Friday, March 26, 2010

Hiding the Tears

Remind me again that this gets easier, would you?

One step forward, two steps back. I keep telling myself that, I keep trying to overlook the little things, to be the Grown Up with a capital G. Sometimes it is harder than others.

We ARE making progress, I know that. Or at least I keep hoping so. Other times, it feels like not so much. Tonight is one of them.

Tonight I feel like any orphanage mama in any city just doing the job but not even getting the measly paycheck attached, for that is sort of how I have been treated today. It hurts, it is so hard to keep a smile pasted on when you walk quickly back to the bedroom to shed a few tears.

We decided to move forward with 4H, seeing lots of good things that could come from it for our family. Kenny, Angela and Olesya all want to do a rabbit project, so we sat them down on the couch and told them that we would go ahead with it. There was lots of excitement out of all 3, they really loved the babies they saw at the 4H information night, and I sort of convinced Dominick that I thought we should do it. Big hugs for Daddy.

For Mommy, Angela gives a handshake.

Later she throws Dominick's dirty socks at me, as if it were a joke. I wasn't in a joking mood. She came to me for the obligatory (obviously) good night hug, and I get barely touched and she turns and walks away. I wanted to stick out my hand for a handshake, but realized how un-Christ-like that would be. Right now, that is all I can lean on to make it clear how to act, for my natural human instincts want me to be a very different person tonight.

I can't tell you how hard it was to sit there without letting her see how that hurt, to act like it was OK. It wasn't, and even as I sit here typing it I am crying.

The hardest part of all of this, is that you begin to look back over your previous few days and doubt if what you were seeing was real, if the connections you thought were slowly building were all a figment of your imagination or if you are fooling yourself. You don't want to think that, you want to see and feel progress.

It is sort of like riding a horse and getting bucked off, groaning as you get back on your feet and use your hat to dust yourself all the while cursing under your breath that "No horse is going to do that to me, I'll show it who's boss!". Most important of all you want to get back on the horse and ride it again without any of your emotions being exposed intuitively to your horse in the way you hold the reins.

And I am sure that explanation makes absolutely no sense at all.

I am just another woman cooking, cleaning and washing clothes...and not doing a very good job of that as she went to put her PJ's on and they were in the hamper where she placed them this morning wanting me to wash them. We won't talk about how I spent 4 hours driving them back and forth and watching them at the pool and playing racket ball with them.

I don't want to be just another in a long line of caretakers. I want to be Mom.

Not sure if we will ever get there.

At least the socks that were thrown were soft, even if they weren't clean.


As I was typing this Dominick went back into the bedroom after seeing Olesya hike back and forth between living room and their bedroom after Angela was supposedly going to bed. He pulled out a chair, turned on a desk lamp and from below asked Angela if she was happy. She said "Malinky happy". He asked her to come down and talk, and pulled out the other chair for her to sit in. He said she sat down and immediately hung her head and started to cry as he talked to her trying to find out what was wrong. She said "Mama no sad". I guess Olesya must have seen me come out after Angela had gone to bed with red rimmed eyes and gone in to talk to Angela about it.

I am sitting in the chair in our bedroom when he comes in with Angela wrapped up in her pink blanket crying. I get up and hold her close, and her head is hanging between she and I, we both are crying softly, not speaking. Dominick leaves the room.

I pull her onto my lap in the chair and for once she comes willingly, at least for this moment. She lays her head on my shoulder and buries her face in the blanket as we both cry. She said " sad." . I tell her quietly through my own tears how much I love her, how I have loved her for so very, very long. I share with her how many nights I cried wanting her and Olesya to be home with us. I add that I want to be a good Mama for her, that I never want to hurt her. I say how sorry I am that her first Mama was so bad, that I know this is very hard for both of us...but that even when it is hard I will always, always love her.

I hear a softly uttered "Me too...".

More tears.

We sit there like that for awhile, quiet as the tears begin to subside. I rub her back, cradle her as best I can with that long body of hers as I rock her. She sits up as if to leave, then decides to remain there a little longer with my arms around her. Finally, she gets up to go to bed and turns to me saying again "Mama, please no sad". I stand up and hold her, and she gently begins to rock my body a little, trying to soothe me and offer me comfort. I then walk her to bed, heading up the ladder to tuck her in.

As I turn to leave, she leans over the side rail saying once again " sad.". I say "It's OK....good night...I love you." and slowly leave the room and walk down the darkened hallway.

Dominick met me back in our bedroom to explain what had happened before she came in. He said it was obvious something was going on as Olesya was going back and forth and did not look at him as she normally would, which prompted him to go check on Angela.

It is Dominick's theory that we are seeing the hurt child start to come out, far earlier than we expected. He thinks this is a sign, despite actions that appear to be to the contrary, that Angela indeed does feel close to me and safe enough with us to share things.

It is hard to be the target, it is hard to ignore the gentle rejection that comes in subtle ways day after day, it is hard to focus on the progress that you know is being made when in between it stings so much. I unkindly said that I wished at moments that once in awhile HE would be the target of all this emotion. Instead, he gets to be the one who receives the easy affection, who has her lean on him all the time when they snuggle side by side on the couch. He is Mr. Fun Time Dad and I am...well...left wondering who I really am to her.

The saddest thing is. that it is not the fault of a single person living under our roof.

Understanding that doesn't make it any easier.

What will tomorrow bring? Will it bring stony silence as the discomfort of the opening of her soul tonight settles in over her? Will it bring a new closeness as we discover that yet another barrier has been broken down that separates us? Or will it simply bring another day like any other, with the good...the bad...and the sometimes uncomfortable.

Oh how I wish my tears could give us both back her lost childhood! How I wish I could have nurtured both she and Olesya so that her hardened heart wouldn't have to be cracked open and a new, softer one revealed within. The eggshells lay between us, tiny jagged little pieces, each a remnant of an old life that neither of us was in control of, and yet both of us are subjected to the results of it. The egg still remains with most of the shell intact, waiting for the inevitable peeling back as the firm yet tender unblemished white and yolk heart are revealed. The crack widens ever so slightly as more pieces fall to the ground to be crushed underfoot in an unceremonious "Good Riddance" dance. It is two sets of feet waiting to prance around over those shells, hers and mine, someday with arms intertwined and broad smiles expressing joy in the closeness we feel for one another. How I would love to take off my shoes and kick up my heels in celebration of that day.

How I hope we make it.


Joyce said...

Cindy - you will make it.. I totally believe that, not because I can see into your heart and Angelas or the rest of your family but becasue God picked up the girls and put them in your lap and said ' Here are your children" and I think that the progress you have made so far has been nothing short of a miracle - actually it is a miracle that only God can perform. I think that you are moving along to become a family so fast that some of the steps are overlapping - progress overlapping with still building up a comfort level.
Can I share a little here?? Not sure if this helps. My (almost 6)son has been home with me for 2 years now, we have moved house 4 times and one of those moves was from Canada to here. And last year he started Kindy(JK in the states) and this year he is pre-primary(SK out your way). Last year with school thrown in he was pretty good, he managed well, he learnts lots - he came home a bit grumpy and mouthy but nothing compared to this year. This years teacher isnt stellar for him, she doesnt give any sort of understanding or compensation for a less than normal life (like her other students who have grown up in the same family for 5 years) and I think is really stressing him out. So much so that I have considered over and over to homeschool him this year and get him back into regular school next year (being a single parent that probably wont happen.)
So I am digressing a little here, but mostly what is most disturbing is his anger directed at me for the 4 hours after school till bedtime. He is argumentive, he yells constantly, nothing is right .. and I cant wait till he is off my hands after 4 hours. Yet I am the one who has cared, loved, cuddled, stood up for him for the last 2 years. I have worked as little as possible to give myself to him as much as I can. But here we are, day after day. And I have tried changing approaches, been calm, been mad, tapped into all sorts of resources when I can and still here we are. I look at you and am amazed that you are where you are. It blows me away at how things are going - and I know that this is not a positive post.
People keep saying that its because they feel safe with us, that they let their hair down. Maybe so but it feels like a long time to get thru this stage of life. Im not sure if its good to hide your tears, I find if Ryan sees me cry, it really does some thing to his heart - that he knows it really hurts me. But then I only have one child and his reactions to me are not visible to other children.
Not sure if this rambling long winded comment helps at all, but know that you are often in my thoughts and I commend you for all that you have gotten thru already.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there Cindy!


Stef said...

Awww, you'll be ok. But these changes won't happen on your timeline, as much as you'd like them to. They need to happen on her timeline.

This has been a big change for you and your husband and your boys, but it's been a monumentally bigger change for Angela and Olesya. Now that you are home, you have the support of your friends and family, who speak your language and are there to lean on, you are in your own familiar home surrounded by your husband and sons and all of your own familiar stuff, and you've all had a lot of time in advance to think about this adoption.

In comparison, they have so little that is familiar and comforting, and so much that is still new. Angela is older and probably is more aware of the impact and implications of all of it than Olesya - the loss, the opportunity - but not really old enough to deal with all of her emotions rationally.

Maybe it is putting too much pressure on her, your always wanting to be so close, and physically close, to her, and she is just not able to handle it yet. Adjusting to being in a new family is really a lot to deal with, emotionally. Let her work through it at her own pace. Don't try to make it at your pace. Don't view it as a competition for affection between your husband and you. And next time you start feeling teary, take a step back and try to see it all through her eyes instead of yours. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Your analogy of being bucked off a horse and getting back on spoke to me. In training horses we make sure that we end on a positive note with whatever we are doing. Often we end early not wanting to overload the horse and expecting and knowing that overnight learning is taking place, that the next day it will be easier to work again on what we were working on the day before. A bit easier if all has been optimal for learning, but not complete, not without setbacks, not without days and months and years of refinement, and some days the horse does not exhibit signs of having absorbed anything. Yet the trust and learning are being built. And that is with horses. Within human relationships how much more complex and multi-layered is the process of building trust and love when there has been pain and anguish. You are all doing a wonderful job.

A side note--Paul and Laura and kids are actively raising rabbits for 4-H and can perhaps provide you with rabbits but can certainly guide you. We also have raised rabbits and can help.

Love you,

Anonymous said...

Are you sure the tossed socks weren't mean as the joke they appeared to be? It could have been an attempt at bonding with you in a safe way. I've thrown dirty socks at people as jokes, and there was nothing mean about it

Ohiomom2121 said...

Dear Cindy,
This is one of those posts that I am sure I will remember when it is our turn. From the outside, it is hard to watch you be so devastated by what we see as a minor step backward, when there has been so much positive in such a phenomenally short time period. But, that is why this will help us someday, b/c if you, the "saint" of adoptions, have as JC put it, "so little faith," then how much more will we have to forgive ourselves when we find ourselves in the same place? I guess it is easier to watch than to go through, which is why this is so helpful to your blog readers who are trying to prepare themselves for this path. So, thank you for your honesty, even tho it is so hard to hear your pain. I hope as you read over this you see how many more forward steps than backward there really have been, and allow Dominick to help you have faith in the end result. Of course, only time will tell the truth, but somehow if you just believe that success will occur, I think that will help it to actually happen.
I do have one suggestion, derived from my days of not being sure of my very reserved mother's love. When she let her guard down and showed that I had the power to hurt her feelings, it served as a lasting testament to the fact that she loved me. Hiding your pain is probably not helpful, so long as you can let it out in a non-angry way. Angela needs to know that in a permanent relationship, she has some responsibility for other people's feelings, and if you don't react when she snubs you, I don't know that would help. It seems like you made forward progress when your red eyes came to Angela's attention, and maybe the process could have been shortened if you had reached out after the handshake and gently said, "ouch" or something to that effect. This is something you and Dominick will need to discuss, b/c I don't have any adoption experience, but as an older child maybe she can learn, on an intellectual level, what her snubs mean and where they come from, and then all three of you can agree to work as a team to get past them. She is obviously ashamed when she hurts you, so if you let her know where those impulses come from and why they are to be expected, maybe she won't add to her self-dislike because of them. Obviously it would take a translator to explain that to her and that lots of adopted children put their stress on their mothers and this is normal, although something that you want to help her stop doing, both b/c it hurts you and b/c it will hurt her if she were to do it in other relationships.
I do sympathize w/the hurt over seeing the bond w/Dominick. My own DH is so bubbly that even my own sons gravitate more to his points of view, and I fear the same dynamic w/adopted children, as I am so much more reserved than he is (shades of my mother?). I am better than she was, but even now it is hard not to envy his ease. However, all the RAD books say if they can attach to one, attachment to others will follow, so it has to be a good thing that she trusts Dominick. You are an awesome mother and leader, and when I am the one dissolving into tears, I know your posts will help. I hope this helps, in return. God bless.

Amy said...

Hi Cindy! As a person on the outside looking in all of the things you are mentioning seem right on track for adopting an older child. Of course, when I adopted my daughter it was the same but so hard to see it for yourself when you are in the thick of it. And you are in the thick of it now. In my research before adopting I read about a gazillion adoption blogs and came to the conclusion that life was pretty rough in the first three months, by the six month point it was about fifteen percent better, at the year mark, things had improved by about fifty percent, by a year and a half things were seventy-five percent better, and at the two year mark life was relatively normal and we had both made the adjustments necessary. Whenever I had a really bad day (or days) I would tell myself that I just needed to make it to the next benchmark (3 month point, 6 month point, etc.)and this helped give me something to shoot for without feeling a need to make everything better (fixed) right now. It helped me to cope. Also, I wanted to recommend an older book on adopting older children that I bought over a decade ago. It has a story about a couple that adopted an older girl and how the girl acted very similarly to how Angela is acting now. It is eerily similar. Which tells me her actions are fairly "normal" even if they feel awful to you (which I can totally understand by the way). Here is a link to the book. They are selling used copies on Amazon for like four dollars.

I think it is a good idea that Angela see your emotions / reactions to being snubbed...she is old enough to know how it feels to be hurt...I am sure she takes care when dealing with her is true she has never had an adult care for her so this is a new experience and it is a learning experience. I think that you should show her healthy responses...meaning when she sticks out her hand instead of a hug you tell her calmly right then and there that her actions hurt your feelings. This way you won't have the hurt feelings build up inside you (which isn't good for you nor a healthy way to deal with emotional pain) and you also don't want to inadvertantly teach her the sorts of things that might lead her to use her "power" to manipulate you. I am not saying she would do this but allowing her to push your buttons without recourse is not good for her or you. Once you let a snub go by undealt with in some way (if even just pointing it out and saying it isn't very kind) then the hurt feeling building inside of you will allow you to take offense at other big or small snubs and even actions that normally might not make you feel bad. This is why you need to address it instead of letting it build inside you like a volcano. Remember to take a little break for yourself Cindy...even if it makes you feel guilty or like you should be at home taking care of the brood. You need to have at least an hour or two of time here and there to recharge. This is important too and will benefit you all in the long run. By the way, I think you are awesome!! I read your blog for the good vibe feeling I get that reminds me of when I first adopted. It fills up my heart and I look forward to seeing how your family is doing in a manner that is very similar to how I check my flowering trees and garden every day for signs of blooms and shoots. You may call yourself an ordinary person but I think many would agree you should modify that and say you are an extraordinary person. Sending you good vibes and hugs from Illinois!

Diane said...

"The hardest part of all of this, is that you begin to look back over your previous few days and doubt if what you were seeing was real, if the connections you thought were slowly building were all a figment of your imagination or if you are fooling yourself. You don't want to think that, you want to see and feel progress"

Right. That is extremely hard and hard to explain to someone who hasn't walked in your shoes. You did a brilliant job of expressing the attachment journey and the challenges. I think what helped me was to accept that the attachment journey was not linear. It is full of peaks and dark valleys. Sometimes when we reach a peak the ground will drop out from under me and I struggle to regain my footing. It is hard to not question everything in those moments.

Bill and Cathe: said...

Don't think of it as one step forward and two back... Rather, think of it as two forward, one back and a little side shuffle!

Home for two and a half years now, our two continue to present occasional challenges, but nothing insurmountable.

Hang in there and give our best to all!

Maureen said...

I know that you have two more posts (for me to read) and are probably beyond this now, but we both know that it will come around again. You can do it! It will be hard, but you can do it! You have a wonderful and supportive family, so don't forget to look to them for love when it is not coming from Angela. And finally, I'm sure you know the story of the footprints in the sand -- Jesus will carry you when you need Him.