feel like the dysfunctional boyfriend–oh, no, I only love you if you don’t call me. I draw her in, she asks for more, I push her away.

I know–I should grow up, and give a little, huh? I swear I do. But her well seems so bottomless just now. That’s a sad fact that makes me want to fill it, but I don’t know how much I’ve got. Today I sat down, and she sat on my lap, or curled next to me, for a solid hour and twenty minutes, patting me very gently, snuggling my arm, twisting my earrings. I tried to think of it as like nursing a baby–I certainly put in these kinds of hours under the other three–and that helped, some. But Rory didn’t get up until I got up, and I know she was disappointed. I know Rory loves me, and her new family, but  some new mother would have had it in her to just let Rory soak and bask in her love and physical affection. Instead, poor Rory got this used-up model, happier wiping counters and baking cookies than pinned in under a child that really needs a snuggle. I’m going to do what I can to give her this. I just don’t think even the very most I can give–even when I, as a friend said to me recently, “put on my big girl pants” and do the right thing–is going to be as much as she needs.

Today I found myself setting boundaries. I love you, I said, so very much, but I’m not going to snuggle just now. And then–I love you, but I need this much space (as demonstrated with hands) just for me—because she was hovering, not snuggling, but as close as she could possibly be, and with hands out, fingering my magazine, touching my drink.

How awful is that, really? I love you, but snuggle time is over? I love you, but you need to be farther away from me now? I feel bad just writing it. Horrible. But I am who I am, and I can snuggle for a while, and then stop, or I can snuggle reluctantly until I just can’t take it any more, and all patience for the day is gone. I know she needs me. I know she needs this physical affection. I am trying.

I don’t think I realized how tough it would sometimes be to try.

5 Responses to “That Limited, Rare, Desirable Commodity: Me.”

  1. I really appreciated reading this. I had one kid who would only sleep if she was laying on my chest and one who never EVER wanted to be hugged or snuggled for the first 18 months after we adopted her. It’s much easier to bond with an affectionate child. At least it was for me. But it was EXHAUSTING and I know you can relate to that!

    The first five months we were home with our first daughter (the one who slept on my chest for those first 5 months), she insisted on sitting on my lap while I used the toilet. Sure, I *could* have put her down but I found that it was extremely difficult to answer the call of nature when my 15 month old daughter was screaming hysterically at my feet.

    In time, it gets easier. At least it has for us. And one day I’m betting that our girls will roll their eyes when we dare to ask them for just one hug. When that day comes, I think we’ll remember the early months we spent with them and we’ll smile.



  2. ellie says:

    Just hopping over from NHBO. I really appreciate your honest post. I, like Donna, had one of each. One we continue to struggle to get him to let us do things for him, not to try to be so independent, to let us really love him. The other one is still in our bed, touching us, when we sleep. I think the touchy one, our demanding and oh so determined and strong willed 3 year old, is much much better adjusted and will have a few less problems as time goes on. My only advice is to give as much as you can – can you put her in a backpack while you make cookies?? and make sure you do have space for yourself. Refill and continue to give.

    Sending prayers and hugs 🙂


  3. i understand. although i realize how normal our situation is now. the only people that she can’t get enough out of is outsiders…like grandparents and aunts/uncles and cousins. however as time goes on even that is getting more in the realms of normal.

    but it is amazing how much you discover about yourself. you are never as cool as you thought you once were:)

  4. Lisen says:

    You wrote, “but some new mother would have had it in her to just let Rory soak and bask in her love and physical affection” and I for one know of another mother (me) who would quickly stand up when said child making puppy dog eyes was about to try and climb onto that mommy lap. You are so on the right track, miles ahead of me, and I am proud of you.

    And I also have adopted both the non-affectionate and the hovering super affectionate types. I used to think of myself as a warm, affectionate person. Maybe I’m not anymore or maybe I only thought I was, but I boded much more easily with the tough-girl-I-don’t-need-your-hugs-and-kisses kid. She and I are in love and can’t seem to hold, hug, and kiss each other enough lately whereas the other my-love-tank-is-so-empty-and-the-only-way-to-fill-it-is-to-snuggle-kiss-carry-hold-me-all-the-time kid? You know how well THAT is going.

    You are doing it! You are great!

  5. Misty says:

    Dear Lola–I just flipped over to NHBO and found this post. Obviously I’m very behind but anyway. I did not know that our sweet Mei Mei left such a mark on your journey with Rory but in a way I’m glad. Not because Mei Mei had to endure it but that it helped you see from outside the box what your own baby girl might have been feeling. I know it has been SO HARD. BELIEVE ME–I KNOW–but you will get there. WE will get there too. We’ve made HUGE strides…you, me and both of our girls…and I have to believe it will continue. Yes, her well may be bottomless right now but remember you are talking about MONTHS you’ve spent with her. Not years. MONTHS. Like you said, keep putting on your “big girl pants”. {In my neck of the woods we say “big girl panties” but that’s beside the point.} Get up every day and remind yourself that today is a new day. You WILL give all you have and then some because that’s what she needs from you. What is it they say? Fake it til you make it? According to those endless attachment books, once she knows you will always be there she will slowly find her happy place. Just think, before we know it she won’t give you a second thought. You’ll be waiting for just one hug and she’ll quickly brush past you as she runs out the door. We’ll laugh about this one day. That day is not today. BELIEVE ME–I KNOW–but you have to believe that all the things you are doing NOW will get you to the place you need to be LATER. Hang in there! XOXOXO-Misty