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the gloves come off

Thursday, April 2, 2009

It was so easy to overlook her institutionalize past because of how quickly and seamlessly Maddie adjusted to our family.

Every once in awhile we have a day where Maddie's orphanage past raises its ugly head.
Today was one of those days.
Maddie punched Anya in the stomach.
Hard enough to make Anya cry.
Anya claims she didn't do anything to provoke the attack, which I choose to believe. She's pretty good about telling me the truth...and tends to be a peacemaker, avoiding conflict at any cost.
My problem is, Maddie isn't verbal enough to tell me her side of the story. When I asked her why she hit Anya she just kept nodding her head 'yes' and saying 'I hit her stomach.' I'm assuming she thought I was asking if she had hit Anya. She doesn't seem to be able to grab the concept of 'why' yet.
So Maddie and I had a little talk...and some discipline. Since she told me the truth I went pretty easy on her.
I wish I could say I was so easy on myself.
I'm not quite sure what to make of this episode. Part of me wants to blame it on just normal kid behavior, but to be honest, I think we've gotten complacent with all of that.
We have overlooked her overall bossiness as just trying to figure out the pecking order of the family.
We have ignored her uncanny ability to break almost every toy she plays with, as just plain clumsiness
(although she's been doing it less and less the last few months).
We've brushed off her primal fear of animals as a normal childhood stage.
It was so easy to overlook her institutionalize past because of how quickly and seamlessly Maddie adjusted to our family.

We have never experienced the meltdown fits our other three and other PI (post-institutionalized) kids often exhibit.
She's attaching well...coming to us for comfort, doing a better job of stranger danger and indiscriminate affection.

And her personality fit so perfectly into our family dynamic it honestly feels like she has always been a part of our lives.
We didn't have the two year adjustment so many families
(including ours) go through when you first bring a child home.
There wasn't even a year...I would say barely six months.
She literally fit like a round peg in the round hole of our family from day one.
So it always surprises me a bit when we have a day like this. Its like a reminder that 'Hey, you haven't always been her parent. There are still issues there you have to work through.'
Sure, it could be totally five year old stuff..but honestly, I saw her act like this at the orphanage when other kids got in her way. Whether it was a toy she wanted, or the children got too close to me, she took charge, kicked tail and took names. So I'm sure its not something she's picked up recently.
Its a remnant of the orphanage....which is sad.
Maddie has given up so many of her orphanage behaviors.
She rarely 'faints' anymore.
She isn't constantly clamoring for our attention...getting mad when the other kids butt in.
She doesn't hoard or steal food anymore (remember the bananas?).

But there are some things she still does...
She still rocks...VIOLENTLY. One of these days I'm going to post a video of it so PAPs (prospective adoptive parents) can see what I'm talking about . I hope it will ensure they're not surprised by it, like we were with Alek. (who by the way has since quit rocking - except when he's bored.)
She still has a bit of a problem with feeling pain and over dramatizing when she sees it is getting her extra attention. Anything for attention.
And apparently, she still hits.
I need to dig out that checklist again and take inventory of where we're at. We've come miles since the day I brought her home, but there are still some lingering issues I'm sure we'll be working on for quite awhile.
And priority number one is to get her to quit using her sister as a punching bag!

*There are a number of non-adoptive parents who read this blog and I want to assure you that as the parents of four post-institutionalized children, Shad and I really do have a pretty good handle on what is and is not orphanage behavior. What may appear to an outsider as typical child-like behavior is often rooted much deeper in our children's past. Thankfully, all four of our children have made remarkable progress now that they are home...and each of their issues were incredibly minor. But every once in awhile something new will sneak up on you that you need to take care of. And unfortunately, sometimes you just don't know where to begin.

8 salty messages:

Michelle April 2, 2009 at 11:06 PM  

Maddie has done so well & come so very far since coming home - that speaks volumes about you as parents. this is not meant to downplay what's happening, but rather to encourage you & make sure you remember that this is totally expected with kids who lived in orphanages. of course it must be addressed, but it's something every kid has to work through - some issues harder than others.

i'll be praying that God gives you wisdom as you deal with her behavior... and that He heals her little heart of all the pain in her past.

- michelle

MamaPoRuski April 3, 2009 at 12:46 AM  

As much as it is hard to have these come out, it is good to know that she is in a place where they will be addressed in a loving and nurturing environment! We all long for someone who will walk along side us and help us in our weak areas in order to become a better person. HUGS!

Annie April 3, 2009 at 3:22 AM  

The destructive behavior does remind me a bit of Ilya. He is oddly destructive at times (though this has improved amazingly). I say odd because he will be at once destructive, and also extremely pro-active about helping make the house clean and nice. He used to occasionally just be "rough" for no reason I could see. I always feel that the safer he feels the better he acts....i.e. the better things are going at school. Here, I think, he feels safe. But he needs some outlet for the garbage heaped on him there, and just the frustration of it always being so hard, with no end in sight. The other components are a) my attention and b) the regularity of our schedule.

I am not quite sure how you attribute the fear of animals to being in the orphanage. All five of my kids adore animals. I'm curious.

I guess it is also true that "institutionalized" kids are also, all very unique. My long-term institutionalized kids, Sergei and Zhen, are as much like my bio-kids as makes no difference. But their first three years, in their birth homes, must have been pretty good. The three who were "at home" for the longest - ie. not really "institutionalized", or only for a very short time, are the ones with issues. So, I focus more on the experience of early trauma as making the difference rather than institutionalization, itself.

SLColman April 3, 2009 at 8:27 AM  

I am sure that you and Shad will figure things out and help Maddie in the best way possible. With all the love you have for all your kids how could anything else be possible?

Courtney April 3, 2009 at 9:01 AM  

My guys don't get "why" either. If I ask "why did you hit Dima?" the response is "because I'm not supposed to hit." They answer the question as in "why are you in trouble" not "why did you do it." It irritates me, to be honest, but part of it is their age and part of it is still the developing language. You've got the added issue of Maddie's hearing loss to compound that language development, and the abstract "why" concept will probably take her awhile to get (same as my boys). I do a lot of modeling with the boys: "why did you hit so-and-do? Because...I wanted their toy? they were being mean? Why?" trying to encourage them into the right type of language to answer the "why" question.
We also occasionally have those random orphanage moments pop up. While I try to figure out what triggers them, sometimes there doesn't seem to be a trigger! I guess they're just still trying to get things out of their system.

adoptedthree April 3, 2009 at 10:43 AM  

I had only one that rocked and that lasted about a week after we got home and then luckily stopped.

Census (aka Cen aka June.S) April 3, 2009 at 4:45 PM  

It sounds like you have come so far already and you certainly have a wonderful understanding of the problems that Maddie faces.
Life in an orphanage must leave some deep marks and with hearing loss to add to this I am amazed at how well she doing.
You are doing a brilliant job and your children are so blessed that they have found you both.
Keep up the great job you are doing!
Thank you too for your kind words and encouragement on my blog...they were much appreciated.

Diana April 3, 2009 at 5:42 PM  

It really bites when our little ones remind us that they haven't always lived with us. :-( Give the "whys" time. At this point, she honestly doesn't know, and certainly has no idea what is really driving it. Cause and effect thinking is a hard concept for our little ones to get! Definately don't ignore it and hope it will take care of itself, because it probably won't, but do the best you can and love her to pieces as you always do. The time will come where she will start to get it. Even my little guys are starting to get it!

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