Tuesday, February 09, 2016

A public service announcement

Things are beginning to settle down a little bit around here. The girls are starting to figure out what our typical schedule is, where things are, how things work, etc. etc. There is just so much new to sort through for them. The other children are getting to know their new sisters and their personalities. Communication is starting to be a teeny, tiny bit easier. I am beginning the process of figuring out exactly where to start each girl in regards to school work. 

[An aside. That school work comment makes it seem as though we're plunging right into the books. We have started back to a regular school schedule, but really as a means of self-defense. If I didn't, the loose-ended children would self-implode. Everyone does better on a schedule. R. and Y. are doing little bits of things here and there, mainly because they see everyone else working and want to join in. I was ready for this and have been getting our preschool boxes out again in rotation. Watching them play with the things in the boxes (lacing, counting, fine motor skills, sorting, etc.) helps to give me a sense of where each of them is at in those areas. I also have some simple work books for the same reasons. R. needs a lot of fine motor skill work, plus a lot of eye tracking exercises, so that is what we will focus on. Without those skills, there is no point to trying to do anything else. Y. turns out to have a good number sense and can do addition and subtraction as long as she has enough fingers. I also have her working on some Mandarin characters each day to keep that up. The rest is play. It will probably be six months to a year before I even contemplate adding in anything else.]

The girls are also starting to feel a bit more comfortable and secure with me and J. Bedtime is much, much better and Y. even lets me kiss her goodnight and sing her a song. (This was really not even a possibility when we were in China.) It is so, so sweet to hear her little voice say, "I love you," when I tuck her in. R., who like H. loves every single person in the world, said, "I love you," immediately and without hesitation. We were the best people she had ever met. Well, in the bizarreness that is the adoption world, I'm happy to report that now, sometimes we are not the best things since sliced bread in her mind. We do not always do things which make her happy, and she is not terribly happy with us sometimes. As odd at is sounds, this is actually good. It means that we are on the path towards developing a real relationship. These real relationships, with both girls, are ones that take time. They are born out of multiple interactions that ultimately show the child that J. and I are both trustworthy and lovable. In order to show that, though, the ups and downs of life have to happen over time. Ups and downs such as, "What happens if I accidentally break a glass?" "What happens if I yell, 'No!'?" "What happens if I get hurt?" "What happens if I am sad?" "What happens if I don't eat my dinner?" and so on and so on. Every little interaction is a chance to show that there is love, caring, and limits in our house. 

Which brings me to the important point of this post. It came to mind this morning when J. was carrying Y. to her room because she didn't exactly want to get dressed before breakfast, yet that was how things work around here. As he was heading to her room, she lightly slapped J. on the face. He immediately told her in both English and Mandarin that this was not allowed, which caused her to have a little smile and give another slap. The interaction was clearly inquisatory. "What happens if I do this? How far can I push things to get what I want?" Well, J. being the excellent therapeutic parent that he is, set her gently down, told her no once again, that she could get dressed and come down to breakfast when she was ready, and left the scene. Why drag out drama? I doubt she will try it again. It meant that her favorite person stopped interacting with her and the whole thing was pretty much lacking in excitement. And she still had to get dressed to eat. 

But what happens when a child (any child, this is not always an adoption issue) does not intuit the boundaries, or care if they are there, or doesn't seem able to stop him or herself from crossing them. Here is my plea to you, born out of deep regret and sad experience... if your child is fairly constantly having difficulty regulating, 
if your child is constantly crossing lines, 
if your child is regularly raging, 
if you find that living with your child feels as though you are living with a ticking time bomb that you must tiptoe around, 
if your child is hurting you (hitting, slapping, kicking, biting)

or (and this is the biggest one)

you find yourself constantly thinking things such as, "I think it's getting better," "It's a stage, she'll grow out of it," "It's been a difficult month/day/year, when things calm down, he will be better," 

listen to me very carefully.

If these things (all or some) are happening and you have said one or more of those statements to yourself more than once, things are not getting better. She is not growing out of it. Life will never be calm enough for it to make a difference to him. Please, you and your child need help. Things can get better, but usually only with people who can join with you and help. Please, find a family therapist and start your family on a path towards healing.

If your child were bleeding, bleeding that would sometimes stop for a day or two, and then start again, wouldn't you go find help? O would you say to yourself, "The bleeding will get better, I just have to give it time," or "Once my child is older, the bleeding will stop," or "Life has been pretty busy, once we can rest, the bleeding will stop." Really? That all sounds a bit ridiculous. Mental health is the same thing. It can be helped, but you need to find someone to help you. And just as in physical medicine, the earlier you catch something the better. 

I know firsthand how hard it can be to pick-up the phone and make that first call. I know how humbling it can be and how you can feel a bit of a parental failure. But listen to me one more time. The only failure is when you know deep down inside that something is wrong and you fail to act. If your family is struggling, pick-up the phone and make the call. Change your future and your child's future for the better.


Ann said...

Bless you for this post.

Carla said...

"You can feel a bit of a parental failure". This reminded me of when my oldest was 6 weeks old and had just given me a screaming fit for 45 minutes. He finally calmed down enough to nurse and I was in tears. I said, "I feel like a failure as a mom." My sister - bless her - did not say what I probably would have said. (Oh no, you're not a failure!) No, instead she said, "Oh Honey! Get used to it. You're going to feel like a failure a lot. That's what motherhood is like."

It was the best advice I'd received.

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