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day one

Thursday, October 16, 2008

She loved it.

She really, REALLY loved it!
Preschool was all Maddie could talk about yesterday afternoon.
From the minute she got in the van she jabbered on and on, only some of which I could understand, but every once in awhile there was a 'skoo' and 'backpa' thrown in there.
The girls LOVES her backpack.
The staff says Maddie did great. I'm glad. I wasn't so sure how it was all going to work out yesterday morning.
After I took the video, we climbed into the van and took off - Maddie jabbering the whole way. When we arrived she pulled off her seat belt, jumped out of her seat, opened the van door and climbed out of the van barely before I put the van in park. She jumped up and down as I pulled my purse from the passenger seat and drug me down the sidewalk and up to the door.
But as soon as the door opened, she changed.
She shut down, walking closer and closer to me, becoming more and more hesitant the closer we got to the room.
Once we stepped inside, she grabbed my leg and wouldn't let go.
It about broke my heart.
The speech pathologist and teacher came up and welcomed Maddie to the class...making a big deal about introducing her to the kids. One of the helpers brought Maddie a baby to play with - which she grabbed with one hand, while still hanging on to my leg with the other.
Both of the teachers commented on how unlike Maddie this was.
That's when I decided to do it.
I wasn't going to bring it up - I don't like using her background as an excuse for her behavior, but I really thought it was best they understood where she was coming from. Not that I wanted them to expect the worst from her - I want them to be prepared...just in case.
'I believe she's having flash-backs to her life in the orphanage,' I said. 'She lived four years of her life with kids her exact same age, in a setting much like this one. She had to share toys, get conked over the head by bigger kids and share the adults attention. Food was scarce and the same day after day. Life was a routine. It wasn't fun.'
'Right now Maddie has no real idea preschool is a fun place to be. All she knows is this sounds, smells and feels a lot like the place she left just eight short months ago.'
'We'll need to be incredibly patient with her,' I said. 'More than likely she will start acting out a bit - getting overstimulated, hyper and maybe even getting pretty physical with the kids. That is how she survived in the orphanage. It was every kid for themselves.'
'Hmmmm....' was their only response.
Greaaaaat.
I wasn't expecting complete understanding, but I was hoping for a few questions -anything to show they were interested in helping me help her with this adjustment.
After what seemed like an eternity, the speech pathologist said, 'well, then, maybe we should start out in my room and go at this a little slower.'
Finally. A voice of reason.
Maddie walked off with her, without so much as a glance my way.
No goodbye.
No wave.
Nothing.
So much for bonding.
By the time I picked her up three hours later, Maddie was a mass of nerves. Overstimulated beyond anything I had ever seen in her before. She was running around, ignoring everyone. Jumping off of toys, throwing balls and running into other kids.
When I told her to settle down, she looked my way and then ran the other.
'Oh, she did so well today,' they all said.
'We just love her.'
'She's sooooo friendly. I've never seen anything like it.'
Yea.

8 salty messages:

Tina in CT October 16, 2008 at 9:13 PM  

Sounds like it did not go the way you had hoped. It's too bad that Maddie can't understand your telling her that this is just school for a few hours and that she will always be coming back to her home and family. I can't imagine what was going through her mind. I'm sure you must have been a wreck as you drove off after leaving her. Hopefully each day will get better as Maddie learns that this is just nursery school and you will be there each day when it is over. It's good that you gave them a summary of her background so they can better help to understand Maddie's history. Sounds like you needed a friend to talk to after you dropped Maddie off.

Rachael October 16, 2008 at 9:38 PM  

Well, so she walked off with the teacher. Still, she clung to your leg at first. It still sounds like progress to me, and it certainly could have gone worse! (and she LIKES it...that's good, right?)

Suzanne October 16, 2008 at 10:22 PM  

I love your yea comment. I get this all the time "Oh he is so helpful!" "Just jumps right in and helps" What I hear is "Oh he is so controlling" "Just jumps in and takes over".

We, as you know, pulled Andy out of school as it reactivated all his orphanage survival skills, how could it not, really?

Even now, just doing 2 half-days of a quasi-school setting is dicey for him. I rigidly control the rest of the day to make sure he stays in family-boy mode, not orphanage mode.

Overstimulated beyond anything I had ever seen in her before. She was running around, ignoring everyone. Jumping off of toys, throwing balls and running into other kids.When I told her to settle down, she looked my way and then ran the other way Been there. It's normal, if that is any comfort.

Have you read the "staking tomatoes" blog? I did, and still do, heavy staking on school days and the days immediately following.

It does get better, btw.

Best,

Suzanne

The Pabsts October 16, 2008 at 11:32 PM  

Oh, Tami, I know how scary it is to drop off your kid and not know what to expect when you see them in the afternoon. I don't have any children that had to spend time in an orphanage, but my older son has some features of Asperger's, and I had no idea how he would deal with kindergarten. We had moved so many times when he was little, he never went to preschool. Thankfully, his teacher and the school were incredibly willing to work with us and learn to read his "I'm getting overwhelmed!" cues. Now, he's doing great in 2nd grade (he's just a bit younger than Nick) and loving it. Here's wishing you much patience and good luck. I'll send prayers your way.
-Bethany

Susan October 17, 2008 at 10:03 AM  

Can you refer Maddie's teachers to your blog? They'd learn so much about how pi kids operate, and why...and of course, some suggested reading about attachment would be timely as well. This is probably a first for them, as well as for Maddie.

In any case, it's good that Maddie is excited about school and that her teachers are fond of her, even though her preconceptions are understandably colored by her past experiences. It will take a while for all of this newness to shake down, obviously.

Meanwhile, would stories about preschool (either picture-books or made-up stories) be helpful, along with playing school with her dolls and stuffed toys? The younger (then age seven) of my cousins from Ukraine liked to do this soon after she came home - she took the role of the teacher, and was quite stern with her doll pupils, which was revealing.

I hope (and expect) things will calm down in the days ahead, as Maddie grows accustomed to preschool's routines and learns to distinguish preschool and teachers from home and family.

Best wishes,
Susan in Ky

Christina October 17, 2008 at 3:30 PM  

See there, it's really good you gave the teachers a heads up on things, I'm sure they reacted to her differently than they would have if they assumed she was home-grown and just acting out. It's so hard to know how much to tell people, I struggle with that with Zeeb - I mean it's obvious he's adopted but telling people he came home at 3 and is still working on his language skills, I don't want to seem like I'm making excuses but it also doesn't seem fair to set him up for failure.
All in all though it sounds like Maddie had a good experience and I'm sure things will get better day by day.

Annie October 17, 2008 at 9:42 PM  

You know... If you see any behavior issues with her, you might look to the overstimulation issue. My daughter loves school and in a very structured environment she does well, but in an unstructured "go explore" environment she really does get stressed out. I've learned that the "results" of an overdoes of stress (good or bad) can cause Anastasia to lose it .... and the difficult thing for me to realize is that the impact might not be felt until some time later. The next day, even. So everyone will she "she behaved beautifully". She will behave beautifully for a while - then BOOM!

Just alerting you "in case". Could be it won't affect Maddie that way at all - just get her really, really excited.

Debbie & Garth October 18, 2008 at 6:19 PM  

Oh, wow. Hmm. Sounds like she really needs to be home with you, but if that isn't possible...hmm...

Maddie's excitement at going to school was certainly contagious, though! :-)

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