Thursday, February 26, 2009

wandering in the desert

I’ll jump right in. I find myself feeling like a failure on a daily basis as a parent. I wonder constantly if the issues that we face, Gallo and I, are simply the issues all families face or if they are a result of his adoption. Want an opinion? Surf the ‘net. Any opinion you want will be revealed.

This is normal two-year-old behavior. He’s establishing boundaries. He feels secure acting out at home. I’m doing everything right. Consistency is what he needs. Providing a safe place for him to explore his emotions.

He’s grieving his adoption. He doesn’t know how to put into the words the pain he is feeling. He’s angry. He hasn’t bonded with me. He will always have adoption trauma.

I have no idea what to think or how to feel about the going’s on in my house right now. As much as it sounds like it, this is not about me. I want to do what I can to make Gallo happy, to feel safe and loved. I have read dozens of books. They all have conflicting information. I’m truly seeking insight.

Gallo appears to be fully bonded with his father. He sees Mr. Beans as his primary care giver. I think it goes back to the second trip we made to Guatemala when we brought him home. The second night we were there I got sick – some stomach thing. It was hard enough for me to get out of bed without barfing everywhere. Besides, I didn’t know what it was (virus, food poisoning, etc.) and was afraid to make Gallo sick. So Mr. Beans took over. He changed Gallo; he fed him; he bathes him. Daddy took care of everything – including Mommy! We all got through it and came home.

Once home, Mommy stayed home from work for six weeks and became primary care giver. Mr. Beans was in school so he was home a lot in between classes and studying. Gallo got every bit of attention and focus. I was definitely nervous as a first-time mom and doubted my abilities all the time. Nonetheless, I plowed my way through it. Mr. Beans, already having two boys before Gallo, felt completely confident in his parenting abilities. Maybe Gallo picked up on that. I don’t know.

From the very beginning Mr. Beans and I split parenting responsibilities. We alternated bottles, baths and diaper changes to preparing meals, doing story time and putting him down for naps. Mr. Beans has gone out of town for a few days; so have I. We have long talks about one of us leaving then coming back. We talk about trips for days before they happen. We explain any changes in routines. Even if we thought he wouldn’t understand, we talked about it anyway.

Let me segue here to say that I have a degree in psychology. I have spent my entire adult life working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I understand developmental stages in various populations. I have written numerous behavioral intervention programs for countless individuals, many of which had the developmental capacity of a two year old or younger. And the plans worked when followed by the staff that had to implement them. This isn’t to flaunt my resume. I’m saying all of this to explain I’ve not only got a bunch of book knowledge; I’ve got real world experience. Unfortunately at my house, I’m not having the same success. And I’m starting to wonder if it’s something more.

What’s got me rambling is this current behavioral situation:

Gallo has begun to refuse to do anything for me. Every time I ask him to do anything he says “no.” Time to take a bath? Time to go pee in the potty? Time to wash hands? Help Mommy pick up the toys? “no”

No big deal. He’s two.

Problem is that he sets in his heals and then ends up in a rage. Let’s take bath time. After dinner he takes a bath. This has been the same routine for two years now. He gets down from the table and I tell him to go to his room to get ready for bath.


I ask him two-three times and waiting approximately 10-15 seconds between each request. He says “no” or ignores me.

I then physically escort him to his room. I calmly make a request. “Take off your shirt.” I wait. I get a “no” and then he either ignores me or more often than not, he glares at me – completely challenging my authority or request or whatever you want to call it.

I then make the request again. Same response from him. I then tell him either he takes his shirt off or Mommy is going to do it. He says no and I then physically remove his shirt. As soon as I start to remove his shirt he starts crying and screaming “No I do it!” If I stop and allow him to do it, he sits there. If I request that he take off his shirt. He goes back to “no.’ If I start to remove it, he begins to scream “No I do it.” This cycle will repeat as many times as I stop to allow him to do it.

We do this for each stage of the routine: his pants, his pull up, going to the bathroom to sit on the potty; getting into the bathtub, allowing my to bathe him, drying off, brushing teeth, getting pjs on.

My reaction each time is the same. I make the request twice, waiting in between 10-15 seconds. I repeat the request each time using the exact same words and tone of voice – remaining calm. On the third go round, I give him the option of doing it himself or Mommy is going to do it. He says no; I do it; he screams; repeat.

In the evening situation, he ends up hysterical and screaming through the whole nighttime process. We finally get to his room where I’m exhausted and he’s out of control. He’s not even looking at me; he’s crying and sobbing and inconsolable. I usually end up holding him to me talking quietly “calm down… use your words… tell Mommy what’s wrong…’ Eventually he gets it together. I try to talk about listening to Mommy, following directions, not hitting or screaming or whatever he was doing. He sits quietly and listens but as soon as I stop talking he will then make some random comment “What color is that?” etc. as if to say – yeah, ok, that’s all over. New topic. We sit in his chair, chat for a bit, sing some songs (he listens to a CD as he goes to sleep), then we have “last song” and he goes into his bed. We have our nightnight rituals (blanket, duck, tuck him in, love you, etc.)

I then head for the liquor cabinet.

He doesn’t do this with Daddy. Mr. Beans gets a little farting around but that’s about it. No major melt down. No hysterics.

Mr Beans picks him up and he runs to him. He’s excited and rattles off his day. When I pick him up, he sees me, gets happy for a split second, the frowns and asks “where’s Daddy?”

He often tells me at dinner; “You don’t talk to Daddy.” I finally asked him who gets to talk to Daddy and he tells me “Gallo talks to Daddy.”

Recently in the mornings he has begun to say he wants to “stay with Daddy” rather than go to school.

The biggest development of late is his suddenly saying, “Don’t go anywhere Daddy”: and “Don’t leave” even when no one is going anywhere. We can just be sitting in the living room and he’ll announce that. He’s never saying this to me. In the mornings when I leave for work he just wants a hug and a kiss and tells me bye-bye. One evening in his room while we were rocking he informs me “I miss Daddy.” (Mr Beans had a late evening and wasn’t home for dinner and didn’t come home until after Gallo went to bed. This doesn’t happen often.) I ask “Did you miss Daddy at dinner?” He then says “I miss Mommy Daddy Gallo” (We often refer to the family this way… saying everyone’s name… it’s a game when we’re doing something, going somewhere, etc. )

Now the adoption trauma people would say he’s missing his first family and he knows it but can’t verbalize that. Except that he was never with his first family. His foster family, with whom he did spend the first 7 ½ mos of this life, were “mama” and “papa.” Never Mommy and Daddy. They only spoke Spanish to him. When I speak Spanish to him, he doesn’t seem to be interested.

I’m mental; I know it. He’s obviously bonded to his father and I’m thankful for it. I just don’t know how to facilitate a bond between he and I. Nearly every interaction between the two of us is a negative one. When he is sweet or wants attention from me, it feels like a total manipulation. I can’t explain it but it’s as if I am a means to an end. He’ll hold my hand if I have some food he wants. He asks me to pick him up but only to see what’s on the counter. He only runs to me if Mr. Beans scolds him. Of course I hate to indulge him because that undermines Mr. Beans’ authority in the moment. I cave sometimes because I’m terrified to pass up any moment when he reaches out to me.

So here I am. I’m continuing to search and read and listen. I’m overreacting; I’m seeing something very real. I’m listening to a mother’s intuition; I’ve got no intuition to hear. My doubts are because I am a first time mother; my doubts are because I’m an adoptive mother.

Where does one start and the other begin?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I'm just lost

Damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I’m constantly feeling no one is going be happy no matter which path I choose. Be aware of my white privilege. Don’t get bogged down with guilt about the past. Don’t decide how much support a person needs. Be aware if you offer support it might be rejected. Encourage connections with the community of your child’s ethnic origins. Be aware your child’s ethnic community may not welcome you. WTF? I have enough trouble just figuring how to get home on the interstate during my hour commute home without getting run off the road in time to have dinner with my 20 month old and give him a bath and have story time before falling into bed too exhausted to have sex with my husband. Now I have to be the damn U.N.?

I’m constantly trying to make a difference. One idea at a time. One situation at a time. I use positive adoption language. I challenge stereotypes in my family and friends. I try to walk the talk. It’s hard and I’m finding myself unpopular among even my beloved family members. “Why do you have to be so defensive about everything?” I find myself wondering “Why do adoptees seem to put so much damn stock in genetics? I know my genetic family members intimately and I don’t share much with these people other than non visible DNA strands.” But it’s not my decision to decide how they should feel. It’s that individual’s decision. Of course, my son is only 20 months old …. so laying in bed awake at night because I read a blog that tells me the mere fact that I stole him from his first family and brought him to a different country and ruined him for life probably isn’t the best use of my time. There’s laundry to do. And my co-worker just informed me that if I haven’t started to potty train before he’s two, it’ll be harder to train him. And make sure I teach him standing up. Boys have to learn that way. Right. Check.

My point is that I can’t be all things to all people. I’m trying; I really am. I am so tired of hearing that as an adoptive parent my ideas and feelings are at the bottom of the heap. In the same breath, I’m told that my thoughts and feelings are always given paramount credence and I have all the power. Really? Please tell me where the power is because some it needs to start doing the dishes. I can’t be bothered. Birthmother blogs talk about being victimized and treated like whores and garbage. I try to be empathetic. I try to be attentive and listen and rarely comment so that I don’t inflame their rage or their hurt. So I simply read to learn, and end up being the evitable emotional punching bag. It’s a hat I’m getting used to wearing. I find myself constantly trying to figure out how if it’s all about the child, the adoptee, then why am I still being told what an evil troll I am and how I need to ever mindful of the pain of his first family? I’m wondering why it isn’t more important to be there for my son and to help him, when he’s cognitively and emotionally ready, to discuss these issues. I’m not sure how being in a constant state of anguish for his mother in Guatemala does anything positive for him. How does being a constant beacon of doom and gloom and martyrdom help anyone? I’m just lost.

This isn’t statistical. It’s simply an anecdotal personal experience. I have two stepsons. They live in Germany because their biological mother is German. Mr. Beans married her when he was stationed there. (It’s the stereotypical American soldier marries local girl while stationed in foreign country story.) Fast forward, the marriage ended and there were two children. Children should be with their mothers, right? Fast forward and the children are now 16 and 13. Ask the boys if they are American or German. They’ll tell you American. They don’t speak English and have never lived here. They visit when finances allow. (ie. when their father and I can afford it because their mother refuses to assist.) The oldest hates his mother. Tell him how much he looks like her and he’s likely to fly into a rage that lasts for hours. No matter how much he’s encouraged to develop a relationship with her, he refuses. He hates her. (His words, not mine.) Everyone tells him that he will feel guilty when he’s older because he’s acted like toward her.

So here I am. Trying to be the good stepmom. Holding the party line that he shouldn’t say things like that about his mother. Telling him that he doesn’t mean it when he says he hates her. But the truth is that he does. It’s not my story to tell. It’s not for me to dictate his relationship with his mother. Right? So replace the characters in the story. Gallo should want to have a relationship with his first family. That’s normal. He should be encouraged to participate in a reunion with her (them). I should do everything in my power to facilitate that relationship. I should tell him that he owes his family this. He should always remember that he’s Guatemalan. He should develop these relationships because he will feel guilty if he doesn’t. Right?

But I thought this was Gallo’s story? I thought he got to decide how he feels and what he thinks. So my wallowing in grief and feeling bad and constantly encouraging him to talk about his Guatemalan family because I need to assuage some personal white guilt about taking him from his motherland will, in the end, be in his best interest? I’m just lost.

I know the tone of this post comes off incredibly sarcastic and I’m sorry for that. If you knew me IRL you’d understand how damn earnest I am with my thoughts and feelings. I am searching. I am asking. I am trying to come to grips with what appears to me to be very opposed lines of thinking. I can’t find a way to meld them together.

Monday, March 31, 2008


I can’t even remember the last time I posted here. I’ve thought so many times, “I need to write something or folks are going to think I disappeared.” So here I am posting. My motivation is honestly just today’s date.

March 31

This date has so much meaning in my life for two very different reasons.

The first is a happy one. It’s the anniversary of the first date I had with my husband. It was supposed to be a group of co-workers meeting at a local club. Surreptitiously each member of the group found themselves otherwise occupied. Both of us arrived at the club expecting to find the big group. Instead it was just the two of us. We spent that first night talking over a few drinks and getting to know one another. Eight years later, the conversation hasn’t stopped. He’s the most amazing human being I have ever met. He challenges me as a person and has helped me grow as a partner. I can’t begin to imagine my world without him. I’m glad that I don’t have to. I hate to admit it, but he’s the first person to whom I have EVER been physically faithful. The truth is that he’s the only one I ever felt was worth it. Our relationship isn’t perfect by a long shot but we’re always willing to work at it. It’s a work in progress. And like I said, the conversation hasn’t stopped. I truly think that’s been the key.

The irony of this date is that it also marks the anniversary of the death of our first child. Miscarriage at seven weeks; delivery 33 weeks too early. You look at it your way; I’ll look at it mine. It was the most devastating moment of my life. I can’t say that time has made it any easier. The wound is still vividly raw. I can say though that time has made it easier to talk about openly. For so long I never mentioned the whole experience outside of close friends because I didn’t want to share it. I didn’t want to hear all the platitudes. I didn’t want to have to explain why I was so unbelievably devastated. I couldn’t articulate the sense of loss that I felt. When I tired, it seemed so trite. Even close friends and family did an awful job at trying to understand. Even my beloved Mr. Beans was no help. No one “got it.” Six years ago today my whole world crumbled and nothing would ever make it better. Sitting on the edge of my bed holding the .357 in my hands I couldn’t give myself a reason to go on. But obviously I did. And one day turned into another and another and another. There were good days and bad days, but I trudged along. Eventually, I moved forward. I didn’t “get over it.” I just went forward - one psychological foot in front of the other. Sadly, just 14 months later, another baby and another tragedy. But that’s another story.

I wish that had even known what the hell a blog was back then. It would have been such a light in the fog. I had no idea there were so many other women, many so much braver than I, who were dealing with the same emotions and situations that I was facing. It was only about two years ago when I stumbled across this corner of the world. Oh how I wish it were earlier!

So the point to this post?

Today I try to make March 31st a celebration: a celebration of the start of my life with Mr. Beans and a celebration of my first-born child. Remembering a first date isn't difficult. No one minds when you mention it casually over dinner. The other relationship isn't one discussed so easily. I sometimes think I’m the only one still remembering that tiny being who was with me for such a short time. It used to bother me immensely but now, I’m okay with it. I was the only one who had the honor of experiencing that life while it was here so maybe it’s fitting I’m the only one honoring that life now.

I found a poem during those lowest days that I recited to myself many times. (I’m sure those from the IF community have seen it countless times.) I’d like to post it here because it meant so much to me then. It said what I just couldn’t say myself.

Just Those Few Weeks

For those few weeks--
I had you to myself
And that seems too short a time
to be changed so profoundly.

In those few weeks--
I came to know you
and to love you.
You came to trust me with your life.
Oh, what a life I had planned for you!

Just those few weeks--
When I lost you.
I lost a lifetime of hopes,
plans, dreams, and aspirations...
A slice of my future simply vanished overnight.

Just those few weeks--
It wasn't enough time to convince others
how special and important you were.
How odd, a truly unique person has recently died
and no one is mourning the passing.

Just a mere few weeks--
And no "normal" person would cry all night
over a tiny, unfinshed baby,
or get depressed and withdrawn day after endless day.
No one would, so why am I?

You were just those few weeks my little one
you darted in and out of my life too quickly.
But it seems that's all the time you needed
to make my life so much richer
and give me a small glimpse of eternity.

(Poem Copyright 1984 by Susan Erling Martinez)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NaBloPoMo Failure

My first attempt to do "what all the other bloggers are doing" is a big fat zero. Call it a single pink line. I guess I should just say a) internet access was nearly impossible during my trip and b) I got sick... again. This time it wasn't GI issues but a head cold. Unfortunately, I have a heart condition that limits the number of cold medications I can safely take to alleviate my myriad of symptoms. Lucky me, I generally just have to wait it out. I'm waiting....

My Gallo isn't here and I miss him terribly. I haven't been away from him since the day he was placed in my arms. Seven whole months - I can't believe how fast the time has gone. By all reports he's doing well. He's being spoiled rotten by my parents. I'm just glad they have all this one-on-one time with him. It will help them build a relationship. I've been so worried for so long that they won't see him grow up. Every day he's able to spend with him I am thankful for immensely.

I have begun the packing process. When I think of the task in it's totality, I start to freak out. When I look at it piece by piece, I realize it's not that big of a deal. This evening I got organized. Tomorrow I start the actual packing. I still need to gather boxes from the liquor stores in the area. It's a college town so the supply the endless.

I'm thinking I should steal some of these memes going around. It might give me something interesting to write about. The truth is that I generally have tons to share in my every day world. Most people say I'm a wonderful speaker. I just can't seem to get it down here and have it make any sense. I'm guessing that good writers might be horrible conversationalists. Or maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Moving Day for Gallo

I spent the better part of today driving to the coast. (We're at my parents' house now. The computer connection is AWFUL.... it might as well be dial-up.) Gallo was fabulous considering he had to be strapped into the carseat for the duration. The point of this trip was to move him down here. He will stay here with Mr. Beans and my parents. I will have to go back and pack up all of our stuff. I have two weeks to do it. What fun! I'm definitely not looking forward to that.

This weekend I will spend hanging out with family. I love these people but they grate on my nerves something fierce. I look at them constantly and am convinced that biology has little to do with family connections. I have no doubt that I'm biologically related to these people. Other than that, I'm not so sure how any of the "connection" remains.

I wish I had something exciting to report but it's status quo. Life seems so busy yet when I write it down, it seems like not much and no big deal. Maybe that's a good therapy technique. When you think life is completely overwhelming, write down everything going on. You might be surprised to learn it's realy not as bad as you think!

Friday, November 09, 2007

10pm dinner time

Have you ever had one of those days where you were geting ready for bed and realized,

"Damn. I haven't eaten dinner yet!"

Thank goodness for Fruity Pebbles.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

An extra week

I talked to the HR folks at the New Agency. It seems that I can't transfer before Thanksgiving like I was originally told. I now have to wait until the end of the month. That's not really helpful as we're moving all of the stuff out of the house here over Thanksgiving weekend. Hmmm.... guess I'll be camping in my own house for a week. That should be weird. I just have to make sure not to disconnect the cable before the 30th since that's who supplies the internet connection. Lovely - another week without my husband or my child. Then again, this may be my last chance for a few moments to myself for the next dozen years!

In other news, there's a bit of office gossip going on. It seems that the husband of one of my coworkers has posted pictures on his Facebook account. The pictures are of her and one of his coworkers out of town having a grand old time. Nothing risque, per se, unless you count the fact that

a) he's married
b) the girl with him is the same age as his daughter
c) his wife, my friend, is currently out-of-town at a conference
d) this out-of-town trip was just the two of them (not business related), just a "hey let's go to the city and have a fun day" kind of thing.

I'm a bit freaked out about it. The question is: Do we tell her the pictures are there or wait for her to find out? Obviously there may be nothing going on. Even so, I found the pictures a bit distasteful. If Mr. Beans posted pictures of a trip with some woman... hell, if he WENT on a trip with some woman ... I would be more than a little mortified. Call me old fashioned but married men do not hang out with young, single coworkers alone. It just sets up a bad situation. Maybe it's just me?