Wednesday, September 2, 2009

instruction manual, please

Sometimes I feel like we are going through this blindly. And it's not easy. And we're making loads of mistakes. And sometimes I wish I could kick myself for some of the choices I've made. And sometimes I wish I had Marty McFly's DeLorien, so I could go back and do-over. . .

When the social workers were visiting us back in May, one thing they pointed out was to expect that things can get bad again (we had been going through a relatively "smooth-sailing" period). They said that it's normal for behaviours to regress in the second half of a year home. They also warned us to be constantly reassuring about our then-upcoming trip to Canada - that Sofia would probably feel insecure about leaving her home (especially without her Pappa). I probably should have taken this more to heart. She seemed fine about the trip - she was really looking forward to visiting Uncle Steve again and meeting her grandpa in person, not just over the webcam.

But, we had a ton of issues while we were there - I even posted about some of the problems with food. Looking back, I don't even remember what most of the issues were, I just remember there were many bedtimes overshadowed by arguments and anger. It was during one of these episodes that Sofia threw out the first "You don't love me. You only love boys." and boy did that hurt. I totally get, from her perspective, why she said that . . . she thought I was treating them differently . . . and I'm pretty sure I said words like that to my parents while I was growing up (what had happened was that the 3 of them - Sam wasn't with - were misbehaving and were sent to their rooms . . . Sofia was whining all the way there . . . I went in and told the boys they were going to bed early and to put their pyjamas on and they did [they recognized that I had reached my limit of patience] . . . I went downstairs to tell Sofia the same, and she freaked out - refusing, crying, screaming, etc . . . so I was angry and left the room - that's when she said I didn't love her).

However, that was just the beginning of the verbal daggers she has begun throwing at us.

Lately, we are being told things like:
  • I don't like you.
  • I don't love you.
  • It doesn't work to live here.
  • I'm leaving.
  • You can go away (as in go find another place to live, not leave me alone for a few minutes)
At first, these things made us mad, but then we had that "oh, right" moment about what the social workers said. When she says these things (and it happens pretty often lately), now we try to counter with things like, "That's too bad because we love you very much." or "Well, we'll miss you and we wish you would stay because we love you." As much as we understand that these are probably fairly typical PI behaviours, it still hurts like heck to hear them. On Sunday I finally broke down and just starting sobbing. It wears one down after awhile. I've tried to be thick-skinned about it, but to have your own child say she doesn't love you and tell you to go away . . . ugh.

Of course, I'm constantly making mistakes. I have too much of a knee-jerk reaction to outbursts . . . and, this, I'm working on. In this way, Sofia and I are SO much alike - very reactionary. And, she's been having lots of outbursts lately . . . they usually begin with one of us telling her to do something and her deciding it's something she won't, so she refuses. It can be as simple as where to sit in the car. She'll have one of two reactions - whine in a really loud voice (which is like nails on a chalkboard) or completely refuse which begins an argument that leads to the "verbal daggers". It used to be that she was only like this with me, but now she does the same with Stefan. And, she does it with attitude . . .like teenager attitude. Having taught teenagers, I knew this would be something for us to expect . . . I just didn't know it would happen at age 7!

All this being said, I think maybe the new puppy has something to do with a spike in difficult behaviour . . . change is not always a good thing . . .

So, here we are, struggling to raise our spirited, willful child. . . trying to discern which behaviours are temperament and which are PI, and deal with them accordingly. We so dearly love this child - and even though we understand that her pushing us away is a form of self preservation, we still make mistakes along the way. We know that God planned, long ago, that Sofia would be a part of our family. She is a very special child - so incredibly smart, it's mind-boggling, yet so stubborn and short-tempered at the same time she must be my daughter! We know that we are blessed - we have 4 healthy children, we live in a wonderful place and we have a roof over our heads.

Despite the fact that I am not the mom I wish I could be, I'm so thankful for my family!

I am also thankful for blogging friends, like Ondrea, who often seems to write thought-provoking posts on things that matter to my heart. This is something she posted last week (August 21) that truly touched me (it's from the "Jesus Calling" devotional):

"I am a God who heals. I heal broken bodies, broken minds, broken hearts, broken lives, and broken relationships. My very Presence has immense healing powers. You cannot live close to Me without experiencing some degree of healing. However, it is also true that you have not because you ask not. You receive the healing that flows naturally from My Presence, whether you seek it or not. But there is more - much more - available to those who ask. ..... When the time is right, I prompt you to ask for healing of some brokenness in you or in another person. The healing may be instantaneous, or it may be a process. That is up to Me. Your part is to trust Me fully and to thank Me for the restoration that has begun. I rarely heal all the brokenness in a person's life. Even My servant Paul was told, "My grace is sufficient for you," when he sought healing from the thorn in his flesh. Nonetheless, much healing is available to those whose lives are intimately interwoven with Mine. Ask and you will receive."

I don't really know how to end this post. I didn't intend for it to be something negative - only a glimpse at the reality of our lives. In a way, it was a process for me to write about it so I could reflect, and not just dwell on the dark stuff. It was also a wake-up call for me that I can't do it all alone - God called us to adopt and he will carry us through the difficult moments:

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

And, of course, I must include a photo of the sweetness that makes it all worthwhile:

The little Russian princess is turning out to be quite a tomboy, what with 3 older brothers and all . . .

PS As I was reading through old posts trying to find the ones to link back to, I came across these words in another post:

When I came down the stairs for the last time, Sofia called me into her room one last time.

She looked at me and said, "I very, very love you, Mama."

Sometimes I wonder if I am deserving of the love of this child. There are so many times I am not the parent I want to be. So many moments I wish I go back and do-over.

But, tonight, she made me feel like I must be doing something right. We have come so far in our relationship. This is such a good thing.

Gosh, maybe I need to copy, laminate and post those words on the wall in the bedroom so I can be reminded daily that's it's not always a struggle.


Anonymous said...

Hej. Ni är sååå goda föräldrar åt alla era barn! Ni är föredömen i barnuppfostran tycker jag. Jag handlar väldigt ofta fel mot mina barn. Men jag har hört någonstans att det är bra för barnen att föräldrarna inte handlar perfekt hela tiden, för barnen måste få lära sig inför livet att allt inte är perfekt, rättvist och konsekvent. Och när man som förälder ber om förlåtelse för misstag man gjort, så lär sig också barnen att göra det samma. En liten tröst när man tycker att man inte räcker till. Jag har också hört att "lilla tonåren" börjar vid 6-årsålder...det har du säkert också hört. Sköt om er, kram A-L

kate said...

I think you're spot-on about the puppy--who is getting lots of attention and babying and caretaking. This sounds crazy, but does Sofia like to pretend to be a puppy? Maybe it's an outlet for some nurturing like allowing regressive play?

Hang in there. It will get better. It will. It did before and it will again.

I had something else...and I'm sure it was PROFOUND...but I've lost it.

Dave MacLean said...

Thank you for your post. As you know we too have a 7 year old girl. In this case she is the middle child and we are going through the exact same types of behaviours. While love comes naturally for our children, some of them make it hard work. We have been having conversations with our friends who also have 7 year old girls and they report similar experiences. This is to say that developmentally 7 year old girls need to find their control. They are emotional wizards and are testing the buttons to be pushed. The best thing you can do is show her where the boundaries are that she is seeking and continue to love. Because hard work is always rewarded.

Jackie said...

Barb- Thanks so much for sharing your heart. Trust me, I wish so much to be able to go back and change how I've handled things. Know you are not alone in that, or your knee jerk reactions. Thank you for being transparent!

A girlfriend once told me that she was just like our Small Fry... only it was when she first met her husband Having been hurt over and over by men it became a habit to protect her heart. As her future husband would attempt to penetrate the wall she put around herself, she would push him away. Mainly out of fear of being hurt. But he never gave up and eventually that wall she had built around her heart came down, bit by bit.

Your telling and showing Sophia that you both love her very much and reinforcing that over and over will help penetrate that wall she has built for survival through the years at the orphanage.

I am so glad you found that old blog post. It is good to be reminded of those good days when we are in the midst of a string of not so good ones. (I'm going to go back and look through my old posts as well). I would print it and tuck it away in your nightstand to re-read whenever you need a little encouragement!

And I agree with both you and Ondrea, we can't do it alone. But God is right there next to us, because as much as you care about Sophia, He cares more... about both of you! I'll be praying for you!

tammy said...

((hugs)) i wish i had an instruction manual too! i'm always messing up.

it sounds sounds like you are a wonderful mother. keep up the good work!

Craig and Phyllis said...

Oh Barb, I wish we could sit down and talk face to face! I'm there with you! We (mainly me) have heard such words from one of ours several times. In fact, the last time was this past Monday. You know it can happen, you are prepared for it, you understand it, but it still hurts so terribly bad! I was contemplating this situation, also, this morning in my quiet time. God showed Himself faithful in the whole process of the adoption. I KNOW that He will be faithful to guide us and give us strength and wisdom to raise these precious children to be the the men and women that He designed them to be.

Thank you for sharing your heart! Thanks also for sharing your friends post.

PS. By the way, what else did your social worker tell you to expect?!! We didn't get that kindof info from ours!

AddingOn said...


Sometimes I think we could just post for each other!! Our situations are similar in many ways. Adding a girl to a mix of all bio boys is one of them. I don't deal well with the whining either, have zero tolerance for it. Yesterday I had apologized to
Anastasia for overreacting to one of her misbehaviors (she apologized also) She also said sometimes when I have to do something I don't want to I start whining like baby, just all of a sudden I get very very cranky, I do not know why, but it's Ok, you love me anyways right Mommy?"
Haha, well that about sums it up, I think part of it is a girl thing. But all things do not need to be said in a whiny tone!!
I feel your pain, literally!!!
And I know it would appear to others that at time we are treating our adopted children stricter than others, we know that it is what has to be done, in the family unit they are still like toddlers, they constant and immediate praise and repercussions.
I think it's a good sign that she said it while she was angry (see my last post), she feels safe enough to say those things but know that you will still love her
Hang in there!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for you honesty. Sometimes things have to get really bad before they get better...or something. :)

You´re doing a great job.
Kram, Susse

Mom on a Mission said...

Oh wow, thank you SO much for speaking this out! It's so reassuring to other moms that we aren't alone and it's so good to show all sides of the adoption experience.

And thank you for saying that you were touched by my post. It's always my hope that someone will receive the words in the same light that I did... and you and I have bonded pretty quickly, I just feel connected to you and have missed your posts over the past few days.

Okay, enough about that. Sophia will come around. Hopefully it won't take too long. Consistency is the key for her. It's SOOOO trying. I know that nails on a chalkboard thing.... I have that going on around here some these days with Liam. It's so hard to get it right all the time. And you can't. Our attachment therapist says you just have to get it right 85% of the time. That's still a pretty high standard for us humans, but God can shoulder this. He 'funds what He favors' so to speak, and He will fund this too!

Hugs and chocolate for you! Wish I was there and we could share a cup of coffee and hash it all out! :)

Amy said...

Barb... I wish I was there and could give you the biggest hug. What a powerful and true posting and I want to thank you for it. For sharing all the struggles that sometimes hurt to share...

You are such a strong woman - and I so admire that. You may not feel it all the time - but you are!! My knee jerk reactions aren't always pretty either. Those darn emotions always get in the way.

She's come so far -- it's amazing.

Nancy said...

Hi Barb, Just been reading the new posting, wish I could be there and give you a big ((((HUG))))....know where you are coming from.
Chin up there girl, you can do it!!

And yes, change will have an effect on people, especially the younger ones........

Take Care,
Love to you ALL,
Nancy and Colin

Over-Caffeinated X 4 said...

hehehe.... glad I am keeping you on your toes with the blogger id's. You know already that I started a pregnancy blog for my best friend and next door neighbor.

And then I started a blog to journal the daily affects of medication for Liam because we are doing some dietary supplements right now, some med changes, etc. etc. and I thought it would be good if I could keep a log of what the days were like.

So... now you know. But I am trying to figure out how to consolidate my accounts, so if I ever get that one figured out then I will certainly stop leaving comments as a random blogger! :)


Over-Caffeinated X 4 said...

By the way, how DID you figure it out?

the wild raspberry said...

hang in there sound like a wonderful mother who wants what is best for all her children~~don't beat yourself up....we all make mistakes!
you are giving it your all and that's what God finds pleasing.

have a great weekend~


The Holms

Denmark Road Trip

The outskirts of St. Pete

St. Petersburg

Saint Petersburg: Sankt-Peterburg, Russian pronunciation: is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. The city's other names were Petrograd (1914–1924) and Leningrad (1924–1991). Founded by Tsar Peter I of Russia on 27 May, 1703, it was the capital of the Russian Empire for more than two hundred years (1713–1728, 1732–1918). Saint Petersburg is home to more than two hundred museums, many of them hosted in historic buildings. The largest of the museums is the Hermitage Museum, featuring interiors of the former imperial residence and a vast collection of art. Celebrating the 300th anniversary of its foundation, Saint Petersburg was selected as the main motif in a recent Finnish commemorative coin, the €10 Mannerheim and Saint Petersburg commemorative coin, minted in 2003. The reverse of the coin features a view of Saint Petersburg, with the Peter and Paul Fortress and its three turrets. In the coin the words "St. Petersburg 1703-2003" can be seen.