Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Hungry Inner Younger Child

Our family is one strange bunch, but then you all know that. I know many would actually label us "freaks" if given the opportunity. No doubt eyes have rolled a lot at moments as we share about the oddities of our lives that others can't even having kids sleep on our bedroom floor 3 nights out of 4.

But what many people simply don't understand is that we are not parenting the norm. We are parenting children whose childhoods were interrupted, or never really ever truly began. It creates within them a deep hunger for what was missed, and it is our gut feeling that if we don't somehow provide that in the ways we can, we will be in for big trouble down the road, for the soul never rests until it has been allowed to move through each developmental stage and process it, or at the very least to revisit a stage that was never fully experienced to work it all out.

Once in the past we had this happen, and here we are again. Angela and Olesya both asked us if they could have baby bottles. They were playing with our friends daughter and after she left one night Olesya said "I never had a baby bottle, I wish I have one." I explained that she most likely did have one but couldn't remember it, but that seemed to have little impact, and Angela jumped in saying "I want baby bottle too! Please Mama, we have baby bottle?" and then both proceeded to ask a couple more times before I realized this was one of those stages we need to revisit. Today at Walmart, along with a light bulb for an Easy Bake oven, we purchased 6 baby bottles.

They were opened up before we even left the parking lot.

Upon arrival at home, all 5 kids grabbed their baby bottles and filled them with milk or lemonade. We talked about being rocked as little babies, and Matthew grinned as he remembered the songs I made up and sang to him. I told them all they each had to let me rock them with their bottles, and Kenny reminded me that I did just that with him when he came home. What I loved most was that there wasn't a single moment of embarrassment out of any of them over this, and in fact when we had to go get haircuts each child brought their baby bottle along with them in the car, Olesya's tucked safely inside a handmade purse at her hip.

Weird? Yea, I'll give you that, but then nobody ever accused us of being normal. I'd much rather get strange looks from unknown others and meet our kids unique needs than to worry about what is being said behind our back. We had no time for rocking this evening, but I intend to do just that tomorrow, even Angela with her long, gangly legs looked at me eagerly when I offered. I can't imagine not doing it, for it is what our children need, and I am their mother...the one who is supposed to meet those nurturing needs.

This ongoing desire to step back in time, to be mothered and fathered by their new parents, is ramping up. Talking to Olesya yesterday about her birthday and being such a big girl she looked at me with pain filled eyes and said "But Mama...I not that old, I still a little, little girl, OK?" as she begged me to allow her to have the time she needs to step back, then gradually grow up at a slower pace.

I am grateful beyond words for the boys, who shrug their shoulders and say "Hand one over!" rather than hoot and holler about how silly or babyish it is.

Our little 11 year old needs to be 8 or 9 for awhile, or maybe even 4 or 5, and we are doing our darnedest to allow it for as long as we can. They both need to live in the magical world of the tooth fairy and Santa Clause, at least for a little while. They need to play with baby dolls and stuffed animals for as long as they might need to so that they can then gradually move forward at a speed that works for them...and they need to be protected while this process occurs. They need Barbies and Little Pet Shops, bubbles and glow sticks. They need lullabies and loving snuggles for a long time to come.

They also need the freedom to be the wise old woman that resides within each of them which makes herself known on occasion, and that wisdom deserves to be respected. It can be mind boggling difficult to keep up with, but recognizing the two worlds our daughters are trapped between is terribly important. It validates their life experience, and it keeps them from feeling so alone.

And after all, childhood is not that long anyway. Let 'em have it while they still can.


Anonymous said...

You are just the perfect mom for each of your kids, Cindy. I know enough from my own reading and parenting older adopted children, that they do need the chance to work through whatever phase they might feel they missed. What's especially wonderful in your situation, is that your kids have the freedom and support within your family to retrace those steps. Thinking that when they decide the baby bottle stage is passed, there are still lots of varieties of water bottles (sippy cups, too) with tops that require sucking.

I've cradeled our two oldest a few times, when they would allow. It often came after a rage and heartfelt talks and apologies. That's when they would allow it, with no one else around. In your case, your other kids all seem to understand these issues and it doesn't seem it would be an embarrassment to any. Keep on doing what you know in your heart is right and essential for your kids. If nay sayers would truly stop and put their own child in the situation your kids spent most of their lives in...truly consider what your children missed by not living within the bounds of a family's love...they would stand in awe of all the progress that's already been made. I know I do, even having lived through adopting girls ages 10 1/2 and 11yrs. The world, as you know, looks from the outside, but has little understanding of what this takes to help our kids heal and move toward healthy, adult lives.

I also grew up playing with dolls and pretending a lot more than it seemed others did. I had a great friend from 2nd grade on. Long after friends were listening to 45's on their record players (dates me!), we were still enjoying "Little Kiddles" and using miles of masking tape to create dollhouse furniture. We were old enough to drive the lawn mower, yet we still loved to pack a lunch, hitch her wagon to the mower, and pull each other out to a field for a picnic. We had many adventures, and I consider myself blessed to have pretended long into my childhood. Even back then, people teased us, as if something was wrong to have such a good friend of the same sex you spent so much time with. In high school, my older sister's cool, athletic, boy friend asked me once if I was "still going steady with... (insert my friend's name)?" I knew what kind of friendship we had and just felt sorry for people who had never known what it was like to have a loyal friend. We're still in touch, after 47yrs.

Your kids will be healthier emotionally than kids who have felt the need to grow up way too fast. Thanks for your honesty.

Nancy in the Midwest

Lindsay said...

I can't think of any adoptive parent who would disagree with a word you are saying. I'm so glad your kids can be exactly where they need to be without judgement or shame. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

I'm a friend of Dee's in Atlanta -- I adopted my daughter about the same time she adopted hers and we took Russian lessons together. We adopted my daughter in 2004 from Ushtobe Kazakhstan in 2004 at almost 9 years old. She looks like she is from the same tribe as Matthew! We bought her lots of little kid toys and she loved them -- we used to rock with her baby bottle and her baby -- me holding her and her big bottle and her baby doll Chester with his little bottle. She needed that and so did I because my son had died the year before and I was still grieving for him. I admire your devotion to your children and your willingness to meet them where they are and mother them deeply. All my best wishes, Linda in Atlanta

Truly Blessed said...

Oh, how I love how you parent your kids. You are the best Mama they could have!!!

Anonymous said...

my husband and i have had many children over the years ,and some need to be close for a while and same dont , then there are those that never want to be apart from you my youngest is that on 16 yrs old and truley enjoys being with us .and thats makes me so happy .because we all know it wont last forever . each child grows at there own pace and as parents we respect them and guide them. that is the true blessing from our lord.

4texans said...

It's wonderful you are not afraid to treat them like babies when they need it. When I read in books advice to offer baby bottles and play 'baby', I felt so weird about it. I kept reading about it though and finally bought a baby bottle for Nicholas. I gave it to him a few times while rocking him. We both needed that I think to help feel more bonded. He likes for me to carry him like a baby. They grow up so fast, I'm glad he lets me rock him/and sing before he goes to bed. You are wonderful parents!

Jo's Corner said...

Oh, this is so sweet! Makes me cry tears of Joy for your daughters...because they have been Blessed with a Momma who truly "gets it". Hold 'em close. They absolutely NEED this type of nurturing. We all do. I just found your blog today and look forward to following! Hugs from MN ~ Jo