We are together, she and I, in a room for the weekend with nowhere to be. After the tylenol, hydration, and a bath, we are at that point now where we establish that mommy is more than a name.
She feels great-ish and now she wonders if she has any boundaries. Children need boundaries, even children who have severe special needs and have been orphans for years. Boundaries make them feel secure.
So when she threw the iPad and I took it away, I let her throw a fit without much acknowlegement. At the foster home, the nannies didn’t want her to cry in my presence so they often pacified or coddled her. I don’t mind a fit, it doesn’t freak me out, this ain’t my first rodeo.
She decided the fit would get her nowhere and we should cuddle. She is testing what she can do, grabbing things she shouldn’t and laughing. Throwing herself down and then screaming when I pick her up and move her out of danger. Shoving her hand down her diaper or smashing the phone…it’s a test.
We take this test strategically. I am Mommy, I am safe, she trusts me. We have to maintain that security while establishing that mommy is not a pushover. So I pick my battles. She wants to brush her teeth a million times, that’s fine. She runs in to get the soap, not an issue. She wants to play soccer with a can of nuts in the bathroom while I’m using it….hey why not. She pummels me with said can of nuts, nope…not okay.
I believe she is coming to realize that I am in charge and that the tantrums will get her nowhere. She is also undertaking something extremely frightening. As adoptive parents we often bubble over with excitement at finally “getting our kid.”
This kid already had a life though. No matter what that life is like, it is a familiar for them, and we are the unfamiliar. We are enthusiastic and some parents feel like they are “rescuing” a child so the child should be happy.
This child of mine has been handed over to a woman that doesn’t look anything like her caregivers did. This woman doesn’t even talk right. The specifics are cloudy but she was put in a car and poof….. Life is completely different forever.
On top of that, her ears are draining and she is congested. She is getting lots of water which is good, but it takes a toll on the digestive system. So many things are going on for this small child.
So she loves me. I am safe. I am Mommy. But she also hates me. I took her away from her home. I took her away from everything she has ever known.
This is okay. This is normal. We will gently establish that Mommy is a caregiver with firm boundaries and lots of love. We will slowly work through grief and anger as we build a new life together. It takes time.
We have time.