Monday 27 May 2013

Detachment Parenting

Why do you have to look after me some days? My daughter asks me. I want Daddy to look after me for ALL the days. I'm a little bit taken aback. Well, I say It's is Mummy's job AND Daddy's job to look after you. We are the grownups in the house and you and Blue are the children. And she says, all matter of fact,  But I don't want you to live in this house. I want to live with just Daddy and you and Blue can go and live in a different house. 

This is how being with daddy makes her feel.
Cue heartbreak. Not just because of the words, but because she is looking at me sideways to see how I'm taking it, like a tiny little three-year-old Mean Girl. I surprise myself by bursting into tears, suddenly and uncontrollably, noisily and messily, like a balloon bursting or  a dam bursting. Saltwater is gushing out of me and Jay comes home a few minutes later to find me howling on the sofa and Pink watching TV, unconcerned. 

You don't have to tell me I overreacted; I know I overreacted. It was just so... unexpected. I did not see it coming; not at all. Pink is crazy about her Daddy, but I would also say that Pink and I are pretty tight. I regain control and Jay tells Pink that Daddy loves Mummy, and Mummy and Daddy both love you, and you will not make yourself more popular with Daddy by being mean to Mummy. We put them to bed. 

What should I have said to her? Crying wasn't the right response, but what would have been? What would I say if it happened again? Twenty four hours later, I have the chance to find out when she has another go. She looks at me seriously and says But I really do want you to go and live in a different house, Mummy. Matter-of-fact, again. I'm prepared, this time, and I say I'm staying in this house with you, Pink, because I love you and it's my job to look after you. 

And score one to Mummy! I think. Calm, positive, affirming and yet firm. Who could not want to live in the same house as a mother like that? Nobody, that's who. And then: But I don't really LOVE you, Mummy, she says. I only love Daddy.  As if that settles it. 

 What am I supposed to do with this? I have no idea. Is there attachment stuff going on? I don't know. There could be. The way she has started to push me away verbally certainly sounds like it. And frankly, her behaviour lately has been a bit like something from the before section in The Connected Child. But... it just doesn't fit. It doesn't really fit with how she has always been. I don't think this is trauma, I think this is something else.  I'm not saying there isn't any stuff there for her - of course there is - but this feels different. It feels like fairly secure little girl trying to see what she can get away with. And it feels like she's been reading Freud, is what it feels like. I love that she loves her father, but could we please leave out the part where she resents her mother? 

I'm surprised by how hurt I am by all of this.  

I keep reminding myself: She is three. 

She is not my friend.

She is three. 

She is my daughter. 

She is three. 

I can't let myself get sucked into her crazy. I can't let her push my buttons. If I'm going to cry about this, it has to be after she has gone to bed. Which will be at seven o'clock, because: 

She is three

I walk her downstairs after helping her to get dressed. She reaches up and puts her smooth and tiny hand in mine. She grins at me and pads down the stairs and we do her favourite puzzle before bed. I want to say you do love me, Pink, I know you do but for once I'm smart enough to keep my mouth shut. 

Forget attachment parenting; I think I need to start practising detachment parenting with this girl. I need to remember this relationship is not reciprocal. I have let myself get into too much of an easy rhythm with her. Attachment-wise, she has always been my easy one. She is so precious to me, and she knows it. 

And it makes me think: what am I doing with my life? How can I give so much love to a person who will calmly look at me and tell me she doesn't want it? 

Some days I really hate parenthood. 

But I guess this is the way it has to be, this asymmetrical love. This is the only way that families can ever really work. It's my job to love her. It's not really her job to love me. 

I know this in my head, but sometimes my heart is slow to catch up. 

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Notes From The Awkward Files: In Which I Ask For Your Money

Now, you know that I never ask you for money. But today that's going to change: I'm going to ask that you consider donating some of your precious pennies to my friend A in order to to help her family get their son home from Haiti.

Now, when I say my friend, I actually mean my friend. Not just someone I sort-of know on the internet - we met through blogging but now she's an actual, real-life friend (either that or I have mad photoshop skilz):

us in oxford, where we were pretending to be cultured but actually spent most of the day eating, hence the elasticated waistbands 
And not just any sort of friend, but A is someone that I trust. As in, really really trust.  She's been working in International Development for over a decade and knows more about international child welfare and in-country family preservation than anybody else I know of. Also: she was the one who showed me how to do a flat twist in Pink's hair, for which I owe her a debt of eternal gratitude.

And when I say 'bring their son home', I don't mean 'the boy who they are hoping to adopt'. I say 'their son' because his adoption in Haiti is already complete. He is their son. They have been moving his paperwork through the courts for well over a year (as is normal in Haitian adoptions). A few months ago, everything on the Haitian side was finally finished, and little Alex was theirs. All they need is for their final paperwork to move one more time, get Alex's passport and then a visa for him to come to the US.

But now their agency won't release their paperwork.

The thing is, while A and J were investigating their own adoption, they found out things about this agency - and the behaviour of the Americans working in-country - that were hugely concerning. They also found out things about the children's interim care that was hugely concerning.

They tried to talk to the agency about this, of course. They got shut down. (A and J, that is, not the agency. Unfortunately). And now the agency won't release their paperwork so that they can apply for their son's visa and bring him home.

They have been told they have two choices:

First choice: agree to signing a gag order so that the agency will (hopefully) give them their documents back. Second: re-create their adoption dossier from scratch, at a cost of about $8,500.

Their adoption has already been fully paid for. They paid for it themselves. But they do NOT have a spare $8,500 lying around to do a big chunk of it again (who does?) And their boy needs to come home.

Can I just reiterate - this is not a problem with the Haitian courts. It's not a problem with the US embassy. It's nothing to do with their own adoption - which has been investigated (more than once) and double checked  and triple checked and is absolutely above board. The only problem is with their agency, who are holding their documents hostage in the hope that A and her husband will agree to keep quiet about what they've seen. They have said that they will give back the documents if A and J sign a gag order.

Would you do that? Do you want them to do that? This is egregious behaviour on the part of the agency.  They want to speak out and let other prospective adoptive families know what this agency is doing in-country. They want to let people know how the children are being treated. They want to let people know what they have found out, during their investigations, about coercion and manipulation of Haitian families. This is exactly what APs should be doing when they see unethical behaviour going on. This is what we all say that we want them to be doing.

A and J are not panic-mongers. They are not trouble makers. They should not be gagged.

And yet they still need to get their son home.

These two things should not be mutually exclusive.

If I found myself in the situation that they are in, I hope I would have the courage to do what they are doing.

If you have a spare $10, click over here and make a donation via Project Hopeful. Most of us don't have very much money, but there are quite a lot of us hanging around the interwebs.

We can help. Please do.

Comments on this post are closed.

Monday 13 May 2013

Sometimes, the light at the end of the tunnel... actually an oncoming train. And that's what returning home has felt like. We are back, and I'm extremely thankful for that. But re-entry has been brutal, mostly because we seem to have flown home on the Virus Plane. Three of us ended up sick - not just slightly sick but the kind of sick where I was too unwell to watch television. Too unwell to watch television, people, and yet the (also sick) children still needed looking after and on Wednesday I had to go back to work. I would happily have leapt off the top of a tall building during our first few days back.  It's just as well we live in a small town and there really aren't any.

Sidebar: while I think of it, I'm going to tell you my one secret of travel. I don't have any others - despite having been to quite a lot of places, I'm a pretty terrible traveller, and now that we have kids I'm even worse. I always pack too much, I'm terrible at going with the flow, and being out of my usual routine tends to make me very cranky. But this one thing I do know - if you have to go on a long flight (anything more than 12 hours) before you get on the plane, head to the duty free, find the Guerlain testers and cover your face with  this stuff: 

Guerlain's Issima Midnight Secret. I don't know what is in this stuff, but it is magic. It's supposed to make you look like you've had a full night's sleep, and it actually works. (I don't own any (the price, ouch) but if I was going back to those first days of new-baby-sleep-deprivation, I think I would consider shelling out for it because, like I said, magic). It is certainly the only way to get off a flight looking better than you did when you get on. Your hair will still be a mess, you will stink like a skunk, your clothes will still be covered in whatever your seat-mate spilled on you, but your face will be radiant. 

To prove my point: the day after we got home, my ears and throat were unbearably swollen and sore and my whole body felt like it was being attacked by a cattle prod. I was sick and miserable, but unable to get any sympathy from the friend I was talking to. I feel really rotten! I kept on saying. You don't look rotten! sez she. You look great! I can't believe you've just got off a plane; you look so... fresh! And that's when I realised just how good this stuff really is. That freshness isn't really me! I wailed. It's that dang Midnight Secret! but she wouldn't believe me. I guess it serves me right for using so much out of those tester pots without any intention of ever actually buying it. Sigh. /End sidebar.

Anyway. We are here now. The sickness is mostly gone. It's good to be getting back to real life. All the things I was looking forward to doing when we got back (you know, in APRIL) can finally begin. Top of my list - finding a really really good home made barbecue sauce recipe. Is there anything more delicious than barbecue sauce?  No, and I want to be able to make my own. I tried Jamie Oliver's recipe but he was trying to be clever and it was waaaaay too full of orange rind. Why, Jamie, why? I used it to make slow cooker bourbon baked beans but the citrus overdose just made the whole thing taste like Christmas. Not recommended. Once I crack this, I'm going to start with the dry rubs and learn to make proper ribs. On a related note: I have decided that I need to stop trying to get away with skinny jeans.

One more thing. I have lost count of the number of people who have told me how lucky we were that Jay didn't get appendicitis while we were on the plane. I am, of course, extremely glad that this didn't happen. It would have been awful. But lucky? I just can't help thinking that it would have been luckier not to get appendicitis at all. 

After his operation, Jay was unexpectedly kept in hospital for four days so that they could pump him full of high-dose antibiotics. The kids didn't cope very well (that's a euphemism, people, make of it what you will), and I found the whole situation really hard (so is that). One day, I went up to visit him and we went down to the hospital cafe together. I was so tired that I fell asleep sitting on a hard plastic chair, my head on the cafeteria table. Apparently I stayed out cold for 45 minutes while Jay read Australian Handyman magazine. I didn't feel lucky then. I didn't feel lucky when I had to miss some really crucial stuff at work because of our delay. I didn't feel lucky when we ended up on the plane o' death because of our changed plans.

I don't mean to sound churlish. I don't mean my whole life is a vale of tears (far from it). But it's a funny thing, this word, lucky. I think I'm hypersensitive to it because I really don't like it being used when people talk about adoption. To mean, the word lucky implies that you ended up with something better than you could reasonably have expected.  Winning the lottery, say. Becoming America's Next Top Model. Only bothering to study one topic for an exam and having that be the only one that comes up.

So I think that deciding that someone is lucky only works if you have decided what their reasonable expectations should have been.

This is why it bugs me when people say that my kids are lucky to be adopted. I feel like the background is that they should have expected to have no parents at all, and now they are lucky to have me. Whereas - why should they have expected to have no parents? My children didn't come from the cabbage patch; they had other parents before they had us and they lost those parents and that sucks. A few times I have said to people that if their child was to lose them, and then be moved to a new country, they might not feel particularly lucky about it. From a few people this gets that's not the same! (whereas actually, it is) but other times I think it has helped make some sense of why the 'lucky' comment can be the wrong thing to say, no matter how well meant. Or maybe it didn't make any sense at all, and they just wanted me to stop criticising their attempts to be nice to me.

I had a conversation online with a few friends recently about this after one had dozens of people tell her your little girl is so lucky! when they got a referral.  She feels like I do about the lucky thing, but I was interested to see that a few other mothers weren't bothered by it at all. One (who always challenges me to think differently) said 'I tell people that their bio kids will be lucky to have them; why shouldn't people say the same about our adopted kids?' She's probably right. I like her attitude. And yet.

I think that I'm getting a little better about giving people the benefit of the doubt on stuff like this, but I can't help myself, I still don't like people saying my kids are lucky. (Lucky to have a cat, yes, lucky I don't make them bathe every day, yes, lucky to have a twin, yes, lucky to be adopted, no).  Would it be different if people were specific that they meant lucky to be adopted into THIS family? I don't know.

What's your take on the lucky thing?