Yesterday, two of my sisters both sent me emails saying basically, "I love you, I miss you, I know you're super busy, are you okay?" So I wrote them a long letter back. One great thing about writing is I can do it when the kids are in bed. Phone calls not so much, in part because bedtime happens kind of late around here. Anyway, I'm plagiarizing myself here, because I did say a lot of what's been on my mind this week.
The Winemaker has launched himself into some sort of amazing dad zone lately. Getting kids vaccination appointments, finding us sitters so we can take this free adoptive parenting class on Wednesday nights, cutting down on the kids' screen time and taking them to parks after school, and guaranteeing that in a school full of Intel kids, our kids had the two most over-engineered entries in the egg drop contest Friday. (He was all annoyed because instead of being dropped off the school roof, as advertised, they were dropped from the top of a ladder. Ours TOTALLY could have survived being dropped off the roof.) The kids got their latest round of shots on Tuesday, and it was apparantly a complete nightmare (I was still at work). It took two hours to get them calmed down enough to get the shots. TWO HOURS. The Winemaker said he had to corral them a few times to keep them from racing out the door, or from grabbing stuff in the office, but otherwise he tried to just calm them and be with them rather than coercing or physically forcing them to get the damn shots. I'm pretty sure I would have just offered to lay on top of the kids after about half an hour of this. According to Oak, the reason he finally let the shots happen was not because of the roller skating outing Papa offered, but because he doesn't want to get sick. So the Winemaker and the doctor must have done a good job explaining why they were trying to stick needles in him. Anyway, we've noticed since then that Oak, while still being Oak, has been mostly cheerful and easier than usual to redirect when he starts getting riled up. We think that something about the way the Winemaker supported him and stuck with him when he was completely falling apart made him feel safer. The Winemaker didn't give in--that wouldn't be repsonsible, and Oak understands that. WM didn't get mad and force him physically--which is probably what Oak expected. He managed to balance "Yes, the grown-ups are in charge and making decisions in your best interest" with "I am not going to scare you or overpower you." This let Oak really know he can trust his Papa as a parent. That's our theory anyway. We'll see how long the effects last.
I'm still working on not being the mean and scary one. It's amazing how hard that is for me. Maybe "amazing" isn't the right word. Horrifying? Apalling? Mortifying? But I am getting better, with my craziest shit happening less often and for shorter durations. The class we're taking is good, and one of the experts whose material we use also has a bunch of free videos online (yay for Karyn Purvis!), so the WM and I watch those for mid-week boosters. The class is run by a therapist who has fifteen kids. I don't know how many are adopted, but I'm guessing about 12 of them. She is mellow (and organized, but I guess you'd have to be!) and OUR therapist, who adores her, let us know that her oldest kids say that she too was crazy when they were young. The message being, it's hard, but you can learn how to do this better.
It's really weird for me when people at work say, "So, are the kids all settled in now? Everyone's adjusted?' I probably would have done the same before we adopted, so I can't really get snippy with people. But geez. As an adult, I chose to spend about five years in Latvia. I loved it. I got to set a lot of my own terms for how that time went. But there were times when I felt so lonely, or disconnected, or confused, and there were times when I missed my family so bad I just cried. Yet these little kids are supposed to be "adjusted" to a new country, new culture, new language, and new freakin' FAMILY in six months? Really? A lot of what we're learning in this class is about how the brain develops when a baby is well cared for, and how very differently it develops when a baby is not, and how to re-train the brain into new pathways. Which takes a long time. We are JUST BEGINNING to learn what WE need to do to help this happen. It's going to take a LONG TIME for it to happen.
In the meantime, we're trying to be more thoughtful about spending time together as a family, about spending individual time with each kid, and about giving ourselves breaks from the kids alone and together. We've done some social events lately, and we're noticing what does and doesn't work there. (They did much better when winemaking friends they've met several times came over than when some of our old friends they'd never met came over.) Next weekend we've been invited to a large party where kids are welcome, but I've already made it known that we are getting a sitter or I'm staying home, because I will not be able to relax if I'm monitoring how our kids are interacting with other kids, and nobody else will be able to relax if I don't do that. (Hey, anyone want to babysit next Saturday night?) When we do get sitters, we try to get two, because both kids are easier to handle individually, and we want to avoid "sitter fatigue." (AKA, No, I will not babysit your crazyass kids any more, so stop asking already.) The Winemaker was excited about getting Oak into wrestling, because it's a really good physical outlet, but we've been missing practices more and more often as we realize how important having down time at home is.
The one thing I don't feel good about is not seeing my dad, who is in a foster care home for the elderly. I think I should at least be calling him, but it is so hard to make a phone call until they are in bed, which is already past his bedtime. All the other things I've put on hold I'm okay with, but I know I have limited time with my dad, and I know my dad has limited sources of joy in his life, and I just feel crappy about not making more time for him. I also have some minor guilt about not doing more for my friend whose 2 year old has brain cancer, and my friend (who babyits for us! and stuffed our freezer with dinners all summer!) who is pregnant with her first child. But both of those families have other sources of support. My dad just has his four girls, and one lives elsewhere, and another has never made time in her life for our parents, so it's all falling on the shoulders of one of my sisters, which adds to my guilt.
Two happy stories:
*Last Monday we skipped wrestling again, and I took Oak to read to a dog at the public library. He read the three books he'd brought, then pulled two more off the shelf. He's always reluctant to try new things, and while he loves being read to, hasn't shown any interest in reading himself, so it was AWESOME that it went so well. They dog lady even had this little camera and printer so he was able to come home with a photo of himself and the soft little doggie. Then the two of us went out for frozen yogurt. Great times.
*I've been singing lullabies to Linden recently. She really likes it, and asks for them. It just makes me happy. The other night we went out for dinner with a coupon, and she ate three dishes of mac and cheese, then ran out of steam halfway though her dessert. She put her head in my lap and asked me to sing "Hush Little Baby." I can't really explain, except that there are some joys of parenting you don't even know you're hoping for, and since it feels like what we're doing is even MORE complicated than most people's parenting, whenever one of those little parenting dreams comes true, it's doubly sweet.
I recently learned the words for "To Make You Feel My Love" (by Bob Dylan, but I first heard Adele's version.)
I sang it to her tonight, and she arched up in bed and pulled me down against her. When I finished singing it (from a somewhat squashed position), she said, "Mom? You wanna know what I'm thinking?' Of course I said yes, and she said "I don't want you to die."
She seems to have three stages. When she's pissed, it's "I wanna go back to the orphanage!" When she's feeling conflicted, it's, "I miss my first mom." When she's feeling love, it's "I'm afraid you're going to die." It makes me enormously sad that that's how closely love is tied to loss in her mind. I talked to her about how I plan on living until she's as old as I am, to see her grow up and go out into the world, and to fill up her heart with love so that she feels safe in the world. I told her that when the world was hard, she could always come back to us and get more love, and that we would give her so much love that even after we die, the love will last and last inside her. She fell asleep while I was talking, which I hope means I quieted her fears. At least for tonight.