Something has changed.
To hear me blog for the past couple of days, you would think we were right back where we were two years ago ( well, maybe not THAT bad). There’s an excellent reason for that. In my head, I have been reliving that awful, wonderful summer. I’m working on a book about how Rory and adoption and China among themselves kicked my sorry control-freak ass and left me the better for it. I have a fantastic agent; she asked if I thought I could have a draft by 8/1.
And for the past two weeks I have been hacking away at the very hardest part to write so far: the first few weeks after we came home.
It’s hard to write for a million different reasons. I was hateful. Rory was miserable. I was miserable. It was so much harder and demanded so much more of me than I’d believed possible, and I so failed to live up to it, and underneath it all is the fact that as “hard” as it was for me, it was a thousand times harder for Rory. It was a whole different kind of hard, it was the kind of hard that makes my hard look like Marie Antoinette worrying about her manicure. But her hard is her story, and my hard is mine, and I have to tell my story while respecting hers, but keeping it whole.
And it’s hard to write because it puts me right back IN it. And believe me, as bad as my blog entries were at the time (archived in June, July and August of 2009), what was in my head was a whole lot worse. I’d just as soon never open that up again…but I did. Fortunately it’s more my writing self, and not my parenting self, that’s caught up in it–which means you feel it, but the kids don’t. It’s about my mental narration, not my actions.
But in the process, I reread all my old blog entries, and I found one that connected with something that happened today and made me appreciate even more how much things have really changed.
At one of our first doctor appointments, the nurse we see (we see a nurse practitioner instead of a doctor) said something that really rang true for me. She’s a very tactful person who never questions a parent’s decisions, but she has a way of saying things that give advice indirectly. She was talking about a friend of hers who was an adoptive parent, with kids from more difficult circumstances than Rory. I’d said that I felt like I was always, constantly correcting Rory, saying no, no, no, don’t, don’t, don’t. And she said that her friend had once said she felt like she HAD to correct the newly adoptive kids for even things that she might let slide in her bio kids, not because she was favoring the bios, but because she didn’t know what might come next.
A snuck cookie today might, left uncommented on, become a whole hoard of food tomorrow. A permitted push of another child might become a serious shove next time. An ignored request that had to be repeated twice might just be the tip of a massive iceberg of complete disobedience. She never knew–were they making mistakes or pushing boundaries? With the bio kids she knew which areas were really trouble, and which were just one-offs, just from parenting them longer.
And I instantly recognized this as true. While I still feared I was just plain harder on Rory, I knew that much of the time, I just didn’t really know what lay behind her actions, either.
I STILL feel like I spend more time saying no, no, no, don’t don’t don’t to Rory than to any one else. But things are different. For one thing, everyone who interacts with Rory on an intimate personal level says no to her more often. For one thing, she asks for more. She asks daily if I will buy her candy even though she knows the answer. She likes to hear us say, in effect, that everything today is just the same as yesterday.
For another, she still holds many of her old control issues. She wants to do what we ask–her way. Sometimes there is a reason I want her to do it MY way. For example, sometimes I say “Get out of the car on Lily’s side” because there is a car parked too close on the other side, and I don’t want her to bang the door into it. That, and stuff like it happens more than you would believe. Every direct command, if you will, she will execute in some way other than asked. (I do still find that annoying, but if it doesn’t matter, I let it go–or give her only open-ended commands so that she can’t do it).
And Rory has habits that are dangerous that we can’t break–specifically, she cannot, will not walk behind or with us if it is possible to walk ahead. That means that every crosswalk, every parking lot, involves an automatic correction. Again–empty parking lot? I let it go if I can. But that one you very rarely can.
But those things are different.
Today, at the pool–and the pool was the scene of so many battles during the summer of ’09 that it’s a miracle we can go there without flashbacks–I wanted her and Lily to get out to go home. Wyatt was out and dressed, and at the same moment I decided to call Rory and Lily, Rory appeared beside me to drop off her goggles.
“Wait,” I called after her as she headed back to the water. “Wait wait don’t don’t you … Get back in that pool.”
She heard me. But halfway through that sentence she was back in the water.
Rory loves the pool. I was in no particular hurry. Asked, I would have granted five more minutes easily. But she didn’t ask.
And so I went over, and had her get out of the pool, and asked if she had, in fact, just jumped on the pool while I told her to wait.
She stared at the ground, and I told her to go stand by the fence.
Now, once, I would have seen this as very bad. All those old thoughts ran through my head. She can’t run away from me when I tell her to wait. And this is a pool–pool safety! She can’t jump in when I tell her not to! And the did exactly what I was telling her not to do–always a VERY bad thing.
But we are at the pool. And things are usually pretty mellow at the pool. And she does NOT jump in when told not to. She never has. Jumping back in while I’m in mid-sentence shouldn’t really count. She doesn’t run away from me. She almost never really doesn’t do what she’s told, even though she does want to do it her way.
In other words, I know her–and this didn’t mean a thing. I didn’t need to be a hard-ass, or just to be a firm parent who means what she says, to make a point. There was no new point to be made. I told her that I would have given her five more minutes if she’d waited, she nodded, I laughed and shrugged and helped her change out of her suit. And that was absolutely it.
Because I know her now. I really know her. Things are different.
And we’re BOTH happy about that!