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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Swimming in Cluelessness

I need to warn y'all that - for the most part - I'm gonna blow past recent events around here, including yesterday's post. And I'm gonna do THAT because the only way I can continue to write is to pretend that Our Little Tongginator is the same lil corner o' the blogosphere that it always was.

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

(It's fishbowl terminology, y'all. Go with it.)

(I'm in a fishbowl.)


One of the few things I'm NOT gonna blow past, however, is a very thought-provoking comment written by Lisa (Briana's Mom) that included this excerpt: May I ask a question? Were you aware of all the items on this list before you adopted T from China or did you learn a few of these points along the way?

Lisa, hon, we've been home with our Tongginator for just over five years now. And to answer your question - were we aware of these things before we adopted Little Miss Tongginator in 2005 - all I have to say to THAT is... BwwwwaaaaaHaHaHaHaHaHa!

*deep breath, while wiping a few tears away*

Yeah. Ahem. This is where I should probably admit that the Husband and I were quite probably The Most Clueless Adoptive Parents Ever back in 2004 and 2005. Lest you think I pretend humility, perhaps I should share with y'all a conversation I had with our social worker around our two-year adoption anniversary. This social worker, whom we ADORE, confided, "We are so impressed with all you both have done, but - I have to tell you - we were really worried about you right before you traveled. You seemed so ready during the homestudy process, but then later... well ... we were really concerned about your readiness to become adoptive parents."

Umm... yeah... about that...

When we first entered the China-adoption line in June 2004, the wait was 12 months. I planned everything perfectly, meaning I completely ignored our waiting status, telling myself that I wouldn't even think about possibly even considering doing anything until after Christmas. All in an attempt to avoid driving myself crazy.


The wait reduced by half, y'all. Which means we received our referral less than six months after our log-in date, in mid-December. That kinda put a crimp in the whole "I'll worry about this after Christmas" game plan. I even remember our social worker wailing at me in late November, "why haven't you gotten your immunizations yet?" and I replied, "we have plenty of time for that." And then she REALLY wailed at me, "No! You don't! Haven't you been reading the emails I've sent you?"

Umm... yeah... about that...

(I totally ignored her emails. You know, so that I didn't think about the wait.)

The Husband and I got serious during our wait between Thanksgiving and travel, y'all. Yep. We both read The Lost Daughters of China by Karin Evans. The Husband also read River Town by Peter Hessler. (Go! Him!) A few weeks before we traveled, I skimmed through Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray. Oh, and I read the first three chapters of Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft by Mary Hopkins-Best before I put it down in absolute horror.

That - and two conversations with our social worker about the importance of incorporating Chinese culture into our home - that was IT, y'all. We didn't even know of the existence of adoption Yahoo! groups and on-line forums. Like I said, we were probably The Most Clueless Adoptive Parents Ever. Actually, there is no probably about it... we WERE The Most Clueless Adoptive Parents Ever. It's embarrassing to think about now.

And then we met our Tongginator.

And things rapidly changed.

Our introduction into adoption parenting pretty much involved us walking into the fiery furnace and not coming out for about three years. I knew we faced some serious challenges within hours of meeting the Tongginator. I knew because my travelmates kept saying things to me like, "Look! She can move a toy from one hand to the other! THAT'S a good sign!" and also "I don't think it's autism because look at her eye contact!"

Yes, y'all, it was terrifying.

And yes, there are people who have met children in a very similar condition to the Tongginator who chose to leave China with empty arms.

We made it through the adoption trip and almost immediately connected with our social worker. Who was phenomenal. She referred us to all number of professionals, and we followed the maze through referral after referral, seeing occupational therapists, pediatricians and physical therapists, registered dietitians and on and on.

Through it all, the Tongginator seemed to improve in her attachment to us.

Except she didn't.

We had a travel group reunion about seven months after we first arrived home. After watching the other girls with their parents, the husband and I - in our hotel room, that first night - realized how far behind the Tongginator was in her attachment to us. But that trip changed things for us. Because the Tongginator LOVED seeing her China cousins again. So much so, she gave me my first kiss that weekend. I had kissed her plenty, but she had yet to kiss me until that weekend reunion trip.

Seven months after we arrived home.

Seven. Months. Y'all.

A few months after that, at Christmas, my momma gifted the Tongginator with her first Mandarin language DVD. And the look of sheer joy that appeared on the Tongginator's face? Finally created the light bulb moment for her momma. I realized that our Tongginator? Really, truly felt the loss of her culture... her language... her connections... very, very deeply. Which meant that the Husband and I?

Were gonna have to change the way we did things.

I mean, we had been doing all of the "typical" attachment things: babywearing, regression, keeping our social circle VERY small for months on end, gentle holding time, always having either mom or dad with her (usually me), time-ins rather than time-outs, constant parental interaction, consistent routine and the like.

But we had never really addressed her losses.

And we needed to do that. Part 2 Tomorrow...


Anonymous said...

Oh my, your story resonates with me. By the way, you weren't the most clueless because there was a whole club out there and I think that I was president.

Both of our waits were only 12 months but the books or not reading books were identical. I remember reading an attachment book (1 chapter) and deciding I didn't want to read it because then I would start to look for things. I told myself, "Just love them for who they are." I think I may have done things a bit better had I some of that knowledge in my back pocket instead of still in the book.

Love reading your blog as it reflects so much of both our journeys. And clueless...to think what I have learned about adoption corruption in the last 4 years is unbelieveable. I did search though and could find nothing. I was on yahoogroups since 2002, but again nothing on the general lists. I can't begin to tell you how inadequate I have felt.

Keep up with your comments because you are educating the new parents to be.


Aus said...

Morning TM - can't wait to read Part 2!!

And just a couple thoughts - you weren't alone - add us to the 'clueless club' - and like you we'd read all the books yada yada....plus we had three nearly grown bio kids - how hard can this be?

Isn't it nice to be young and foolish? ;)

Oh - and one other thought - being parents (adoptive / foster / or bio etc.) means being clueless. If we weren't - we'd never do it....but we'd miss out on the greatest Gifts from God - kids!

hugs - aus and co.

Kris said...

We were members of the Clueless Club too. We read "Toddler Adoption:The Weaver's Craft" and "The Primal Wound" b/c we were required to and just checked it off the list - kind of like, "painted the room", check!! Didn't let either book sink in - way too scary. For what it's worth, I'm not sure you can ever be really prepared.

I was also a member of the Clueless Club with with my bio son. He's not talking at age 3? He can't stop jumping and running? He doesn't understand half of what is said to him? Eh...he'll catch up. His Special ed teachers were clueless too. "I don't know what he has but it isn't autism so that's good." Turns out he has SPD, receptive/expressive language disorder and visual processing problems. Didn't start therapy till age 5 when symptoms were clearly present well before that.

Yeah, I definitely consider myself to be among the most clueless of adoptive AND natural parents. You are not alone!!!!

Tonggu Grammy said...

EVERY prospective parent is clueless to begin with. You learn as you and your child work your way through life. I agree with Aus. If we had a clue, we'd be too scared to start this journey and then we'd miss out on the tremendous blessing. Our job is to get a clue and love them no matter what. That's it!

LynnieB said...

Loved this post too (I love all of your posts!) and it definitely struck a chord with me as my son, who is now 4 (adopted at 35 months), kissed me for the very first time this weekend. It took him 14 months to do it. And, boy, did this Mama's heart melt into a big old puddle.

The Gang's Momma! said...

First, of all, YAY for LynnieB - first kiss? :) TOTALLY melt-worthy. I remember the first time Li'l E welcomed a "family" hug here, without fear or jealousy. I felt so mushy for days.

Second, we were among the clueless. And we were clueless about JUST. HOW. clueless we were. We were surrounded by folks who were of the "just love them enough and make this their new normal and you'll be okay," camp.

Which, looking back, should have been my first clue - as I really have always tried to not parent in such broad sweeping generalizations!

But yeah, we were clueless. And no matter how much I read or how much I interact and pick the brains of other AP's like you, I still feel like I need to know more, so we can work out a balance and a resting place for all these issues. I have come to accept that though; and am actually helping myself to enjoy the quest for more tools, more information, etc. Like, I don't have to "nail it down" all at once and get a complete handle on it all. I can let myself continue to learn and try and figure out as we go.

And Li'l E? Well, her delightful spirit and exuberant little self makes all the learning and growing so worth it. . . Even when we mess up, she loves me and lets us figure out a better way next time.

Elizabeth@Romans8:15 said...

I was a little less clueless, but ONLY because I just traveled 5 months ago, and I had found blogs like yours--that told it like it is and brought home the reality of all this to me.

I still agree that you can't REALLY process all of this loss with your children until you live through it with them. But people like you are helping all of us be better prepared, and I thank you for that!

Lisa (Briana's Mom) said...

I spurred a whole new post! Yay me! Except I didn't mean to make you cry. :)

Reading these comments so far, I'm so glad to know that I was not the only one not wholly prepared for what I was to encounter in the future with my adopted daughter from China. I knew some things, but definitely not everything. I can't believe how much more I've learned in the almost three years since bringing Briana home.

Can't wait for part 2... :D

*Ashley Lou* said...

I should apologize because I AM one of the new fishbowl stalkers. BUT, I am so thankful I have found such an honest blog and over the past few weeks, I have been both blessed and challenged by your posts. The thing I want to encourage you in, is that, without such an honest perspective on the loss, grief, and tragedy that these children (even YOUNG children) face both before and during adoption... I don't know that I would feel as prepared as I do! So, keep it up because PAP's like me, need AP's like you (even if I am adopting from another country).

P.S. You can thank OneThankfulMom for my fishbowl tapping and staring, one link to your site was all it took!


Raina said...

My friend, I have a secret. I have been an adoptee my whole life, and never once thought about any of this until we adopted. Talk about clueless with no excuse. And now, like you, I search books, blogs, yahoo groups, my friends, and my heart for answers. The learning curve is steep for everyone. About attachment issues, corruption in the industry, potential pitfalls? Me, Clueless. The only real preparation I had was empathy, a lifetime of empathy. So thankful we all have you as a resource. So thankful this blog has legs.

mommy24treasures said...

what a great post! looking forward to part 2:)

Pickel said...

AJ was totally opposite. He wanted nothing to do with Russia. He couldnt handle it because of his trauma there. He love it now though.

Desiree' said...

hmm, you and I must have been thinking alike today on the blog front....

Johnny said...

Well said! We were also clueless as our 2004 wait was 4 months and we were scrambling with shots as well. We didn't know about Yahoo groups and weren't as paranoid as some of our traveling group. 3 out of the 5 parents got replacement babies. And we sat nervous in our bedroom at the Holiday Inn trying to figure out if our Girl had all her parts and mental facilities.

Carla said...

We were another whose child didn't give kisses for MONTHS on end. I'm thinking it was at least 7 months.

{HUG} You were not the most clueless adopting parent ever. Promise.

Dawn said...

Hello I am here every morning from now on.. welcome to the fishbowl. ;-) Have to tell ya after a lot of kids and years of adoption experience you can still be clueless cause you then adopt a child who did not know you knew it all and shows you how different they are and how much you still need to know. Ta Da welcome to my world...
in OR.

Kim K. said...

Can't wait to read part II. Bring it on!!

Debby said...

I just read your past post. I must agree with what the other have said. You have a gift for writing. Your words are so true. I agree with everything. I have a few personal comments:
On discrimination.....this happens to same race adoptions. My son was so discriminated because of his behavior and because of his past life. (Neighbors, friends, strangers, grandparents)
I was told over and over again that my son was so lucky to have us. My comment was that every child deserved a home and that we were the lucky ones.
Hope......sometimes when I felt we had hit the bottom I would see a rainbow...no kidding....it seemed to be God's proof that there was hope.
Attachment......we bonded and we loved and he loved back. But being separated was so physically devasted to my son. He even had to be hospitalized twice when my husband had to leave on business trips.
We have a rough week with our adopted adult son. When you adopt it's for a lifetime. It can be so hard.
Thanks for your words. ((((HUGS)))

The Gypsy Mama said...

When I read posts like this one I just wanted to hop in the car and drive over the bridge to hug you! Instead, I clicked over from my reader to leave a comment and my JAW. DROPPED. OPEN. as I saw your GORGEOUS site make over!! OH my word - - how have I missed this??!! I blame the fact that you are not on twitter!

Good grief - it's so dreamy. LOVE IT!

The Byrd's Nest said...

Oh yes...I was you also:) Read all the books I was supposed to read even finished them but nothing like living it.

I am happy to report, because I did ask you to pray for us, that this week Emma Jane kissed me for the very first time...HER idea...WITHOUT copying Lottie. Three years, five months home with us. Matter of fact, yesterday also she ran up to me and threw her arms around my waist and told me she loved me. HER idea....WITHOUT copying Lottie. God is faithful....He has blessed me. I am not ignorant though...we have a long way to go and this child is holding alot of feelings inside. I pray that I am the kind of mother that can help her get them out.

Can't wait to read Part 2!

Aunt LoLo said...

I can't wait to hear how y'all started incorporating CHINA into your home. On pins and needles...

Annie said...

Can't wait for part 2 and I understand so completely!!

Sharie said...

Clueless - as I've told you recently. I waited 5 LONG months for my first REAL hug. I didn't even realize I wasn't getting hugged back until the first time Amelia reached up and HUGGED ME, on her own. Man did it feel good. I still remember looking at our daycare provider and saying "She just hugged ME!"

LucisMomma said...

I was clueless on purpose. I'm already a stepmother (plus we had bio children) and I knew that anything I had read on being a better stepparent was not helpful to our situation (my stepdaughter was in real need of help--she was/is still scary and was violent).

So I put off all those adoption books on purpose, and started reading them around 10 months after adopting. For me it was a good choice, because those books are scary.

Jean said...

Awesome post! It really makes me think about the whole attachment issue. I have thought of posting on this but decided to wait since we are bringing 2 more olders home in June. It will be interesting to compare their attachment to Sarah's. I have often wondered "are we attached" or are we close right now because we spend all our time together. Ever once in a while I see her easily stray and I truly wonder??

Kris said...

there is too much to comment on. i wish i could just pick up the phone and call you.

Norah said...

I'm very thankful you are sharing your story. I always feel more 'educated' after I visit your blog. : )