August 28, 2008

Rebuilding the Family Mold

Friends - I've debated heavily about sharing this tender portion of my life with you. So for my sake - please no J.A.B - Judgement, Advice, or Blame. Let me use this blog as a place for support and expression and a moment to get my feelings typed out. I know you will - because you always do - but listen with your heart open and allow me to be me, as you always have...

My baby boy who I love with my whole heart, is stubborn - to put it bluntly. He's got the iron will of a brick wall. He takes me to the mat everyday - testing me, stretching me, making me prove that I'm worthy of his respect. He is nine months old and can bring me to tears - his mother, who was also created incredibly headstrong. He doesn't blindly follow any instruction. Instead, he goes rigid - arching his back and crying when he doesn't get his way. The slightest correction results in tears and anger. The gentlest reprimand brings an onslaught of frustration and temper.

He's stubborn. He's strong willed. Two types of children: the compliant child and the strong willed child. One loves to please, and the other loves to challenge. I have a challenge. I had it all planned and plotted out and...let me check..yes, yes...I'm pretty sure I checked the "Compliant Child, Please" box...but guess what?

AB and I have been in research mode - learning mode - sponge mode. Soaking up all the knowledge we can to respond appropriately to our son's growing temperament. Learning to let things go, and choose our battles carefully. Learning how to correct and discipline and how to love him and guide him. How to diminish the strong will, but not the spirit. Never the spirit. It's what helped him to survive. It's what got him to me.

On his good days, he is a charming delight - full of laughter, easy going and fun natured. Easy to laugh and sweet to be around. But when he is feeling the, shall we say "opposite" way - and no one can predict it - he is so difficult to comfort. He will not have it. He will only have his way - and that generally entails crying jags that can last all day. Tantrums that rival some terrible two's I've witnessed. Rigid behavior that makes you want to weep.

Everyday I wake up and ask the Lord to help me be the best mom that I can be to Quint for that day. Just for that day. Because I never know what kind of day it will be. It changes all the time. One day a great day, and the next leaves me exhausted and spent and doubting myself.

I love him beyond measure and what I can express here does not do it justice. He is the light of our lives and AB can attest to being just as in love as I am. He is the best thing that happened to us, since...well, since us. But he is a challenge in ways we didn't expect. He doesn't fit in the box we had been fantasizing about on the other side of adoption. Into the false perfect family life we had envisioned.

Instead, my headstrong boy blazes his own trail for our family and shows us everyday that we cannot sit idle and watch him play with toys while we delight in the picture of our new perfectness. No. Instead, he challenges - no, demands, that we step up our game and come to each day ready to learn how to be the best parents we can be. Everyday. And he's worth every minute of it.

Some days I am so tired of fighting him and his stubborn will that I exasperatedly ask him "what do you want from me?!?" He looks at me with a longing so deep, that I am broken for him - moved with compassion for his many losses at such a young age and I'm challenged to meet him in his need. As if he's saying to us "prove to me that I should love you back".

Other days, he is so charming as he lays his head on my shoulder before bedtime - and I say "I love you so much". He pulls his head up and meets my gaze with a smile as if to say "me too..hang in there".

This is what they don't tell you on the other side. You don't even give it much thought - because how can you deal with something that is not your own reality? We deal with things as they arise. And maybe for some, it's lots of love and happiness and peace. Maybe for some it's hard work, and hard times, but lots of love and later some peace and then happiness.

For us it's one day at a time. And again, I say this to reach that one person that is either there also or will be. It's worth speaking out if just one person feels heard or understood or not alone. Or maybe after your own adoption is complete and you find that you too, have a strong willed child who takes you to the mat every day to see what you've got in you - then you can remember that you are not alone.

It's the underbelly of parenting. No one wants to admit they are having a hard time - or struggling. No one wants to readily say "me, over here! I'm crying because my nine month old is stubborn and strong willed!" Yeah, that's not exactly the most popular parenting posture you can take.

But I'm here to tell you - this parenting gig - there's just some stuff they don't cover in that "What to Expect..." book and this is sort of it: That not everyday is roses and sunshine and cute outfits and an adorable nursery. Not everyday is happy and fun-filled and laughter and giggles. Not every night is a sweet kiss goodnight and a lullaby. Sometimes - but not every day.

No, sometimes it's crying and tantrums (even at 9 months folks) and meltdowns in public, and more tears and arching the back, throwing the bowl of food, and refusing to nap, repeatedly touching something that's off limits, kicking, screaming, and even pinching and scratching. This from the little boy who clings to us relentlessly - clearly attached, but struggling to find his will being bent.

We have found that you can beat yourself up, but here's the reality: no two children are alike. And the fact of the matter is - it's not an indication of bad parenting (despite what society would have us believe) when a child is strong willed. It's part of who they are and part of who they will be. Take into account the many families with more than one child. They parent all the children to the same guidelines and standards, and yet some kids break away as stubborn and strong willed and a complete challenge to their parents - while another child might be the more compliant and tender child of the family. We are all born with traits and personality. It doesn't have to be a bad thing - but weeding through the hard parts are some of the toughest days in my short parenting book of experience. We are too quick to judge, I think, when we see a strong willed child in action. We blame the parents, and say "they must be doing this or that wrong" and justify our judgments by the behavior we see. The reality is - these children are extremely challenging, as we're learning - and it can take years to find solutions to the challenges that they bring to the table.

And when that perfect mold you've been building for years gets busted you have to pick up the pieces that are scattered around and through your broken vision, rebuild - one day at a time - using reality and your instincts to create the life you were always meant to have. Mind you, it's probably different than what you thought it would look like. But it's still the one you were meant for.

And don't feel bad if you cry. It's ok. I've been there. Not every day can be Pollyanna - and that's just life.

The good news and the redeeming truth of all of this - is that through it all, it's still the best and most incredible feeling in the world to be his mom. To love him and get to love him, and get to watch him grow up. It's just the most rewarding feeling in my life to know that we are in this together, the three of us. Trudging along and learning everyday from each other. Trusting and learning to love each other just as we are. Learning to be a family - all of us in our own way. He's such a blessing to me - and there's not an ounce of cliche in that statement. There's not a day that goes by that we don't hug and kiss all over him and tell him what a wonderful boy he is.

It's still the most miraculous thing I've ever done in my life.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

That should be enough encouragement for anyone.


Robyn said...

No J.A.B. here girl!!!

This parenting thing really is a roller coaster ride. So many more wonderful moments than you ever expected but also some of the most unexpected too.

Day by day girl, we will figure it out and see these beautiful children grow up!!

Love ya!!!

Anonymous said...

LOVE this kid. If he didn't have a different skin color, he WOULD be our kid. (I know, I know, he IS our kid ... I meant biologically, tho ...) Put my headstrongness with Christie's, and Quint is what you would get.

Yer right, Babe. He is a challenge. Couldn't be ready for it. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I LOVE my boy.


Kim said...

You are no different then any other parent in this world..
Keep your head up and just make sure he knows you are boss..
You are a wonderful MOMMY..
You are the best..
Love ya.

4D said...

It is...thank you.

Keep smilin!

Anonymous said...

My Sister, as always your blogs are always thought provoking, bringing back many memories of my girls at a young age.
I said a little prayer during this journal entry, as I am very, very blessed. I thank God everyday for making me be a mom, the greatest job on Earth.
Quint has only had his two loving wonderful consistant parents for a few months. For 6 months prior to you loving parents, he was treated and exposed to who-knows-what. And for 9 months before that, a dark, squishy world. Give him a chance, patience and all that love I know you are already giving him....and consistance...he'll be everything that you give him, teach him, etc.
I love you all, Julie

Ali said...

You just spoke my frustration with our son! He has been home 6 months & is 26 months old. He came home very demanding, and still is. Melt downs galore! Head banging, the slightest correction or redirection can lead to Total Melt Down. They got better for awhile but these past 2 wks, Oh, I have been praying myself for help for that day! melt downs in public, Is it me or not only are you a transracial family, but when you feel yourself being doubled stared at during a melt down! You're not alone my friend, and it's nice to hear that I'm not so alone either. I love my son from the depths my heart & he is the best that ever happened to us, but very trying at times. Hugs


Paula said...

It's so refreshing to hear/read such open honesty about the reality of parenting. Thank you!

Children are so incredibly unique and yes, at times challenging and difficult. We can but take each day as it comes, one day at a time.....or on those "opposite" days, one hour at a time perhaps! ;-)

Thanks for sharing. Quint is quite the little character and your blog is great. Love the new look.

Kayce said...

Christy you are so awesome! Thanks for keeping it real once again. Parenting is no walk in the park, if only kids came with manuals. You and AB are doing an amazing job, don't forget that!!

Briana's Mom said...

Hello, my name is Lisa, and I am the parent of a strong willed child. Briana has definitely got her own mind.

I just got back this morning from gymnastics class with Bri. Briana is the fearless child that can do it all. The problem - she won't follow directions. She is not one who likes to wait her turn. There are a number of kids in the class and most of them listen to the teacher. Briana - doesn't like rules. She gets angry and whiny and tries to wriggle from my arms. Yes - she's strong willed. That is my girl.

I love my daughter with all my heart and I know that one day, her strong will will take her very far in life!

Anonymous said...

Great family! It's a shame it's such a long wait to adopt from China..but hang in there! She will be home and it will have been worth it.
We adopted from Russia. Was it easy? NO...but all worth it in the end.
Here is our blog...
Here is our video...
Good luck...parenting is where the 'fun' all begins!

S.Wise said...

It is, it is.... thank you once again.


Anonymous said...

Hopefully this won't be construed as advice - as a foster/adoptive parent a couple of books that have helped us tremendously are the Love & Logic series. It doesn't give you answers, but ideas to help with raising them without losing your mind! Great job to be honest & truthful and helping others to see that it's not all perfect!

Anonymous said...

Christie, you are the best at whatever you decide to do. Being a parent will be no different. You and Anton will become pro's at being parents. You have the strong will and determination, just like Quint. You will do great.
Might I add, that Nanny show is incredible at giving great advise for parents. I watch it and am amazed at what the correct way to handle a situation can do. If you have not watched it, please do. It's kinda like the dog whisperer is for me as a dog mom, giving me great tips for getting the best from my pooches. And it works!

Love you guys so very much, it's perfect you have a child that is like you both, he will teach you how to deal with your own strong wills. You will be better people for it. You are very encouraging to all that read your blog.
Love you, deany

frogglet said...

Thanks so much for your honesty. I am going to check that compliant child box twice, that should work right? Just kidding.
I always appreciate your posts and hope to one day to be able to say I am not alone. I have always viewed parenting as a challenge but I get the feeling it won't always be the challenges I expect.

Anonymous said...

Hey girl! It's hard to make any comment here because I really have no idea what you guys are going through.

I have had my own challenges, and many days where I cried right along with the kids. But I've never adopted, never taken on a child that had experiences beyond my own sphere of existence. I can't imagine what that is like.

And I think Quint probably has emotional overload. Once the joy of two people giving him unlimited amounts of love and affection became a constant thing in his life, he probably had a lot of confusion and communication issues surface. That must be incredibly frustrating for him. His whole life changed overnight, and I can't imagine how a little guy with no way of containing or compartmentalizing his feelings would deal with that.

Probably by throwing tantrums. And testing his mom and dad to make very sure that no matter what he did, they would still be giving him all that love. I'm willing to bet that time will temper his little, well, temper. He will become more even, emotionally. That's my gut feeling. Especially once he is able to communicate more effectively. It's really hard for toddlers when they want to speak so badly, but they just don't have the capacity. And that must be multiplied for Quint, who is now hearing voices speak only in English, rather than the language he heard every day of his life in Ethiopia.

And keep this in mind. The terrible two's are a myth. Don't expect that things will get worse when he is two. Some kids hit it earlier, some later, some never, some seem to exist there permanently. Don't dread it, because it may not happen.

I love ya, and hate to see you guys struggling. Even though we all struggle. I could have cheerfully choked Avery yesterday, imagine how I felt after the red haze died away from in front of my eyes. It's not easy.

But you guys are smart and loving and committed to Quint's best interests. You will survive, and he will survive, and it WILL GET EASIER.

Avery may not survive, but that's my problem to deal with. :)

Lots of love...


Dena said...

Wow-what an initiation into parenting! You are reminding me of alot of feelings I had as a first time mom 8 yrs ago. My experience was not exactly the same, but the feelings similar. Thanks for sharing so openly. I'm going to send your link to someone I know is struggling right now.

Can't wait to see what God has in store for your little man!