Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's not really about turning off the DVD player

Adoption is hard. From the outside, it looks all cozy and perfect and happy. Within our home, it's frustration and tantrums and the need to control... every... single... thing. A 15 minute meltdown that included throwing himself on the floor the other night was all a result of me turning off the DVD player when apparently he wanted to do it. The hardest part about that is that it's not consistent. Sometimes he wants me to do it, sometimes he doesn't care who does it but if it's a moment when he has decided he wants to do it and mommy didn't read his mind and figure that out - it's like the world just ended. Sometimes we literally turn it back on and let him shut it off. Sometimes when he wants to shut the door instead of me - we open it back up and re-shut it just to avoid a "situation". What I struggled with is - should I always turn it back on and let him turn it back off or does he somehow need to learn to let it go. In that moment with the DVD player the other night, I decided to try to teach him about letting go while trying my best to be calm and explain it. Here's me trying to reason with a kid freaking out saying "Mommy didn't upset you on purpose. Mommy didn't know you wanted to turn it off. It's already been done buddy - please just let it go and move on. It's ok. I promise, it's going to be ok." Honestly, he didn't hear one word I said because he was screaming and throwing himself around and mad at me. With him specifically - the meltdowns do no get resolved by me trying to talk him through it. I have a hard time with it because I seriously have a physical stress reaction anytime he cries or whines or throws a fit. This urge to fix it immediately overcomes me. So what I'm learning is that I too need to let it go and realize it's not the end of the world and it really will be ok. Letting him cry for a second is not going to traumatize him for life. I need to remember that. So what I have to make myself do when he's just not going to let it go - is do the dishes or go to the bathroom or just focus on something for a minute. He sees that I haven't left and I'm still here but he also sees that he's not getting my full attention when he acts like that. Even in that and even as I write this - I wonder what the adoption experts would say about it. It's a thought that pops in my head like a million times a day and is quite frankly a stressful amount of pressure to try and figure out what they would say and whether what I'm doing is a good idea or not. But when I do this technique after I've tried talking to him calmly and he still won't calm down - it works. He really does self regulate within a few minutes and then he acts like nothing ever happened and I go along with it and immediately refocus on him and some other activity. And we go on about our day or evening or whatever and he's fine, totally fine.
Everyday is a learning curve. A lot of days, I feel like I fail miserably. I get so frustrated that I yell and then have to apologize to him. What the heck - I'm not a yeller! At least I haven't been for ages. Oh I did not realize how a child could push buttons that haven't been pushed since I shared a bedroom with my 2 brothers all through high school and they used to tease me and get in my face and not give me any personal space at all and I just felt like I was helpless and totally trapped. A lot of those same feelings have been stirred up in parenting. I had no idea they were even still there. It's frustrating to me that responses I haven't had in like almost 20 years are what surface as my first response in parenting. That totally sucks. I spend just as much time trying to get my own emotions under control as I do trying to figure out what to do with his. I write this to say - if you're not a parent yet and you're considering becoming one by adoption or otherwise, don't be surprised if your past junk gets stirred up. I had heard that to some extent but I didn't think that would be me because like I said - I hadn't had those feelings and frustrations in like 20 years so I had all but forgotten about them. Now I'm doing all I can think to do to reprogram myself and be intentional in every single moment so that I respond the way I should and not the way that apparently comes natural to me.
The best thing I know to do is to stay positive - focus on the victories and the sweet moments and how even though it's hard, it could be so much harder. Even though there are a whole slew of attachment adoption related issues - they could be more extreme. He's doing so great when you consider where he's come from. He's doing better than I thought he would be. The hard part for me has been that I'm doing worse than I thought I would. Releasing the guilt of that and just giving myself grace is the journey I'm on. I thought I would be working 100% on doing things to help him attach to me. I didn't even think I'd have to think about me attaching to him. That hadn't occurred to me. But it's a reality and the enemy would love to steal, kill and destroy me with guilt of that fact. But the more I talk about it and be honest with others, the more I realize it's a common struggle and reality for many in adoption. I AM attaching to him but it wasn't instant or 100% of the time like I expected. Just like I'm quite sure it's not for him attaching to me. I just didn't know. And I have to say to myself every day "It's a new day - His mercies are new everyday!" If I get hung up on what I thought I'd feel like vs what is reality or on the fact that I yelled at him or reacted badly - then I get stuck there and end up sad and condemned and depressed. I honestly got stuck there for a little while at first. But what I feel like God has been saying to me (and maybe He is saying it to you too) is this: "Let me help you. You are not in this alone. You're not perfect and that's ok. I'm teaching you and refining you. I know what Mihretu needs. I will be His father. I will help you parent him. Stop trying to do this in your own strength or putting expectations on yourself. I am with you. I will not forsake you. And I do not condemn you. I want you to experience joy and life to the full. Hold on to me." I don't know if that will encourage anyone else who reads this but it encourages me. And that encouragement is what I hold onto especially on days when the DVD player getting turned off causes a major meltdown.

3 comments:

  1. What a great share that was. I have to admit, as an adoptive parent, it's nice to hear some of types. feelings I've had are not just me...that others feel them too. Like not some of the attachment issues both parent and child. You're right, patience, love and persistence along with God and good things will come. You're doing a great job!

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  2. Great post Autumn! I commend you for "keeping it real". When I was a newly adoptive parent three years ago, I was the queen of putting on a happy face. I did not want anyone to know about the struggles, the meltdowns, the yelling, the running away (yep, my then ten-year-old physically ran away and I had to chase her down and carry her back home - twice) and all the other stuff that was going on at our house. I was an "experienced" mom, or so I thought, and I didn't want anyone to know how badly I was blowing it as an adoptive mom. Our family has come so far in that period of time! But, I so wish that I would've had read more blog posts like yours back then. Kudos to you for writing it and encouraging yourself and others. It sounds like you are doing an awesome job! Continue to seek God. He will comfort you and guide you every step of the way!

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  3. Thank you for your honestly Autumn. Reading your blog has been an incredible blessing to me!! I am a single mom still in waiting to bring home my little girl from Vietnam and I can't tell you how much I appreciate you sharing the realities of how difficult this journey is going to be. I know that I get caught up in my Fantasy Moments when I picture how perfect and wonderful it will be and posts like this are a good wake up call!!! I want to be as prepared as I can be for the struggles ( although I don't think you can ever be fully prepared until you experience it! ) and I love following the ups and downs of your journey, It sounds like you are doing an amazing job with him, you are both blessed to have each other!! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

    Have a Happy Easter!!

    Laurie

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