Bandages, Boundaries, and Bawling
Hey Everybody! We’ve been home for a week and a half, but it feels like SO much longer than that. It seems like every day there are huge steps forward in attachment and huge steps backward in behavior (and yes, those two are inversely related). Truly, there are milestones being met every day, and I wish I could share them all with you! But here are some of the highlights:
The girls continue to change every day, developing new behaviors and revealing some of their true personality. The girls I see today are not the same ones they were a week ago, or two weeks ago. With adopted children, they develop many coping mechanisms, such as manipulation/lying, aggression, clinginess, excessive charm, or even violence to get what they want/need, because in the orphanage their survival literally depended on their ability to meet their own needs since a parent was not able to provide it for them. So things like crying, whining, lying, stealing, snatching, hoarding food, etc. are all unacceptable behaviors that take a LONG time for kids from hard places to replace with appropriate behaviors. It takes such a long time because they will not abandon those practices until they have come to believe that they have a trustworthy caregiver who will meet their needs for them. Trust takes time, especially for a little person who has never had one single, constant adult figure in their lives.
Thankfully, our girls are not exhibiting all (or even most) of those behaviors, but each day these coping mechanisms seem to take on a new form. One of the biggest things we are struggling with is jealousy as both girls are vying for my attention at all times. If I hold Noella, Mercy cries. If I hold Mercy, Noella cries. If I even try to play with one or talk to one, the other gets upset. I try to hold both of them at the same time, but they don’t want to be near one another or touch one another, so they both cry. It’s been really difficult for me because I’m always having to “pick” which child needs my attention more, which is upsetting for me and for whichever girl doesn’t get “picked” at that moment. I’m continuously going back and forth between the two to try and make them feel secure and loved, but it has been TOUGH, and I feel like neither one is getting the level of attention they really need.
On Monday, we had to take the girls to the International Adoption Clinic for their initial “coming home” visit. We started the day with some Chick-Fil-A (what we have discovered is their absolute favorite food so far) to hopefully put them in a good place before going to the doctor. They got a full physical from the pediatrician, and they did not appreciate it – especially the scope in their ears. They also had to get some blood work done in the lab, so they had to get blood drawn from their arms and a finger prick. Needless to say, that was NOT fun for anyone, and there were many tears and blood-curdling screams. To help the girls attach to Blake, I held them while they got stuck, and then Blake could swoop in and be the rescuer. While it didn’t really do anything to help with Mercy’s attachment, Noella has actually shown great improvement since then! She has been allowing Blake to hold her more often, including going up and down the stairs and even at night to rock her to sleep!!!! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!! This is HUGe progress for their relationship. Not to mention it alleviates significant burden off of me for Blake to be able to share in those moments when Noella needs to be held, and I can only hold one kid at a time. Praise the Lord for the continued progress of attachment that Noella is now showing towards Blake! Thank you so much for praying!
Noella started attaching to Blake just in time too because, in the last couple days, Mercy has been WAY more clingy…like REALLY REALLY excessively so. She needs to be held 24/7. And not just held in my lap or in a chair…no, she needs me to be standing up holding her, or she breaks down completely. Our family counselor said that Mercy apparently just needs a little extra love in order to feel safe. It’s been really exhausting because I have to hold her (standing up) while she eats, while we play, while we watch TV, anything. I also hold her to get her to go to sleep (which is now taking 2-3 hours each night for her to finally fall asleep, as opposed to the 45 mins it was taking last week). I’m gonna be honest with y’all…this phase Mercy is in has been TOUGH on me. It is draining for me physically and emotionally, and it is beginning to impact my own attachment to her. Thankfully, with all this attention I’m having to give to Mercy, Noella is now delighting in Blake’s attention, so the jealousy is not as extreme!
Both of the girls have been pushing more boundaries lately, figuring out what we will accept and what we won’t. Sometimes, adopted children will do this on purpose to test whether or not a caregiver is truly committed to sticking around. I’m not sure if that’s what’s going on with our girls, or if it’s just typical toddler behavior. Either way, we are working hard to establish boundaries and definitely doing a lot more disciplining around here! Discipline is confusing for kids who spent the first 3 years of their life never being disciplined or given boundaries. As always, we are careful to discipline in such a way that fosters attachment so they still feel secure in our love for them. The adage is “connecting is more important than correcting” which definitely ain’t easy!
We’ve also been enjoying many new things lately, like the playground, the neighborhood pool, an inflatable pool in our back yard, three wheelers, sprinklers, dancing, Doc McStuffins, and hanging out with grandparents! The girls have also shown great progress with Jazzy! Each day they’ve gotten a little braver with her. At this point, she no longer has to be isolated outside and is able to roam on the same floor of the house…just not within 15 feet of the girls. The girls are FASCINATED by her and talk about her ALL THE TIME. While eating or playing they’ll just randomly say “I love you, Jazzy!”, and they love to sit at the gate at the top of the stairs and watch her or watch her in the yard through the window. Yesterday was the first time the girls pet Jazzy (through the baby gate), and today Noella actually let Jazzy lick her! They feel confident and safe playing with her through the gate, but much less so when they’re in the same space. But we are so thankful for progress so the girls can start attaching to Jazzy too!
Noella is attaching much more to Blake now! The girls are progressing with being comfortable around Jazzy! Noella is starting to show us more of her true self, which is independent and sweet! The girls are really starting to pick up on some English words. The girls are laughing and giggling much more freely now which is BIG!
For Mercy to move out of this clingy phase QUICKLY – that she feels safe and loved without having to be held 24/7. For my patience and endurance with Mercy’s clinginess – that I would be understanding of the fear she feels and not get angry or annoyed with her. For both girls to continue attaching to Blake. For the girls’ fear of other people to subside, especially so they will begin to feel secure and open up with their grandparents! Mercy has diarrhea again, and I think her stomach pain might be contributing to her behavior and difficulty sleeping. Please pray for healing.