Sunday, January 27, 2008

Two years? hmm, seems longer

So, after a little prompting from a friend to update this blog, I opened a Word screen and am forcing myself to type. Of course, the friend wanted something a little entertaining and that’s exactly the reason I haven’t written for a few weeks: just not feeling entertaining so much.

January 10 was the second anniversary of becoming Nora’s mother. I know you shouldn’t look to the calendar to measure your progress in life, but using those little squares to keep track of stuff is hard to resist even when a timeline really just doesn’t fit the facts. Two years ago I could never have predicted the course this attachment dance with Nora. Never, never, never in a million years could I have predicted it would play out this way, never. The progress seems glacial. I haven’t written because I’ve been discouraged and sad that I couldn’t sit down and whip out a bit of adoption lore treacle about a crooked path that led a lost heart to her true home. I mean, geez, it's been two years, shouldn't that count for something? It hasn’t worked out that way. Two years later and we’re still walking the crooked path with no pretty ponies and rainbow finish lines in sight.

And the think is, I thought I was prepared. I thought I knew what I was doing. After all, this wasn’t my first time at the dance. It took me six months to feel the heart lurch moment with Mimi and she was a tiny sweet baby, only 10 months old, when I met her in China. My love for YuYu grew slowly too, but is now so profound I kind of sort of understand all the sickly sweet love letters written by adoptive parents who gush about feeling like their child has always been with them even though the child just joined the family. And, of course, Ellie, the child who made me a mother, had me at hello. I thought I was ready to deal with the emotional roadblocks my limited imagination could conjure up prior to the last adoption trip, but I wasn’t prepared to not like her very much.

So here is Nora, a stubborn, pessimistic, demanding, pouting, self-pitying, easily angered, impulsive, queen of one-upmanship. A needy and annoying child I wasn’t at all prepared to parent. The shame of it all is that I have been so very lazy. I have been resistant to even acknowledge the hard work that it is going to take to become the parent she needs let alone to roll up my sleeves and start shoveling already. I buy the parenting books and fall asleep trying to read them. Most of those books are so poorly written, so grindingly boring, I can’t stay awake long enough to sieve through for the nuggets of advice. I think I finally have come to terms with the idea that Nora is not going to change to adapt to my default parenting style and that I am the one who will need to change to adapt to her needs. But hell, it’s taken me two years to force myself to face that conclusion? And I don’t think it’s taken me so long because I’m dense, but I am lazy. And yeah yeah yeah, I won’t beat myself up too hard. It might not all be on account of my sluggishness. I might be related to the size of the load I’m already carrying and the fear that one more stick in the bundle could break me, but I’ve got to gird my loins and shoulder the additional load, to mix a metaphor or two.

And also in my defense, although the progress I have made is small, it is progress. I don’t sob in the shower anymore. I don’t indulge my huge feelings of regret. I used to fantasize about turning back the calendar and making different decisions. I fantasized about taking a different road where Nora was someone else’s daughter, a family that might not see her as a problem, a family that could see only her excellent qualities, of which there are many. I fantasized about how easy my life could be if I had reined myself in and stopped at three, like a sane person. I used to read the older adopt yahoo boards and I tried put a good effort into “fake until you make it” parenting-like behavior. My mistake was in deluding myself into believing that faking it was enough and that some day I would pass the magical mark and it wouldn’t be fake anymore, that I would magically love her like she needs to be loved and I wouldn't have to do the hard work necessary to reach that mark.

I am letting go of those delusions. I know I'm going to have to work hard to learn how to love her and parent her the best way I can. I need to stop looking at this child as one task too many and start looking at her as the catalyst for my own improvement as a person and as a parent. It has been so easy to parent the first three and I’ve been so reluctant to fully admit the challenge Nora has set before me, but it has only taken two years for me just to arrive at the point where I can put a positive spin on the ordeal. It doesn’t mean that she still can’t push my buttons like a pro from Dover, but I am going to learn how to sing back with more than one note. I’ve got to expand my emotional range, and I have, a little. I’m going to learn to be happy about the growth and also for the pretty, pouty little reason for it. I will learn to drop the resentment and be proud of our progress along the crooked path.

So check this space in another twelve calendar squares. Who knows what kind of treacle might be flowing after a year of my new and improved attitude.


Yes, Minister... said...

I am so glad that you posted. When ever I see you in my bloglines ~ I rush over to read ;D

As I was reading this, it seems hard to believe that it has been two years. You have come so far and faced so many challenges. What impresses me most about you is that you never give up. I was talking to my friend the other day and I was SO frustrated with Li Li - I just wanted to "strangle" her. Talk about persistent and strong willed - this child - UGH! But I honestly think that's what it is - parenting is about wanting to at times but not doing it:D In a sense - recognizing the struggle to control them or be controlled. Li LI and Nora and so much alike and yet so different. Right now, as I type this, she is cleaning up the confetti she made out of Ian's homework that he forgot to take to school this morning. Can picture how mad he is going to be when he get home - LOL! She knows that it his and that she is not suppose to touch it - but she does. I could punish her - but she doesn't care, and right now she knows that she can out-scream my wits. I think that someday - far off - Nora will wrap her arms around you for never giving up on her. We joke with Li Li that she is going to take over the world in her evil princess lair, the way you described Nora - I thought that you were describing my child. I see great thing from both these girls. I would love for you to pop over to my blog and read the post - To All My Favorite Moms... You are great mom to those girls, and the fact that your are so willing to better yourself for them is just another testimony of how much you do love them.

Ladybug hugs,

Global Girl said...

Good for you, Marji & nice to see an update!

Take care :)

Anonymous said...

Glad you posted.

Can't imagine the frustration and sadness and/or whatever else it took to post your two year update.

As always, I care. I'll keep reading. I'll keep encouraging. And most of all, I'll keep believing.

(from Iowa)