Every time we make progress with Vanessa's adjustment into our family we hit a road bump. It has very much been a two steps forward, one step back experience. I knew it would not be easy, taking in a 9 year old, and I had a pretty good idea of what issues she would be dealing with. That knowledge defiantly takes the edge of off how difficult it is but it is still really, really hard.
I think it is important to be honest about our international adoption experiences because prospective adoptive parents really need to know the reality that they are getting themselves into. With each our kidos have had to work through different issues. Tensae came home, at age 4, a very strong willed and independent little girl. She was mature beyond her years because her life experience required that she pretty much take care of herself. We have also discovered she is a very smart little girl, and she will be getting tested soon for the gifted program at school. She will always be strong willed and more independent, but we have made huge strides in her trusting us to be the adults who will take care of her. Leo came home, at age 3, with a level of energy that I was not at all prepared for. He never stopped moving, exploring, breaking things, or harassing people. His life experience had taught him that if he did not demand attention from the caregivers at his orphanage that he would not get it. He also has a naturally social and enthusiastic personality. In the 21 months that he has been home he now sleeps all night in his bed and will take a time out without needing to be held down. He will always be energetic but it is very different. He is doing great in preschool and just the other day the teacher commented about how happy and social he always is.
So that brings me back to Vanessa. At age 9, of course, she is going to have some issues to work through. Her life experience has taught her how to act in a school setting but when it comes to living in a small family it is clear that she is out of her comfort zone. She is also very strong willed. What has actually been the hardest behavior however is her persistent whining and crying when she does not get what she wants. I don't know if she does it because she figured out that if she pouted that she would get extra attention and presents from the visitors at the school and orphanage. Or maybe she is just stuck in a earlier stage of emotional development. When she does it, I definitely get a sense that she is having a hard time regulating her emotions and maturity level. But how much of it is just plain learned manipulation? I don't really know the answer yet. What I have discovered though, is that her behavior is totally better at school. Her teacher has not once seen her pout, whine, cry, talk back, or tease the other students. At home we get all of this and more when she is on a role. Just the other night I bought her brand new Nike tennis shoes, hoping that a better fitting shoe would help along her walking. She was so excited and put them on. Then just one half hour later she was crying and whining because I told her she could not wear the jeans that she had picked out for school ( At 112 it is way to hot for jeans and still to hard for her to get them on and off by herself to go to the bathroom). I was like really kid, I just bought you new shoes and you are still going to battle me on this? I did win out in the end but only after taking the jeans away completely and ignoring a hour long pouting and whining session. I think that is behavior. I am not actually sure that we are really going to be able to make a lot of ground in the attachment area until we get the behavior under control. If her prime focus is getting what she wants from people (and she also has no concept for money) then I really worry what would she do if we are not there to protect her? Especially as she gets older, how far would she go and with who? That scares me to death. And so we continue the dance of teaching her the rules of family life while trying to fill in all the experiences that she is missing and gaining her trust in the meantime. It is a huge undertaking and sometimes I falter in my patience. I know it will get better, because it did for the other two, and Vanessa has so many strengths and so many great behaviors. But when I am struggling I worry, is she to old for me to do the impossible, to rewire the brain connections that are already formed. And am I doing the right thing? When I get impatient with all the kids, there is that voice in the back of my head. The voice of me the professional psychologist who is always judging what I do as a mother. Please Lord grant me patience, not just with my kids, but also with myself!