Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Classic Adoption Zinger

(I wrote this yesterday, soon after the event in question)

Just had a zinger from Lizzie...been waiting for this one.

Her behaviour of late has been rather difficult again and she has been constantly challenging me in an effort to assert authority over both herself and me.  It's always extra hard when her alpha is strong.  I've been trying to work on our relationship in an effort to help her alpha subside naturally, but there are times when nothing seems to work (at least in the short term...long term is likely more hopeful).  And so today I had to gently call her on a few rather horrid behaviours by pulling her away from an activity that her brothers and cousin were engaged in.

I pulled her into the office with me and gave her a hug and told her that we were going to take a breather together for a few minutes.  She wondered why and I said that I'd noticed that she just seemed a little on edge and that maybe I could sit with her while we relaxed together for a few minutes...she could rejoin the others soon.

And then there it was, arms crossed over her chest and chin protruding just a little:

"Well, you're not my real mother and you're not as important as my other one so I don't have to listen to you."

Woosh.  Wind out of the sails.

It was just a heartbeat of indrawn breath for me, though.  Because when you are someone's mother you know just how to respond as if on automatic pilot.

"I am indeed your real mother, my love, and you do need to listen to this mother."

Then I pulled her resistant little body just a wee bit closer to me and whispered so that she had to bend in to hear.

"And I also know how much it hurts that your first mother can't be here on earth with you any more.  How I dearly wish she were."

She melted against me for a second before remembering that she was mad at me.

In both my head and my heart I knew it for what it was...her frustration that I was in charge and that she wasn't allowed to behave as she determined.  Her default is always to think that she has to take care of herself because, deep down, she fears that if she doesn't look after herself then no one will.  It puts us at loggerheads on occasion because, of course, I'm the adult and the one charged with her care - despite her fear, it's not she who is in charge.  Hers is not a logical position because of course we will take care of her and love her no matter what; but it's the default of her heart based in the primal wound that will never ever never ever go away:  She has already experienced the loss of everything important in her life (including her mother); and she is prepared to go it alone again if necessary.  So I understand.  I really do.  There's not one part of me that is upset about it.

But still...'s just so right there.  So at the surface.  So ready to use in memory of a mother who was her mother for barely a year of her almost nine, a mother that she has no conscious memory of.

It's a good reminder for me that I really don't have to scratch much below Lizzie's surface to know that her wound is still there...will always be there.  Precious child.


  1. Ruth, I won't ever know this emotional uncertainty or anguish but I do know that parenting is an emotional journey filled with highs and lows, moments of annoyance and joy, a days of disbelief that you ever went into this willingly and other days when you can't imagine any other way. All you can do is your bet part and I truly believe the rest will fall into place. Your are so thoughtful, so loving and your journey reminds me that we all have more to learn about being parents from your openness with us.

    1. Yes, parenting totally is a roller coaster, barrelling from the ups to the downs and back up again in rapid succession.

      Thanks Heather...wish we could have this conversation in person...miss you!!


  2. A stab in the heart for me every time I think of the losses Seth and Lizzie have lived through. My cousin's wife just died and their 8 year old daughter said (just before her mom died) "when mommy dies I'm going to kill myself." She had enough years of attachment and language to express how every child who loses a parent, or both parents, must feel--life is over!! Yet, it goes on. Lizzie has you and your love and understanding, and what an awesome mom you are to recognize her sorrow and fear and also not capitulate to it, but be there in it with her. Love you.

  3. Hi Ruth, we adopted from Ethiopia in the same year as you. We came home in September 2011 with our 4 year old son. I hear this too, and while it hurts me a little, I can see his deep pain so clearly behind it. We are getting through it and he is learning more and more every day to trust that he will never need to be alone again. I love your response to Lizzie. You truly heard what she was saying and her response (melting a little) shows she knows it.