Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Minute With Nikki - Don't Take It Personally

All my life, I’ve been blessed by having good groups of friends that came to me through various methods.  They change through the years, some closer than others for a season or two.  There have been times when making these friendships was easier than others and there have been times when I had more time to devote to them.  And then I became a mom and learned about a kind of friend I didn’t even know existed.  (Seasoned moms will know this kind of friend.)  This is the friend that came into your life through your children.

Thankfully there was a sweet group of girls who befriended Yiyi upon her arrival at school after we came home.  In this group there was one little girl (we’ll call her Maci) who was particularly sweet.  She was kind to our child and made a point to introduce herself to Brian and I.  We were instant fans.  So the first opportunity I had to meet Maci’s mom and tell her how awesome her daughter was, I took it.  Of course, anytime a stranger starts gushing about how amazing your child is – that is a conversation starter.  One thing led to another, she taught me a better way to deal with the afternoon pick up, and phone numbers were exchanged. 

Here were are 8 months later and I get to spend about 7 minutes a day with my friend, Maci’s mom.  We park a couple of blocks away and walk over to the school together.  We share updates, talk about field trips, husband’s, children, and weekend plans.  It is glorious.  I don’t have any other friendship where I get to talk uninterrupted to the same girlfriend for 7 minutes every day.

Maci’s mom and I don’t have a ton in common, but the one thing we both share is that we’re both adoptive moms.  Maci’s mom married a young widower who was left with his two young daughters and became an adoptive mom by default when she said yes.  She didn’t get classes and home studies and psych evals and dossiers and a monthly call with a caseworker asking if she was doing ok and more classes and sleepless nights crying as she waited for her babies.  No, quite the contrary.  Her wedding night was spent in a nearby hotel and the next day she walked into her new home with two children, formally adopted some weeks later, and not knowing what was to come.

Two years later: Sometimes Maci’s mom has issues with these two daughters that she just can’t understand.  Feeling like she should certainly know how to deal with things wondering why her natural instincts don’t work with these girls keeps her up at night.  She deals with all the typical kid stuff, along with some behaviors stemming from her children losing their mom they were young (aka. abandonment, grief, loss, tragedy, questions as to “why”, no control, and childhood trauma issues) and they don’t know how to deal with them.  Moreover, they don’t even know what it is that they are even feeling or dealing with.   Because they are children.  So what happens?  Negative behaviors.  Power struggles.  Lack of respect for their mom.  Sleeping issues.  Eating issues.  Difficulties with transitions.  Sadness.  The constant battle for control.  All stuff that most of us deal with every day, but we chose it.  We sought it out.  We spent $35,000 to make it happen.  We got all the help, preparation, and support possible.  Maci’s mom got the love of her life and also a ready-made family. 

Fast forward to the other day.  I was telling her something Yiyi said to me and she said, “ugh, that must have been awful to hear from your daughter.  Were you fuming mad?”  And I responded “Not really. I don’t get to get my feelings hurt.  I don’t get the luxury of getting mad.  I don’t get to take it personally.”  She said “huh, what?” with much interest and intrigue.  So I explained to her about how all the bad stuff happened to Yiyi and how she went through crazy amounts of trauma and loss and all her behaviors were just obvious results from her past.  I was prepared, I expected it all, and I have so many tools for how to deal with things when they come up that I don’t take it personally.  I don’t get mad.  Even when I know Yiyi is trying to get my goat, I just don’t go to that place.  I’m a heck of a lot more effective helping Yiyi cope with her grief if I’m not mad at her at the same time.  

And so Maci’s mom paused and she looked up to the heavens and said, “you’re right. Of course.  How did I not realize that before? That’s genius!”  I said it wasn’t really genius and I couldn’t really take credit for this theory, but that I was glad it resonated with her.  She started talking about all the bad behaviors her girls have and about how bad they make her feel sometimes.  She talked about when they get ugly with their words, how they can say just the right things to make her feel awful…and they know it!  But how much better would her experience have been this whole time if someone would have told her that earlier?

She brought this subject up again a few days ago.  She said looking at things through that lens over the past couple of week has helped her parent her children in a different way.  More love, more understanding, and a happier attitude for her.  She said it’s too bad she didn’t get a home study for her adoption.  She didn’t have anyone suggesting classes.  She didn’t know to even look such places for such things.  So she just dug in and did what she could.  But now, 2 years into their marriage, she realizes she could have done some things differently.  She knows now that she should have parented the children differently than she would have her biological children.  She knows now that she’s spent the better part of two years struggling to bond with children who have had trauma filled rages, all of which she, very understandably, took personally when the kids made it turn personal to her. 

This story has been going around and around in my head since I had this conversation with her.  I’ll pat myself a little bit on the back for helping her, but truly I’m so glad we were able to talk through it.  The lesson here is, no matter what kind of adoption, no matter if the kids get to keep one parent, no matter if it seems like everything is ok, all children who are adopted have to go through The Big Loss and that will shape who they are and how they behave.  And if we, the adoptive parents, can be ready to catch them when they fall, shower them with love and understanding, and ourselves be ready to be more selfless than we’ve ever been before, we can help our children work through their pain to find peace.  

Nikki has been working as an adoption social worker for the past 10 years.  The consummate single gal was married in 2012 and started an adoption process to adopt a 10-year-old with special needs from China soon after.  Nikki loves writing home studies in the Western Missouri area and preparing families for the realities of adoption. - See more at: http://joyinthejourneyadoption.blogspot.com/2014/08/after-placement-issues-eating.html#sthash.2aVLiQN9.dpuf

No comments:

Post a Comment