Monday, November 16, 2009

I saw tail lights last night in a dream about my old life, Everybody leaves, so why, why wouldn't you?*

I'm sorry for my absence from blogging.

My children were sick all last week. Husband and I were busy trying to get each of us to work on days when we needed to be at work, and trading off as necessary. It was not a great week at our house. Certainly lots of people had it worse, so I shouldn't complain.

Lana has hit me with some seriously, seriously heavy stuff this week, and I had an upsetting conference with Gabriel's teacher. I'm not even sure where to start.

Forgive me if this starts to feel free form and pointless.

Gabriel's teacher tells me that Gabe has trouble focusing on the material and that she often finds him reading a novel under his desk instead of paying attention. While she appreciates his love of reading, his failure to pay attention when she is giving directions means that he is coming up and asking her to repeat directions for assignments.

In spite of this, Gabriel has As and one A-. I asked if everyone in the 4th grade has grades that high. She said, "no, there are other children in the class who would much prefer to have Gabriel's grades. But he needs to pay attention. The material is getting more difficult. If he doesn't pay attention, his grades will slip."

I don't know what to make of this. Gabe can focus for a long time if something is interesting to him. (He can build a huge Lego creation, or read a book for a long time. The book that he is currently hiding under his desk is book three of the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" which I think is catalogued at a 6th grade level.)

I've spent a good long time wringing my hands about this. The bottom line is that I think that Gabe is partly bored at school, and partly he does need to focus and be more responsible. His teacher seems to think he has some ADD, although she concedes that he is bright enough to cover the areas in which the ADD is a problem. She stated categorically that he is not bothersome or hyper and that he is well-liked and gets along with everyone, that he volunteers answers (when he is paying attention) and has good problem solving ideas.

I am considering signing him up for karate lessons so that he can learn some self-discipline? Is that a bad idea? Thoughts?

And then there is Lana. I have heard the following statements from Lana in the past 10 days:

Lana (out to dinner for her birthday with our friends H&L) - to H, "I wish you were my mommy." (H & Lana have a special relationship and they are extremely fond of each other. Lana appears to need to push boundaries - and I think she still isn't convinced that I am not going to leave. She still asks pretty regularly if I will always be her mommy.)

Lana, after I have yelled at her for being awful to her brother - "Are you still my mommy when you are mad at me?" (My response was, "There is nothing you could do or say that would make me not be your mommy anymore." She eyed me with suspicion.)

Lana, to me, after yet another fight between her and Gabriel, "I hate Gabe! I don't want him to live with us anymore!" (And I told her that it hurt my heart when she said that because I love both of them, and they are going to be brother and sister forever, and they are stuck with each other, and that's the way it is.)

Lana (after attending a birthday party for her friend Charity**) - "I was the only brown person there. There weren't any other Indian people there." (Okay, I have to admit, this made me scratch my head for a second. So I said, "all of the other girls at the party had white skin?" Lana says, "No, they all had skin the same as YOUR skin." So, I said, "why do you think you're Indian?" and Lana answered, "because my skin is brown like Rekha's, and Rekha** is Indian." "Rekha is Indian because her parents are from India. You are Vietnamese, because you are from Vietnam." "Why is Rekha's skin and my skin the same color then?" This conversation went on for QUITE A LONG TIME. We talked about how our friends Miho and Keiko have skin that is pale like my skin but hair and eyes like Lana's. We talked about how her friend Becca** has skin like hers, but hair that is very different. We talked about how her friend Katie has skin and hair like Lana's, but a mommy and daddy who look like Husband and I. We talked about how people come in all shades. This is something that Lana spends a lot of time thinking about. What I find particularly interesting is that Lana does not identify at all with the one other child in her class who is Southeast Asian (her mother is Thai and her father is white). Lana is insistent that there is nothing similar between herself and that child. Insistent to the point of obstinacy, almost. I wonder if it's simply that she likes Rekha and Becca and doesn't like this other child? I told her that if she wanted a word that described both her and Rekha and also describe Miho and Keiko and, L~ (the Thai child in her class that she doesn't like), that the word she was looking for was Asian. It is clear to me that this is weighing heavily on Lana's mind. I think she and I need to sit down with a map and talk about race and geography in general terms.)

Lana (as we were getting mommy-daughter pedicures, to the girl who was painting Lana's toes) - "How come you got the same name as me?" (The girl's name was Lan, and it was on her name tag.) The girl painting Lana's toes said, "Your name is Lan?" "My name is Lana now." The girl painting her toes looked at me, and I said, "Her Vietnamese name is Bich Lan." So, the girl says, "You're from Vietnam?" and Lana says, "Yes." And the girl said, "How long have you been here?" and Lana says, casually, "three years." The girl says, "That's how long I've been here! You like it here?" and Lana says, "Yes, yes I do. But sometimes I miss the food." (At which point, I had a salon full of Vietnamese people explaining to me where to buy the best Vietnamese food. Which, in fact, involves driving to a suburb of Detroit, about 90 minutes away.)

I'm not sure where I'm going with these vignettes. I think I just want to convey that Lana, at the age of 7, is extremely self-aware.

She knows she looks different. She knows that people have loved her and left her and she doesn't have that much faith that the people she loves right now won't leave. She's knows that she's from Vietnam, but she's not entirely sure what that means. Some days, when we ask her if she wants to visit, she is adamant that she does not. Other days, she misses her foster mom and wants to see her again.

I feel like I can't get my feet underneath me in this parenting gig these days...I had a date with Husband on Friday night, and we were sitting in a Japanese restaurant, eating sushi, and I found myself missing Japan, missing the time that we lived there. I expressed as much to Husband, and then I said, "I'm not sure if I miss Japan, or if I miss the luxury of all that time we had, to just be alone together." It was easier then, when I wasn't wearing my heart outside my body...


*The Gaslight Anthem, Great Expectations

** not their real names


Blogger PaleMother said...

My first grader has some attention issues that so far are not hampering his academic progress, but it may become more of an issue as the demands in school increase. It's an ever-present concern.

At younger ages, he did not do well with team sport rec activities. We signed him up for Tae Kwon Do over a year ago and it's been excellent for him on so many levels. (I will qualify that by saying that I think the teacher, who is outstanding -- it's a true vocation with him -- has everything to do with that.)

The Master is Korean and he has the Pied Piper's way with kids,he clearly loves them, but at the same time he manages to be strict enough to command their best effort and get it. He expects to have to meet the student wherever he is (he told me so and complained that American schools are often terrible about this, among other things ... and he's not wrong). He brings students along from wherever they are unlike so many coaches who just shrug off kids that are less naturally inclined. I think this is one of the benefits of individual sports.

TKD demands focus and concentration and (at least at our school) also promots well roundedness (doing well in school), character, respect (at home and the gym) and self-respect. It is also very goal oriented and it rewards progress. I just can't say enough good things about it.

As for your daughter, she sounds smart as a whip. I don't have any advice, but your post is so thoughtfully written, it was a pleasure to read. I know just what you mean about parenting sea legs.

This is not exactly helpful, but as an aside ... the TKD Master used to hold "Korean culture camps" for Korean adoptees who wanted to learn more about their birth culture. I guess the demand for such a thing has waned recently as there have been fewer adoptees from Korea in our area. I think such a thing is probably very rare ... something like that would be helpful.

When Mrs. TKD told me about those camps, I thought that it's not only adoptees that benefit from exposure to other cultures. !!


Monday, November 16, 2009 5:45:00 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

Mmm, I have nothing for you on Lana, but my hopes that it will work out. As far as the reading under the desk thing goes... I did that. Alot. Once I was called out on it, and the teachers dragged my parents in, they decided to bump me up into some more difficult classes. I was really bored. So maybe a more difficult class? I know that's hard to ask a school to do that, but maybe there is something along those lines?

Monday, November 16, 2009 6:47:00 PM  
Blogger KMPKC said...

Here's my 2cents. I am sure Gabe is bored - he is so bright. I would see if there is some sort of Gifted/Talented group he can join at school. It might also be better for him to have some sort of a pull-out situation where he goes to another class (usually a higher grade level) for whatever particular subject in which he seems advanced. I would say that karate and/or chess would be a great way to get him to focus. I had a similar issue with Brynn in 1st grade. It took a few conversations with the teacher, chess club, and making her keep her favorite books at home for awhile, for it all to work out.

As for Lana - this is totally anecdotal and based on an admittedly small sample (as Saline has relatively few Asian females), but from what I've seen, when there is an Asian female student who is adopted into a white family, there's been a lot of adjustment issues that manifest into defiance, arguing, and self-esteem issues. PLEASE don't think I am projecting this onto Lana; just sharing my observations of teenagers in my class. Maybe some type of counseling? I think you may have already done this, but it could be that the issues are different enough now, rather than being about transitioning into the US. You could also think about getting a mentor/babysitter/"play friend" that is an older Asian student. She might feel like she can confide in and identify with this young lady. Maybe she could ask questions to this girl that she can't quite ask you guys. I bet if you called the high school and talked to the National Honor Society/Student Council advisor, they'd be able to find a mature student who could be a resource.

Don't know - just throwing out ideas. I can see where she is going to test things and push boundaries; partly being 7, partly wondering if she pushes enough will you guys give her away too.

Monday, November 16, 2009 7:33:00 PM  
OpenID lookingforgeorge said...

It does sound like Gabe is bored. I wouldn't listen to the ADD thing for even a second unless you've seen other things at home that would seem to support that theory. If you get a good instructor, the martial arts thing can help kids learn to focus more, but if the problem is that he's bored in school, then I don't really know how much it will help because school will still be boring for him.

In some ways Lana sounds a lot like Tank Boy. He still has to check in with me on a regular basis to make sure I am always going to be his mom. And when he gets in trouble for something, he asks if I still love him, if I still want to be his mom, etc. Oh, and the saying she hates her brother? Semi-normal kid behavior, though we do hear that, too, from Tank Boy way more than we hear it from the other kids. Okay, I actually can't remember hearing it from the oldest two, but they probably said it when they were younger. Anyway, I don't think it's that unusual for a kid to say/yell/scream things like that when they are upset.

Monday, November 16, 2009 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger MotherMotherOcean said...

Lots to comment on. Unfortunately, I am running out the door soon.

As I said on the lounge, understimulation is probably the issue. It happens. Go for the martial arts class. It can't hurt.

As for your daughter, she is right smack at the age where social comparisons take place. Unfortunately, it is the nature of things at that age. Just keep guiding her through it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:41:00 AM  
Blogger The Browns said...

I read this last night and didn't comment because I didn't know quite what to say. But I couldn't stop thinking about Lana and her struggles and your struggle as her mom to help her though this.

I actually participated in a Diversity training at work yesterday and they asked us all to think of our most vivid or earliest memory when we realized we were different. Mine was when we moved to Hawaii and I was all of a sudden the whitest kid in my class and my being half-Vietnamese was just not Asian enough. I can't help but wander if Lana is having her moment now.

I think I'm rambling and don't really have any insight or advise, but am sending you lots of encouragement. Lana will figure this out and at some point, will be comfortable in her own skin. In the meantime, keep doing what you're doing - and love her through this. I'm certain that's what she needs more than anything else.

It also just occurred to me that my blog is private and that it might feel creepy to not be able to check in on me the way I check in on you! I'll send you an invite to your zaftig hotmail account. Feel free to stop by. I know I'd want to know who the random person commenting on my blog is!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 9:28:00 AM  
Blogger thecurryseven said...

I'm just going to agree with everyone before me that I think the ADHD-thing is a non-starter. Gabe sounds like a bright boy who loves to read and will do so whenever he can. (As someone who would continually read in school, even when I wasn't supposed to, I can sympathise.) Dare I propose the teacher is a bit annoyed that he can do well in his lessons despite the fact she feel she's not hanging on her every word?

As for advice. Living with my clueless (with regard to adoption/differences/etc.) boy gives me no experience with this level of awareness. I will say that taking TM back to VN when we adopted K was the best thing we did. He now has some really good memories of VN (as opposed to the incredibly traumatic ones from his adoption) and (the best thing) he learned that he would always come back with us. I realize this is not the most practical suggestion you will receive...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 9:28:00 AM  
Blogger thecurryseven said...

Wanted to add I need to proof read...or quite using pronouns. Yes, I know Gabe is a 'he'.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 9:29:00 AM  
OpenID bunnysmom said...

I have nothing but hugs, big big hugs XXXXXX

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 10:50:00 AM  
OpenID mrsbroccoliguy said...

FWIW, it's totally possible to have ADHD *and* be academically gifted. Totally. That said, I really don't think reading under his desk is an indication of ADHD. (quite the contrary, actually). I agree, he needs more academic challenge. Or the teacher needs to chill and let the boy read - he's not hurting anyone. She could write the directions on the board as she talks and if he asks later all she'd have to do is say "look at the board". Just my .02

Re: Lana. I've had some similar-ish conversations with R, regarding skin color and ethnicity. Although I have to say R has the uncanny ability to find the one brown child anywhere we go (which was quite a feat when we lived in a very white very small town. Not such a challenge here in The Land Of Diversity).

I hear "I hate my brother" "I wish he wasn't here" type stuff from oldest (bio) child all.the.time. R, not so much but she also has days when one brother or the other is driving her bonkers. It's the fun of siblings. :-)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 3:48:00 PM  
Blogger Trying Traditional said...


I had my parents called in a few times for reading when the teacher was teaching. We had such wonderful reading books and were only allowed to read a chapter a day...I couldn't stand it! My vote is the same as everyone else, unless you see things at home that throw up a flag or two. I would say he is top of his class and the teacher is teaching to the middle of the class leaving Gabe a bit bored.

Friday, November 20, 2009 11:56:00 AM  

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