Lately, I have been giving a lot of thought to how parenting our adopted child will be different from parenting our 'homegrowns'. I think this is a good time to start the dialogue with our family and friends about this.
Children don't come with an instruction manual unfortunately, and many times we as parents have to parent from instinct.
With our homegrowns, issues are typically straight forward. If my child were to drop her lollipop on the ground and have a hissy fit, jumping up and down and screaming like a Banshee - I would not replace that lollipop. I would assume that she either A. is tired and needs a nap or B. needs to learn that temper tantrums will not be benefit her or produce the desired outcome.
No more candy if you are going to behave that way Missy. Nah, uh. Had you behaved appropriately instead of acting like your head was about to spin around... I would have replaced that Lolli.. your behaviour certainly does not deserve another. Remember this for next time.
I think this would have been a normal reaction for many parents.
But what if your child is adopted? Adopted children come from tough places with a past of rejection, abandonment, fear etc. Their hearts are broken and they need a lot of healing.
So - say Zahra drops her Lollipop and erupts in a 10 magnitude, full force temper tantrum... a reaction that completely does not fit the 'event'. Peaking in on the situation, some parents may say, ' That child deserves a spanking (we do NOT spank), or 'What a spoiled rotten brat, she deserves a 30 minute time out in her room.', etc.
But what 'if' her temper tantrum has nothing to do with the dropped candy at all?
What 'if' the dropped candy opened the door and paved the way for her tears to flow... and out they pour, and pour... crying for hours. Spilling her pain and sorrow out until she has no tears left.
THIS is the case for many adopted children. They are hurting and they often need a door opened, such as this minor event to allow them to cry. Crying is part of the healing. Often times parents of adopted children can feel the tension and pain in their children and sometimes have to create a situation that allows the child to find their tears. Perhaps something as simple as saying 'no' to a request to watch TV, while they stand by ready to hold them tight while they cry and cry. Tears not for the TV, but tears for everything they have lost in their young lives and the pain it left behind.
Does this make sense?
So in this instance, putting Zahra in her room for a nap or a time out would be the wrong reaction. The right thing would be to pick her up, hold her tight and allow her a safe place for her tears to fall. Soothe her and acknowledge her pain.
I am so sorry baby. I am so sorry your first Mama wasn't able to be a Mommy to you. It must be awful to not even know who she is or why she felt like she had to leave you. I am so sorry your first years were spent in an orphanage. I am sorry that you may have had to cry yourself asleep, alone and scared. I am so sorry I couldn't have protected you from the things that may have happened to you. I am so sorry you miss your friends and nannies at the orphanage. I am sorry you have lost the only home you knew, the only bed you knew and those who cared for you. I am so sorry that you have experienced more grief in your first years than many people experience in a lifetime. I am so sorry baby.
Yes, I think it's fair enough to say that she will have earned the right to cry - A LOT.
If we couple this with fact that she also is just a regular toddler or child... how the heck do you know what reaction is the right action? Of course we don't want to allow her to get away with murder and grow up to be a spoiled rotten brat. We do have to discipline and correct her... we can't always coddle her when she is upset. But how do you know what reaction is the right action?
It's a fine line here folks, and I have an image in my head of an incident taking place - Zahra pulls another child's hair, or smears poop on the wall... and I stop and do nothing, because I am analyzing it over in my head. Why is she doing this? Is she hurting? Is she acting out of ...? Do I scold her, hold her, give her a time out (in)?... and I frantically flip through my adoption parenting book looking for the answer while the situation escalates to the point of no return.
It gets complicate to the degree that as adoptive parents, you start to analyze every picture your child draws, the way they play with their ear, right down to why are they picking their nose!?
It also just isn't about temper tantrums or behaviours, but it's also about how we treat our children . Feeding them a bottle at the age of 2, 3 or 4, wearing the baby in a sling constantly even though they can clearly walk, feeding them by hand even though they are capable. What you may see as 'babying' them - is actually 'bonding' them. We missed out on so much of it, we need to go back to the beginning sometimes and try to establish it.
It's hard and it's complicated. I know a few new adoptive parents going through some of these challenges now. I try my best to offer suggestions, and to lend a ear or participate in a brain storm - but I am only a Mother of biological children. No adoptive parenting experience here. (yet)... and I find myself stumped for the answers.
So please stand behind me, support me and my judgement as her Mother. A Mother who is trying to weave through these tight tangled webs. Trust me enough to know that I am taking advantage of all the literature and advice of those who came before me to navigate my way. It may not always make sense, and we may not always get it right... but we will do the best we can.
Edit to add: I recently just stumbled upon this great blog post that can further explain how a lack of control in the decisions that were made to ones life earlier on, can explain the need for defiance (control).