Tuesday 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas

From our house to yours.

Friday 21 December 2012


It used to be that I couldn't hold other people's babies; I didn't know how to do it. Babies were floppy and wriggly and fragile and a little bit frightening. My sister was good at babies (she still is)-  I would hand them to her and that suited everybody, baby included.

Then it used to be that I still couldn't hold other people's babies; I didn't know how to do it without crying. I wanted one of my own, so much - if I held someone else's, I was worried that I would dissolve with want and longing. Or maybe just run away and steal it.

Then it used to be that I didn't want to hold other people's babies. They made me too angry, these small defenceless beings, all fluffy and warm and fed and doted upon, these tiny little barnacles sleeping contentedly, unaware of how lucky they were. It made me angry to see them grabbing onto their mothers' fingers with their little tiny fists, when I knew my baby was out there somewhere and grabbing at nothing, nothing at all.

Then it was that I couldn't hold other people's babies because my arms were too full of my own. My own! Two! Babies! I couldn't believe it.
Neither could they, by the looks on their faces.
Lucky me. I know. I knew.

Then it was that I couldn't hold other people's babies because I was too exhausted. Two toddlers running around constantly? There isn't enough coffee in the world to deal with that. 

But now my two are bigger, and somewhere in the last three and a half years, something has happened and I've realised that I could happily hold someone else's baby. I find this to be little short of miraculous - I didn't think that I would ever actually want to hold someone else's crinkly newborn, I thought that knowing my babies spent those days alone would always make it too hard. It's funny, though - I feel like I've finally reached a point where I know that those babies are not my babies, that those babies have nothing to do with my babies, that I can separate these privileged babies from my own experiences, my children's experiences. I know that I might feel differently again if we dive back into another adoption process, but for now I'm enjoying this feeling- I'm enjoying it a lot. A friend of mine recently had a newborn and I grabbed him the first moment I could. He's so squidgy and light and sleepy and I enjoyed it but I didn't wish he was mine. If I've ever held your baby and you're reading this, you're probably freaking out right now when you realise I'm only just getting to this point in my life. Sorry about that. 

So anyway, I was having a nice moment and enjoying myself, patting the baby and reflecting on my sudden acquisition of emotional maturity. However! It seems that I still can't hold other people's babies. My son saw me with this child in my arms and lost it. I mean, he LOST IT. 

I have to admit that in the moment, I didn't deal with it very well. Honestly, I didn't want to think about his problems. I was having my own little emotional epiphany and was not in the mood to have that interrupted by a three year old boy. Go to your father, Blue. That didn't work. Jay came and got him and took him into another room where he wailed and freaked out and I held grimly onto the baby (who I'm going to call Buzz, because wouldn't it be fun if he really was called Buzz?) for another minute or so. 

I should have known better. It's been a year since I last held a baby - who I'll call baby Squeak - and he saw that too and now he regularly wants to 'play baby Squeak'. Playing baby Squeak means lying down in my lap - all three and a half years old of him - and making throaty baby noises like I imagine baby vampires would make and demanding pretend milk, all while telling me that my name is baby Squeak's mother's name. IT'S PRETTY FREAKING WEIRD. And it's not like he doesn't see babies - he sees plenty of babies - but that is the last time he saw me cuddle one.

Recently - this is related, I promise - we made the decision not to send the twins to preschool. It just seems that Blue isn't secure enough to be spending days away from us. Actually, not so much away from us as being cared for by someone else. He gets ... confused. Nothing exceptional, just your average, run-of-the-mill insecure attachment stuff. A bit of mummy shopping, particularly. A bit of clinginess (to me). A bit of overenthusiastic affection with people he doesn't know very well. And if you think it's contradictory to have a child who is simultaneously clingy and then running off to snuggle with strangers well, welcome to the club.

This is not to say he isn't generally well attached - I really think he is. It's us that he wants. He may be confused about this relationship, but at least he knows this is the relationship to be confused about. Every night before he goes to bed, and several times during each day, he checks in and says 'you look after me tomorrow, mummy?' and I say yes, if it's me tomorrow, and if it's Jay's turn I say 'Tomorrow Daddy will look after you!' and as far as he's concerned, both of these answers are good answers. He says 'okay, and then after Daddy, you look after me again' and I say 'yes, Blue, then I will look after you again'. 
And sometimes, if I'm honest, I get a little frustrated. Little Dude, it is alwaysalwaysalways me or Daddy. We always look after you. You know how we used to have full-time jobs and now we both work part time? Well, that is so that we can always look after you. It's pretty much always me or Daddy. It Really Is Not Complicated. 

But clearly it is complicated for him. 

A few weeks before we made the decision about preschool, one of our friends had spent the day looking after the two of them and it pretty much flipped Blue on his head. We spent a few weeks leading up to it - and then, Veronica will look after you! and he loooves Veronica (he's a really social kid, by the way - with both kids and adults) and he was really looking forward to it. And he had a great time - so did Pink - and Blue was pretty much shoving us out the door when it was time to leave.  It's really sweet to see him making friends, but this was something more, it was not hooray, I have a new friend who loves me behaviour, it was I am so freaking confused behaviour. Totally related, I'm sure - the next few days he was awful. I mean really, really terrible. Totally dysregulated and miserable and all over the place. 

Back to babies.

Blue was hugely upset by the Baby Buzz incident. It took him a long time to calm down, and then he kept referring to it. We talked it through again and again, but clearly he had a lot to process. And one of the strange / wonderful / terrifying things about his developing language is that suddenly, he can talk about these things. He's got big feelings and suddenly he can actually share them. (A few days ago, when he wasn't very well, I asked him what was wrong and he looked at me sadly and sad Mummy, I've got FEELINGS! Indeed, little man). 

So he brought it up a few times, and then a few days ago, in the middle of something totally unrelated, he said:
You hold Baby Buzz and I feel very, very sad. 
Clearly it was still worrying him - it was still right at the surface. And I had a thought and I asked him:
When I was holding Baby Buzz, did you think that meant I was his mummy? and he said Yes. And his little lip quivered. (He does not like the thought that I might be someone else's Mummy - we've been here before, with both of them. I know this isn't atypical, or just an adoption thing, and I have to admit I rather like Pink's direct and aggressive way of dealing with this issue - sometimes, totally unprovoked, she marches up to children (strangers or friends), squares off at them, narrows her eyes, then points to me and says THAT NOT YOUR MUMMY! THAT MY MUMMY! and then marches off again. Okay, Pink. Just as long as we're clear).

So anyway. His little lip was quivering, and then suddenly I had a moment of all-these-issues-are-interconnected-type-clarity and I asked him When Veronica looked after you, did that mean that she was your Mummy? and he said yes, Veronica is my Mummy in a totally matter-of-fact way. And I just wanted to bury my head in my hands and howl. He's been home three years - three years - and he still gets confused about who his mother is. It breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart, but in a way it doesn't really surprise me. I look at all these happy secure newborn babies, the ones I so recently want to cuddle, and think about how the first three months of life sometimes get called the Fourth Trimester because of the intense closeness and intimacy between mother and infant. The very idea of separating one of these squishy ones from their mother, of putting them instead in a place where they are unloved and undernourished is ... unthinkable. It's too horrible to think about, except for the fact that it does happen, except for the fact that it did happen, and maybe the question really is not so much why does he still struggle with attachment at this point? as why does it seem that his sister does not? Sidebar: one thing for sure about adopting twins is that it makes me hyper-aware of how different children, even in the same circumstances, cope so differently. I think that once I would have thought that one set of people were exaggerating about adoption issues and another set were in denial. Now I think that people who say their kids are really struggling are probably absolutely right and people who say their kids are untroubled are probably telling the truth, too.

So after taking a day or so to think, recently Blue and I have started playing the Mummy or Friend? game. This started with me saying that I didn't cuddle baby Buzz because I was his Mummy, I just wanted to cuddle him because he was my friend. And we went through more children that he knows. Am I their Mummy, or just their friend? And then we started going through the list of adult females he admires - it's a long one - and saying how about Mary? Do you cuddle her because she is your mummy, or because she is your friend?' and it was interesting (if a bit terrifying) to hear him stumble about the answers a few times until we reached a point where he knew that every other lady he cuddles is not his mummy, than only I am his mummy, and that when I cuddle other children, I am not their Mummy! Oh no! I am only Pink and Blue's Mummy! I am only Buzz / Squeak / etc's friend!

Now he always gets it right - so much so that he does the dramatic pauses before the answers. Mary.... is.... my....FRIEND! And sometimes he gives the wrong answer on purpose then he laughs and tips his head sideways, looks at me through his giraffe-like lashes and says that's a little bit funny.  Which it would be, except it's still sort of not. We've progressed to level two now - aunts and uncles - and he's really getting solid on that too. She not my Mummy! She my aunty! I'm sure this is good for him, this articulating of these relationships. I want this to be something he doesn't have to think about. I would prefer he knew it by instinct, but the next best thing is to know it by rote. Or maybe a better way to say it - I want him to know this by heart.

But sometimes I have flashes of thinking shouldn't we be learning the alphabet or something? What are other people talking about in their cars while I'm teaching my three-and-a-half-year-old son who his mother is? And I have moments of fear, too, that he won't be ready to go to school when it's time to go to school and I really, really, really don't think I'd be a good homeschooler (and I don't think Pink would be either, but I couldn't separate them, and what is more important, her need for a classroom environment or his need to have regular care from parents for a few more years?) And I know that some people think that this stuff happens because he has full-time parental care and I really really really don't agree and how dare they judge me for my choices, choices made for my children and whose business is it anyway if my children don't go to preschool? They will be just as ready as any other child for whatever is ahead. Except that they still can't count, or paint, and frankly their glitter skills leave a lot to be desired. I'm failing them. I'M FAILING THEM!

(I think I've mentioned the attachment spiral of crazy once before.  Ahem. I really should know better by now).

And so it continues. How crazy, that I used to think attachment was just something to think about during the first year home. How crazy, that I used to think that attachment issues meant that the family was doomed to fail (whatever fail means). How difficult this all continues to be, sometimes. I think what's changed in the last three years - for me - is that I love my kids so much more than I used to. I would fight to the death for my little guy, for my little girl, whatever attachment challenges lie before us.

Last night, I had a terrible headache and I'd told the children I wasn't feeling very well. After a spectacularly unsuccessful dinner , I had them upstairs to get ready for bed. I sat down on the stairs and winced with pain and put my hand up to my forehead. Blue came over to me and said You still got a sore head? And I said yes. And he said I give you a pat, Mummy and then he stroked my hair and then he said and now I give you a kiss, and that will make you all better. 

If only I could do the same for him. 

Thursday 20 December 2012

Ungracious Grace

I've been sick again (hence the lack of posts). Nothing dramatic, just the low-grade yeuch that so often accompanies December. I've been dragging myself around and today's dinner was the last straw. I don't liiiiiiiiiiiiike it!     Really? I'm not actually that interested in whether you like it, my dearest sweetheart. I just want you to eat it. Nobody is coming out of this evening well so far. 

Here's Pink on the beach last week, and this pretty much sums it all up. So, here's tonight's pre-dinner grace, verbatim. 

Dear Lord, Thank you for this food. Please help Mummy not to be cranky at Pink and Blue. You know how hard Mummy finds this time of day. You know that Mummy finds it especially hard not to get upset when they tell me that they don't like their dinner when they haven't even tried it. Especially when Mummy feels sick and it was very hard work to make dinner. And Mummy is letting them eat it as a picnic as a Very Special Treat. Please help Pink and Blue to eat all their dinner and not complain. Please help Pink and Blue to understand how important it is to eat good food. 

And also please help Mummy to stop being so passive-aggressive during mealtime prayers. 
In Jesus' name, Amen. 

I'm thinking I probably should have stopped after the first sentence. 

Now they have left their food on the floor and Pink is dancing to Two Door Cinema Club while Blue brushes my hair with the tangle teezer as I type. They'll be terribly hungry in the morning (if you don't eat your dinner in this house you don't get anything else), but Friday is my day at work and ehhhhh... that's Jay's problem. 

Friday 7 December 2012


This week, we have been busy. As Jay would say: Bee. Zee.  We have had four different sets of people over to our house in the last four days, three of them for dinner. I've said before that I'm not so good at that kind of thing. Pressure gets to me, and I think why can't I organise my life better? Why can't I set boundaries?  Why can't I organise my life to be simple and meaningful? Why can't I stop running around and just be intentional? Shouldn't I be living simpler? SHOULDN'T I BE LIVING SIMPLER? 

Something I've realised recently: I have never heard a man talk about trying to live life simply, or live with intention. How marvellous, that we women find a way to beat ourselves up about the stupidest things- like not succeeding at being simple enough. I dunno, but I think that once you have to aim for something, once you feel bad that you're not achieving it, it isn’t really all that simple any more. (Also, once you have to have a magazine called Real Simple to tell you how to do it, that kind of nixes the actual simplicity thing too).

And so I officially decided this week - in the middle of sauteeing things and sweeping, I've decided that I don't care about simple. Simple is one thing that has not earned its place on my guilt list. I think that simple, to women, means pared-down-but-strangely-perfect and I can't be bothered either with the paring or with the perfect.   Simple can take a running jump. I think that what I want these days is easy. Big difference: If simple is a homemade loaf, easy is a miscellaneous pork product, pumped full of nitrates and smelling delicious as it rotates in my microwave. Simple is handmade upcycled presents for Christmas. Easy means going to a big box store with a fistful of dollars and fifteen minutes and using the time to buy fifteen presents in an explosion of plastic and batteries. (I may have done that this week, as well as the cooking. Possibly). 

Anyway. Back to my attempt to live an easy life.  One of the guests - Mr Tuesday - invited himself over, urgently. I had nothing - nothing - in the freezer that I could use, and the easiest thing I could think of was a lasagne (hooray for easy pre-grated cheese, that's all I'm going to say about that).  I stirred and prepared and got it done and it wasn't delicious but it was okay. And it turns out that our friend wanted to visit us because (wait for it) he had (wait for it) a prophecy for us, straight from God. Not even kidding. (Do not get me started on this guy's theology- let's just say that we have some pretty different views). Anyway. Apparently he has direct information that I'm going to have a child of my own, and the urgency to visit was because 'he wanted to tell me the good news as soon as possible'.  Yuh huh. Thanks, dude. For that I cooked you lasagne? 

Hmmmmm. A child of my own? I guess technically, you're right, but.....

 You're three-and-a-half years too late, dude. 

Now that's  simple.