Monday, January 19, 2015
China is a culture that doesn't value individualism, but the good of the many. In an orphanage, there isn't any such thing as individualism to an even further extreme. None of my girls have made a best friend. If any would, it would be Blossom. Jie Jie was surprised I even thought it was an issue and doesn't see the need of a friend. Sissy wants a friend, but does nothing to make friends. The comments about Sissy improving her speech by being around her peers seems to make sense, but, she just doesn't care, and after 1.5 years of attending church with the same group of very nice girls, she has yet to do anything one-on-one with any of them regardless of how many times I've tried to set her up. In fact, when I asked if she speaks to anyone spontaneously, she said yes. When I ask her what she says, it's, "How are you?" When pressed, she admitted that she doesn't say anything else unless she's asked a question. AFTER 1.5 YEARS in the same class with the same girls - and they are VERY nice girls who really reach out to her - and 2.5 years home!
In a group of same age peers doing a specific activity, all my girls can fit in an enjoy themselves. However, any side conversations other girls are having, are beyond them. If I put any one of my girls together with one other girl, they don't know what to do, though Blossom comes close. Just the other day, we got two neighbors to come over. My girls brought K and P in and displayed them proudly in front of me. They were even excited. But they didn't know what to do next. I told them to show K and P their rooms and toys. They did and then were done. No playing ensued. Jie Jie actually left and went back outside. I rounded her back up and told her she had to stay with our guests, especially since P would be a great match as a friend, at only 8, but they are on a more similar developmental level with similar interests.
Since getting the girls, there has been improvement, but it's not as much as I expected or hoped for and it's concerning, but, as I'm finding out, a sad norm.
I have been observing something that I'll throw out there: Kids who have been adopted older (way older), who spent all their lives in an orphanage, don't really know how to be kids. I mean, the books all say it, but even with other kids to learn from, they still don't learn it. I don't mean that they don't know how to play (which was true at first and my girls had to learn that, too), but it's the whole child-adult thing that mine just don't get. They don't know the role of adults at home. My kids still struggle with this. Because I don't have bio kids, they didn't see regular kid behavior modeled at home. It was shocking to them to discover that I didn't go to bed when they did, or that I ate food after they were in bed, or watched DVDs that they didn't get to watch. Sissy still struggles with the fact that I want to go out occasionally to a movie without any kids with me or that I want to spend time alone with other adults. This struggle is compounded by the fact that she's a teenager, a time kids start asserting independence and breaking away from parental authority. Thing is, though, she's still VERY unskilled and behind where a "regular" 16 yr. old should be.
I have been in contact with other moms of kids who were older at the time of adoption. They struggle with the same issues. One moms also hears from a ton of families who are really struggling, many who are disrupting and struggling to find new placements for their kids, such as a teen boy addicted to porn. Her words were, "These kids just aren't making it."
Another adult child whose parents adopted several children said, "I had an ideal childhood. My parents were great, just amazing. I don't even recognize them now." This person went on to explain that the adopted children didn't respond to any "normal" parenting methods and/or strategies so the parents had to come up with other methods that were, in a nutshell, less joyful and more rigid.
I'm living this. I have a teen who still rages like a 2 yr. old on occasion. Exactly the same. Laying in the ground, kicking, screaming, throwing things, etc... for a long time at a time. Used to be almost daily, at first. Now it's about once a month. Normal for an institutionally raised adopted child, but waaaay outside normal for a teen her age.
We forego so many of the joyous aspects of childhood and parenting because my kids simply can't do it, can't understand it, won't enjoy it, or won't do it, or someone gets hurt trying it (such as normal rough-housing-tickling, one of my kids gets way too rough during this sort of play and can cause injury or it brings up anxiety that leads to nervous-driven roughness).
Then we add in the special needs. I'm discovering that auditory processing disorder is the hardest special need I've encountered from my kids so far (and, believe me, our special needs are on the high side of challenging) - because one can't understand what I'm trying to say to her, therefore, she can't reason, and she's forgetful. It's like the movie of the man who had a ton of first dates because his girlfriend had short-term memory loss. Every time he took her out was like the very first time doing so. My spd daughter will recite the house rules, then turn around and break them because she doesn't understand that they apply to her! It's not that she's being naughty either. She truly has no reasoning or application ability. I ask, "Why do you choose the wrong each time?" Her answer, "Because I decided that." My reply, "Why did you decide that?" I told you, she says, "I decided that."
I'm also learning that there are more processing disorders than sensory or auditory and we've got several of them, yet to be specifically diagnosed. As we go into further rounds of testing, it's all really coming out. Every time I go through this I brace myself because I know another diagnosis is coming our way. Like many who have adopted internationally, my girls are extremely challenged and parenting them is extremely challenging. All parenting is, I understand, but this kind of parenting is done from the trenches.