Monday, February 01, 2016

Jet lag and claustrophobia

J. and I are still pretty much down for the count as far as our sleep schedules are concerned. We can't stay awake at night, we can't stay asleep in the morning, and are just tired during the time in between. I have never felt so old! The children who traveled with us all seem to be regulated with the new time zone, but I'm tired. And I'm tired of being tired!

Feeling constantly fatigued is also not terribly helpful during the early transition phase of bringing a new child home, though the two always seem to go hand in hand. The weekend went pretty well, though J. and I spent it trying to ward off an impending sense of severe claustrophobia.

The claustrophobia wasn't because of tight spaces such as airline seats, or cabin fever due to bad weather (it was actually quite beautiful), but from the sheer need of many children to be near us all the time. First, you have the obvious need of the two new girls whose lives have been turned upside down. We are the only secure thing in their lives at the moment and they want and need to be near us.

If you are adopting an older child and this is your first time, this is something you really need to understand. There is sometimes the idea out there that in some ways adopting an older child is easier than, say an infant. We all know that infants take a lot of time. They can do nothing for themselves, they don't sleep well, and they need a lot of holding. If you have a baby in the house, you are just not going to get much, if anything done. Surely, though, by adopting an older child, you miss out on at least some of this neediness, right?

Wrong.

A child who has just lost everything is pretty much an emotional infant. It's temporary and they don't lose all their physical skills, but they are also not functioning at their typical age level, either. They need as much reassurance as a baby. Nothing feels normal to them. Not the language, the food, the scenery, the bed, the comfort, the schedule, the bathroom, the expectations, the play, the TV. Nothing. In a sense, the changes have stripped them of any independence they might have had. Thus, they need to rely on external sources until they get things figured out again and a new normal emerges. And those external sources are the new parents who are the only things that seem even remotely secure in all of this.

Consequently, when you bring home two new girls, it's a bit like having infant twins again. Well, minus the constant nursing and corresponding benefit of huge amounts of reading. The fatigue and need to be on call at every moment is the same. (And I am certainly in a position to know!) We help them do a lot of things... help find things, help entertain them, help pick-out clothes, help getting dressed, help washing up, help figuring out food, help to comfort them. I do find it is tricky line to walk, though, because at the same time, especially for R., we want to encourage self-care skills and personal motivation. We're taking everything slowly at the moment, don't worry.

So those are the new girls. We also have this house of children who are recovering from having their world briefly turned upside down with the added complication of when the world went right side up again, it wasn't the same world. Everyone is a bit off kilter and needing some love and support... from, you guessed it, Mom and Dad.

None of this has come as a surprise to either me of J. We knew it was coming before we had even left. We weren't looking forward to it, either. It is all just something to get through. This is why, yesterday afternoon, recovering from the chaos of taking new children to church in the morning, J. and I were sitting down, trying not to sleep and realized we had lost all personal space. We were in the kitchen, which is not a small room, and there were six children there with us, all within less than two feet. We realized that it is how we had spent the better part of the entire weekend. Desperate measure were called for if hyperventilating was to be avoided.

Enter movies. We are thankful for movies. Very thankful.

The English speakers got to watch a Disney cartoon on the television in the living room. The non-English speakers were not interested, so they sat in the kitchen (a compromise since they were still in the same room as J. and I, just more than two feet away) watching a cartoon they enjoyed in China on J.'s computer. It bought us about an hour of not being touched or talked to.

This is bliss in our current world.


4 comments:

Sherryanne said...

Sent you a message on Facebook about a trip to the aquarium on Tuesday, my treat. Sherryanne

susan said...

Thank you for this insight. It is good for me to know this as I encourage my friend.

Katie Coons said...

I can talk to R, we now live in the states and were co-workers of her former family in shanghai, she is a big part of our story too. I am Josie and Ashers mom, Katie. She'll recognize that! Please email me if I can help in any way. Kathryn.m.evans@gmail.com

Katie Coons said...

I can talk to R, we now live in the states and were co-workers of her former family in shanghai, she is a big part of our story too. I am Josie and Ashers mom, Katie. She'll recognize that! Please email me if I can help in any way. Kathryn.m.evans@gmail.com

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