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reality check

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I spoke too soon.
Just when I thought we were making progress...
BAM!
She slaps me with a deep sense of reality.
Maddie is at it again.
We went to a big family function last night and she took full advantage of my distraction.
It was the annual S~ family Christmas dinner. We have a HUGE extended family, so once a year over 150 of us get together, rent out a hall and eat, chat and eat some more.
Its tons of fun...and something Shad and I have missed out on the last 17 years. None of our kids had EVER been to the dinner. So it was a first all the way around.
Shad was on call so I took the kids by myself.
Can anyone say, 'Red Flag?'
We usually tag team these things...taking turns keeping an eye on her so the other can visit.
My backup was pulling a calf.
Alek, Anya and Nick did great. They met a bunch of new cousins, made friends real quick and started running around, playing just like like a bunch of kids should.
But Maddie...oh, Maddie...
Its my fault really.
I should have sat on her.
Maybe put her in a headlock...
I know! I should have bribed her to stay with pizza and bananas!!!
Something.
Anything.
But after the progress we made in the last few months, I made one fatal mistake.
I let my guard down.
Maddie LOVES my parents. Anytime we are with them, I disappear...well, figuratively anyway. And I don't mind. They're her grandparents, she needs to have a special relationship with them.
But unfortunately, my parents aren't as used to Maddie's wiles. The haven't learned the the lessons Shad and I learned in the first few days after we brought Maddie home.

  1. Hold her if possible...its less dangerous that way.
  2. If you are tired of holding her, make sure you hang on to her hand with a death-grip. And whatever you do...
  3. Don't get too close to the object of her attention - she'll lean in for the kill.
I saw it all unfold in slow motion from across the room.
Mom and Maddie walked up to my cousin, Dennis. He must have said something about how cute she was because when he bent down to say hello, she THREW herself at him.
I flew across the room...but it was too late. She had already put him in a strangle-hold hug and smacked him on the cheek.
I tried grabbing her back, but Maddie wasn't having any of it.
'No,' she kept telling me as she cried her pitiful tears.
Finally, I insisted...mumbled my apologies, left my mother to give the explanation and carted my whiny, squirmy daughter to the ladies' room.
'Did you know him, Maddie?' 'Have you ever met him before? That makes him a stranger doesn't it? Are you supposed to talk to strangers? Are you supposed to ask strangers to hold you?
ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO GIVE STRANGERS KISSES?!
Who knows how much she really understood from our conversation. Some days I don't think anything sinks in. But I definitely learned three things in the last 24 hours...
  1. My daughter still has Odessa Orphanage #1 deeply embedded in her soul. I know it, but am constantly getting reminded - it is going to take a long time to get over these (and other) survivor behaviors. If she ever completely gets over them at all!
  2. She's still a charmer. Again, I know it. And just because Shad and I aren't falling for her powers of persuasion anymore, doesn't mean she doesn't still remember how effective they are.
  3. I have a lot of educating of my extended family to do. My parents and brothers get it and are incredibly supportive of the no-holding policy. Family members. That's it. They've explained stuff for us before. But this time we all were blind-sided.
Its my extended family who doesn't know how to react. There are a few who have adopted children through foster care and so they understand the whole bonding thing, but the majority have not a clue.
How could they.
Unless I educate them.
Sigh.
And here we thought she was doing much better.
UGH!
Reality stinks.

12 salty messages:

Tina in CT January 4, 2009 at 11:03 PM  

Sorry that had to happen at the family gathering. I am sure it ruined the night for you. I guess things don't just disappear in a short amount of time and hoping that the progress that has been made the past year will continue to grow.

MamaPoRuski January 4, 2009 at 11:13 PM  

I'm so sorry! Although, perhaps this being a family event it was more confusing for her to think they were strangers? She will get it, she is getting it...you're doing great!

Anonymous,  January 5, 2009 at 7:33 AM  

do you think maybe your reading alittle too much into her actions? having been around alot of little kids in my life,because of my profession,early childhood educator, i have seen the actions that you just described maddie doing from a hundred little kids. and most people just think its a little kid being a little kid. i do understand that she needs to know what a stranger is but what little kid doesnt. it sounds to me like maybe your just afraid that mom doesnt hold the role of superwoman yet. maybe the way that she acts has more to do with her personality and less with the orphanage than you think. just a thought

Diana January 5, 2009 at 7:38 AM  

Oh, nuts!! We've had more than our share of "take the wind out of your sails" moments. I literally sat down and cried the day my Matthew told the UPS man "Bye - I love you!"

Didn't you say a while back that you started attachment therapy? Or was that before you moved?

Tami January 5, 2009 at 8:37 AM  

Anonymous...
It's more than just being 'friendly'. Its the fact that Maddie is perfectly willing to walk away with anyone at any time...without looking back. Its a look in her eyes that can't be described. Its daddy or mommy 'shopping'...looking for the newer better model.
It would never be that I am SuperMommy...its the realization that I'm not truly Mommy at all...yet.
For anyone who hasn't worked with children adopted out of orphanages its hard to imagine. They see a charming child, who is just 'friendly'. And she IS charming...and she IS friendly. But there is a VERY serious, underlying problem of absolute trust of absolutely anyone present.
I wouldn't think of doing anything to change Maddie's true personality. But this isn't her TRUE personality. This is the personality that living in the orphanage has forced upon her. Living in an institution since the day she was born forced my child's personality to morph into one that allow her to get the attention she needed from her caregivers and any stranger that happened to come her way.
If you think about it. You morph your personality all the time to fit certain situations. If you're at a funeral you aren't your usual, lively self. If you are starting a new job with new people, you need to come out of your shell to deal with new clients/customers.
Its the same with Maddie...just on a much more serious and permanent scale.
If Maddie were just being 'friendly' she would say Hi to people, maybe give them a hug, but would back off into her own personal space. Maddie doesn't do that. She not only forces you to give her attention, she gets in your face and doesn't get out. She makes you pay attention to her.
I wish I could describe it better. In fact I think I'll try. This is still a topic that many people just don't understand...and can't, unless they see it first hand. I think I'll make a post out of it.
Besides...this comment is so long now it constitutes a book.
BTW - I hope you'll sign your name next time. No harm, no foul in your question. As an adoptive parent I consider it a privilege to help others understand the challenges and joys we face every day. ;)

Elaine January 5, 2009 at 9:50 AM  

What's the saying? Two steps forward, one step back? I'm sure she is making progress, she just isn't "there" yet. Hang in there, as I know you will.

AdoptaMama January 5, 2009 at 12:33 PM  

Tami,
I had a response all written out to this post, but it turned into a novel. I decided to devote an entire post to it on my blog. I did not write it to be controversial but to tell of our experience with stranger awareness and how our oldest daughter gradually "grew" out of it.

~Patti

mrsbroccoliguy January 5, 2009 at 1:18 PM  

I think you are rather amazing for taking the kids to that huge reunion all by yourself! And I know that feeling, that ache and frustration when you see your child loving on a total stranger. It's very hard to describe to people who haven't adopted an older child. I'm sorry it had to happen at such a special occasion. But then, maybe it will be easier to explain to the extended family now that they've seen it for themselves?
Maddie has come SO far ... she just has a little more to go. But you are doing a great job and she is definitely learning - old habits die hard.

Lucky Mom January 5, 2009 at 6:36 PM  

Tami, I also think that this is just a common reversion under a more than usually "stressful" situation. She had to be feeling overwhelmed with the number of people and what her relationship is to them and old habits die hard. It is hard as a parent to see her going back to those old habits but I think you have had such positive moments in school and with her therapists that she is definitely going in the right direction. My very first sw used the term "growing attachment" in my first Russian post-placement report and explained to me that she really felt that like all relationships it was a long process and that as long as there was movement in the right direction, you could feel better about it. I think it is one of the hardest things in being an adoptive mom / parent in trying not to second guess yourself and to not see "attachment issues" in every behavior. I haven't felt your posts to display those tendencies and in fact I have found you to be honest in your assessments and to point out - even in bad moments - how much she has progressed. So, I think once you (and Maddie) are back in your usual routine, she will go back to her (better) behaviors and you will see the girl with growing attachment to you and your family.

jessy January 5, 2009 at 10:11 PM  

Sorry, hun. These reality checks do knock the wind out of you. And don't beat yourself up. She had this very short-lived episode in a room surrounded by family member who love her....AND YOU!
You should block more comments. Ignorance. Ignorance run a muk.

lh January 5, 2009 at 11:16 PM  

One day you'll wake up and realize it's been a month, or a year since something like that happened and you, more than many, will really appreciate and know the monumental meaning behind it. Thanks for sharing the sad moments as well as the wonderful ones. It's so great for you and for Maddie that your family is so supportive and understanding.

Leslie January 6, 2009 at 7:11 PM  

Hey, T-
I am loving the blog makeovers! Are you using ScrapBlog? I'd like to figure out how to do my own backgrounds and headers.

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