Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sissy and the Peer Oriented Child

Today was hard. It was hard for me to look at Sissy. I carried physical pain around my entire body and a cold all day that suddenly evaporated by 50% the minute she was in bed tonight and as the mninutes pass, I feel better and better. At the risk of sounding too radical, I will say that the negative feelings she was eminating in the household today were oppressive and dark. I am struggling with the fact that she hurt another child's psyche and made me a participant. My little Blossom doesn't even know enough to express hurt and anger over this, but she is celebrating gleefully that we believe her.

I do not for sure how much each girl participated in the stealing and throwing away of my belongings, but Sissy has admitted to about 85% of it, including drinking some of Jie Jie's Pediasures and eating at least 7 cookies and some granola bars that were all blamed on Blossom. All the missing keys and other small objects, including the remote control for the door alarm, were wrapped in tissue, by Sissy, and thrown away. I also now know that she is the one who stole the thumb drive solely on her own.

The thought of disruption of the adoption of Sissy or any of the girls has never entered my head until today, and only as a wish for an easy and instant way out, not a real plan. I am sickened by the thought that, eventually, I know she would have hurt Jie Jie terribly, after working her down month after month, year after year. I am so thankful for this very painful look into Sissy's current nature.

I am reading Hold On to Your Kids tonight, by, Neufeld and Mate, after starting chapter one just before heading to China to adopt Sissy, and not picking it up again until tonight. This book is most relavent to her because she is completely peer raised. She has never seen or interacted with adults outside their work environment. She's never been inside a home in China. I am going to type in relavent notes to addressing Sissy's difficulties as I read, so I can refer back to them as well as share them with other parents struggling with this same scenario.

"Children are not quite the same as we remember being. They are less likely to take their cues from adults, less afraid of getting into trouble. They also seem less innocent and naive - lacking, it seems, the wide-eyed wonder that leads a child to have excitement for the world, for exploring the wonders of nature or of human creativity."

"They appear to be easily bored when away from each other or not engaged with technology."

"In homes, in schools, in community after community, developing young people have lost their moorings. Many lack self-control and are increasingly prone to alienation, drug use, violence or just a general aimlessness. (this is Sissy, very aimless) They are less teachable and more difficult to manage than their counterparts of even a few decades ago."

"Parenting requires a context to be effective. A child must be receptive if we are to succeed in nurturing, comforting, guiding and directing her."

"There is an indispensable special kind of relationship ... - call it an attachment relationship. If everything unfolds according to design, the attachment will evolve into an emotional closeness and finally a sense of psychological intimacy. Children who lack this kind of connection with those responsible for them are very difficult to parent, or often, even teach. Only the attachment relationship can provide the proper context for childrearing."

Don't we all know this!!! Adoption classes are all about attachment, attachment, attachment. It is soooo crucial!!!

"The secret of parenting is not what a parent does but rather who the parent is to the child."

"For the first time in history young people are turning for instruction, modeling, and guidance not to mothers, fathers, teachers, and other responsible adults but to people whom nature never intended to place in a parenting role - their own peers."

"Absolutely missing in peer relationships are unconditional love and acceptance, the desire to nurture, the ability to extend oneself for the sake of the other, the willingness to sacrifice for the growth and development of the other."

"For children who have replaced adults with their peers, it is enough just to be with each other, even if they are completely off the map. They will not accept direction from adults or ask for guidance." ....."they look like the blind leading the blind, like a school of fish revolving around each other, but they feel just fine."

"The Six Ways of Attaching: Senses - Physical proximity is the goal of the first way of attaching. The child needs to sense the person he is attached to, whether through smell, sight, wound, or touch.

Sameness - ...The child seeks to be like those she feels closets to.

Another means of attaching through sameness is identification. To identify with someone or something is to be one with that person or thing. One's sense of self merges with the object of identification.

Belonging and Loyalty - To be close to someone is to consider that someone one's own. ...loyalty - being faithful and obedient to one's chosen attachment figures."

Significance - ....which means that we feel we matter to somebody.

Feeling - ....warm feelings, loving feelings, affectionate feelings. give one's heart away is to risk it being broken. Some people never develop the capacity to be emotionally open and vulnerable, usually due to early perceptions of rejection and abandonment.

Being Known - To feel close to someone is to be known by them. ....closeness will often be defined by the secrets shared."

"Attachment voids, situations when the child's natural attachments are missing, are dangerous precisely becuase their results are so indiscriminate." (like a duckling imprinting on a tricycle at hatching if no mother duck is around)

"The secret of a parent's power is in the dependence of the child. ... But here is the glitch: being dependent does not guarantee dependence on the appropriate caregivers.

The power to execute our parental responsibilities lies not in the neediness of our children but in their looking to us to be the answer to their needs.

We cannot truly take care of a child who does not count on us to be taken care of, or who depends on us only for food, clothing, shelter and other material concerns. We connot emotionally support a child who is not leaning on us for his psychological needs."

"To be nonadaptive is to fail to adapt when things go wrong and fail to benefit from adversity, to learn from negative consequences. These failures give parents more inappropriate behavior to handle while at the same time limiting their tools for managing the child's conduct."

"Attachment arranges the parent and child heirarchically."

This is a big problem with my girls (Jie Jie is past is now) because they'd never been around adults in a home. They were stunned that I don't go to bed when they do and simply shocked to learn that I even EAT food after they are in bed, often food that they don't get.

"Attachment evokes the parenting instincts, makes the child more endearing, and increases parental tolerance.

Attachment commands the child's attention.

Attachment keeps the child close to the parent.

Attachment creates a model out of the parent.

Attachment designates the parent as the primary cue-giver. One of the fundamental tasks of parenting is to provide direction and guidance to our children. Managing a child who is not following our direction is difficult enough, but trying to control a child under someone else's command is next to impossible. What was meant to replace us is not someone else giving orders, but maturity - that is, a grown-up person's own capacity to make decisions and to choose the best possible course of action for herself.

Attachment makes the child want to be good for the parent." "while it is beneficial for a child to feel bad when anticipating a loss of ocnnection with those who are devoted to hime and his well-being and development, it is crucially important for parents to understand that it is unwise to ever exploit this conscience. We must never intentionally make a child feel bad, guilty, or ashamed in order to get him to be good. Abusing the attachment conscience evokes deep insecurities in the child and may induce him to shut it right down for fear of being hurt. The consequences are not worth any short-term gains in behavioral goals."

I think I failed in this one today...

I love this book. I cannot wait to read more tomorrow...!

New Family Development

It's been a very ugly day in our house, the ugliest so far. I'm going to lay it on the table for the world to read so you see another example of the realities of older child adoption and the challenges it means to parenting kids like this.

Many items have been disappearing around the house lately, mostly small, or inexpensive, and others more, like a thumb drive and a P.O. Box key. The rate of disappearance has dramatically increased in the last month.

Do not blame Blossom. Sissy is the culprit. But what makes this so bad is that she set Blossom up to take the rap for it. How she could stand there and let that child take the punishment is beyond me, but the very first instance, in Blossom's first month here, sticks in my mind because I never quite believed Sissy. Today, Sissy enjoyed kung fu while Blossom sat out in the car, all the while knowing that Blossom was innocent.

If this wasn't bad enough, all of this was making it hard for Blossom to fit into the family and feel like she belongs.

Sissy's reason for these actions: She was angry at me. The most recent reason for her anger is that I've tried to get her to stop scratching her legs at night. Her skin is fine, but she was getting bug bites from leaving the window open at night. She scratched herself bloody and raw in places. Today's incident was because I threatened to remove her earrings for the same reason...She keeps scratching them and her ears are now red and swollen and look infected.

What complicates the matter is that Blossom trips her own story up. One minute she's admitting her guilt and describing what she did, and the next says she didn't do it.

This explains so many things to me. For example, Blossom is more physically affectionate than Sissy. Blossom seems to be trying very hard and sounds very sincere when she apologizes. Blossom is kinder to Jie Jie. Blossom is simply, a lot more likable than Sissy. Blossom is a people-person and Sissy is all about herself and her needs.

Other improvements in Blossom: She looks me in the eye all the time now, unless she's having a hard time understanding her feelings and is heading for a meltdown. She wants to sleep in my bed, even if it's for a little while. She's given me a few kisses. Sissy has given me one, and I had to teach her how, but she is starting to come to me for hugs once in a long while. Blossom thinks all the time. Her brain is never quiet.

I've been in contact with other moms with children from Sissy's orphanage and the problems are quite similar in all of them. The first thing we all agree on is that these kids are spoiled brats. I know that seems like a harsh term to use for orphans, but in this case it does seem to be the truth. Like most institutionally raised children, Sissy doesn't have any empathy for others. At all.

I still believe what I said in an earlier post that it's a blessing that Blossom came to our family because Sissy would have succeeded in hiding a lot of these behaviors from me for a very long time and I would have found out way too late to help her work on being a better person. Blossom's arrival did not make Sissy behave this way - remember, she was terrible in China.

Now that I have discovered what has been going on, I can work with Blossom in a whole different way that should help her feel more loved and part of this family. She gets her birthday toys returned tomorrow for something she did do - put the toothpaste down the toilet again. No harm to the toilet, I now put it into tiny paper cups.

Fair is fair, though, right? Blossom lost a few days of playing with her toys, so I took back Sissy's presents, including her earrings, which I took right out of her ears. I explained to her that I am helping her and helping her and she doesn't get it. I tell her not to scratch to prevent her from injuring herself or getting an infection. I went over this several times. Then, I decided to give her back her earrings under new conditions. She had to put them in herself, which was hard because it's only been one week since they were pierced. She also has to take complete care of them, but that if I see them infected or all scratched up, she must the earrings out for good and let them heal up. She readily agreed to the conditions then tried to put the earrings back in. The only thing I did was soak them in alcohol first. One wasn't too hard, but the other one was. She whined at me to help her and I used her own system and said, "No. If I help you, you'll be angry with me and I don't want that. I tried to help you protect your skin by telling you not to scratch and you go so angry at me that you stole my belongings and destroyed them, so I'm afraid to help you now." The look on her face was priceless! She whined a lot more, but finally did it, on her own.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blossom's First Birthday: Dinner & Party

Blossom's First Birthday: Afternoon

The Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park. It was Blossom's first time and Sissy's second time. We are members, so Jie Jie and I have come often in the past and always learn something new.

At the entrace by the T-rex skeleton.

The mascot, Claude the albino alligator.
The real Claude lives in the swamp tank and looks very white.

Female and male reindeer both have antlers!

This is where Gong Gong lives, beautiful Hawaii!

They look rather plain for protection.

But they are blue on top side of their wings.

Open this photo in a new window to view full-size
and read about the butterflies in the Amazon Rainforest.

View from the rainforest dome canopy level.

See the fish in the river below?

Same fish, but we are now under the river in a tunnel.

Not such a pretty fish, but the size is impressive!

Blossom's First Birthday Party: Morning

Blossom turned 12 yesterday and had her first birthday party ever, apparently. In the morning, I snapped this cute picture of Blossom and Jie Jie playing. I didn't realize until typing this post that I didn't think of her birth mother at all. Unlike my other girls, I don't feel like I share Blossom with a birth mother. I think it has to do with the fact that she'd never been loved and has come to me needing me in such desperate ways.

Gong Gong Comes to Visit

My dad arrived last Friday for a 9 days visit. The girls have been on their best behavior, for the most part, and it took until today for Blossom to pull the toothpaste trick again, only this time, the toilet was safe since I put the toothpaste into tiny trimmed-down paper cups in three day servings. The consequence, she's lost the priviledge of playing with her birthday gifts for the next three days and eating the last piece of her birthday cake.

Each of the other two have also had a couple of issues, like regular kids, Jie Jie had a time-out and good talking-to, and Sissy had to go to bed and not help me make Blossom's birthday cake.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I hope your Thanksgiving Day was a happy celebration of a bountiful year. I am certainly thankful for each of my daughters!

Our day began after a bit of a sleep-in. I had a special treat first thing in the morning. I said, "Good morning, Blossom," which is Blossom's cue that she may get out of her bed. She climbed down from her loft bed, which is above my bed, with her pillow in hand, which means she's coming into my bed for a snuggle. I kissed her forehead and she kissed me back at the same time! I think that's kiss #5. She's making great eye contact now, I hardly ever have to remind her, and she began talking about what she thought about during the night. For the very first time, she thought accurately! She said that when she does naughty things, mama gets angry and we are all unhappy. She said if she obeys mama, we are all happy, including her. This is a MAJOR breakthrough! It's the first time she's accurately demonstrated an understanding of cause and effect and the results of her behavior on others and the fact that she has choices that can make things better or worse.

I served oatmeal and pumpkin pie for a late breakfast and then the cooking began. The turkey was first and went into the oven at 2pm (cooked in a bag), then the other dishes were prepared and all put into my second oven at 4pm. Butternut squash and carrots were in the pressure cooker at 4:20pm and everything was finished at the same time at 4:45pm!!! It was the first time I made such a grand meal and everything was finished at the same time and was, therefore, all hot when it went on the table.

All the girls helped eagerly, but the best helper of all was Sissy. I'm a pretty clean cook, use as few pots, pans and utensils as I can, but she cleaned up after me and Blossom dried, so when the cooking was done, the kitchen was clean! How fantastic is that?

After eating, we took a walk to watch the skaters at the outdoor holiday ice rink a few blocks down from our house, then came home and ate more pumpkin pie.

Bonding 101

One daughter is severely restricted in my home. She must always be within my site, especially in the bathroom and kitchen. She is feeling like she's not part of the family because she doesn't have the freedom to touch things in the home and go places in the home that the other girls have. She doesn't understand cause and effect, or at least her responsibility in it. She hasn't yet grasped the reality that her behavior is what has caused the restriction. To her, she's perfectly justified in her behavior because she's angry, and when she's not angry, she should not be punished.

The flip side of this, is that my other two daughters sense the division, too, and are having a hard time feeling like the restricted daughter is part of the family and their sister.

I can orchestrate family activities that do not have this division when we are outside the home or when I can be with the girls 100% of the time. This is when we have the most fun and draw closer as a family, but once it's over and I have to do something necessary, like cook, the girls no longer have free access to the entire house and one must stay with me at all times.

This is VERY exhausting. I can't even go to the bathroom in private. Even tonight, after they were all tucked into bed, because the bathroom is situated between the two bedrooms, one called out to me that she could hear me going potty and, because of limited English, used sound effects to let me know. It used to be funny, and maybe in a few years it will be funny again, but I'm dying for a long soak in my tub without having to go through a bedroom and listening out for one of the girls. My washes, because they are barely baths and showers, are stolen moments, usually with an audience. When I shut the shower doors even though I'm bathing and not showering, my eldest daughter has to point it out to me and ask why. When I gave her "the look" she said, "Ni bu shi wan women can can ni body," which translates to, "You don't want us to see your body," meaning, I want privacy!

Developmentally in the bonding process, my new girls are finally past 2 years old and are now 4 years old. They ask why even though they know the answer. They speak loudly all the time. They argue because, of course, they know everything (don't most teens?), they never, ever, ever stop talking to me and when I tell them it's quiet time, they start singing or tapping something, or making noise some other way.

One has done well with the use of toilet paper, but let me know tonight, that in China she only used toilet paper after having a BM so her panties were always a dirty yellow. The other daughter said that she didn't use toilet paper at all, and held up her hand when I asked what she did use. She then made sure to tell me how dirty and smelly it was, which makes sense because, after I taught her to use toilet paper, she kept smelling her hand. She still needs a lot of help with the use of toilet paper. I've got her counting squares to make sure she uses the correct amount and I often still wipe her bottom for her because she can't quite grasp the concept of wiping front to back yet. I have introduced the flushable wet wipe, which has helped a lot.

My girls are definitely Swiss Cheese. They have so many developmental holes and holes from lack of experience that I'm still floored almost daily. As long as we stay in our home, I feel I'm handling it all well and I can see their progress. But the minute we are out in public, it's a whole other story. As I try and teach the girls and they flounder, others stare, comment, lecture me, chide me, etc... as though I'm the worse mom in the world. I'm very tired of being on display, even though I know it's par for the course. I much prefer the people who tell me I'm a saint because the ones who have said it so far, aren't just saying it because they think I "saved" these kids, but because they see the amount of patience I'm exerting every second of every moment of every minute of every day.

I admit my daughters are dressed well and appear very put-together, so it's probably startling to a lot of people when my 14 year old doesn't move one inch out of the middle of the shopping isle when they've said, "Excuse me," a dozen times.

I hate to admit it, but we are still not attending church. We tried it once and it was great, but the powers that be want my daughters to attend their age level classes instead of the primary level where they fit in and had fun. I keep getting the song and dance about language and culture and how we have a very diversified group who have done well, but I can't seem to get through to them that it's institutional delays and behaviors that we are dealing with and that the language and cultural part is the easy part. I could arrange a meeting, but I just don't have it in me right now to put out the energy.

The girls were disappointed that I actually bought a pumpkin pie tonight instead of making one. Yes, it's a first for me, but I can't stand the thought of taking the time and energy to mix and roll out a crust! They are so interested in learning to cook and bake, and I understand this, but this isn't time for it. Not with one attached like velcro, another with a special need, a Monday birthday, Thursday Thanksgiving, and another birthday on Saturday.

I'd skip the holiday altogether if I could, or at least have had it on the Saturday birthday.... Ah, the joys of older child adoption, special need adoption and single parenthood...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sissy's 14th Birthday

Sissy had a fun birthday! She invited one friend who gave her a thoughtful gift of a coin-purse that was Chinese red with ladybugs on it. She was excited about the slippers because Jie Jie gave her very own money toward them since she tore Sissy's slippers. I made the cake according the Sissy's request, chocolate inside, pink outside. Some of the pictures are blurry, but I posted them anyway. I love the family shot!

The Day Before: Pre-Birthday

Sissy now has her ears pierced and the little CZ studs taht she chose match mine, something she really wanted. She looks so pretty with them. I'm sure this gave her self-esteem a good boost. When she first came home, she asked about my pierced ears and didn't want it done, but suddenly, about a month ago, changed her mind. I never brought it up and didn't have any preconceived ideas or rules other than you must be older enough to take care of your ears when it's done.

It was a great experience for us as mother and daughter. I took her to our local Claire's, which is the franchise where mine were pierced when I was 14. Sissy liked that we had this in common. Her sisters comforted her when she felt nervous and I held her hand, as promised, but she was brave and did great!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Aging Out Day

Today is a special day, one with many ramifications. It's the chosen birthdate of my eldest daughter, the day she would have no longer be eligible to be adopted, forever losing her chance of having a family. Somewhere in the world might be a woman, a mother, thinking about the baby, her baby, that was left outside of a market that still stands today, as busy as ever.

Happy Birthday, Sissy! You have a mother, sisters, and a home to call your own!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gung Fu Girls

Gung Fu is how the Chinese say Kung Fu. My two oldest are now taking Gung Fu and they LOVE it, especially Sissy. They can't wait to go back for their next class. They will be going twice a week and it's their first outside interest and activity. I'm super happy that they like it and that they are taking the first step in embracing their new lives here in America. It's an excellent local studio whose owner is very supportive and active in the Chinese adoption community.

67 Months Into My Journey

My original log in date was April 15, 2007, and that's the date I've been counting from. My actual journey began in February of 2006 when I first heard that Still Small Voice say that my daughter was in China, so I've actually been on this journey to build my family for 6 years and 9 months.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

8 Is Enough!

Swiped right off the sink while I was brushing my teeth and flushed without me even knowing it. She's so good at what she does. I think she has a future testing systems for alarm companies or working for the FBI! This makes 8 tubes of toothpaste down the toilet! My new record for getting the toilet off and back on again is 27 minutes.