Here's the thing. You can read the books, go to the training, talk to the experts (other foster and adoptive moms), have adoption experience under your belt, be parenting a two year old and still be completely unprepared for a day like, today.
It started out fine. It actually started very early. I heard giggles and whispers from the room next door at 6:15am. Given the early start and the blustering weather, we were a bit stir crazy by lunch time. I worked up the confidence to run the boys to the dollar store to pick out a treat.
Ben had to work (lucky him), so it was just me and Ty and our new son - the one that doesn't like me much. I have been reading the Connected Child and using some Purvis techniques.
I prepared the boys for what we were doing before we did it. Both at home and in the van before getting to the store. Both boys held my hand as we walked in and enjoyed looking at all the toys and gadgets.
The boys love dinosaurs, so they mulled over that bin the longest. Ty settled on a Brontosaurus, while LJ chose a Stegosaurus. We walked to the checkout and I asked both boys to put their dinos on the counter, so I could pay for them. While Ty patiently waited for his to scan, LJ threw a complete fit. Kicking, stomping, crocodile tears - the whole bit.
Ty is such an even-mannered kid, so this was a first-time experience for me. The checkout lady immediately asked me if she could give LJ the Stegosaurus. I calmly asked her to hand it to me and bent down to LJ's level. I said, "Sweetheart. This is not acceptable. The same rules from home apply at the store (we've had this lecture before). We communicate with words. Would you like to hold your dinosaur (his big saucer eyes nod, yes). Then you need to say, "May I hold my dinosaur, please?"
In the quietest voice with eyes to the floor, LJ stopped crying and said, "May I hold my dinosaur, please?"
"Yes, you may."
I stood up and put my attention back to the cashier. She looked me square in the eye and said, "Good job mama. That's not something you see everyday."
I left the store a few inches taller.
Ben and I have this conversation all the time. The reason so many kids are out of control is because good parenting is a lot of work. It demands constant prayer, attention, and consistency.
We have spent the last two weeks of transition, getting to know LJ. We did less parenting and more observing. We knew that LJ was in for a rude awakening, yesterday, because it was our first official day as his parents. Ben and I were in complete agreement that although LJ wouldn't translate our structure to satisfying love, it's what he needs most.
I know I'm opening myself up to criticism, here, so I would like to say this. We are not addressing things that aren't imperative to his growth in our family (potty training, eating with a fork, taking his shoes off, zipping his coat, etc.). We are, however, taking a very strong stance on the way LJ communicates with us. Apart from bonding issues, it is the most difficult task at hand.
The incident at the store was one of about fifteen today. The more comfortable LJ is with us, the worse his behavior gets. He cries and kicks and pouts every time he doesn't receive on-demand attention or is told "no". Sometimes it's crazy stuff. He wanted more peppers at lunch. My reply, "Sure thing, babe. Let me grab them." I went the fridge and before I turned around he was in hysterics. I was baffled.
I got really good at going to my knees, looking in his eyes, and softly saying, "Sweetheart. I know this is tough. But remember what we talked about? Our family communicates with our words. I can't help you if I don't know what you're feeling. Can you use your words and tell me what's wrong?"
And you know what? He could tell me. Every time.
Sometimes he would tell me, adjust his behavior, and we were able to quickly move on. Other times, he would continue to stare me down, sobbing, with his hands tightly crossed at the chest. Those were the times that I gave him a choice. He could stop crying or he could sit on his bed and cry. Unfortunately for all three of us, he chose option two more times than not, today.
I would put him on his bed and let him kick and scream for a few minutes and then I would come back in to talk. Rinse and repeat.
He never let up.
Sometimes he'd come back from his room completely ready to engage, but other times he was angry and disgruntled. To avoid further kicking, pushing, bullying issues, I had a few conversations with Ty about spacial awareness and giving LJ lots of breathing room.
It made for an exhausting day. When Ben got home, I let him hold him and then asked for five minutes to myself. I just needed to hold my head and let the Holy Spirit minister to me.
I LOVE this boy. I don't like him all the time, right now, and I don't feel even a little bit like his mother, but I'm doing the work...patiently, lovingly, and as gracefully as I can.
I hold on to the sweet moments and disregard the rest. I am not a perfect mother, but I am trying to listen to the voice of God. I find a lot of rest in the fact that neither of my sons will ever remember this time in their life (including the mistakes we make). We just have to get through it.
Because I want to end my day on a high, I want to share a shining moment. Ty and LJ were in their room playing. I was changing over the laundry. I heard Ty asking LJ to pass him some eggs for his "spicy soup". LJ must have complied. Ty said, "How you doing, LJ?"
LJ answered, "I'm fine."
Ty said, "We are so glad you're in our family now. Do you want some of this soup?"
Oh, that makes me smile! God is good.
We will keep taking this one day at a time.