Sunday, April 21, 2013

Keeping It Real -2 Months Home

I've had several adoptive mamas contact me lately asking how we are doing but asking more in a way of, "Please tell me that you are having struggles too."
Yes, we have struggles.  A lot of struggles.
Adoption is hard.  Period.  And I think there is this guilt you have as an adoptive mom that after SO MUCH WAITING and longing, and crying, and begging, and deal making with God if-he-would-just- bring-your-child-home-you-will-be-the-best-parent-ever-for-this-child-and-love-them-into-healing that when your child does come home and you hit that first temper tantrum or act of defiance and you try all your Karen Purvis methods you learned so that you could be the best mommy possible while you were doing all the waiting and they aren't working and you start questioning if you really are the best mommy for your child....  It stinks.
I started to go down that path with Munni.  I think all the medical crap was an added measure of just-how-great-of-a-mom-do-you-really-think-you-are? thrown in my face by the enemy.
Her background is the perfect recipe to create a child with RAD, one who will poke out your cat's eyes or burn down your house.  I'm not joking.  I know of two families who were interested in adopting her but turned her down due to the physician's advisement that she would have serious mental and emotional problems.  Add to this recipe the fact that I am single and also a first time mom.  Of a six year old.  It's like going 0 to 80mph in 1 second and I'm trying to jump on.  I've been with her 24/7 since February 14th with only 1 break of 3 hours where she stayed with my mom.  That's a lot of one-on-one time :)  I can honestly say that in the last week or so, the fog has started to lift and I've been able to spend more time with the Lord and pray and I feel like he's shown me some truth that I needed hear.
Ready for it?  I'm not perfect.  Munni is not perfect.  I will never be a perfect mom and Munni will never be a perfect child.  That's reality.  So then we move on from there.  You might be thinking, "that's obvious," but God also showed me that I need to throw off the guilt.  Unless you've adopted, you aren't going to "get" the guilt I'm talking about, just like I don't "get" pushing a baby out :)  You see, there's this guilt you feel as an adoptive parent that you can't say that anything is hard or that you child is driving you crazy or that you got really mad at your kid and seriously contemplated spanking them (which you probably don't know that you should NEVER spank an adoptive child), and that some days you look at them and wonder what in the heck did you get yourself into, because of the guilt.  You tell yourself that you begged for this child.  You prayed endlessly, you cried, you asked other people to give you money so you could bring this child home.  It's the Cinderella of parenting.  You've adopted this child with said background and now that this child has a family, everything should be perfect.  But it's not.  

One of the hardest things for me was Munni's temper tantrums.  Any little thing would set her off and then she would literally scream at the top of her lungs for at least an hour straight, holding her hand over her one eye, grinding her teeth between screams, and giving me the death stare.  She wouldn't let me comfort her and she wouldn't let me leave the room.  I'm not kidding when I say the TOP of her lungs.  If you were walking by my house you probably would have thought to call CPS.  It's very, very trying to sit in a room with a screaming child-not just because of the screaming but the fact that she wouldn't let me comfort her was the hardest.  Anyway, one time I had to leave and went out to the front porch because mama was gonna lose her mind.  As I sat there, I thought about all she has been through and if I had to go through what she did, I would either be in a straight jacket or on a drinking binge.  She is manipulative.  She has the street smarts and survival skills that most adults don't have.  Because she had to.  So my job is to help unravel all of that and love her through it.  It's not my job to heal her- that's Jesus' job.  
After about 5 minutes on the porch, I turned to my trusty friend Google.  I poured over every parenting book I could find, reading reviews, matching up situations, until finally I found, "Parenting the Hurt Child" by Gregory C. Keck and Regina M Kupecky.  I bought it with my 1-click and may or may not have paid the extra money to overnight it :)  Talk about balm to dry, crusty lips; water to the parched mouth; 7 course meal to the starving belly; a lifeboat amidst the raging waves; a Godsend.  This book validated all MY feelings and also gave me REAL situations that were almost exactly like what I was going through with Munni.  It also gave me so many amazing ways to build up her positive, loving experiences account.  The more positive experiences she has, the more they replace the negative ones.  I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone adopting an older child.  Munni has responded so well to the techniques they teach.  
Probably the angriest I got with Munni was when she hit Rollie.  Sweet, loving, calm and gentle Rollie.  She was in the middle of one of her tantrums, had thrown a bunch of stuff and still couldn't get a reaction out of me.  That's when she looked at Rollie and then looked at me.  I knew what she was thinking so I told her she would be in BIG trouble if she chose to hit him.  She looked right at me and hit him.  I. FLIPPED.OUT.  I scooped her up, in my meanest and loud voice told her that it is NEVER O.K. to hit a dog and marched her down the basement steps and into the garage.  I set her down and slammed the garage door.  We stood in the garage for about 10 minutes.  See, these are the things you come up with when you can't spank :)  But let me tell you, she screamed and cried like her arm was being cut off.  She knew she was in trouble.  The book told me to save anger and a loud voice for serious behaviors only.  To me, this was serious.  1) It really, really made me mad that she hit Rollie because he is the sweetest dog ever and 2) I know that Rollie would never bite her but I don't want her to think she can hit dogs because you never know how a dog will react.  I was bit in the face by a dog when I was 22 years old.  It was an extremely traumatic experience.
We stood in the garage for about 10 minutes and then I picked her up and we went back upstairs.  I explained to her why it's not O.K. to hit animals.  After that, I made her apologize to Rollie.  It took awhile, but she did.  And then I loved on her.  We did a fun activity together and I repeatedly hugged, kissed, and told her how much I loved her.  That's the last time I had to get really angry and loud with her.
The book showed me that except for serious situations like the Rollie incident, I don't have to let her frustrations and meltdowns alter my emotional state.  I think every parent could relate to this.  When she would start one of her defiant acts, I could feel my anger rising.  I know it's not about me, but when you are in the situation, sometimes it's easy to take things personally.  For me, being able to step back emotionally and stay calm has been huge for both of us.  She still screams and cries but it's not for an hour and her turnaround time has decreased significantly.
In retrospect, I would have allowed myself to have more break times from her, even just a half an hour. Again, the guilt factor and longing factor prevented me from doing that.  I missed out on the first 6 years of her life and I didn't want to miss out on any more.  But, I've learned that not only is it O.K. to have small breaks for her, it's healthier for me and ultimately her because I can be a better mom.  If I could do it again, I would have asked a family member or trusted friend to sit with her so that I could take my dogs for a walk.  I would encourage any adoptive parent to make sure that you have some time for you- whether you are married or single- I think it's really important.  I'm glad I learned this for the next time :)
I'm not going to go into how wonderful I think Munni is because the majority of my posts already do that :)  I love her more than I could have ever imagined but I wanted this post to encourage anyone out there who might be going through a time like this and to tell you,  IT IS NORMAL!!!
The other day we went to the park and I did this photo shoot:

Looks like a perfect day at the park, right?  Wrong.  There were tears, screaming, throwing of sunglasses, and crumpling to the ground.  Not everything is always how it looks.  We had a wonderful time at the park and we had a miserable time at the park.  That is real life.  And it's O.K.


  1. OH thank you for sharing that. There have been so many moments in talking to other adoptive moms that I worry we aren't going to be what our girl needs-and I'm so worried about what we are taking on. But at the same time, it is so good to hear that those feelings are normal, and ok, and things will be hard but thats ok too. It won't be perfect, but we can still find the good in the imperfect.

  2. Yep that's exactly right. I recall calling Lisa early on when we got home.... saying, she's biting and throwing food, as she looks me right in the eye - total defiance. Lisa's advice was, "that's NOT ok"... and she told me of times when families don't ever provide any discipline for years on end, because of the guilt... and then wonder after 5-6 years home why they have a raging brat. So these boundaries that you are teaching Munni with love will pay big dividends down the road -- keep it up, good momma. Also, I think it does get easier once they fully realize that they are not going to get by with defiant behavior -- Lauren is much more obedient with Brad than with me - I think because he didn't allow much early on -- and I was more the push over. She is getting better as I've been more consistent and applied those timeout (timein) consequences. I've also started using the same redirecting language that her school uses.... it's amazing how kids are angels at school and sometimes "challenging" at home. Using this same language is consistent and seems to get her attention. Hang in the honesty.

  3. thank you for your honesty. seriously.

  4. I'm so glad you're not being silent -- when we're transparent about the good and bad, it frees up other people to be honest (and makes us feel like we're not failing!). This is wonderful, Kristen! I love your perseverance and willingness to keep trying, keep loving, and keep pressing into addressing the hurts Munni has suffered.

  5. Two of my precious kiddos had these sorts of tantrums after coming home. Hang in there, Kristen. It's so hard, but definitely worth the effort. You're doing great!

  6. You are doing an amazing job with this child. It is clear that God chose exactly the right mama for her. And the right child for her mama. You will lose it. And she will forgive you. You may find this blog: of help. I sure do. Blessings! And thank you for sharing.

  7. You are doing a great job parenting this child. God clearly chose the right mama for this child. And the right child for this mama. It is not easy. But it is right. You may find this blog: helpful. I sure do. And thank you for sharing.

  8. I pray for you and for the healing of Muni: mind, body, and spirit! The words hit home for me when you said the "this is the kind of child that would poke your eyes our and burn down the house..." Not many REALLY know what you are talking about unless they have had such a child and looked into their eyes when they are in such a state of mind...I know exactly what you my daughter did try to poke my eyes out and left me legally blind in one eye for two weeks. Often these children are sweet and obedient in public and you do not want to say anything bad about them...but their teachers would have no idea how they can "flip"...After 18 months, we are seeing healing and understanding emerge. I still make sure the nails are very short!