Friday, July 25, 2008

the heart has no bones, you say, so it won’t break, but the purpose of loving is the pounding it takes*

Lana has had a rough time of it the past week. (And consequently, we have had a rough time in what was already a rough week, considering the situation with J~.)

There have been two significant tantrums, and some smaller fits.

When I say “tantrum”, I’m not quite sure if this fully describes her behavior. When she is in the midst of one of these episodes, she is screaming and kicking (although, admittedly, she does not kick at PEOPLE. She will kick the floor, but, she doesn’t kick people. She also doesn’t bite, which I have read about other children doing during this kind of thing, so, thank God for small favors). Her body becomes very, very rigid, she curls in on herself, and eventually will begin to hyperventilate, at which point whatever she has been crying/screaming about becomes, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” or sometimes, ‘I need Daddy, I can’t breathe, I need Daddy, I can’t breathe.”

She has not, ever, called for me during one of these episodes. Her anger may be directed (and in fact often IS directed) at Husband, because he is the one who has punished her by denying her something she wants or sending her to her room, but, he is the one she wants to come to her when she is upset like that.

This is unfortunate because I am much more capable of sitting next to her and waiting for her rage to pass than Husband is. (I am not good at having the rage directed AT me, but, I will sit quietly next to her and wait.) I employed this “sit quietly and try to hold child” method on the rare occasions in Gabe’s toddler hood that he would throw an epic tantrum. Even now, if Gabriel is angry (Lana being the person most likely to make him angry), if I follow him to his room and rub his back and talk to him quietly, he can be brought back from his anger fairly quickly.

This technique does NOT work with my daughter. When I try it, she curls further into herself, becomes more upset, and chants, “please leave, please leave, please leave, leave leave leave leave leave” until I worry she will start with the hyperventilating, so, I leave.

At a certain point her raging becomes something…else, something sadder and less angry, more woeful, I guess. At that point, if Husband goes near her, rather than kicking the floor and screeching at him, she will fling herself at him and cling to him, and he tells her “breathe, breathe” and then she desperately needs affection from him.

The extremely unfortunate part about these tantrums in the past week is that they have been witnessed by Keiko, who is an exchange teacher from Japan who is staying with us for 3 weeks.

(I actually wonder if the presence of Keiko in our house, and the disruption of her routine, may be responsible for her heightened tantrums this week. She was quiet and clingy at the airport when we went to get Keiko, and she overheard someone ask Keiko if she (Lana) was her (Keiko’s) daughter, which prompted Lana to climb up my body and into my arms (not necessarily odd behavior, but, the timing seemed telling.)

Keiko is far too polite to comment on the tantrums, but, I have to think she found the behavior disturbing to witness.

After the second tantrum this week, I took Lana into my bedroom to read some books and to cuddle in our big bed. We read about four books and then we were just lying there, and I was rubbing at my ear.

“Why you rub your ear?” Lana asked.

“Because it hurts right now,” I said.

“Maybe you gotta go see the doctor?” she inquired.

“Maybe.” I said. (I think it is just sinuses, but, it’s been hurting for about a week, so, maybe I should go.)

Lana suddenly says, “I don’t never wanna get another shot from the doctor.”

“Sometimes you have to get a shot at the doctor, to keep you healthy.” (I think she might actually need one more shot this summer before she starts kindergarten, so, this conversation is making me nervous.)

“I no like shots. I cry,” she says.

“They hurt, but, sometimes you have to have one to stay healthy. Daddy had to have a lot of shots when he was so sick last month.”

“Babies get lots of shots,” she comments.

“Yes, I guess they do.” I say, wondering where she is going with this.

“Who went with me? Who went with me to get my shots when I was baby?” she asks.

“Um…” I say.

“You go with me, when I was baby, I cried for shots?” she asks.

“No, honey. I think, maybe the mom you had before me, your mommy before me, maybe she went with you.”

She is lying with her back to me, her tiny backside curled against my stomach, the back of her head nestled against my throat. She says nothing for a few minutes.

“I had two moms, before. One of them was hooker.”

“What???” I say, too loudly.

“No, no, that’s wrong….” She corrects herself, “One of them was COOKER. She was all the time cooking. She was COOKER.”
(I try very hard not to laugh at this point. She certainly wouldn’t understand the humor in her alphabetical mistake.)

“You had two moms and one of them cooked all the time?” I ask.

“Yeah, one of them was cooker,” she repeats, as if I am not getting her point.

I wonder if she thinking of her foster grandmother, who, in the four photographs we have of her, is wearing an apron. Maybe she cooked a lot?

Lana rolls over to face me, and wraps her arms around me very tightly.

“I give you a squishy hug, mama,” she says. “I love you very, very,” (on her fingers she carefully counts “very” 10 times) “much,” she finishes.

“And I love you very, very” (and I use her fingers to count “very” 10 times) “much, too.”

I’m just relieved to know that she knows I love her, and that, of her life before, she remembers someone who came with her when she had to get her shots, and someone else, who was a COOKER, and not a HOOKER.

Some days I feel like mothering this child takes me from the depths of despair and frustration to the heights of hilarity. It’s quite a roller coaster, but, I think the high points are outweighing the low ones.


* Josh Ritter, You Don't Make it Easy, Babe (the song is the background to this video on YouTube. I did not make the video, not sure what it's about, the point to the link is the music.)


Blogger kj said...

We adopted our children when they were quite young, so their past histories are, unfortunately, mostly a blank. It's fascinating how Lana's history unfolds in surprising ways!

Keep up the good (and hard) work of raising wonderful children!


Friday, July 25, 2008 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Brief moment of panic there as I read this post. So glad she is remembering a COOKER mom and not a hooker mom.

Friday, July 25, 2008 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger mam said...

Yes, that's quite a pounding your heart is taking these days. I'm glad yours is so resiliant...and that it gets wonderful little reprieves like at the end of your post to recover.

Friday, July 25, 2008 2:56:00 PM  
Blogger thecurryseven said...

Boy, few words of wisdom from me. Just immense understanding and sympathy from a mother who came home yesterday from an errand to discover a son who had been screaming at the top of his lungs for over 20 minutes along with the leg kicking. (It takes no imagination what-so-ever to think what Lana looked like during her tantrum.) I think you may be on to something with the exchange student. TM never does well when his schedule is disrupted. In our case, I'm pretty sure it was because we had run out both the Omega 3 fish oil and the acidophilus we had been suplimenting TM's diet with. They seem to make a huge difference in his self-control and impulsiveness.

My only piece of advice would be to read Deborah Gray's new book about Trauma in Adoption...I'm not sure that's the name or not, but I found it very helpful.

Friday, July 25, 2008 4:03:00 PM  
Blogger maxhelcal said...

I hope you don't get upset with me but...perhaps Lana doesn't need to think of having a 1st momma or 2nd mama etc. I think this could be confusing/upsetting for someone her age, YOU are her momma. Yes, she had people take care of her before (who loved her like a mama) but now she is FINALLY with her REAL momma. Not that this means to forget the past but she is so young to be given all this information/choices and it must be hard to sort through her feelings when being given so many options. She is very smart but still so vulnerable at this age. Even as a grown up, WE have a hard time comprehending it all. She obviously feels that you are her need to affirm that. I actually think in another year you'll be fine with it.

I wrote about this very subject long ago on my blog. One of the few posts where I actually share my feelings.

You can certainly delete my comment and I won't be upset. I was almost afraid to post it but I feel like you need to affirm your "motherness".

Love you Gretchen.

dare I press the publish button ...

Friday, July 25, 2008 8:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Christina said...

I definitely think the exchange student is contributing to her being a bit "off"... my oldest needs her routine and gets really moody when it's messed with. And to have another Asian woman in your home might be confusing too (especially with people making comments like that).
I think Michelle has an interesting point. We refer to Zeeb's foster mom as a foster mom. The word "mom" is still there but I wonder if connecting "foster" to it changes the way it sounds to him. But then, he's never talked about the past with the depth that Lana does and rarely seems to be thinking deep thoughts like that. (he does cry over very little things sometimes, and then I wonder if it's because he's 5 or because he just needs an excuse to get some emotion out)
The "cooker" conversation would have totally cracked me up. Kudos to you from not laughing out loud at the time!!

Saturday, July 26, 2008 2:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

That's rough. The tantrums and hyperventilating sound difficult, and it's interesting that she wants your husband. I wish we could get inside our kids heads sometimes. (The hooker/cooker thing is just plain funny. If she only knew what mixing up one letter can do to a mom!)

I know our adoption situations are much different (our son is younger and was 10.5 months old when he came home), but we've struggled a lot. As he becomes more attached to us, he likes "strangers" in our home less and less. I had a close friend spend the night about three weeks ago b/c she had ended a long term relationship and was was having a hard time. She's a good friends, but she's sort of like I used to be before we had Mattix: not super natrual and kinda akward around children. She tries so hard, but you know how kids can just tell? Anyway, Ed was out of town and Mattix was ANGRY that she was here. His behavior was terrible all night and by bed time, he was yelling (angrily) BYE BYE at her, blowing nasty sounding kisses (he's sooo sweet with those usually, so you would have had to hear this to believe it) and POINTING at the door. He wanted her out of his house. He kept it up on and off all night. He woke up in a good mood, but when he realized she was still here, it started all over again. Anyway, I think you're onto something with the new person in your home.

You have an amazing way of conveying your experiences, Gretchen. I'm not sure if I can articulate what I'm thinking, but I always enjoy your posts.

Saturday, July 26, 2008 3:23:00 PM  
Blogger niobe said...

You describe Lana's tantrums so clearly that I can feel myself tensing up. I'm sure they're extremely painful to watch, but It sounds like you're dealing with them exactly the right way and giving Lana what she needs.

Saturday, July 26, 2008 5:17:00 PM  
Blogger S. said...

My heart goes out to you and Lana. I wish her pain could be taken away!

I am still cracking up at the hooker comment, though, so thanks for making me smile!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 8:20:00 AM  

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