Difficult and Demanding Behaviors in Young Adopted Child
Reflection – Wednesday
I’m sitting here with a pilsner and I’m listening to Modest Mouse’s CD Good News for People Who Love Bad News, thinking about Sunday afternoon and my daughter’s interest in play.
2:40 PM “What Mommy? What’s going on? Why are you taking my hand? Where are we going? Why are you holding my hand? What are you doing?” I lead my six year-old back to the playroom. A carpeted, well-lit, comfortable room with toys. I reply, “I’m showing you where to play. You don’t seem to understand to stay and play in here.”
“I do understand! I do know where it is! I do! I do! I do understand–” This litany of arguments continues for another minute even after I leave. I listen. Then the predictable singing. Calm, pleasing to the ear, sing song singing. She sounds content; I smile a little.
2:48 PM She is back in the living room, where I am working on paying bills and doing email correspondence. “I have a hole in my tights, it really bothers me. I need to show you. Mommy, lookit. Here, lookit. Mommy. Mommy, I am showing you something.” I do not look up. I am not in the mood to lookit. I refuse to make eye contact. I decide to record the events that are transpiring.
2:52 PM “Hmmmmmrumpf. Ok, I’ll just go back.” She returns on her own to the playroom. Soon after her singing resumes. Sheeesh, I think to myself. But, then she returns.
3:04 PM This time she starts singing and rolling around on the floor. I wait, I count to sixty. I take a deep breath. Ok, now.
3:08 PM I take her hand and gently pull her up to a sitting position. She rises. “What are you doing? Mommy? What are you doing, where are we going? Why are you holding my hand?”
I lead her back to the playroom. A minute later I hear her building with Lego bricks– a distinct sound to us parents.
3:15 PM Footsteps and other familiar sounds emit from the kitchen. “I’m thirsty. I just decided to get some water. That’s all. I got myself some water. (Pause.) Ok?” Ok! I yell over my shoulder.
3:24 PM Guess who’s back in the living room? She rolls around on the couch. She looks out the window, she wonders out loud about the weather forecast. She then comments that it’s snacktime. Now, I get it. She has been watching the digital clock. The pestering begins. I observe to her that she had a late lunch. I tell her I’ll get her something small in a moment. Just go play a little more, I’ll come get you.
“I’m hungry! I am starving! I won’t be able to breathe!” (Actual, verbatim words.) “Why a little snack?! Why! Why?!”
My friend told me about her five year old and three year old kids getting out of their room after bedtime. So frustrating, right? Yes, I agree. I totally know that situation. I went through it with my two older kids. We had the most elaborate, detailed bedtime routine ever. Yet, over time and with a few talks with the boys in between, we managed to get through it and outgrow that. There came a time when I realized Hey! they are actually staying in bed and falling asleep within a reasonable time. I remember we started having an evening again, my spouse and me. We got into a routine of talking a little, then sitting on the couch together watching a tv show each night. Good times.
Parenting a child with special needs involves so many OTHER situations. Not just a difficult bedtime routine or meltdown before piano lessons each week. Every afternoon and most hours of our weekends, my daughter experiences distress related to the concept of playing with toys. My hubby and I, we joke to each other about how mean we are, how dare us! we actually direct her to the playroom to play with toys. What will the other families in our social circle think of us. My parenting of her involves unusual strategies. When I am neutral and matter of fact with her, when the situations are black and white, she does better. Don’t even think about all those shades of gray. I cannot be the funny, silly, spontaneous mom that I am to the other kids– that is, my biological kids that I have had since birth. It’s different with her. I hope and I really believe that over time, this will change. She has a different energy, a different temperament, and different social/interactive needs than the boys. Are these traits genetic? Are these features nurtured from the environment? Would I be feeling this way if I had adopted her at birth? or carried her through a pregnancy? I know from reading material that she is delayed with social and play skills. And I really don’t know where on the spectrum we are and where she is at this time. I do think her early trauma and the experiences in her foster home have impacted on her. I do think that she will change over time and I won’t have to be so consistent and structured. I just wonder often, when? when will she enjoy using her imagination with toys. I looked up my use of the word play, to double check grammar. Here is what I read: activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, especially by children. When will we have an afternoon of family members — all members– just enjoying being around the house. Acquaintances say: Oh, yes, I know what you mean. My son is difficult too. Just the other day he lost his 7th jacket. Really? The other day you say?
Full blown temper tantrum. Over what’s that? did I miss something catastrophic? I said in a moment, you’ll have a small snack. And that is a scenario that will set her off — it’s not a snack delivered at the usual time and a smaller amount is not the usual amount. And of course, food was involved. Every day I have to find that delicate balance of humor, having clear expectations and being consistent with them, and compassion. It’s a tricky position.